Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]



To the left of the three beautiful columns of Jupiter Tonans, and at the foot of the STEPS OF GROANs, stands, partly excavated from the earth, the arch of SEVERUS. Triumphal arches ought to inspire horror wherever they lift their proud heads :first, on account of the wars and concomitant miseries which they are intended to commemorate--secondly, on account of the base motives or abject adulation which generally gave them origin-thirdly, on account of the detestable and cruel pride by which triumphs were always marked. Behold that marble monument to the arms or to the memory of SeptIMIUS SEVERUSa man who bought the sceptre of the world by a bribe of 400 pounds sterling to each common soldier of his Pannonian army, (double the sum by which his ignoble predecessor had purchased the same throne, when put up to public auction by the Prætorian bands)—that Septimius, who“promised only to betray, who flattered only to ruin”—who sent an affectionate epistle to Albinus in Britain, with orders that the bearers of it should assassinate him in the delivery–who murdered the sons of Niger, massacred the inhabitants of Byzantium, condemned to death, without even the semblance of trial, FORTY-ONE ROMAN SENATORS, with their wives, CHILDREN, ADHERENTS, and thousands of innocent persons who permitted his infamous minister to forcibly emasculate an hundred Roman citizens, (many of them fathers of families,) as eunuchs for his daughter's cortège —who caused to be preached in the senate the doctrine of PASSIVE OBEDIENCE AND NON-RESISTANCE; the doctrine that the Emperor was above the law, and “could command by his arbitrary will the lives and fortunes of his subjects”*-who ordered his army not to subdue, but to extirpate the natives of Caledonia—and who, finally, without the virtues of Aurelian,

* Gibbon. These retrospective glances at history cannot but be useful as well as interesting in the present times !

[blocks in formation]

cursed the world with a son (Caracalla) more diabolical than Commodus—a son who attempted and embittered his father's life, murdered his brother (Geta) in the arms of their common mother, and put millions of innocent men to death! For such a scourge of the human race, and disgrace to human nature, the marble arch arose, and stands to this day, the wonder, if not the admiration of unreflecting travellers. Perish such memorials of the pride of cruel tyrants and the adulation of crouching subjects! The convulsions of Nature, and the operations of Time had buried one-third of this monument in the grave. Curiosity, and veneration for antiquity have cleared away the accumulating earth that was slowly immuring the memorials of a murderous father and a fratricide son !


Behold the ROMAN FORUM, around whose grass-grown grave still linger the few surviving associates of its former grandeur ! Melancholy band of mourners, they are bowed down beneath the weight of years and the vicissitudes of fortune! Scarred with wounds from foreign and domestic foes-they appear in the act of performing the last obsequies to their fallen parent, and calmly awaiting the hour that may seal the fiat of their own extinction! And what was this Forum, whose monumental remains so often call forth the sigh of regret from the bosom of the stranger who surveys them from the Tower of the Capitol ? It was an infernal cauldron from which boiled out, for a thousand years, every turbulent and hell-born passion of the human mind a moral volcano which daily vomited forth, on an afflicted world, “plague, pestilence, and famine"

Where Murder bared her arm, and rampant War

Yoked the red dragons of his iron car.* The nursery of tyrants, and the hot-bed of sedition-where villains preached up virtue; where traitors declaimed on patri

* Where the whole of the conscript fathers publicly murdered Tiberius Gracchus, (an incorruptible tribune,) together with all his adherents!!

otism ; where slave-drivers bellowed for liberty, Atheists appealed to their gods, and Priests imbrued their hands in human gore !* True, the eloquence of Cicero thundered here--but senatorial eloquence-nay, the Senate itself, was as purchaseable as a flock of sheep;t-and here, also, the lives of individuals and the liberties of cities, states, or even nations, were bought and sold, like droves of oxen, for sordid gold !

Such was the Roman FORUM, whose bosom is now, not ploughed but planted, by the same Gauls that twice sacked the Eternal City—under BRENNUS and BONAPARTE! Yon shady grove and gravelled walk in the centre of the deserted Forum, bear not the impression of Roman footsteps—they suit not the meditation of Roman hearts! The stranger only is seen slowly pacing this sepulchral path, contemplating the ruins of empires that are congregated around him, and drawing from the mournful scene the subject of many a moral reflexion !

* Instance the horrid scene, where the consuls, the decemviri, and the priests ordered two innocent Greeks and two Gauls to be buried alive in the Forum, under pretence of fulfilling an old prophecy that Rome was to be possessed by Gauls and Greeks!

+ See the briberies of Jugurtha. On turning his back on Rome, he exclaimed, “O venal city, ripe for destruction, and ready to sell thyself whenever there shall be found a purchaser."

| “Now (says Sallust) the nobility began to turn their dignity into tyranny --the people their liberty into licentiousness :-—and each individual, considering only himself, studied nothing but to gain wealth by every means possible.” This was 100 years before the Christian æra! And Sallust himself took care to plunder Numidia to enrich his private palace! But then it was here that the divine Cicero denounced, with irresistible eloquence, the conspiraçy, the crimes, the villanies of Cataline! It was here that he asked, “what poisoner, gladiator, robber, cut-throat, parricide, adulterer, strumpet, did not live in intimate familiarity with Cataline ?" Granted. Yet it was also here, that the same Cicero offered to defend the cause of the same Cataline, and enter into partnership with him—but was refused !

It was here, say the idolators of the ancient Romans, that the stern, the incorruptible, the virtuous Cato brought to trial, for bribery and corruption, the Consul Muræna-and not for bribery and corruption only, but for the still more unpardonable offence of having been seen Dancing!! True. But then this inflexible CENSOR connived at the same crimes committed by the other consul SILANUS--who had married Cato's sister!




Nearly in the centre of the Forum rises a solitary fluted marble column of the Corinthian order-and imagination would fain attribute its preservation, in lonely and upright pride, to some honourable motive or memorable event connected with its erection, or name. But disappointment is our portion on earth. It is not very gratifying to the pride of rulers that a trophy should yet stand in the Roman Forum, of a mean Centurion, diminutive in size, deformed in person, ignorant of laws, letters, or arms; and supreme only in lust and drunkenness-whose savage temper was “inflamed by passion, hardened by fear, and exasperated by resistance,”—who dragged the Christian and pious Emperor MAURICE, with his five sons, from their sanctuary at Chalcedon, and murdered them separately in the sight of each other, throwing their bodies into the sea, and exposing their heads to the insults or pity of the Byzantine multitude-who immolated thousands of his victims without the forms of trial; and embittered their deaths by the refinements of cruelty; piercing their eyes, tearing out their tongues, amputating their limbs, scourging their bodies with thongs, consuming them with slow fires, or transfixing them with numberless arrows !! Such was the usurper Phocas, to whom yon column was erected (being first stolen) by the sycophant Smaragdus—a usurper and tyrant whose piety and benignity were eulogized by the successor of the Apostles, of that day, who prayed that the assassin's hands might be strengthened against his enemies, and that, after a long reign, he might be translated from a temporal to an everlasting kingdom ! Lætentur Cali (says the obsequious Pope Gregory) et exultet terra, et de vestris benignis actibus universæ Reipublicæ populus hilarescat! Whether that part of the pious Gregory's prayer, which relates to the “ everlasting kingdom,” was realized, it is not for man to say; but history assures us that eight years was the extent of this monster's


reign on earth; and that, in his turn, he was exposed to every variety of insult and torture—his head severed from his bodyand the mangled trunk cast into the flames! Look, READER, at that Column of Phocas, and if this short memorial of its history does not excite some vivid emotions in your mind, your heart is as cold and as hard as the Grecian marble of which its pedestal is composed.


If brass and marble bear any records of truth, JUPITER held no sinecure among the Greeks and Romans. It must be confessed, too, that his moral and regal character will not bear a very rigid scrutiny. The King of HEAVEN was a faithless husband, a corrupt judge, and a ruthless tyrant. Some of the rulers of the earth, therefore, might cite divine precedent for all their peccadillos.

A little beyond and to the right of the solitary Column of Phocas, stand three beautiful fluted Corinthian columns of Pentelic marble, supporting a majestic entablature of exquisite workmanship, the whole still forming a model and canon for the Corinthian order of architecture. They are mute as the grave; and refuse to answer the interrogatories of the antiquary, or the tortures of the monumental inquisitor. They may have belonged to Castor and Pollux-to the Comitium-to the GRÆCOSTASIS-or to JUPITER STATOR, constituting an impious bribe to the gods for a temple-worth of courage in a dastardly retreat! The head of Romulus having come in contact with a stone from the Sabine troops, the GENERAL was stunned, and, the Romans taking to their heels, were closely pursued to the very gates of the capitol. At this critical moment, Romulus recovered his senses, and bribed the King of Heaven, by the promise of a temple, for an infusion of courage into his flying soldiers. JUPITER, like a cunning Jew, was ever ready to take advantage of the distresses of mankind, and dole out his assistance to the highest bidder. Justice was out of the question.

« AnteriorContinuar »