« PreviousContinue »
road from near the site of the ancient Bovillæ, had left the course of the old Appian road more entirely, till the present day, in its state of wildness and desolation. To Pope Pius IX. is due the gratitude of all students of Roman antiquities, of all who visit Rome with the feelings of solemn veneration which her ancient glory ought to inspire. We write deliberately when we declare our judgement, that there is nothing so impressive, so sublimely melancholy, so appalling, we had almost said, as the slow journey of several miles, now open, along this ancient Appian way.
Even to small and graceful Pompeii, there was something grave and serious in the approach through the Street of Tombs. But few as are the actual remains of this wilderness of sepulchres on the Appian
Quandoquidem data sunt ipsis quoque fata sepulchris
shapeless as most of these are, except the huge Cecilia Metella, and that half transformed into a mediæval fortress—comparatively few as are the glorious names decipherable, except on the tomb of the Scipios; and where the names are recognizable even fewer belonging to the noblest that bore those namesstill the imagination seems to people again the whole region with the great Romans of the Republic and of the Empire, to create to itself a more solemn and a more enthralling sense of the grandeur, of the power, of the vastness, and, if it were not mockery to say so, the eternity—the eternity, at least of the fame, of Rome—than on the slope of the Capitol, or within the gigantic walls of the Colosseum. Here, mile after mile, spread one, and but one, of the cemeteries of Rome; and these cemeteries were of course the exclusive privilege and possession of the great, the noble, and the wealthy. It is well known, and it is a redeeming point in a society based on slavery, that the great admitted the urns of their faithful and favoured freedmen into the columbaria of the family monument. But the mass of the vulgar dead, the poor, the slaves, the refuse of those thousands, according to some the more than millions, of human, beings, who swarmed in the streets, lurked in the cellars, nestled in
the garrets of Rome, what became of them? We know little more than that they were cast into the vast pits, the puticoli, which probably were dug in different parts of the outskirts of the city, but of which the largest, most famous — may we not say, rather, most infamous were on the Esquiline hill
Huc priùs angustis ejecta cadavera cellig
Hor. Sat. i. 8, 8.
An accursed and infected region, where the white bones cropped out of the loose black soil!
Quò modò tristes
where the foul birds of prey, the · Esquilinæ alites,' invoked by Canidia, were ever hovering, and perhaps the wolves prowling
Post, insepulta membra different lupi,
Et Esquiline alites.—Epod. v. 99.
where Canidia herself wandered by moonlight to gather bones and poisonous herbs for her spells, and to call up the ghosts of the dead. It is well known that a large part of this district, dedicated of old to the burial of the poor, as the ancient cippus declared -- was granted by Augustus to his favourite. The blooming, salubrious, and much frequented gardens of Mecænas spread, to some extent, over this unholy and unfertile region. Augustus is said to have been influenced by sanitary reasons. But what became of the rest of the poor, when they were mowed down by thousands by the scythe of Libitina, or stole out of life, unmourned, unhonoured, unknown ? This is a question which we believe that it is extremely difficult to answer fully and satisfactorily. All we know is, that intramural burial was prohibited by the laws of Rome, even by the XII. Tables, with a rigour and severity of which even Mr. Chadwick
The only exception was in favour of the Vestal Virgins (Serv. ad ' Æneid.' ix.), and the families of one or two great men of old, Valerius Poplicola (Plutarch, Vit.') and Fabricius ; but this privilege was voluntarily abandoned by their descendants, in deference, no doubt, to public feeling.
Yet vast as was the space along the Roman highways, and though many chose more quiet resting-places, like Propertius,
Dî faciant, mea ne terrâ locet ossa frequenti
Qua facit assiduo tramite vulgus iter; the poet would repose under the shade of some beautiful and familiar tree. Though some had places of sepulture in their pleasure-grounds or gardens, like the Bluebeard in Martial, who had buried seven wives :
Septima jam Phileros tibi conditur uxor in agro : still, if the bodies had been generally buried entire, there might have been difficulty in finding room for the vast sepulchres and vaster monuments of the distinguished families, generation after generation; of those who inherited or claimed from wealth or honours to belong to the nobles of the Republic and of the Empire. But the practice of burning the dead made a sepulchre of moderate dimensions sufficient to receive the remains of whole families, and even of their retainers. Only a small urn, which would hold the ashes was necessary; and these urns might be arranged in the columbaria, the arched alcoves or niches, side by side, row above row, with the lachrymatories, or any other small memorials with which the pious affection of the survivors might wish to honour the departed. The practice of burning the dead was, it is well known, not universal, perhaps had hardly become general, till the later days of the Republic. Sylla, it is said, was the first of the Cornelii whose body was burned. Though the abdicated dictator thought that there was such an awe about his living person, that he might defy the cowed and timid hatred of his enemies, Sylla would secure his sacred remains from insult and
ignominy. But from that time, though the ceremonial of a funeral pyre must have been costly, this seems, by the perpetual allusions in the poets and other writers who touch on Roman manners, to have been the ordinary form of burial with the rich and the great. Nor was it indeed the especial prerogative of the wealthy. Ovid speaks of a plebeian funeral pyre :
Et dare plebeio corpus inane rogo.
The common term of the ashes (cineres) of the dead is enough to show its general usage. Indeed in the poetry of the Augustan and later period, allusions to the coffin or the interment are rare and unfrequent; those to the funeral torch, to the pyre (rogus), to the cremation of the dead, common and perpetual; and urns, not large and massive sarcophagi, crowd the monuments of these crowded cemeteries.
We return to our Appian Way. It is to the credit of the present Pope, it has been said, that the opening of this imposing scene may fairly be ascribed. Whether his Holiness has consulted wise counsellors on religious, ecclesiastical, or political matters, we presume not, we are not called upon to judge; but we must do him the justice to say, that in his antiquarian advisers he has been singularly fortunate. No one who visits Rome will speak with anything but respect of the Cavaliere Canina, of Rosa, of Visconti, and the Cavaliere de Rossi. The Appian Way has been the province of Canina ; the works have been conducted throughout by his industry, sagacity, and judgement; and, though he is now lost to Rome and to the world, he has left behind him, among other writings of very high value, the volumes, of which the title appears at the head of our article, the first part of the Appian Way from the Capenian Gate to Bovillæ. This work is a model of antiquarian research ; inquiring, but not too speculative; profound, but not too abstruse ; with imaginary restorations of some of the more remarkable monuments, checked and controlled by good engravings of the ruins as they actually appear. Under
Canina's guidance we seem to walk again on the majestic Appian Way.
Had we space, we should have been delighted—reversing Canina's order—to conduct (shall we say?) some consul on the road from Brundusium, Capua, or Naples, to a triumph ; or some prætor, loaded with the plunder and the curses of some Eastern province; some tributary king on his humiliating pilgrimage to the feet of the Mistress of the World; or, shall we rather say, St. Paul, escorted by his Jewish brethren from his lodging at Appii Forum over the Pomptine Marshes, and bearing the first rays of Christian light to the capital of Heathendom, through the stately throngs of monuments, by the temples, unconscious of their doom, and the luxurious villas, to the Capenian Gate ? We must not, however, linger—we fain would linger—but rather proceed with unavoidable celerity, and with only brief remarks on the objects which arrest our attention.
Canina ends, we begin, at Bovilla.3 Not that Bovillæ was the first stage from Rome; that stage, of sixteen miles, reached as far as Aricia :
Egressum magnâ me excepit Aricia Româ;
and to Aricia extended the monuments :
Dalla porta Capena alle adjacenze dell'Aricia, per circa sedici miglia di estensione, i monumenti sepolcrali si congiungevano l' uno all'altro senza lasciare alcuno spazio intermedio vuoto, ed anzi spesso nelle posizioni migliori, in vicinanza della città, stavano collocati anchè in doppia fila per ciascun lato.
Old Varro, it should be observed, gives the religious motive for this usage, the admonitory lesson of the monuments :
Sic monimenta quæ in sepulchris, et ideo secundum viam, quo prætereunteis admoneant, et se fuisse, et illos esse mortaleis.
We shall not delay at Bovillæ, even to examine her circus ; nor even before the vast circular nameless tomb on the left
• From near Borillæ the modern road branches off to the right.