« AnteriorContinuar »
Erected by a Pagan-purged of its inhuman rites by a Priest* -and propped in old age by a Pope—the Coliseum shadows out some faint emblematical picture of Rome itself. It was once the stormy theatre of bloody deeds—it is now the peaceful asylum of holy crosses. Part of it still stands erect, or renovated; part of it totters over its base; but the greater part has vanished. Eloquent in its silence, populous in its solitude, majestic in its adversity, admired in its decay, the ruins of the Coliseum, like the remains of Rome, excite the curiosity of the antiquary—the ruminations of the moralist—the zeal of the Catholic—the admiration of the architect—the sigh of the philanthropist—the sneer of the cynic—the humiliation of the philosopher-and the astonishment of all.
ARCH OF CONSTANTINE,
I never look at a triumphal arch, without feeling a thrill of horror run through my veins. Behold the Arch of ConstanTINE—the FIRST CHRISTIAN EMPEROR, who waded to the throne ankle-deep in the blood of his rival (Maxentius) as well as of his whole race! But that was a legitimate procedure, according to the imperial maxims of ancient days! The murder of his wife—of his virtuous son (Crispus)-of his innocent nephews -and of a few thousand other victims, were only episodes which fill a few pages of impartial history, but which are prudently slurred over by historical bishops !
The arch itself is a memorable instance and record of the instability of human power, and the uncertainty of triumphal honours ! The fortune of a battle converted a traitor into an emperor-while an abject senate changed the edifices erected by Maxentius into trophies for his conqueror-demolished the Arch of Trajan to build up the heterogeneous Arch of Constantine,
* St. Telemachus, (an Asiatic Monk) who, in the reign of Honorius, jumped upon the arena to separate the gladiators, and was stoned to death for his humanity! This procured a decree against gladiatorship.
without regard to' the memory of the virtuous dead, or to the rules of architectural propriety-confounded times, persons, actions and characters, in a chaos of anachronism, and a mass of inconsistencies—prostrating Parthian captives at the feet of a prince who never crossed the Euphrates--and placing the head of Trajan on the body of Constantine !
That Arch recalls many a scene of deception as well as of cruelty in the MAN to whom it is raised. The standard, the dream, and the celestial sign,” rise in imagination—the mystic LABARUM floats before our eyes--and we alınost involuntarily look
at the azure vault of Heaven, to behold the radiant cross over the meridian sun-and read the awful words sub hoc signo vinces,” traced by the finger of God. But the delusion soon vanishes; and although the first Christian Emperor is still portrayed in the portals of St. Peter, as viewing the miracle in the skies, reason as well as history convinces us, that—" in the account of his own conversion, Constantine attested a wilful falsehood by a solemn and deliberate perjury.”
ARCH OF TITUS.
This awful RELIC, enchased with the sacred symbols of our holy religion-symbols
" Which Jews might kiss and Infidels adore”still strides over the via sacra, or via triumphalis, in solitary grandeur. The vice-gerent of Christ, the descendant of the Apostles has piously restored and propped up the triumphal arch of a heathen warrior, who demolished, in verification of prophecy, the Temple of Jerusalem. A grateful people, or an obsequious Senate raised the trophy of Pentelic marble-adorned it with fluted columns-embellished the interior of the arch with bass-reliefs representing the conqueror Titus in a car of state, drawn by four horses, and conducted by that virtuous female, Rome! Victory, of course, crowns the Emperor with unfading laurels; and he is followed by bands of soldiers
“ drunk with blood,” and hosts of Jews in hopeless captivity. Here too are seen, the splendid but revolting proofs of Jupiter's triumph over Jehovah. The golden table—the sacred vasesthe silver trumpet-the seven-branched candlestick—the weeping Jordan—the apotheosis of the conqueror—and all the various emblems of heathen exultation over Judean woe, have been piously restored, after a lapse of 18 centuries, by the successor of St. PETER! Whether their restoration be owing to the unreasonable antipathy of Christians towards Israelites—the vanity of the Romans, as flattered by triumphal arches of all kinds—the laudable wish to preserve the most perfect specimen of the ancient composite order, (the canon of its species of architecture,)—or, lastly, the awful proofs of the fulfilment of holy prophecy—I presume not to decide ; but the Arch of Titus, with all its tumultuous reminiscences respecting the destruction of Jerusalem, and dispersion of God's chosen people, is one of the most exciting objects of contemplation in the Roman Forum.
Whether the spoils of the Sanctuary emblazoned on this Arch were burnt in the Temple of Peace, or carried off by Genseric to the shores of Africa, it is needless to inquire. Their marble copies on the Arch of Titus now only remain !
Triumphal processions form the blackest stains on the escutcheons of the ROMAN arms. Grecian feeling was too acute, and Grecian taste was too refined, to permit such unmanly and ungenerous exhibitions. The massacre of enemies, who surrender on the field of battle, is comparative mercy. The blood of the victor and of the vanquished is boiling with passionthe former is unaided by the dictates of cool reflection; and the latter scarcely feels the fatal blow. But the selfish pride, the heartless cruelty, the dastard exultation, that could drag in chains, expose to ribaldry, and consign to death, the brave and guiltless opponents of Roman conquest, were alone sufficient to draw down Divine vengeance on the Roman Empire, and brand with everlasting infamy the Roman name. A contemplation of triumphal processions, from the First, in which
ROMULUS carried on his own back the spoils of Acron whom he had slain, down to the last, when Diocletian, a thousand years afterwards, softened perhaps by the precepts of Christianity which were then beginning to operate, only paraded the images of the captive wives, the sisters, and the children of NARSES, King of Persia, before his triumphal chariot, would sicken the heart of the most blind idolater of Roman magnanimity. Even the least cruel, but the most splendid triumphal procession that ever ascended the steps of the Capitol, that of AURELIAN, (some thirty years previously,) was stained by the unmanly exultation orer a fallen enemy, which marked and disgraced the conquerors of Rome. Twenty elephants, two hundred tigers, and other wild beasts, sixteen hundred gladiators devoted to the murderous sports of the amphitheatre, the wealth of Asia, the ambassadors of the most remote parts of the earth, the long train of captives, Goths, Vandals, Gauls, and Egyptians-these were not sufficient to satisfy the impious pride and dastard selfishness of AURELIAN! No! the beauteous ZENOBIA, Queen of the East, fainting under fetters and chains of gold, which required a slave for their support, was forced to walk before the magnificent chariot of the victor drawn by four elephants, and followed by the most illustrious of the senate, people, and army -while “unfeigned joy, wonder, and gratitude, swelled the acclamations of the multitude !” And what was the end of all this pomp and display of human vanity? The captive ZENOBIA survived the toil and humiliation of that memorable day ; dying in peace, perhaps in contentment, at her beautiful villa of Tivoli ; while the haughty Emperor was harassed with treasons, and soon afterwards assassinated by Mucator, one of his most favourite generals !!
But these first and last triumphs were bloodless, though unmanly. The interminable list of interınediate processions displayed all the shades of wanton pride and relentless cruelty, which darken and debase the human character! The first that occurs to the memory, is by no means the most agonizing to a christian-or even a philosophic mind. JUGURTHA, the Nu
midian prince, was betrayed by the basest villainy into the hands of Marius, one of the most blood-thirsty tigers of the god-like Romans. The king (with his sons) was dragged in chains behind the triumphal chariot of Marius-thrown into the Mamertine cells—his ears cut off by the gaolers, impatient to get possession of their pendants-and then starved to death in those hellish dungeons, while the victor was entertaining the magnanimous Romans with shows and feasts !!*
Let the contemplative traveller recall these scenes to mind, while admiring the triumphal arches of ancient Rome !
Passing the Arch of Tirus in our circuit of the Forum, we come to the Palatine Hill, so long the throne of the haughty Cæsars, whose imperial rescripts and mandates moved the mighty engine of the Roman Empire. Its brow is still encircled by a coronet of mouldering ruins ; but palaces no longer crown its head. The plough and the planter have been there-and the fox, roused by the sound of human footsteps, starts from his den, and casts a scowling look at the intrusive stranger. The clustering vine and funereal cypress, just emblems of that medley of mirth and mortality which constitutes the beginning and end of all earthly things, wave over that Mount which has witnessed more vicissitudes of fortune than poet's pen or painter's pencil could delineate in a hundred years ! How often has it felt the impetuous storm of revolution, and the slow corroding
It is consoling to observe that, in the course of twenty years after this display of Marius, the Roman taste had changed for the better. Pompey, who boasted in this third triumph, that he had vanquished, slain, and taken, two millions, one hundred and eighty-three thousand men, and who paraded on foot, before his car, 324 kings, princes, and great lords, including Tigranes, Zozima, five sons of Mithridates, Olthaces, &c. yet avoided loading them with chains, and put none of them to death. In the days of the virtuous Aurelian, centuries afterwards, the taste had retrograded, and chains were placed round the necks of captive princes !