Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

emulate, in behalf of this church, the splendours of Catulus and Domitian, and gilded the whole interior roof, in gratitude for the victory obtained over the Turks in 1571. On the return of Marc Anthony Colonna from the victory of Lepanto, on the 16th of December in that year, he was received in triumph in the Capitol, and Aracoeli was the new temple which served, instead of the Jove, Best and Greatest, to receive the vows of the Christian conqueror. The religious community amounted to 400, when the French dispersed them and reduced their treasures to the base of the altar, which Augustus Caesar erected to the First-born of God, and to the picture of the Virgin painted by St. Luke.* The restored remnant is only a hundred.-f

* Venuti (Descrizione, ibid.) has the grace to say, "Un altare che pretendesi eretto da Augusto, col titolo d' ara Primogeniti Dei."

t The festival of their sixth hundredth anniversary was celebrated on the 3rd of October (1842), and the two following days: on that occasion the hundred and twenty-four marble steps of the ascent to Aracoeli were blackened with an assemblage as numerous as ever worshipped at the shrine of the Capitoline Jove. The facade of the church itself was decorated with coloured lamps, and the interior of the building was brilliantly illuminated; but the show was rendered still more theatrical by a transparency behind the high altar representing St. Francis as large as life, standing in a golden cloud, amidst a blaze of glory, with angels above and cherubims below, each of them holding his palm and harp, whilst the real musicians praised the saint from behind a laticed tribune in front of the episcopal throne. The spectacle without the church was not rendered more imposing by the retailers of a halfpenny prayer of St. Francis, which, however, found purchasers amongst the highest and most dignified of the worshippers.

The Monte Caprino, behind the conservators' palace, is choked up by dirty cottages, through one of which you are led to look over one of the Tarpeian precipices. The height of the hill on the side of the Forum is rendered more imposing by the clearing away of the soil, which rose to the base of the senatorial palace, and formed a platform of dirt, and rubbish, over which carriages are seen driving in the old views of Rome.* As, however, the stranger cannot have the satisfaction of climbing the Capitol by the ancient triumphal road, whose exact position has not been ascertained, he should pay his first visit on the other side, by the modern approach, where the colossal figures and the trophies of Trajan in front, and the equestrian Aureliust rising before him as he mounts, have an air of ancient grandeur suitable to the sensations inspired by the genius of the place.

Temple Of Jupiter.

The preceding pages referring to the Capitol were, for the most part, written many years ago, and in 1854

* See Descriptio faciei variorum locorum quam prospectum vocant urbis Romas. Fifteen engravings by Livinus Cruylius, prefixed to the fourth volume of Grsevius. See also the Atlas to Count Tournon's volumes on Rome, plates 18, 19.

t The Marcus Aurelius has been placed higher by a single slab of stone since 1843. In the unhappy struggle of 1849 a priest was put on horseback behind the Emperor, and from that absurd position preached to the people. After the shells of the French army had driven the Roman parliament from the palace of the Cancellaria, in 1849, their meetings were held in the great room of the Senator's Palace.

I found that the site of the ancient huildings on that hill was as little decided as in 1817. The controversy respecting the position of the great temple of Jupiter was far from being settled; on the contrary, the German hypothesis, which had removed that important structure from Aracoeli to the south-west corner of the Capitoline hill, had been upset by the Italian topographers, and I confess that the learned and candid writer of the article "Rome," in Dr. Smith's Dictionary, seems to me to have demolished Becker's arguments in favour of the Cafarelli height,* although perhaps he has not removed all the objections to the other summit. Indeed, Mr. Dyer, the writer of the article, with a fairness that does him honour and adds weight to his opinions in general, confesses that "the question will not admit of complete demonstration; but," he adds, "we hope that the balance of probability may be shown to predominate very considerably in favour of the north-east height."

* For example, Becker's reference to the landing of Herdonius, as described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, is wholly beside the question, and is moreover founded on a mistranslation of the passage relating to that event in the Greek historian. And the story of the famous Vitellian attack on the Capitol, as told by Tacitus, is completely perverted in order to make it suit the German theory; and Mr. Dyer is fully entitled to exclaim, " Our chief objection to this account is its impossibility." This is true; but I must say at the same time that I do not see how the difficulty in regard to Caligula's bridge is to be got over if the temple stood on Aracoeli.

The Virgin Tarpeja.

Several years ago I was much struck by what appeared to me a singular instance of the credulity of scepticism. The great German who has re-written Roman history and deprived us of a good deal of our schoolboy belief, states that he was informed by some girls, the inhabitants of the cottages on the Capitoline hill, that "in the heart of the hill the fair Tarpeja is sitting, covered with gold and jewels, and bound by a spell; that no one, try as he may, can ever find out the way to her, and that the only time she had ever been seen was by the brother of one of the girls." * Now, I have wandered about this famous hill a hundred times, and have been often joined in my way by some of the very guides to whom Niebuhr alludes, yet did I never hear of this living popular legend of the guilt of Tarpeja, or, as the German terms it, "that genuine oral tradition which has kept Tarpeja for five and twenty hundred years in the mouths of the common people;" nor did I ever hear from any one of the professed antiquarian guides of Rome that such a story still might be heard on the Capitoline hill. I am persuaded that some one practised upon the propensity of Niebuhr to believe in such traditions.

Since making this remark I find that our late most learned Chancellor of the Exchequer has entertained

* History of Rome, vol. i. p. 227, Trans, by Thirl wall.

similar doubts of the existence of the legend. They may be found in his work on the credibility of early Roman history (vol. i., p. 99, note, and p. 425), and also in the pleasing miscellany, called 'Notes and Queries,' in the number for May 2, 1857.* Sir George Lewis took, it seems, the pains to inquire of an intelligent resident at Home, Dr. Pantaleoni, whose answer to the query concerning the said legend was given in these words: "With respect to the popular legend described by Niebuhr, I have made all possible inquiries through people living in that quarter of the town, and by their profession and character conversant with the lower orders, but I have not discovered any trace of it; and it is certain that I could not have failed in verifying it if it at all deserved the name of popular;" and the Doctor subjoins to this the following remarks: "I may, perhaps, be allowed to add that, even if this tradition were really in existence, I could by no means agree with Niebuhr in supposing it to have been preserved for 2500 years. Almost all the oral traditions of Roman antiquities, which are locally current at Rome, had their origin during the middle ages, and were the fanciful invention of ignorant antiquaries. Thus a medieval tower—the tomb of Nero on the Flaminian road—is shown as the place where Nero was singing during the fire of Rome." Sir George Lewis cites several German stories of dead

* The quotation from Niebuhr, made by Sir G. Lewis, changes the brother into a mother of one of the girls.

« ZurückWeiter »