« AnteriorContinuar »
WALLS, TOMBS, AQUEDUCTS.
felt their influence? The fine faces that underwent the beautifyings described by Lucilius, could not be exposed to the cuttings and slashings of barbarian swords-nor could the fine forms, enervated by the vapour unctions of the THERMÆ, sustain the heavy armour and unwieldy weapons of their forefathers !
When rulers are impelled by the taste of the public, or tempted by their own lust of dominion, to erect such fabrics as the COLISEUM and the THERME- the former to brutalize the the minds, and the latter to enervate the bodies of their subjects, we may rest assured that PRINCES are bent upon despotism ;-—and that the PEOPLE are either ripe for revolution, or in preparation for slavery. That PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENTS, so well calculated to demoralize and effeminate the population of a state, may never rear their heads on the shores of Britain, is to be devoutly wished! When the hardy Romans bathed only in the Tiber-spurned tyrants and tyranny—asserted their independence, and subjugated their barbarian neighbours, they knew not the luxury of linen-and their flannel shirts were rarely, if ever washed. Well ! such a state, so horrible in the eyes of their degenerate successors, was preferable to that, in which the COLISEUM was necessary to saturate the sense of sight with slaughter;—and the THERMÆ were indispensable for the indulgence of the other senses in every vicious propensity, which a prurient imagination could invent, or an insatiable luxury demand !
WALLS, TOMBS, AQUEDUCTS.
As the circle of vision widens, wave after wave, from the Tower of the Capitol, the objects grow hardly less distinctthe recollections and reflections become scarcely less exciting. The sight of lofty battlements, standing like a chain of silent and unconscious sentinels around the solitude of a departed city, suggests the natural and the just idea, that Rome fell ingloriously by her own hands, and not in manly combat with a fo:
reign foe! Had the Romans been true to themselves, yon walls would not have been left to encircle vacuity-nor to stand, at once the emblem and the evidence of NATIONAL SUICIDE !
PYRAMID OF CAIUS CESTIUS.
Carrying the eye to the right, along the mouldering and mossgrown girdle of Imperial Rome, our attention is arrested for a mo'ment—and but for a moment-by the Pyramid of Caius CESTIUS
one of the Septemvirs, who prepared the banquets of the Gods, and who, as comptroller of the celestial kitchen, tasted the choicest viands on the Lectisternian tables. Caius Cestius naturally concluded that a carcase which had, during life, fattened on ambrosia and nectar, would be speedily visited, after death, by swarms of the keen-scented courtiers of the grave. Brass and marble were put in requisition, to guard against oblivion and worms. The colossal statue and the pyramidal tomb arose-puny imitations of their stupendous prototypes heaved up on the banks of the Nile, by hands unknown and for purposes forgotten! The foot of the statue lies in a court of the Capitol—the body of Caius Cestius has vanished—and the pyramid itself, restored by a pious Pope, is only interesting, by daily sweeping its funereal shadow over the lowly and grass-grown graves of our departed countrymen, whom the spirit of curiosity, the thirst of knowledge, the ennui of idleness—the tyranny of fashion, or the torments of sickness, attracted to the hallowed shrine and balmy atmosphere of the Eternal City. No wall is permitted to surround the cemetery of Christian heretics, least it should obstruct the view of a pagan sepulchre. A deep trench answers the purpose as well, or better. A perusal of the “ frail memorials” erected by consanguinity or friendship over the bones of our compatriots, clearly indicates that the greater number fell victims to that climate and those azure skies, from whose influence they vainly expected a restoration of health, or prolongation of life! It may possibly prove a gratification to their MANES, that their ashes are mingled with those of the Cæsars, the senators, and
the slaughterers of antiquity. But even if the anticipation of this posthumous honour ever flashed across their minds, ere the spirit winged its flight, it was a poor equivalent for the consolation of closing their eyes in the land that gave them birth, amidst the sighs and tears of filial or parental affectiou—the sympathy of friends--and the solace of that religion, whose precepts are entwined with our earliest associations !
ST. JOHN LATERAN.
On sweeping the eye to the left, from the Pyramid of Calus Cestius, and closely following the line of the ancient wall, we are arrested by an object which it would be almost sacrilege to pass unnoticed—the Church—the mother of churches-St. John LATERAN! That first, if not most pious of Christian emperors, CONSTANTINE, whose arch has been mentioned, and whose noble achievements have been adverted to, constructed this holy edifice
or the edifice on whose ruins it is erected—while holy POPES and devout Christians deposited within its sacred walls the most awful and interesting relics on which the human eye ever gazed !
“ First, the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, encased in silver busts, set with jewels-second, a lock of the Virgin Mary's hair, and a piece of her petticoat-third, a robe of Jesus Christ, sprinkled with his blood-fourth, some drops of his blood in a phial-fifth, some of the water which flowed out of the wound in his side—sixthly, some of the sponge-seventhly, the table off which our Saviour ate his last supper-eighthly, a piece of the stone of the sepulchre on which the angel sat—and lastly, the identical porphyry pillar on which the cock was perched when he crowed after Peter denied Christ."*
All these, and many others, may be seen on each Holy Thursday, in the Basilica of Constantine-and what faithful Catholic, or true believer, would grudge a journey over the Alps, to be
* Rome in the 19th Century.
hold such awe-inspiring relics! Even if the heretic sceptic should shake his head in doubt, he must acknowledge that here is the actual font, formed of an antique basaltic urn, in which the first Christian emperor received his baptismal immersion. EUSEBIUS, it is true, informs us that Constantine put off his christening, as many people do their wills, till the day of his death, at NICOMEDIA :--but a trifling anachronism or transposition should give way to sentiments of veneration inspired by such a momentous event in the catholic, or rather the political history of the Church.
Heretic that I am, I acknowledge that an object in the front of St. John Lateran, called forth more profound meditations than the Baptistery of Constantine (whose character I never admired,) or the fabulous relics of our Saviour's eventful life and death! I say fabulous—for were there a single atom of probability or truth in the tales connected with these relics, I would be the first to fall down and worship them. But the venerable and gigantic obelisk of granite, hewn out of the solid rocks of the Nubian mountains, before the foundations of the Pyramids were laid, and dedicated to the sun by Rameses, King of Egypt, 3330 years ago, would attract the attention of the most apathetical observer, and call forth reflexions—if the materials of thought existed in his breast! The first question that suggests itself is-what brought this stupendous piece of granite from Thebes to Rome? HISTORY, like a parrot, replies, ConSTANTINE the Great, and CONSTANS the Second. I should be more inclined to say, that this colossal monument was carried to its present destination by that irresistible current of moral and physical energy-of arts and of arms—of wealth and of powerwhich has constantly, if not uniformly flowed from East to West, and from South to North, for forty centuries. Where are the fountains of empire which once descended with the streams of the Ganges, the Euphrates, the Nile, the Scamander, the Hellespont, the Tiber? They now glide through channels with harsher names-along the Rhone and the Seine-the Thames and the Oder-the Vistula and the Dwina! And has that
obelisk fixed its final residence where it now stands ? May not some future CONSTANTINE, of the North or the West, seize on tbis venerable exile of Egypt, and drag it in chains to a still greater distance from the Court of Rameses—to the frozen banks of the Beresina--or to the stormy and wave-worn shores of that gloomy climem
Where seas embrace, Dividing from the world the British race? Yes! when the light of reason and knowledge, now dawning over the Apennines, shall have dispersed the dense vapour of superstitious thraldom, which still hangs over the seven hills, the temporal sceptre of the Church will be quietly inurned on the quirinal, and sleep in everlasting repose with the undistinguished ashes of the Cæsars, and the high priests of Jupiter --while the key of St. Peter will fall from the summit of Trajan's Pillar, (where it should never have been placed,) no more to unlock the gate of Heaven at the intercession or importunity of presumptuous man! And what shall then induce either gods or men to reside in the pestiferous atmosphere of the Campagna ? Nothing. Man will move into a better air--he can scarcely find a worse; while the gods and demigods of antiquity will abandon, perhaps without much reluctance, the Capitol and the Vatican, to visit regions unknown to, or abhorred by, their original idolaters. The Belvidere Apollo, and the Medicean Venus, may not be the only divinities for whom “Change of Air” may be prescribed by some potent physician of future times ! JUPITER may yet display his ambrosial curls in the Louvre, in modern Babylon, or in St. Petersburgh-Apollo may get direct his arrows against the Caledonian boar, instead of the Pythian serpentthe labours of Hercules may not yet be finished-be may yet sail between the pillars which he formed as the boundaries of the world, and cross the Atlantic to a world of which he was ignorant–LAOCOON and his children (for priests in his days acknowledged their offspring) may yet writhe on the banks of the Bothnia, under the stupid gaze of Finland boors--while N10BE and her family enact their daily tragedy in