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The Farnese family were ambitious of a summerhouse in the imperial precincts. They levelled, they built, and they planted; Michael Angelo designed, Raffael painted, and the master-pieces of ancient sculpture, statues, reliefs, and coloured marbles, were drawn from beneath the ruins of Caracalla’s baths and of the Flavian amphitheatre for the embellishment of the rising villa. Following antiquaries, from Donatus * to Venuti,t were pleased to remark that these peopled gardens had succeeded to the solitude of the longneglected hill. The extinction or aggrandisement of the Farnese dukes stripped this retreat as well as the palace of the family, of all its treasures. Naples was again fated to be enriched by the plunder of Rome. The Palatine villa was abandoned, and in less than half a century $ has fallen to the ground. The naked fountain and twisted steps of Michael Angelo, and the cockle-shell incrusted walls, form a singular contrast with the lofty arcades on the Cæsarean side.
The Palatine was never entirely covered with structures; space must be left for gardens, for a manege,
* “Nunc tanta moles vel suis obruta ruinis est ; vel parietibus ac porticibus informis vel transiit in amænitatem Farnesiorum hortorum.”—Donat., lib. iii. cap. ii.
† Roma moderna, &c. Rione xii. tom. ii. p. 396.
† The great Campo Fiore palace is much neglected ; it requires a princely court to occupy it; and the Neapolitan ambassador is lost in one of the suites of one of the stories of one of the sides of the vast square.
$ Venuti (ibid.) seems to have seen it entire.
and for a hippodrome.* Antiquaries, to prove the latter, have been obliged to have recourse to the acts of the martyrs, but there are evident signs of the Course in one of the gardens. There are abundant materials for dispute in the masses of the palace, which cased the whole hill in brickwork, and of the many temples which lodged the gods that watched over the Emperor. A view of the Palatine ruins, in Paul V.'s time, f marks a temple of Orcus, a temple of Cybele, a temple of Heliogabalus, to all which other names have succeeded with equal authority. The precise details of Bianchini,who dissected the soil and assigned to all the ruins above and below their distinct character and function, have retained few believers even amongst the Romans. A subterranean cell, in the vineyard of the Farnese gardens, still preserves the name of the Baths of Livia, for some reason not apparent in the construction or site. The King of Naples has kindly not stripped off all the arabesques, but left a portion to show how the whole apartments were once adorned. These paintings do not suffer so much from the oozing of the saltpetre as when exposed to the external air, as they have found in the open chambers of the Baths of Titus. The gilding preserves its freshness, and the outlines their edge, and seem liable to no injury but from the torches of the guides.
* St. Sebastian was shot with arrows, as we see in so many fine pictures, in the hippodrome of the palace.
+ See quotation from Claud. in vi. Cons. Honor. in previous notice. Nardini, lib. vi. cap. xiii. and xiv. reckons nineteen at least. , I Vedute degli antichi vestigj, &c.
f Palazzo de' Cesari.
Several blocks of sculptured marble above the ruins of the summer house, are honoured with the name of the Palatine Apollo. Of this temple, an early topographer thought he saw some vestiges overlooking the Circus Maximus on the other side of the hill.
A contiguous portion of the Palatine is occupied by the kitchen gardens and vineyards of the Casino Spada, or Magnani, which the pretended frescoes of Raphael have not preserved from ruin. Half a century ago a tower looking over the site of the Circus Maximus, and which made part of the Cæsarean palace, was restored. But the curse of Jerusalem hangs over this hill—it is again in ruins. In this quarter is shown a suite of subterranean chambers, usually denominated the Baths of Nero; for this Emperor being a great builder, is generally called in to father all unknown remains. An Englishman excavated these chambers in 1777, and the ground of the villa is now at the disposal of any one who chooses to pay a very moderate sum for so imperiał a purchase, and the pleasure of experiments.*
The Palatine, it has been remarked, has, no less than the valleys, been encumbered with accumulated soil. These chambers were surely above ground. No descent to them was discovered, but has been since constructed.
* Written in 1817.
The next garden and vineyard, for so the Palatine is now divided, is in possession of the Anglo-Irish college, and some rustic or playful antiquaries had, in 1817, chalked upon the gateway, “The Hippodrome, the Temple. of Apollo, the house of the Vestals.” The shape of the vineyard does resemble a place for equestrian exercises. Apollo and the Vestals may be lodged at will in any of the towering vaults or underground crypts of these enormous masses.
You may explore for hours either above or below, through the arched corridors, or on the platforms whose stuccoed floorings have resisted a thousand winters, and serve as a roof to the ruins beneath. From the corner of this platform there is one of the most impressive views of the Coliseum and the remains of the old city, both within and without the walls. The long lines of aqueducts stretched across the bare campagna, are the arms of the fallen giant. The look of these great structures, built for some purpose which the shrunk condition of the modern city did not render apparent, made a Roman of the fifteenth century call them insane. * Your walks in the Palatine ruins, if it be one of the many days when the labourers do not work, will be undisturbed, unless you startle a fox in breaking through the brambles in the corridors, or burst unawares through the hole of some shivered fragments into one of the half buried chambers which the peasants have blocked up to serve as stalls for their jackasses, or as huts for those who watch the gardens. The smoke of their wood-fires has not hidden the stuccoes and deeply indented mouldings of the imperial roofs. The soil accumulated in this quarter has formed a slope on the side of the ruins, and some steps have been adjusted into the bank. Half way up an open oratory has been niched into a wall.
* “ Celsos fornices et insana acquæductorum opera perlustrans," F. Blond. Roma Inst., lib. iii. fo. 3, if he did not mean broken.
Religion is still triumphant after the fall of the palace of the Cæsars, the towers of feudal lords, and the villas of papal princes. The church and contiguous monastery of St. Bonaventura preserve a spark of life upon the site of the town of Romulus.* The only lane which crosses the Palatine, leads to this church between dead walls, where the stations of the via crucis divert the attention from the fall of the Cæsars, to the sublimer and more humiliating sufferings of God himself. The tall fragments of the imperial ruins rising from a hill, which seems one wide field of crossed and trellised reeds hung round with vines, form the most striking portion of the prospect of the old town, seen from the platform
* The order of St. Francis are masters of the Palatine, as well as the Capitoline summit. One series of pictures represents those of their order who have been Popes or Cardinals, another all those who have been Generals of it; a third, are all those who have made saints, or beatified, or whose “offices ” were celebrated in the Roman ritual,—a most formidable list. I found at my visit in 1842 that a part of the property of the Franciscan Convent had been sold to the Apostolic Camera.