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TEMPLE OF ANTONINUS,
The Romans, who had violated every principle of hospitality, and seized the daughters of their Sabine guests, with as little ceremony and humanity as their descendant banditti would pounce upon the unprotected traveller, became, as a matter of course, or at least of contract, the victorious party-and then rose the temple of JUPITER STATOR-to commemorate at once the venality of the gods, and the cowardice of men !
TEMPLE TO ANTONINUS AND FAUSTINA.
From this central glance over the few remaining monuments that totter in the middle of the Forum, let us sweep the eye round its boundaries. Starting from the arch of Septimius, we range along a series of buildings, on the left, presenting a strange medley of Heathen temples converted into Christian churches and of regal palaces changed into sordid workshops! One of the most prominent features in this memorable line of ruins is the remains of a temple (now the church of St. Lorenzo) dedicated to the God Antoninus, and the Goddess Faustina !! Six majestic columns, in front, of Cepolline marble, sustain a magnificent entablature composed of enormous blocks of the same, on whose frieze are seen, in bas relief, griffons, candelabras, vases, &c. beautifully sculptured. The names of the god and goddess are almost as plain as when they were first hollowed out by the chissel, some seventeen hundred years ago. To the deification of Marcus Antoninus, whose only fault (for it could not be called a crime) was blindness to the debaucheries of his wife, no man-nor woman, will object in these days. But that the SENATE of Rome should deify, and dedicate a temple to one of the greatest strumpets of the age in which she lived, is one of the signs of those times, which may furnish food for reflection in our own days ! It has been made matter of scandal against modern Romans by impudent heretics, that they worship God through the intervention of saints; but what shall we say to the ancients who worshipped the devil through the medium of his most active agents on earth! The Senate of Marcus was
not perhaps more obsequious than those of some modern emperors. Napoleon's Senate would have deified the devil, had their master given the least intimation of such a wish ; and if MARcus lived happy and contented with his abandoned Faustina for thirty years-promoted her lovers, some of them not of the most respectable description*-thanked the gods for bestowing on him a wife so faithful, so gentlemand ultimately requested the complying Senate to declare Faustina a goddess we cannot wonder so much at the impiety of the Senators as at the blindness of the Prince! Marcus has verified the celebrated adage of Madam Dacier, that-"the husband will always be deceived if the wife condescends to dissemble.” Be this as it
the “holy water” of mother church has long since washed away the pollutions of Faustina, though the record of her debaucheries cannot so easily be effaced from the page of history. In the original temple she was represented with the attributes of Juno, Venus, and Ceres_and it was decreed that the youth of both sexes, should sacrifice before the altar of their chaste patroness on the day of their nuptials! What a happy association of ideas for those who now count their beads, and repeat their Pater Nosters in the Temple of Faustina !
RUINS OF THE TEMPLE OF PEACE.
When Peace and Mercy, banish'd from the plain,
Passing over the dwarfish Temple of Remus, fit emblem of the humble origin of Rome itself, the attention is rivetted on three gigantic arches that would appear to belong to Brobdignag! The antiquary distracts the meditations of the philosopher as effectually as the sceptic dispels the hopes of the Christian
* Faustinam satis constat apud cayetam, conditiones sibi nauticas et gladitorias, elegisse!!
believer! Would that neither the one nor the other had ever obtruded their officious speculations on the world, but confined them to the precincts of their own breasts. In the Eternal City, antiquarian lore is indeed a drug—but one more poisonous to the reveries of Fancy, Philosophy, and Memory, than aconite to the corporeal functions of man. More than half our enjoyments in this world spring from the “ pleasures of hope” and of imagination, but the sceptic and the antiquarian, like true Marplots, seem to derive their chief gratification from the infusion of gall into the cup of their neighbour.
Standing on the Tower of the Capitol, and viewing these magnificent arches, without the aid of an antiquarian telescope, the re-kindled memory and the excited imagination roam over the awful events of the Judæan war, the destruction of the Temple, the conservation of its holy relics beneath these proud arches, the fond hopes of “eternal peace,” which inspired Vespasian's breast, after the direful conflict*-and, lastly, the terrific conflagration which annihilated the sacred emblems, the effigies, the entire mystic machinery of a religion dictated to trembling man by the Creator of the Universe, amid the thunders, lightnings, earthquakes, and miracles of Mount Sinar! Yes, the precious sanctities of Jehovah's temple—the tributary gold wrung from bleeding nations- the accumulated treasures of bloated Patricians—the blood-stained spoils of ruthless warriors -the darling pelf of griping usurers, the precious jewels of prudent matrons—and costly decorations of virgin beauties, were all consigned to the devouring element of fire evaporated into air, crumbled into dust, or melted and precipitated into the bowels of that earth from which they originally sprang !
* The inscription “ Paci Æterna, &c.” which was found on a fragment of marble near the Temple of Peace, was one of the reasons for supposing these ruins to belong to that august edifice.
« Omnis Cæsareo cedat labor AMPHITHEATRO
Of all the monuments that now exist to attest the decline and fall of the Roman empire, this is the most stupendous ;—and, could it be dissociated, in the mind, from the causes which gave it birth, or the cold blooded hideous barbarities which it exhibited, it would be the most majestic, even in its ruins. But the springs of action are more philosophic objects of contemplation than the mere machinery by which these are brought into operation. In the early years of a state, as in those of an individual, the sensibilities, though keen, respond only to natural impressions. But as time rolls on, as wealth accumulates, as luxury prevails, and as virtue decays, the sensibilities become not only blunted, but perverted—wholesome stimuli cease to call forth the usual, or at all events, the desired excitementand then nature is outraged in every possible way. Such was the condition of the Romans, when the manly, or at least the innocent, contests of the circus, and the fictitious sorrows of the stage became insipid—and yon gigantic structure rose, arch over arch, and order over order, Titan-like, to scale the heavens; or, rather, to usurp the privileges of the gods, in receiving the incense of slaughtered victims—in breathing the odour of human gore, jetting in crimson fountains from a thousand pierced and palpitating hearts.
To feast their eyes on the mangled and quivering members on the reeking entrails of man and animals—to view, with exquisite delight, the murderous conflicts of the ensanguined arena, hither flowed daily the impetuous tide of human existence, the lords of the creation, the venerated, the god-like Romans! Here took their allotted seats, the sceptered prince and laurelled consul—the war-like knight and solemn senator-the haughty patrician, and factious tribune—the vestal virgin, and
stately matron-the tuneful bard and grave philosopher. These and countless multitudes of Roman citizens and Roman rabble, rushed daily to yon gorgeous structure-all for the sake of that EXCITEMENT which simple or innocent pleasures could no longer elicit !
Yes! and when the wounded gladiator fell before the superior force or fortune of his fierce antagonist, and sued for life—when the victor poised in air his gory falchion, and looked for the signal of mercy or murder--these polished Romans—the fair-sex themselves, vestals maidens and matrons, held up their hands for BLOOD; nor would they forego the poignant pleasure of seeing the reeking steel plunged into the vitals of a fellow-creature !* Such was yon colossal slaughter-house, where every ferocious animal that roamed the wilds or haunted the rivers of Asia, Africa, and Europe, was conducted to view, as well as to encounter, with horror and astonishment, the still more ferocious animal-MAN.T
* “ Two aqueducts were scarcely sufficient to wash off the human blood which a few hours sport shed in this imperial shambles. Twice in one day came the Senators and Matrons of Rome to the butchery: a virgin always gave the signal for slaughter, and when glutted with blood-shed, those ladies sat down in the wet and streaming arenæ to a luxurious supper.”—Forsyth. Who would expect that Cicero should not only defend, but warmly commend gladiatorship! “Oculis nulla poterat esse fortior contra dolorem et mortem disciplina.” If this diabolical insensibility to scenes of blood and murder was expected to re-kindle the valour of the degenerate Romans, the expectation was most woefully disappointed! The horrible and debasing inference of Cicero, indeed, is negatived by the examples of ancient Greece and modern Europe. Compare the heroic retreat of the ten thousand Greeks with the shameful flight of Julien's Roman legions from the banks of the Euphrates.
+ The licentious and blood-thirsty Romans did not always enjoy these sights with impunity. When the Emperor Probus was preparing for his triumph, nearly 300 years after the birth of Christ, fourscore desperate gladiators, out of 600 who were reserved for the inhuman sports of the Coliseum, disdaining to shed their blood for the amusement of the populace, broke from the place of their confinement, and filled the streets of Rome with slaughter and confusion. They were overcome at last ; but not before they avenged their fraternity by torrents of blood in the Eternal City.