Abbildungen der Seite

But if modern Cardinals partake of the popular superstition, so did the statesmen and warriors of ancient days. In the Via di Poli, on a strip of marble inserted in the wall of a church (the Crociferi), is an inscription which has always struck me as one of the most singular of Roman curiosities, although not noticed in the guide-books used in 1817. It is this :

“ Hanc vir patricius Belisarius urbis amicus
Ob culpæ veniam condidit ecclesiam ;
Hanc idcirco pedem sacrum qui ponis in ædem
Ut miseretur eum sæpe precare deum
Janua hæc est Templi Domino defensa potenti.”

It will be perceived that this inscription is in monkish rhyme, and the question arises at what period such a construction of verse began to prevail. Muratori,* in his Dissertation on Latin Rhymed Poetry, of which he gives specimens from the time of Ennius to the eighth Christian century, alludes to this inscription, and seems, though with much hesitation, to agree with Cardinal Baronius in thinking that it is to be assigned to the same date as the church to which it belonged, namely about the year 538, when, it is said, Justinian imposed this penance of church-building upon his General. Muratori probably had not himself noticed the inscription, for he does not give the last line of it, which is quoted by Baronius and by Nardini, and which shows that the inscription was placed over the porch of the original

[ocr errors]

church. The present edifice was raised “ ex fundamentis," in 1575, by Gregory XIII.

I cannot say that I think the argument in favour of the antiquity of the inscription, as adduced by Muratori, at all conclusive.* The belief that the soul of Belisarius might require the prayers of the faithful, may have lasted ages after the original church was built, and the inscription may have been put up by some pious restorer of the building. I remarked that the name of the repentant warrior was written thus : E LL, the E being inserted in the V, and the I in the L. It is somewhat singular that Gibbon, who has devoted so much diffusive eloquence to the praise of Belisarius and to the mean jealousies of Justinian, makes no allusion to this record of the disgrace of almost the last of Roman conquerors.f What was the crime. for which the construction of this church was the penance can now only be conjectured. The dissolute Antonina founded a convent after the death of Belisarius, and it is possible that she may have attributed the deed to the posthumous piety of her illustrious husband.

A statue, formerly in the Villa Borghese, representing a person with his hand stretched out, as if

* Si quisquam rejiciat post sæcula x. adversari nolim-attamen sunt quæ suadeant ipso sæculo Xtianæ æræ viæ inscriptionem fuisse positam — vix enim post multa sæcula rogandus fuerat populus ut precibus repetitis Belisarius misericordiam a Deo impetraret.-Murat., ib.

+ Decline and Fall, chaps. xli., xlii.

asking charity, was called a Belisarius, until the criticism of Winkelmann * rectified the mistake, and the story of the conqueror of Carthage and the saviour of Rome degraded to a blind beggar was consigned to the romance of history.

What Augustus feared Belisarius suffered. Perhaps a more striking instance of the repeated vicissitudes of fortune cannot be furnished by the whole range of history—vicissitudes not brought about, like that of the great conqueror of our own days, by his own inordinate ambition, but by that inconstancy of fortune which the worship of Nemesis was intended to avert.

It was the fear of the sudden termination of prosperity that made Amasis, king of Egypt, warn his friend Polycrates, of Samos, that the gods loved those whose lives were chequered with good and evil fortunes. Nemesis was supposed to lie in wait particularly for the prudent—that is, for those whose caution rendered them

* Winkelmann, Storia, lib. xii., cap. iii., tom, ii. p. 422. Visconti calls the statue a Cybele. It is given in the 'Museo Pio Clementino,' tom. i. par. 40. The A bate Fea, Spiegazione dei Rami, Storia, &c., tom. iii. p. 513, calls it a Chrisippus; and it is now, I believe, still called a Philosopher. The old name of the statue was “ Augustus propitiating Nemesis”—a ceremony which that emperor performed once a-year! Sueton. in Vit. Augusti. cap. 91. Casaubon, in the note, refers to Plutarch's Lives of Camillus and Æmilius Paulus, and also to his Apophthegms, for the character of this deity. The hollowed hand was reckoned the last degree of degradation : and when the dead body of the præfect Rufinus was borne about in triumph by the people, the indignity was increased by putting his hand in that position.

accessible only to mere accidents: and her first altar was raised on the banks of the Phrygian Æsepus by Adrastus, probably the prince of that name who killed the son of Croesus by mistake. Hence the goddess was called Adrastea.*

The Roman Nemesis was sacred and august: there was a temple to her in the Palatine under the name of Rhamnusia : so great indeed was the propensity of the ancients to trust to the revolution of events, and to believe in the divinity of Fortune, that in the same Palatine there was a temple to the Fortune of the day. This is the last superstition which retains its hold over the human heart; and from concentrating in one object the credulity so natural to man, has always appeared strongest in those unembarrassed by other articles of belief. The antiquaries have supposed this goddess to be synonymous with fortune and with fate: but it was in her vindictive quality that she was worshipped under the name of Nemesis.




See Questiones Romanæ, &c., ap. Græv. Antiq. Roman. tom. v. p. 942. See also Muratori, Nov. Thesaur. Inscrip. Vet. tom. i. pp. 88, 89, where there are three Latin and one Greek inscription to Nemesis, and others to Fate.

REVOLUTION OF 1818. I intended to give a detailed account of the political events that have recently occurred in the Roman States; but, having heard totally opposite opinions from trustworthy persons resident in Rome during the late troubles, and having consulted those published works which treat of them, I confess that I am unable to tell what appears to me to be the truth without running the risk of producing unhappy results. The ashes of the conflagration are yet warm, and I would not awaken, by however small a spark, a flame that might only add to the previous desolation.

Nothing would be easier than to point out the mistakes of some of those who were the principal actors in the struggles of 1848-9, but I am afraid that something must be added to the well-known apophthegm of Bacon, and that, although it may be very true that a man is never made wise except by his own experience, it is a lamentable fact that even his own experience does not always teach him to act well in the future conduct of life. The efforts made by some Italians since the peace of 1815 afford the strongest possible instance of this tendency to neglect contemporary lessons, and repeat previous errors.

It appears that, ever since the disasters of 1848-9 and the restoration of the old system throughout the whole of Italy excepting Piedmont, unceasing efforts have been made to organise insurrections, not only in the states

« ZurückWeiter »