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excavations. Sig. M. S. de Rossi has contributed a most valuable appendix (we are inclined to think that it had been better as a preface) to the Cavaliere's volume : at all events we should strongly recommend to our readers to begin the book at this end.
One result is triumphantly obtained from these inquiries. That the Catacombs, properly so called, are originally and exclusively, except the Jewish, Christian. The title prefixed to this volume, · Roma Sotteranea Christiana,' is in every respect just and legitimate. It might seem that the discussion of this question has been carried on with very unnecessary toil and trouble: it might appear a purely historical and archæological problem. Unhappily, on the first discovery of the Catacombs, certain Protestant writers-one of considerable name—took it into their heads to raise about the most idle controversy which ever wasted Christian ink, or tried, we will hardly say Christian, temper. The Catacombs were declared to be only old sandpits or quarries; and by some asserted to be Heathen, not Christian cemeteries. This narrow Protestant jealousy betrayed not only a strange perversity, but a most lamentable misconception of the true grounds of the Reformed religion (we fear that we must revert to the ungrateful subject), and a surprising ignorance of Christian history. The only questions really raised at that time, which caused this senseless Anti-Romanist panic, was whether or no the Christians had become very numerous in Rome during the first three centuries, and had provided places of quiet and secure burial for the brethren.
The profound and scientific investigations of M. de Rossi have not only scattered these follies to the winds, but they have dissipated other extravagant notions, entertained by some of the most learned of the Roman antiquarians, particularly by the Padre Marchi, who perhaps occupies the highest rank among the searchers of the Catacombs, between Bosio and the Cavaliere de Rossi. Marchi, impressed, perhaps bewildered, by the vast expanding labyrinth of galleries and floors which he had begun to trace, had imagined a complete network of
catacombs, extending all round Rome, connected by secret ways, and, it might seem from some of his expressions, spreading under the whole city. But science, real science, forces men back to good sense and truth. The fact is, that the Catacombs, vast as they were, and found in greater or less numbers, in greater extent and depth, on almost every side of Rome, were directed, limited, necessarily self-adapted to the conformation of the land and to the geological strata, some of which received them with welcome and security, others inhospitably repelled them, being altogether unfit for such use.
Without going deep into the geological formation of the basin of the Tiber, in which lies Rome with her seven hills, and amid the adjacent valleys and heights, there are mainly three kinds of deposit left by the successive changes in the geology of the region. These are (the scientific reader will find the whole subject simply and clearly developed in the third chapter of the Appendix) the tufa litoide, the tufa granulare, and the tufa friabile. From the first of these came probably much of the stone, used when Augustus transformed the city of brick to what his flatterers called a city of marble; from the latter the pozzulana, and the sand used for building and for other ordinary industrial purposes. Of these the first was too hard, it would have been enormously costly, to hew it out into the spacious and intricate necropolis, which must be perpetually enlarging its dimensions to receive the remains of the growing and multiplying Christian population. The latter was far too loose and crumbling for the purpose of secure and lasting burial. But the second, the tufa granulare, formed chiefly of volcanic deposits, was not too hard to be worked, yet was solid enough to make walls for long and intricate passages or ambulacra, to be hewn into arches, vaulting over deep recesses, in which the coffins were arranged; and to support floor below floor-two, three, four, five-down to the utmost depth at which the formation was found. But, of course, when these formations so suited for them ceased, the Catacomb stopped; the passage died away (this is De Rossi's expression)
against the hard rock, or as it approached the crumbling pozzulana. The Catacomb must also maintain itself at a certain height. If it descended towards the Valley of the Tiber, the course of the Anio, or even of smaller streams like the Almone, it would be liable to be flooded, or at least suffer from the filtration of water, dangerous, if not to its security, yet to its decent propriety. In parts it might expand into a more spacious area, where, we know not how early, might be the lowly chapel, and, in times of persecution, the place of refuge from cruel death. We will translate a passage from M. de Rossi, which appears to us to illustrate all this, as well as the situations of the chief Catacombs, with clearness, and at the same time with brevity :
All that part of the ground which lies to the left of the Tiber, perhaps because it was more depressed before it emerged from the waters, contains these volcanic deposits in greatest abundance. Hence in all this region the strata of the granular tufa are of the most spacious extent and depth. Therefore almost all the higher summits which rise in succession from the Monte Pariolô,' along the old and the new Via Salaria, the Nomentana, the Tiburtina, the Prænestina, the Labicana, the Asinaria, the Latina, the Appia, and the Ardeatina, till they ineet again the Valley of the Tiber on the Via Ostiense, are suited for the excavation of catacombs, and have been in great part devoted to these purposes. Here, moreover, the depth of those beaches has been hollowed out, sometimes in four, in some cases even in five, floors of galleries, one below the other. But if throughout this region the strata are found to an indefinite extent fit for this purpose, they are limited by the lie of the land. The valley of the Anio forms a boundary about two miles along the Via Salaria and the Via Nomentana. On the latter, however, before the valley, interposes itself a great barrier of “tufa litoide,' which makes its appearance all along this way, and has interrupted here and there the cemetery excavations. Besides this, valleys and beds of torrents run along in the same direction as the Roman roads, and disgorge themselves into the valley of the Anio.
For the description of the rest of the circuit round to the Via Latina and Via Appia, we must refer to the original :
The Via Latina, the Arria, the Ardeatina, offer the most extensive field for those operations. There, for more than two miles, every
elevation appears to have been hollowed out, and it forms the most celebrated group of these vast and continuous catacombs. This region is often broken by the usual courses of the streamlets, especially on the Appian and Latin ways, where the Almone flows.
This rapid survey, besides the reasons alleged above, clearly manifests how impossible was the general connexion of subterranean Rome, and places in a stronger light the necessity of those laws which I have shown to have regulated the excavations, chiefly to protect them from the filtration or the flooding of waters. For the rest it is an ascertained fact, from the excavations made with the greatest advantages, that each of the great cemeteries, having its proper name and separate existence, was divided from and independent of the contiguous one, even where there appears no natural obstruction to their fusion. Thus, for example, the well-known cemeteries of Pretextatus and of Callistus were excavated, one on the right, the other on the left, of the Appian Way, and extended opposite to each other without any communication. If any communication is found between neighbouring or contiguous cemeteries, it is irregular, exceptional, and of a later period, and does not prove the throwing two distinct catacombs into one.
pp. 51, 52.
It is this immense necropolis (that as Rome became Christian, and in proportion to its slower or more rapid advance to Christianity, grew into the necropolis of Rome) which the Cavaliere de Rossi aspires to include in one vast and accurate topography. He would penetrate, describe, plan, each of the separate provinces of this vast kingdom of the dead. He would make the world as intimately acquainted with the extent, the divisions, the monuments of subterranean Rome, as generations of archæologists have made known to us the Rome of the upper world. It might even seem, from some expressions, that M. de Rossi's ambition would not confine itself to suburban Rome, but dimly contemplates the iconography of Christian catacombs throughout the world. And when we remember that the Cavaliere de Rossi is also engaged in a great and exhaustive work on Christian inscriptions, of which the first volume has appeared (it has unfortunately broken off at the point at which we might expect that its historic interest would begin), we almost tremble at the boldness of these, though collateral indeed, coextensive schemes. We can only express our devout
hope that M. de Rossi may complete what few of us, we fear, can hope to see in their completion.
The Cavaliere de Rossi certainly possesses eminent qualifications for his vast and noble task, - indefatigable industry, sagacity almost intuitive and prophetic, the power of combining minute circumstances, and drawing out grave and important conclusions by a bold induction from mere hints and suggestions, from words and letters; a command of the whole wide and somewhat obscure and scattered world of archæology, which nothing escapes. The atmosphere of Rome - as is inevitable in the case of a man of such deep and absorbing enthusiasm-exercises over him an influence which at times provokes our severer northern critical spirit, e.g. when he gravely refers to the puerile fables in Tertullian, of the dead body of a saint which lifted its arms in the attitude of prayer ; of another which moved to make room for a saintly partner in her narrow bed. At times too he pays far more respect to legend than we can admit. (We write as historians and archeologists, not as Protestants.) Yet on the whole it is impossible not to acknowledge and to admire his perfect honesty of purpose. If, therefore, here and there we venture to take exception at words or arguments, it is in what we firmly believe to be the interest of truth, and not without the utmost respect and gratitude for his devoted labours. Let us express too our hope, that, even in these, to them, hard times, the Roman government will not be niggardly, or, if there be any difficulty, will not be too lofty to decline aid from external quarters for a work of such general Christian interest.
The first section of M. de Rossi's splendid volume gives the history of research and discovery in the Catacombs : he does ample justice to his predecessors in these inquiries, from Bosio, or those who were before Bosio, though Bosio was, in M. de Rossi's fervent language, the Columbus of this new underground world. After Bosio the study and the real science of discovery rather receded than advanced, till the days of M. de Rossi's own leader, the second great discoverer, the Padre