Page images

Taverns' by Herculius Maximianus. Of Gallienus, Gibbon has said, with his usual sarcasm and his usual truth, that he was 'a master of several curious but useful sciences, a ready orator, an elegant poet, a skilful gardener, an excellent cook, and most contemptible prince. Yet, though in the latter part of his life he was seized with a sort of paroxysm of activity and courage, it is difficult to imagine who (during the confusion after his death, arising from the unappeased strife of The Thirty Tyrants ') could have raised so splendid a monument as this, as well from the ruins as from the restoration of Canina, appears to have been, to so worthless a prince.

We must hasten on to the undoubted monument of Valerius Messalinus Cotta, which covered half an acre of ground, and to the tomb which was once supposed to be that of Licinus the barber, famed in satiric verse, the ruins of which are called the Torre Selce. This conjecture was founded on two lines of Martial, in which the poet boasts that his verses would outlive the perishing stones of the sepulchre of Messala, and the marbles of Licinus crumbled into dust :

Et cùm rupta situ Messalæ saxa jacebunt,
Altaque cùm Licini marmora pulvis erunt.

MARTIAL, viii. 3.

The tomb of Licinus gave rise to the well-known epigram of Varro Atacinus :

Marmoreo Licinus tumulo jacet, at Cato parvo,
Pompeius nullo, credimus esse Deos ?

MEYER, Epigramm. Lat. i. 77. Unfortunately, we know, on the distinct and unanswerable authority of a scholiast on Persius, that the tomb of Licinus was not on the Via Appia, but at the second milestone on the Via Salaria. The mischievous critics too (see Smith’s • Dictionary,' art. Licinus), will have it that the tomb in question belonged to Licinus, a Gaul, a slave, afterwards steward of Julius Cæsar, not to the barber. We cannot consent to blunt the point of the epigram on Licinus. But there seems no doubt that the great circular tomb which bears the name of Cotta (see Pl. xxxviii.) was raised by the son to his far greater father, Messala Corvinus. Cotta himself was no undistinguished man: in the words of Paterculus (Vell. Paterc. ii. 112), he was nobler from his character than from his descent, worthy of being the son of his father Corvinus. Two of Ovid's melancholy Epistles from Pontus are addressed to Messalinus Cotta (i. 7, ii. 2). The exiled poet entreats Cotta to exert in his favour the eloquence which he inherits from his father :

Vivit enim in vobis facundi lingua parentis.

He implores him by the shade of his father, whom Ovid had honoured from his infancy, to intercede with the Gods and the Cæsars,' in the poet's belief one and the same :

Hoc pater ille tuus, primo mihi cultus ab ævo,

Si quid habet sensûs umbra diserta, petit.'

As to the father, Messala Corvinus, there were few men, at least of his own age, on whose monument the Roman might look with greater pride, or receive a more solemn admonition. by contrasting his fame, wealth, influence, endowments, and accomplishments, with the narrow urn and few ashes, the sole sad witnesses to his mortality. The high character of Messala might almost give dignity to his political tergiversations, in those dark days of Rome, almost inevitable. The consummate general, who held a high command in the anti-Cæsarean army at Philippi, almost achieved the Cæsarean naval victory at Actium. Not only was he a great general and statesman, he was poet, historian, grammarian, orator. He was one of the best and wisest counsellors of Augustus, the dear friend of Horace and Tibullus, probably of Virgil, and the nursing father of Ovid's poetry. The tomb—there is no reason to doubt but that it is the one alluded to by Martial, as among the most renowned, renowned to a proverb — was worthy of the fame of Messala.

The line of tombs was here broken for some distance by the

magnificent villa of the Quintilii. The scholar cannot but think of that Quintilius, dear to Virgil and so touchingly lamented by Horace. We would fain behold his tomb, even if it bore the dreary and despairing inscription which consigned him to eternal sleep,

Ergo Quintilium perpetuus sopor

But the villa belonged to Quintilii of a much later age, though perhaps of not less distinguished virtue. It seems to have been a sumptuous palace, though it may be difficult to determine which part belonged to the Quintilii, and which arose at the command of its Imperial usurper. But no doubt its beauty and splendour were fatal to its owners. The front to the road (see Pl. xxxiii.) exhibited the portico of a temple of Hercules, a noble vestibule, and a rich nympheum. Behind was a large space, with courts, baths, gardens, watercourses, and all which ministered to the luxury of those luxurious times. We may fairly conclude that the desire of confiscating this noble possession aggravated the jealousy of Commodus of the virtues of its masters. The brothers Quintilii were a noble example of emulous ability and success. Together they were consuls, together governors of Achaia and of Pannonia under the just rule of the Antonines. In death they were not divided. On the discovery of some unproved conspiracy, which involved the whole race, the brothers were cut off by the ruffian Commodus, and Commodus became the lord of this tempting property.

We plunge back (and this adds to the singular interest of the whole line of monuments from the days of the declining empire to the days of the kings. Near the fifth milestone there are two large mounds, popularly known as the tombs of the Horatii and Curiatii. Let us leave the legend undisturbed, and take no more notice of those wicked disenchanters of our old beliefs (they will leave us at least the poetry, if they scatter our history into a mist), than the Emperor of the French has

vouchsafed to bestow on the learned labours of Niebuhr and of the lamented Sir George Lewis.

We cannot, however, pass the remains of the countless monuments, which Canina has raised on each side of the Appian Way, without remarking the simple grace and beauty of many of them; grace and beauty which arises almost entirely out of that delicate sense of proportion which seems to have been intuitive in the Grecian mind, and is the soul of true Grecian architecture, indeed of all its art. These were borrowed by the Romans, or imitated in their happier hours, or were probably kept alive by the employment of Greek workmen or artists. In what does this harmony, this music of architecture, which pervaded Greek art, from the noblest temple to the humblest monument, consist ? Is it subject to measure and rule? Why is it so rare in almost all works but those which are purely Greek?

Few of these tombs bear names of any note; and we are in general grievously disappointed when they do. We read the name of Pompey; but Pompey, it is well known, had not the barren honour of a tomb on the foreign shore where he fell ; the pillar which long bore his name, near the mouth of the Nile, has long passed over to a more rightful and far baser

Sextus Pompeius Justus, whose name appears on a stately tomb, was but a freedman of that great house. But near the fourth milestone was the scene of the luxurious life, of the miserable death, and, in all probability, stood the humble tomb of a man to whom, of all Romans, it is perhaps the most difficult to do justice, and no more than justice.

Here were the gardens of the too wealthy' Seneca ; here took place that slow death, at the command of his pupil Nero, described (we urge our readers to refresh their memory with the wonderful passage) in the “Annals of Tacitus' (xv. 71 et seq.). Not merely does Tacitus say of Seneca, at the time of his death, 'quartum apud lapidem, suburbano rure constiterat,' but a fragment has been discovered bearing the name of the tribune of the Prætorian cohort, Granius (Silvanus), who was said to


have been commissioned to order Seneca to put himself to death. Canina conjectures that Granius may have obtained the villa as the reward of his services. If Seneca did not live, at least he died, as a philosopher. It is harsh, perhaps, to charge his memory with the crimes of his ungovernable pupil; scarcely possible to relieve his memory from cowardly acquiescence in some of the worst of those crimes. His philosophy, as shown in his writings, is even a more difficult problem. Exquisite gleams of premature humanity, which have tempted many, in utter ignorance of the history of the times, which makes such a notion impossible, to refer them to a higher and purer source, even to intercourse with St. Paul; a Stoicism which strives to be calm and majestic, but is far too theatrical, laboured, and emphatic for true commanding majesty: all in a detestable style,-a rope of sand, as it has been described ; brief epigrams for sentences, without cohesion, flow, natural sequence or harmony. The remains of Seneca, Tacitus tells us, were burned on the spot; we may conjecture that his ashes were gathered into some cheap urn. Canina imagines a monument; and in a head, upon a fragment discovered near the spot, he would recognise the likeness of the philosopher. And he has explained, too, with singular ingenuity, a bas-relief (Pl. xix.), representing, from Herodotus, the scene of the death of the son of Crcesus, which might have belonged to the tomb. Of this we presume he would suppose the moral to be, that no one should be called happy before the day of his death :

Dicique beatus Ante obitum nemo, supremaque funera debet. Another mile and we stand before the colossal Cæcilia Metella tomb. This was within the older circuit of all visitors to Rome, and close to it are the ruins of the mediæval fortress of the Gaetani. Byron has made this noble ruin his own. Even in his descriptive poetry (and when he was in the vein what descriptive poet was equal to Byron ?) there are few passages of equal truth and sublimity. We cannot refrain from

« PreviousContinue »