Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

which the machines were introduced into the amphitheatre on days of extraordinary exhibitions.

The last work at the Coliseum has been the clearing of the basement corridors. Two French sentinels were protecting the building in 1854. It was to be regretted that those efficient friends of his Holiness did not extend their care to some of the contiguous monuments of Roman grandeur. The Forum and the vast arcades of the Basilica of Constantine were at that time almost inapproachable from filth, and from the purposes to which the unhidden nooks of these ruins, crowded as they were by visitors, were unblushingly applied. It is absurd to eulogise the papal government for its care of Roman remains, whilst such abominations are permitted on such a spot, and whilst the Minerva of the contiguous Forum of Nerva (Palladian or Transitorian), with its half-buried columns, is as much neglected and disfigured by rubbish as it was half a century ago (1858).

CHAPTER XVIII.

The Castle Op St. Angelo.Tomb Op Hadrian.

The Mole was constructed, it is thought, on the plan, nearly, of the Mausoleum of Augustus or of Cecilia Metella.

We must recur to Gibbon to notice two or three mistakes which he has made in his mention of this monument. The first occurs in his account of the defence of Rome by Belisarius, where he says that the sepulchre of Hadrian was then converted, "for the first time, to the uses of a citadel." * This does not seem probable, for the account given of it by Procopius tells us that it had become a sort of tower, and had, by additional works, been anciently-^ joined to the walls of Rome. Donatus % and Nardini § believe it to have been fortified by Honorius at the first approach of the G-oths, when he is recorded as having repaired the Avails.

It preserved until the tenth century the name of the

[ocr errors]

Prison or House of Theodoric,* by which appellation it is designated once or twice so late as the fifteenth century ;•(■ and this circumstance makes it appear that the Gothic monarch had made it capable of defence previously to the siege of the city by Vitiges.

The second error occurs in a note in the same place of the history, in which the breadth of the sides of the ancient square base is mistaken for the height above the walls.J

Another inadvertency is to be found in that passage in which the historian tells us, that if the people " could have wrested from the Popes the castle of St. Angelo, they had resolved, by a public decree, to have annihilated that monument." § But the partisans of Urban VI., in the year 1378, which is the period alluded to, did' take the Mole, which was surrendered to them after a year's siege by a Frenchman who commanded for the Genevese antipope Clement; and it was on that occasion that they stript off the marbles and destroyed the square base, and would, conformably to their decree,

[ocr errors]

have torn down the round tower itself, but were unable from the compact solidity of the fabric.

The authority of Poggio alone, whom Gibbon cites and misinterprets, is decisive.* "The other [sepulchre]," says the Florentine, "which they commonly call the "castle of Saint Angelo, the violence of the Romans "hath, in a great measure, although the title of it is "stdl extant over the door, defaced: and, indeed, they "would have entirely destroyed it, if, after having taken "away many of the great stones, they had beeu able to "pull to pieces the remainder of the Mole." The resistance of the naked tower, when actually exposed to the triumphant rage of a whole people, must augment our respect for this indissoluble structure.

The efforts of the Romans are still visible in the jutting blocks which mark where the corresponding portion of the basement has been torn away. The damage must have been very great, and have totally changed the appearance of the monument. In fact, a contemporary writer,t one of Dante's commentators,

* "Alteram quod castrum sancti Angeli vulgo dicunt, magna ex parte Romanorum injuria, licet adhuc titulua supra portum extet integer, disturbavit; quod certe funditus evertissent (id enim publice decreverant) si eorum manibus pervia, absumtis grandibus saxis reliqua moles extitisset."—De Fortun. Variet. Urb. Rom. ap. Sallengre, tom. i. p. 507.

t "Sed proh dolor! istud sumptuosum opus destractum et prostratum est, de anno prasenti, 1389, per populum Romanum, quia fuerat aliquando detentum per fautores Roberti Cardinalis gebennensis."—Benvenuto de' Rambaldi da Imola. Comment. in Dant. cant. xviii. ver. 28, tom. 1, p. 1070. Oper. Dant.

Tiraboschi talks of the "sumptuous work " being destroyed and laid prostrate; and another writer of the same times * records that the Romans did so handle it and so dismantle it that from that time the goats came to pasture about it

The usual uncertainty obscures the original form of this structure. The Augustan historians have left us only two short notices, by which we know that the Tomb of Hadrian was at the foot of the bridge built by that Emperor. The restored figure given in the Itineraries, the triple range of columns, the sculptured marbles, the gilded peacocks, the brazen bull, and the Belvedere pine, date no farther back than the description of Pietro Manlio, who wrote about the year 1160, and who did not tell what he saw himself, but quoted a homily of Saint Leo.-f- Manlio himself saw it as a

Tiraboschi (Storia, &c. tom. v. part ii. lib. iii. num. xi. p. 463) has corrected this date to 1379, making, at the same time, the following shameful mistake: "Perciocche parlando del Campidoglio dice,"(ib. p. 1070) "sed proh dolor! istud sumptuosum,"&c. which shows that he never could have read the commentary itself, which says nothing about the Capitol, and where the castle of St. Angelo is specified in the words immediately preceding the above quotation. "Ideo denominatum est ab isto eventu Castrum Sancti Angeli, sed proh dolor," &c. The necessity of consulting originals is no where so obvious as in turning over the great Italian works of reference.

* "E si lo ebbero e tanto lo disfecero che a tempo dappoi ci givano le capre a pascare."—Steph. Infess. Diario. ap. Script. Serum Italic, tom. iii. part 2, p. 1115.

t "Est et Castellum, quod fuit memoria Adriani imperatoris sicut legitur in sermone S. Lconis Papas de festivitate S. Petri ubi dicit Adriani Imperatoris miras magnitudinis templum constructum

« ZurückWeiter »