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Until lately this very ancient structure seems to have been comparatively overlooked. So little attention was paid to it, that, in order to enlarge the contiguous nunnery, part of it was pulled down, and then were found those beams of wood pointed at both ends, and dove-tailed into the masonry, to which a very ancient date has been assigned, * but which were so fresh and uninjured that they were used for carpenters' work at the time of their discovery. The story is told by Vacca.
The peperine blocks of this wall are not quite so large as those described by Dionysius as employed by Tarquinius Priscus (as large as a cart, a favourite expression of Greek writers), but they are of great dimensions, and would serve for the defences of a city. Pliny says that the Tullian walls were seen in his time. The projecting cornices are of travertine, a mixture found in the church of Sta. Maria Egizziaca, called Temple of Patrician Modesty—certainly of a Republican date.
That the wall, whatever was its original design, was turned into the enclosure of a forum, there can be little doubt. The arch of Pantani and the other four arches, still visible, but now built up, are evidences of that fact. The cornice of brickwork, which forms an angle with the ancient wall, and runs under the roofs of several modern houses, might possibly be found to be the summit of some old structure if the houses were re
* Winkelmann, Storia, &c., tom. iii. p. 31.
moved.* It is not easy to distinguish the ancient from the walls of the middle ages in this quarter. Some of the brickwork of the “Tor de' Conti' appears older than the date of the tower, and may have been part of the enclosure of the forum of Cæsar, of which some remains, as before mentioned, are thought to be seen behind the church of Cosmas and Damianus.
I am at a loss to understand how so enormous a work, differing altogether from the surrounding buildings, even from those which we are accustomed to consider belonged to ancient Rome, should have been suffered to remain in the heart of the town, and have survived all the successive accidents, changes, and embellishments of the Republican and Imperial city; nor do I at all see how the forum of Nerva, or of Augustus, as it is called by some, with all its splendid marble edifices, could have been appropriately flanked by such a rude and incongruous structure.
The temple, whether of Mars or of Nerva, one of the most magnificent and highly ornamented in Rome, was built up against the great wall, and the contrast between the material and the shape of the two structures must have been much more striking when they were both entire than at the present day. The nunnery, which has succeeded to the temple, prevents a complete inspection of this most interesting and perplexing monument of times long past.
* Mr. Dyer, in Dr. Smith's Dictionary (pp. 798-99), in his notice of the Forums of Augustus and Cæsar, is not so satisfactory as usual. It is difficult to make out from him to which Forum the great wall belonged. There is a sort of double wall, about 105 common paces in length, not noticed in the guide-books, extending from this quarter towards the Forum of Trajan, and to this forum the Arco de' Pantani was formerly thought to belong.
THE COLUMN AND FORUM OF TRAJAN. On the balustrade of the modern Capitol, under Ara Coeli, there is a column surmounted by a large bronze globe, which an inscription at the base of the column asserts to have contained the ashes of Trajan, but on what authority no one has yet discovered. There was a precedent for placing a cinerary urn on the top of such columns,* but the remains of Trajan were buried in a golden urn under the column,t and continued in that
* A medal of Vespasian has been found with a column surmounted by an urn. See Joseph. Castalionis, de Colum. Triump. Comment. ap. Grcev. Antiq. Rom., tom. iv. p. 1947.
† Tà dè toll Tpaïavov ootâ év TẬ któvi aŭtoll katetéОn. Dion. Hist, Rom., lib. lxix. tom. ii. p. 1150, edit. Hamb. 1750. “Sunt qui in pila, quam tenebat Colossus, cineres conditos dicunt: quo fundamento adhuc requiro.”—See Comment. to lib. lxviii. tom. ii. p. 1133, of the Xylandro-Leunclavian version.
“ Ossa in urna aurea collocata sub Columna Fori quæ ejus nomine vocitatur, recondita sunt, cujus columnæ altitudo in 140 pedes erigitur.”—Cassiod. in Chronic., p. 388, tom. i. fo. 1679. Cassiodorus must be reckoned good authority for what he tells of the Rome which he saw, although his chronicle from the beginning of the world to the year 519 must be expected to be rather inaccurate. For a character of this writer, and for the question whether there were not two Cassiodorus, father and son, to whom the actions of the one should be attributed, see Tiraboschi, Storia della Lett. Ital., tom. iii. lib. i. cap. i.
depository in the time of Theodoric. The value of the urn was sure to be fatal to the deposit; but we know nothing of the time when poverty and rapine had lost all respect for the remains of the best of the Roman princes. An absurd story, which was current in the English churches in the ninth century, would make us suppose that the Christians condescended to except Trajan from the usual condemnation of pagans, and that Gregory the Great, in passing through the Forum, was moved to compassion for the emperor in purgatory, and prayed for and liberated his soul.* The diminished charity of future zeal induced Bellarmine and the graver writers to reject this narration as a putid fable, and for the best of reasons, since St. Gregory himself, in the fourth book of his Dialogues (cap. 44.), has declared, " that we should not pray for the devil and his angels reserved for eternal punishment, nor for infidels, nor the impious defunct.”+ The report, however, of Gregory's biographers must make us think that the ashes had not
* The story is told by Paul the Deacon and by John the Deacon; the latter says he heard it in some English churches. See previous notice of the Forum of Trajan.
† “ Docet orandum non esse pro diabolo, angelisque ejus æterno supplicio deputatis, neque pro infidelibus hominibus impiisque defunctis.”_See Dissertat. v. de Romanis Imperatorib. ap. Io. Laurent. Berti. Histor. Ecclesi. &c., tom. ii. p. 72, Bassani. 1769.
Tiraboschi laughs at John of Salisbury for telling the story of Trajan’s liberation from Hell by Gregory ; but he praises John the Deacon, who had not mentioned the burning of the Palatine library by the Pontiff, forgetting that John had told the story about Trajan. - Storia della Lett. Ital., tom. iii. lib. ii. pp. 106 and 111.
yet been removed from the column, for if they had, it might have been forgotten, as at present, that this monument was ever a place of sepulture.
The Romans, having performed one great work, chose to commemorate it by another. The stranger, at the first sight of the column, naturally expects to find that the inscription will refer to the virtues, or at least the victories, of the prince whose exploits are sculptured upon it, but he reads only that the pillar was raised to show how much of the hill, and to what height had, with infinite labour, been cleared away.* The historian Dion shows he can never have read this simple inscription, when he says that the column was raised by Trajan, “partly for a sepulchre, as well as for an evidence of the labour with which the Forum was made.” | The first object does not appear to have been entertained by Trajan or the senate. No emperor had been buried within the city, and it was Hadrian who transferred his