THERE is a certain haunting quality in a place that comes from association with a person. Some particular name rushes into memory and a vast throng of ideas and feelings whirl after the name until for us that special individual becomes in a very real sense the genius of the place, genius loci, the immanent spirit to whom the Romans used to erect their altars. For me in Rome and in the country near Rome, the thought of Quintus Horatius Flaccus has been so constantly with me that my altar of the genius loci here I raise to him and burn on it the incense of these memories. I do not wish to try to give a complete picture of the Augustan Rome that Horace knew, but rather to run over the definite allusions to special parts of Rome in Horace’s poems, to picture the life of the city as he saw it, and finally to show something of his days in the country near Rome.
Of the seven hills which Horace says found favor in the eyes of the gods (C. S. 7) he mentions Palatine, Capitol, Esquiline, Aventine, the hill of Quirinus and the Mons Vaticanus. The Palatine is in Horace the precinct of Palatine Apollo and in an ode (C. 1, 31) he alludes to the dedication of the great marble temple which Augustus erected to his patron god, asking: “What does the bard demand of Apollo now that he is enshrined? For what does he pray as he pours forth new wine from the patera?” (C. 1, 31, 1-3), and after that poet’s prayer, he refers again and again to the Palatine Apollo who with just eyes regards his altars on the hill, and to the library connected with the temple in which Roman poets longed to have a place. The temple site on the southwestern part of the Palatine is now regarded by many scholars as not the Temple of Jupiter Victor, but the foundation of the Augustan Temple of Apollo. However, the whole problem of the Palatine is now more than ever complicated be-cause the remarkable discoveries made in recent years of Republican and Augustan buildings under the upper Imperial palaces are still unpublished.
The Capitol, where stood the Temple of Jupiter, is in Horace a symbol of Rome’s power, so it should for-ever stand refulgent (C. 33, 42-3) and thither forever should ascend in religious procession the pontifex maximus and the silent Vestal (C. 3, 30, 7-9) To the Capitol it is that the Romans should send their gems and stones and useless gold (C. 3, 24, 45-8). It was for the Capitol that Cleopatra was preparing mad ruin (C. I. 37, 6) and it was thither that the triumphal processions wound up the hill to display to the god some general crowned with bay, because he had crushed the threats of haughty enemies. Here, too, proud boast of the Augustan Age, hung the Roman standards, once lost to the Parthians and displayed on their proud pillars, now restored to Jupiter through Augustus’ power (C. 4, 15, 4-8). Though Rome still stands, the temple of Jupiter is gone today, all its past magnificence reduced to old foundations under the modern Palazzo Caffarelli that have very recently been uncovered, and one great fluted drum of a marble column from a rebuilding by Domitian long after Horace’s time, but the hill as the Campidoglio is still the symbol of Rome’s greatness and as I walked up its long flight of steps by the live wolf and the live eagle in the garden to the statues of the Dioscuri at the top and the great Republican hall of the Tabularium, I felt that Horace’s Capitol still does stand gleaming with the spirit of Rome.
The Aventine too for Horace was the home of a god, for as Apollo presided over Palatine and Jupiter over Capitol so Diana held her sway on the Aventine and from there regarded the prayers of the quindecimviri and turned friendly ears to the petitions of the young (C. S. 69-72). The temple, rebuilt in the time of Augustus, may appear in a fragment of the marble plan of Rome, but we know little of it except its probable site west of Santa Prisca, the little church adjacent to the Castello dei Cesari where you will go for tea on the terrace to watch the sunset gild the Palatine ruins opposite.
The Esquiline had for Horace associations far more personal, for it was here that Maecenas’ lofty palace towered to the stars (Ep. 9, 3-4). Here once there had been a burial ground of the poor and the humble and excavations have shown the sort of necropolis which Horace describes in Sat. 1, 8, whither slaves used to carry the bodies of their fellows in cheap boxes, where once, amid the bones of the dead, thieves. made their haunts and witches gathered charms. Maecenas reclaimed all that ugliness so that Horace says now the hill is healthy, its sunny embankment is a favorite promenade and here Maecenas’ palace is the happy resort of the literary men who enjoy his favor. Horace described to the envious Bore, who longed to be numbered in so choice a circle, how free the palace was from the, petty rivalries and the jealousies of both intellectual and moneyed snobbishness (Sat. 1, 9, 48-52) and in a letter to Maecenas himself (Ep. 1, 7) the poet proved how free Maecenas left the men he patronized, for Horace, in spite of his indebtedness to his great patron, most of all for his peerless Sabine farm, felt free to refuse his urgent invitation to hurry back to Rome and enliven the company on the Esquilme. It is because of Horace’s varied and devoted pictures of his patron that one longs to identify something on the Esquiline with Maecenas’ name and finds a certain satisfaction in the socalled Auditorium Maecenatis on the Via Merulana in the probable quarter of the old Necropolis, and of Maecenas’ gardens. In this long hall of the early empire, the imagination is caught by the miniature theater at one end, a tiny semi-circle with seven rows of elevated seats and one would like to think that here perhaps Maecenas with Vergil, Varius and his other literary friends sat to listen to Horace’s readings of his latest ode. But alas! the archaeologists will have it that the room is probably not an auditorium at all, but a walled garden and no evidence proves that it belonged to Maecenas.
Horace only refers to the hill of Quirinus as very inconveniently distant from the Aventine for those who had to make calls in both places (Ep. 2, 2, 68-9) and so too he barely mentions the Mons Vaticanus (C. 1, 20, 7-8), then a name synonymous with all the Janiculum ridge and only later bequeathed to the level district between ridge and river where St. Peter’s now stands.
The river Tiber has its associations with Horace and here my eyes felt certain that they had rested on an inscription which he saw, for the Pons Fabricius to which he refers (Sat. 2, 3, 36) still bears over its arches the inscription that the bridge was built by L. Fabricius who was curator viarum in 62 B. C. and that it was restored by M. Lollius and Q. Lepidus (of 21 B. C.) Horace pictures for us the tawny Tiber in flood, violently thrown back from the Etruscan shore and rising even to touch the sacred temple of Vesta. Here still in he yellow river, the youths of Rome swim as the old lawyer Trebatius advised Horace to do for sleeplessness (Sat. 2, 1, 8-9; C. 1, 8, 8; C. 3, 12, 7). Still stately villas tower up over the yellow stream (C. 2, 3, 18) and across the river the magnificent park of the Janiculum, where old ilexes frame enchanting vistas of Rome, reminds us of Horace’s allusion to Caesar’s gardens across the Tiber (Sat. 1, 9, 18).
The Campus Martius was to Horace the great public playground of Rome. The young athlete whom love for Lydia ruined used to be able to stand the dust and the sun of the bright Campus, Horace reflects (C. 1, 8, 3-4), but as for himself, the field is so sunny that he has to abandon the game of ball there at midday and seek the bath’s shelter (Sat. 1, 6, 126). Today amid the congested business districts of the old Campus Martius one object will recall Horace’s time, the inscription across the face of the Pantheon the record that Augustus’ great general built the original temple, and although the building standing is of Hadrian’s time, this inscription may be the original one of Agrippa’s building of 27 B. C., which Horace must have seen.
I never walk through the Roman forum without thinking of how Horace used to stroll about there at dusk (Sat. 1, 6, 114) and of his most famous walk there when his literary meditations were rudely interrupted by the most notorious of Bores and he tried unsuccessfully to escape his distasteful companion as they halted a moment near Vesta’s temple. Take Sat. 1, 9 with you and read it while you sit in sight of the round foundation of Vesta’s shrine with your feet on the old paving stones of the Sacra Via, for there is no more vivid and humorous character-sketch left us from the old life of the forum and no satire more thoroughly Horatian.
Two other pictures of human life on the Sacra via Horace gives, one a tiny vignette of the nouveau riche who swaggering along in a toga far too ample aroused the indignant criticism of the passers-by (Ep. 4, 5-10) the other a hint of the great triumphal processions that once swept along the Sacra Via up to the Capitol (Ep. 7, 7-8). As I walk from the Temple of Vesta west-ward along the Sacra Via, I wish that the Puteal Libonis could be located since here somewhere near the Temple of Castor must have stood that sacred curb which we know from a marble relief in the Lateran and from Libo’s coin (Carter-Hülsen, Rom. For. p. 160), but here I have only the amusing memory of Horace’s declaration that he will give up the Forum and the Puteal of Libo (with all their legal business) to those who do not drink wine, but for his part as a bard he believes that no poems can give pleasure long or indeed live which are written by drinkers of water (Ep. 1, 19, 1-9). The Forum pleased Horace as a promenade, but he would have none of it as a place of labor and was only too thankful that he could go to sleep at night not anxious because the next morning he must be up betimes to call on Marsyas whose statue stood near the Praetor’s tribunal where all law business went on (Sat. 1, 6, 120). In front of the column of Phocas are traces of a praetor’s inscription (L. NAEVIUS) which helps identify the location of the Tribunal, but today the only representation of Marsyas in the Forum is on those marble balustrades of Trajan’s time where he stands under fig-tree, wine-skin on shoulder. Horace speaks too of the Rostra from which chill rumor starts (Sat. 2, 6, 50) and it is some-thing to know that on the very site of the high long platform across the north end of the Forum stood the Augustan rostra, whatever portions of this present structure are to be dated in the Augustan epoch. In this part of the Forum near the Senate House and at the foot of the street called Argiletum stood the tiny temple of the two-faced god, Janus, guardian of peace, Horace calls him (Ep. 2, 1, 155), whose doors were open in time of peace and closed in periods of war. Because the temple was of bronze and very small, all trace of it has disappeared.
We would know that Horace frequented the Circus Maximus even if he did not speak of wandering around the tricky Circus (Sat. 1, 6, 113) because his simile from the race-course is so vivid. For the avaricious man hastening on after wealth a richer man always stands in his way, just as, when the chariot starts in the race, the charioteer presses on after the horses that are passing his, despising the rival he has out-distanced as if he were coming in among the last (Sat. 1, 1, 113-6). The Circus Maximus that Horace knew, the huge oval rebuilt by Caesar and Octavianus, has vanished, for the valley of the Circus, between Aventine and Palatine, is now occupied by a Hebrew cemetery and a great factory, but the obelisk which Augustus placed on the central platform of the Circus now stands in the Piazza del Popolo, a symbol of the building’s past magnificence.
Other haunts of Horace where he sauntered in his walks were the porticoes of Rome and we can picture him strolling slowly under those arcades, philosophizing to himself about his own life, and saying: “This is the more excellent way. If I do so, I will live more nobly” (Sat. 1, 4, 133-4). The porticus of Agrippa to which he refers (Ep. 1, 6, 26), the one, I suppose, with the exploits of the Argonauts painted on the walls, is identified by some archaeologists with the Basilica Neptuni, restored by Hadrian, now a part of the Borsa of Rome. But many would make these beautiful Corinthian columns part of the temple to the deified Hadrian built by Antoninus Pius and if we wish to visualize an Augustan porticus, we will do better to see the fragment of the Porticus Octaviae which shows the main entrance though perhaps of a later time.
The streets of Rome Horace does not often name for us though he refers to the Carinae (Ep. 1, 7, 48), the Subura (Epode 5, 55), and to certain of the great roads going out from Rome, the Via Tibias (Sat. 1, 6, 108), the Via Appia (Sat. 1, 5, Ep. 1, 6, 26, Ep. 1, 18, 20). But the life of the streets he describes vividly. His friend Aristius Fuscus may prefer to be down in the city, but Horace praises far more the country with its little streams, its moss-covered rocks, and its woods (Ep. 1, 10, 6-7). Why, when he is dragged off to Rome on business, no matter how bad the weather is, he has to go and struggle through the crowds on the street, elbowing the slow, and his only satisfaction is when some jealous fellow calls out : “What are you doing, madman? Would you push aside everybody in your way if you’re bent on hurrying to Maecenas ?”
Such envy pursues the great man’s friend whether Maecenas is just giving Horace a lift in his carriage, and passing the time of day, or whether they are watching some celebration together or exercising together on the Campus Martius (Sat. 2, 6, 23-49), and Horace admits good-humoredly his own naïve satisfaction and how when a late dinner invitation to the Esquiline arrives, he bawls for his lantern and rushes off, neglecting his own callers (Sat. 2, 7, 32-37). But even for his pleasure and pride in Maecenas’ society, the poet finds the city no place for writing. “You may say there are open squares so that nothing hinders thought. A hot-headed contractor rushes on with his mules and his porters; a derrick is raising now a stone, now a mighty beam; here runs a mad dog, there rushes a muddy sow. Go to now and think out your musical verses. No, the whole band of writers avoids the city and praises the woods” (Ep. 2, 2, 70-75).
Yet if you have a good deal of the Bohemian in you and can give yourself up to being entertained, the city streets are very diverting. Think of the delight the old lawyer Philippus received from his conversation with Vulteius Menas, that hawker of cheap wares! (Ep. 1, 7). Horace used to poke about often on foot alone (at least in his early days as a quaestor’s clerk) inquire at the market the price of cabbages, visit the fortune-tellers, then carry home from the delicatessen shops a little supper of leeks, beans and a cake to enjoy with his wine (Sat. 1, 6, 111-6). Probably during his strolls he would go to the book-shops to look at the latest notices of new books posted on the columns, though for his part he could not stand having his books so advertised and thumbed by the hot hands of the common crowd (Sat. 1, 4, 71-2). That is really as disgusting to a writer of fine sensibilities as the thought of reading his own poems in the Forum or the public baths to the boredom of reluctant hearers, as certain writers have been known to do (Sat. 1, 4, 71-6). There are many chances of being bored in the city, but with some shrewdness you can avoid banquets given to make you listen to the host’s second-rate writings (Ep. 1, 19, 38) and even if you are a great patron, you can slip out of your house by a side-door and be off to a dinner-party while your client waits for you in the atrium (Ep. 1, 5, 30-1).
Dinner-parties are very good fun, under almost any conditions if you have a sense of humor. Did you ever hear Fundanius tell about that affair Nasidienus Rufus gave to Maecenas? Why, he even put in a place near the guest of honor a buffoon who had a trick of swallowing cheese-cakes whole. All Nasidienus talked about was the food, and finally the tapestries on the ceiling fell down with a cloud of dust on the platter. You should have heard Balatro’s wit in consoling the host! Fundanius said he never had a better time in his life (Sat. 2, 8).
So Horace turns the light of his satire on the diversions of the Romans, now picturing a banquet, then giving a glimpse of the races, or of a gladiatorial combat, or of the theater, and of the last he has a good deal to say, from his natural literary interest. Admiring the dramatic art so much that he considers the playwright a magician who can transport him now to Thebes, now to Athens, and can always move his feelings, he is disheartened by the over-emphasis on spectacular production, that playing to the galleries which brings on the stage squadrons of cavalry and infantry, war-chariots, ships, captives, magnificent costumes, until the applause over a beautiful violet robe drowns the actor’s words (Ep. 2, 187-213).
Horace, the bachelor, gives us scant idea of home life in the city. A reference to marriage suggests that his point of view was thoroughly Roman : “One seeks a blessed wife to have children” (Ep. 1, 2, 44-5). And his picture of one great lady, Maecenas’ wife, Terentia (C. 2, 12), portrays her beauty and accomplishments, but above all her coquetry so that she resembles in her attitude those lights-of-love who flit so charmingly across the odes. With country wives we shall find that he does better and his snapshots of children are delightful. You can see a group of them playing their games and counting out, chanting : “You’ll be king if you act nobly” (Ep. 1, 1, 59-60), and you can see the little slowpoke in school, struggling with mental arithmetic. ” ‘Let the son of Albius recite. Subtract one-twelfth from five-twelfths, what remains? You ought to have replied at once.’ ‘A third.’ ‘Good. You can manage your property. Add one-twelfth. What is the result?’ ‘A half.’ ”
The growing boy too he understands even when love ruins his athletics (C. 1, 8) , and most delightful is the picture of himself when his father took him, only a lad, to Rome to have the education which any knight or senator would give his son, furnished him with proper clothing and escort of slaves, then went himself with him to school, to keep him chaste amid city temptations (Sat. 1, 6, 76-84).
It was from so wise a father that Horace first learned to observe the people they passed and to form his own standards of life from the successes and the mistakes of others (Sat. 1, 4). But the tolerant humor with which he viewed the idiosyncrasies of mankind must have been the result of long experience with many types of men. Satires and epistles are full of miniature portraits painted with master art.
There is the literal minded old lawyer, Trebatius, who takes Horace so seriously when he declares that he has to write satire because he can’t sleep and advises him so concisely to swim the Tiber three times and drink well before retiring (Sat. 2, 1). As much in character is the grandiloquent general with his eloquent exhortation to his soldier to storm a fort, and the matter-of-fact country boy’s reply (so in the tone of Shaw’s “O’Flaherty, V.C.”). Before when he had been robbed in the night, he had become a wild wolf and had taken a fortified position that seemed impregnable so that he was already a hero, but having been well rewarded, he replied now to the praetor: “The man who’ll be afther goin’ where ye wishe is I’m thinkin’ the one who’s jist lost his money-belt” (Ep. 2, 2, 26-40).
There are little flings at other professional men, the doctor, Antonius Musa, with his hobby for the cold-bath cure (Ep. 1, 15, 2-9) and at the lecturers to ladies’ clubs (or to musical circles!), Demetrius and Tigellius who went droning on in the midst of the arm-chairs of their female hearers (Sat. 1, 10, 90-92). Lucullus’ wealth is done up in a neat little tale. “When he was asked, the story goes, if he could lend a hundred robes for a dramatic performance, he replied : ‘How can I furnish so many? Still I’ll make inquiries and send as many as I have.’ A little after, he wrote that he had five thousand robes at home; his friend could take part or all” (Ep. 1, 6, 40-1).
Immediately after that satire on the folly of wealth with its motto of nil admirari follows the frank letter to Maecenas on self-dependence with its emphatic climax, “It is right that each man measure himself with his own foot-rule,” and in this Horace gives a sketch of a Contented Poor Man, Vulteius Menas, who managed his little life in the city so satisfactorily until Philippus for his own amusement tried the unsuccessful experiment of turning him into a farmer. Vulteius’ description of himself is multum in parvo: “an auctioneer of small means, but out of debt, with a reputation for working and loafing, for getting and spending, happy in a few friends, a home of my own, enjoying public fêtes, and the Campus after the day’s work is over” (Ep. 1, 7, 55-9).
Other men are painted with fewer strokes. Gargilius who covets the reputation of a great hunter has his slaves early in the morning cross the crowded forum with the nets and all the paraphernalia of the chase in order that, with all the people watching, one mule may carry in the boar which he had bought! (Ep. 1, 6, 58-60. That old sport, Volanerius, was so confirmed a gambler that when the gout he deserved crippled his hands, he hired for regular wages a person to pick up the dice for him and drop them into the box (Sat. 2, 7, 15-18). Avidienus was so stingy that not only would he use poor oil for his salad, but even on birthdays and other celebrations he would mix his salad-dressing, using more vinegar than oil (Sat. 2, 2, 55-62). Tillius was in equally bad form from his stinginess, for when he was praetor instead of keeping up some style, when he went out to Tibur, he’d have his slaves carry along a picnic-lunch for him (Sat. 1, 6, 107-9). Of course, these men were at least consistent in their point of view and vacillation has its disadvantages. Think of Priscus 1 Sometimes he wore three rings, sometimes his left hand was unadorned. He lived so fitfully that he would change his tunic every hour, and he’d rush suddenly from a palace to a hovel from which a freed-man of the better sort would hardly issue without being disgraced. Now he preferred to live as an adulterer at Rome, now as a philosopher at Athens (Sat. 2, 7, 8-14).
The artistic temperament is just as whimsical and Horace’s picture of one, though a miniature, rivals Barrie’s “Sentimental Tommy.” “This is a fault common to all singers that they never induce their souls to sing on request for their friends, but if they are not urged, they never leave off. The famous Sardinian Tigellius had that fault. Caesar, who could compel him, if he begged in the name of his father’s friendship and his own, would gain no favor. . . . There was nothing consistent about the fellow. Often he ran like a man fleeing an enemy; often he walked with as stately a tread as one carrying the mystic symbols of Juno. Often he had two hundred slaves, often ten. Now his talk was all grandiloquent, of kings and tetrarchs. Now he’d say ‘May I have only a three-legged table and a shell of pure salt and a toga, no matter how coarse, to ward off the cold.’ If you gave to this humble per-son, contented with little, 100,000 sesterces, in five days there was nothing in his purse. He’d sit up all night and snore all day. Never was anyone so inconsistent” (Sat. 1, 3, 1-19).
With so keen and amused an eye did Horace observe his fellow-citizens and so well did he know his Rome that we are fain to point the finger at an inconsistency equal to Tigellius’ when he writes to his friend Aristius Fuscus : “I, lover of the country, send greetings to Fuscus, lover of the city, for we twain are to be sure very different in this one particular but in all else almost twins with but one thought . nodding in time like old familiar doves. You guard the nest, I praise the beloved country’s rivulets and moss-grown rocks and wood.” But Horace always slyly disarms criticism by anticipating it and already has let his slave Davus with the freedom of the Saturnalia declare : “At Rome you desire the country, rusticated you fickly extol the absent city to the stars” (Sat. 2, 7, 28-29). And again the poet himself admits : “I veer like a wind, at Rome loving Tibur, at Tibur, Rome” (Ep. 1, 8, 12). So his vivid reactions to nature and to country people give us opportunity to see through his eyes not only the city, but the country near. Just as Horace packed up Plato and Menander to carry with him when he was off to the country, I found that I always wanted my small blue Horace when I went off on day-trips about Rome.
I was never fortunate enough to see Soracte standing white with deep snow, but many a time as I looked across the plain north of Rome, Horace’s line
Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte
came to mind with Byron’s more aptly descriptive phrase
“A long low wave about to break.”
For Soracte rises, wave or island, from the sea of the Campagna, a ridge with three crests, isolated, majestic, and its beauty as well as its famous name calls.
At Gabii too, I thought of Horace and it was strange to find as we walked across the Campagna from Pantano towards Castiglione that Gabii is more deserted than Horace dubbed it (Ep. 1, 11, 7), no slaves to sell now (Ep. 2, 2, 3) , no possibility of treaties with knights (Ep. 2, 1, 25) or refuge for treacherous Sextus Tarquinius, only the empty basin of a lake, puzzling fragments of city walls, traces of a long, winding street with cart-ruts and bases of monuments, the open and broken cella of a great temple. But the color of the temple-walls is a rich golden-brown and we saw it in radiant sunshine, standing above the bright green of young grain with the Sabine hills and Soracte looming blue in the distance. Not altogether deserted was Gahii, for as we sat eating our lunch, in the lea of the wall of Juno’s temple, a flock of sheep strayed by with great white dog and shepherd.
The Campagna for Horace too must have held much the same aspect, the wide level stretches, the back ground of violet mountains with Monte Cavo’s wooded crest. He too watched winter paint the snow upon the Albans (Ep. 1, 7, 10), watched the victim growing up in Alban pastures (C. 3, 23, 11) and near the exquisite Alban lakes saw fitting place for shrine to the goddess of one’s devotion (C. 4, 1, 19-20). When we went out to the lakes from great Rome, Ariccia with its modest inn received us too as it did Horace (Sat. 1, 5, 1-2). The Ariccia of today centers in the Piazza with Bernini’s Palace and church high above the site of the old town and the ravine which the long aqueduct crosses with its three rows of arches. We followed the road down past groups of contadini and hunting for Roman ruins found in a giardino remains of great arches and a piece of wall which a boy told us was the famous temple. Here too we came upon a piece of the pavement of the old road, perhaps the very stones over which Horace jogged slowly on his journey to Brundisium. Somewhere near here was discovered the colossal statue of a goddess, which is now in the National Museum at Rome. I have seen her magnificent beauty but may not describe it until the Italian archaeologists have published their priceless treasure.
Tusculum takes another day though its modern descendant, Frascati, looks very near from Rome, a white city on a blue mountain shining just as Horace says the old villas shone in lofty Tusculum (Ep. 1, 29-30). Frascati with all its renaissance villas has its own charm, but more exquisite in its beautiful loneliness is ancient Tusculum above, the old road, lined with scattered tombs, winding up to the green glade of the forum, through which are seen the white marble seats of the perfect little theater on the hillside.
To another hill town near Rome Horace went, cool Praeneste (C. 3, 4, 22-3) and there he read over his Homer (Ep. 1, 2, 2) who taught him more clearly than the philosophers lessons of life, what is beautiful, what is base, what is wise. One could now read peacefully both Homer and Horace on the top of the old Acropolis hill above the town, for its wind-swept pastures are cool and uninhabited, and the view is magnificent between Alban and Volscian mountains straight to the sea. Such a commanding control of a roadway gave Praeneste her commercial and military power and the fame of her oracle of Fortune drew many visitors. So great was the temple of Fortune that most of the modern town of Palestrina is built in its ruins and one sees still strangely incorporate in the Villa Barberini apse of temple, fine old mosaic floors, rooms where oracles were received and delivered.
Horace must have seen the great prehistoric wall of Praeneste still outlined magnificently down the hill. He does not speak of consulting the famous oracle but he wrote an ode to the Goddess of Fortune worshipped at Antium (C. 1, 35) and we thought of him no less than of Cicero when we went out for a day at Anzio by the sea. Perhaps Horace saw near Anzio at Astura Cicero’s villa whose foundations now lie dearly visible under the water by the shore. I wonder if his eyes rested on the Maid of Anzio, that beautiful statue found in niche of wall one day uncovered here by the sea, now one of the treasures of the National Museum in Rome. If, as Parabeni, the Director of the Museum, thinks, she was a humble girl serving as priestess in the temple, her beauty has at least some stray connection with Horace’s ode to the goddess who reigns at Antium.
I thought of Horace at Soracte, Veii, Gabii, Praeneste, Antium and by the Alban hills and lakes, but no part of the country near Rome is so peculiarly his as the valley of the Anio in the Sabine hills, and his friends inevitably go out the Via Tiburtina in quest of that farm to which he fled as to a citadel far from the fumum et apes strepitumque Romae.
The road crosses the rushing Anio and looks to the Sabine mountains : so much is clear, but the puzzle of the site of Horace’s villa are many. In fact we query: did the poet have one villa or two in these hills? We know from his own words how he loved carefree, well-watered Tibur (Tivoli) on the hillside, the rushing Anio, the grove of Tiburnus, the orchards watered by fast-flowing streams; how he gathered thyme for the honey of his poetry near the groves and the banks of well-watered Tibur, for the waters which flow by fertile Tibur and the thick-leaved groves make a man famous for Aeolian song; how finally he prayed that Tibur founded by an Argive colonist might be the home of his old age. All this suggests that at times he lived and wrote near Tibur. Moreover Suetonius’ life of the poet seems to confirm this inference : “He lived often in the retreat of his farm, Sabine or Tiburtine, and his house is shown near the grove of Tiburnus.” This grove of Tiburnus, familiar to both Horace and Vergil (Aen. 7, 81-3), may have been across the Anio from Tivoli on the hillside where have been found ruins of several Roman villas, some facing the city and the falls, like that attributed to Catullus, and others looking across the campagna to Rome like the one of Quintilius Varus which stood on that wide artificial terrace eight hundred feet above the sea where now gnarled olive-trees frame wonderful views. The ruins now believed by Mr. Hallam and Mr. Thomas Ashby to belong to a villa of Horace are in the grounds under the Frances-can monastery and church of Sant’ Antonio, on a ter-raced hill looking across the ravine to the great white waterfall. At the upper level in the monastery itself there are remains of the villa, walls of opus reticulatum, mosaic pavement and at a lower level there is a group of three rooms, the central one a large nymphaeum, once adorned on the sides with rows of columns. Still lower on the hill are substructures with arched and triangular niches apparently built to support a terrace for a garden. All these remains are not later than the Augustan age; the location is within hearing distance of the Anio’s waters; the beauty is more endearing than that of hardy Lacedaemon and if Horace did have a villa at Tibur where he wished to write and to spend his old age, as I now am inclined to think he did, this traditional site is a very probable one.
But tradition claims also another locality for an Horatian farm, Sabine as well as Tiburtine, and we must go on from Tibur along the Via Valeria to the second villa site, noting Horace’s own landmarks by the way. Six and three-quarters miles beyond is the little town of Vicovaro, the Varia whither Horace says his five peasant farmers used to go (Ep. 1, 14, 1-3). Of old Varia there remains only a part of the town wall and a portico of ancient columns in a little church, but these add their charm to the town which has a greater treasure in its tiny octagonal church of the fifteenth century.
Beyond Vicovaro we turn up the valley of the tiny river Licenza, Horace’s Digentia, and presently see on a ridge across Horace’s Mandela stretching out long and picturesque with its towers (Ep. 1, 18, 104-5). A little further on a road turns to the left where there are two stone bridges over a little stream and zigzags up to Rocca Giovane, a tiny town with the gray and red castle of the Marchese crowning precipitous crags. I ascended for the sake of Horace’s tenth epistle of Book One, the line in which he tells Fuscus he is writing be-hind the crumbling shrine of Vacuna. For here em-bedded in the great wall of the Castello is an inscription which tells how Vespasian restored a shrine of Victoria which was falling apart from its antiquity and since the Sabines identified Victoria with their goddess Vacuna, this inscription may very well refer to the shrine near which Horace wrote. Also near the inscription in the wall is set a little relief of limestone about a foot square representing a goddess in chiton and himation, her right hand clasping the forelegs of a deer. Possibly this relief came from the same source as the inscription, as Ar. Van Buren has suggested, and represents Victoria or Vacuna in the guise of Diana. If so, perhaps near this tiny goddess Horace wrote his whimsical and delightful letter to Aristius Fuscus.
About a quarter of a mile from Rocca Giovane, in the plateau below, traces of a Roman villa were discovered years ago, mosaic pavement that seems to be covered up again, as last summer our guide could not find them, and this site was acclaimed by scholars like Pietro Rosa and Gaston Boissier as the most suitable for Horace’s Sabine farm. More popular, however, has been the location further up the valley near three branching streams of the Licenza. Certainly the lay of the land suits perfectly Horace’s enchanting description of the dark valley with mountains all around except where the rising sun looks in on the right and the setting sun casts its gleam across. Mount Lucretius towers up in the west, olive-covered, and there is a spring too, worthy to give its name to the little stream (Ep. 1, 16, 1-16). Here the whole plan of a small Roman villa has been excavated. You will be guided to it by a footpath’s confident signpost: “Villa d’Orazio Flacco.”
Disregard the later ruins of the baths of the time of Vespasian and of the Antonines, and walk around the low foundation walls which outline garden, halls and rooms. A crypto-porticus surrounded the garden in front and there was a fish-pond in the center. From the garden you could ascend to the house by one of three little flights of steps. Across the whole width of the villa extended a front hall out of which a central atrium opened with three rooms on either side and in some of these the old floor is still there, lovely mosaic patterns in black and white stars and rays. Such modest rooms they seem that I am surprised to find critics denying such elegance to the modest poet who would have his motto parvum parva decent.
The objects found in the villa are arranged in a room at the very top of the steep hill on which the tiny town of Licenza lies and it is worth the climb to see them, for here are coins, wine-jars, marble fragments, a faun’s head from a fountain, lamps, pottery, pieces of mosaics, dice, keys, rings. All these little things, so many from homely everyday use, are interesting, but they did not give me any such sense of Horace’s habitation as did the olive-trees and the spring in the retired valley, be-girt by wooded mountains.
It is for such country that Horace sighed in the midst of the fret of Rome, and we get an idea of the sort of life he led on his Sabine farm when he exclaims : “O country, when shall I behold you? When may I quaff delightful Lethe for the cares of life, now from the books of the ancients, now from sleep and lazy hours. O the nights and the banquets fit for gods which I and mine enjoy before my hearth while I feed my slaves’ saucy children bits of the banquet. . . Each man drinks as he will. . . . Then talk begins, not about the villas and houses of other men or whether Lepos dances well or ill, . . but whether men are happy because of wealth or virtue; what makes friendship, ad-vantage or character; what is good and what is the greatest good” (Sat. 2, 6, 60-75). Then in one exquisite ode he pictures the tall pine towering up over his villa which he wishes to dedicate to Diana, goddess of woods and groves (C. 3, 22), and in another he de-scribes his villa in festive array to celebrate Maecenas’ birthday, all the silver shining, the altar decked with fresh boughs ready for the sacrifice, the jar full of Alban wine, the slave-boys and girls running excitedly hither and thither (C. 4, 11, 1-12).
Horace knew how different his life in the country and the life of Maecenas or Quintilius Varus was from the work and rest of the simple peasant farmer, and perhaps that is the reason why in Epode 2 after so serious and beautiful a picture of a peasant’s cares and joys, the poet at the end attributes the whole account of country life to a usurer who, just on the point of becoming a farmer, called in all his money on the Ides, but loaned it out again on the Kalends. And this surprising satire-ending to so idyllic an epode, reminds us again of Vulteius Menas who encouraged by Philippus bought a farm in the Sabine hills, only to find, after sheep were stolen, goats died, crops disappointed hopes and the ox was broken plowing, that the country was not for him and that every man should measure himself with his own foot-rule (Ep. 1, 7) .
For the real peasant Horace has ready understanding and sympathy, Sabine mother or sunburned wife of an industrious Apulian who when her husband comes home weary from work at night has the flock milked in the stalls, the fire on the hearth, sweet wine in clean flagon and on the table a dinner that costs nothing (Ep. 2, 41-48), or the youth gathering and cutting firewood at the bidding of stern mother, or some peasant father like Horace’s own. How affectionately and proudly he relates that from his small possessions his father had the courage to give his son the best education that any knight or senator could give his boy, and then himself escorted him to and from school to keep him chaste in the midst of city dangers, and as they walked, taught him many a lesson from comments on the people they passed (Sat. 1, 6, 71-84; Sat. 1, 4, 10S-126).
We wonder if Horace had his own father in mind when he wrote the satire about the countryman, Ofellus, that philosopher apart from the schools with a powerful mother-wit (Sat. 2, 2). Very noble is his philosophy of the simple life; very simple his standard of wealth,–that a man can possess only what he can use; very cheerful his spirit when, dispossessed from his farm, he encourages his sons as they work as hirelings in the fields which once they owned, bidding them : “Live valiantly and present valiant breasts to Fortune’s stings.” Certainly that most Horatian satire seems to embody much of the good sense and sturdy spirit which Horace inherited from his wise freedman father.
In the Collegio Romano in Rome today on the wall in the lower court there hangs a tablet to the students of the college who perished in the Great War. The marble relief pictures a group of young Italian soldiers sweeping over the top, bayonets sternly set. Below is a pile of books which seem to signify the education that had enabled them to do their terrible and uncompromising duty when the hour struck; and for the Italian students those books were Horace, Dante, Carducci. I think Horace’s name was inscribed there not only because he lauded great civic virtues and chanted dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, but because in the larger Rome of city and environs he had acquired that catholic knowledge of city life and of country life, of city people and of country people, which enabled him to scale values correctly, to appraise true virtue, and to know what counts for life and death. I commend to you the poet who with a smile on his lips saw life steadily and saw it whole, then dared knock at the stars with his exalted head.