Rome – Aqueduct of Claudius

This gigantic highway for conducting water into the city was built by the Emperor Claudius, the water coming from the neighborhood of Subiaco, over thirty miles distant. The arches were made lofty in order to carry the water to the Palatine Hill, for the water brought in this aqueduct was used in the palaces of the Emperor. The full length of this waterway was nearly forty-six miles ; for thirty-six miles it was subterranean, but for ten miles it was carried on arches. No city in the world was more abundantly supplied with water than was Rome under the Cæsars. Huge aqueducts approached the city from all directions, very much as railroad tracks do now. And there was need of this, for the numerous and extensive public and private baths required three hundred and thirty-three millions of gallons a day, the inflow of a perfect river of water.

At the present time, by means of four of these ancient aqueducts which have been restored, an amount of water is brought into the city every day equal to one hundred and ten gallons for each inhabitant, while Paris receives but seventy gallons and London only thirty daily. So Rome is still the best watered city in the world.

To my mind, there is something wonderfully grand and beautiful about these ponderous and broken arches out here on the solitary plain. Their crumbling stones, as they lie strewn about in the long grass, look like the fragments of fallen worlds.

The Campagna itself suggests a wide, dreary sea or a desert of death surrounding the city on all sides. The depopulation of this fertile plain is due to the ravages of the Roman fever, but, as it has been drained of late and sanitary precautions have been taken, the health of the district is greatly improved and farms are springing up again in every direction. So that it may be true of the Campagna as was prophesied of another land which is also desolate, ” that the desert and the solitary place shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

As I look at that lad, lying in about the only position in which a boy can be thoroughly comfortable, I can but think of another lad who once, near this spot, found his fortune in his lifework. This locality is a famous place for artists who are fond of painting the dark-red stone arches of this old giant waterway. One day, now many years gone, there came hither a celebrated German artist who had spent years in Rome. He desired to paint the old ruin, but felt the need of something to give life and vividness to his picture. Right here he met a boy from the mountains, a real Albanian savage, who was rolling about in the tall grass simply because he had nothing else to do. Being attracted by his noble physique and his remarkable beauty, the artist asked him if he would pose for him-be his model for an hour. The boy consented, but said he had never acted in that capacity and did not know what to do. ” Do as I tell you,” said the artist, and he did, standing as though he were carved out of stone for more than an hour. When it was all over, the German, a kindly man and a bachelor, and one of the finest artists in Rome, asked the boy his name and where he lived. The lad gave his name and said he had been a week in the city, where in company with his father he had played before the shrines, but now Christmas was passed, he must find other work to do.

” How would you like to sweep out my studio and wash my brushes and clean my palette? I will pay you what it is worth, and if I see you have a talent for it, I will give you lessons in painting.” To be able to paint had been the dream of the boy’s life, and he most gladly accepted the offer and began his work by shouldering the easel and taking under his arm the little camp-stool used by the artist and followed his benefactor into the city. It is a long story, and we have not space to tell it all, but this I will say, the Campagna idler has become one of the foremost painters of our day, and when blindness befell the man who was more than a father to him, he supported him by his own exertions to the end ; and, even now, handsome and successful as he is, his eyes will fill with tears when his patron’s name is mentioned, and he often speaks of the day when, beneath the arches of the Claudian Aqueduct, he found his friend and his fortune.

Well, we must leave Rome, for there are other places of interest in Italy, but we go away with precious memories of what we have seen ; how precious, only the coming years can reveal to us. Especially to the young, it is probable that Rome will seem at first a place of dry, dead bones, but as life goes on, as our own experiences deepen and broaden, as we pick up this book or that article, or listen to a lecture on some phase of the life once lived here, then the lifeless, unsightly bones in one place after another take on flesh and blood, and we gradually see the deserted places inhabited again, until finally the grand old city swarms with living, fascinating memories. The longer we are acquainted with Rome, the more profoundly we believe in the truth of the words of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who says :

” A man who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority for his not having seen what it is expected a man should see. It 0ught to be the business of every man’s life to see Rome.”

No matter what has been our first impression of Rome, we shall find them tending more and more to those of Hawthorne:

“When we have once known Rome, and left her where she lies, like a long-decaying corpse, retaining a trace of the noble shape it was, but with accumulated dust and a fungous growth overspreading all its more admirable features-left her in utter weariness, no doubt, of her narrow, crooked, intricate streets, so uncomfortably paved with little squares of lava that to tread over them is a penitential pilgrimage ; so indescribably ugly, moreover so cold, so alley-like, into which the sun never falls, and where a chill wind forces its deadly breath into our lungs-left her, tired of the sight of those immense seven-storied, yellow-washed hovels, or call them palaces, where all that is dreary in domestic life seems magnified and multiplied, and weary of climbing those stair-cases, which ascend from a ground floor of cook-shops, cobblers’ stalls, stables and regiments of cavalry, to a middle region of princes, cardinals, and ambassadors, and an upper tier of artists, just beneath the unattainable sky-left her worn out with shivering at the cheerless and smoky fireside by day, and feasting with our own substance the ravenous population of a Roman bed at night-left her sick at heart of Italian trickery, which has uprooted whatever faith in man’s integrity had endured till now, and sick at stomach of sour bread, sour wine, rancid butter and bad cookery, needlessly bestowed on evil meats-left her disgusted with the pretense of holiness and the reality of nastiness, each equally omnipresent-left her, half lifeless from the languid atmosphere, the vital principle of which has been used up long ago or corrupted by myriads of slaughters-left her, crushed down in spirit by the desolation of her ruin, and the hopelessness of her future-left herein short, hating her with all our might, and adding our individual curse to the infinite anathema which her old crimes have unmistakably brought down-when we have left Rome in such a mood as this we are astonished by the discovery, by and by, that our heartstrings have mysteriously attached themselves to the Eternal City, and are drawing us thitherward again, as if it were more familiar, more intimately our home, than even the spot where we were born.”

” Then, from the very soil of silent Rome, You shall grow wise, and, walking, live again The lives of buried peoples, and become A child by right of that eternal home, Cradle and grave of empires, on whose walls The sun himself subdued to reverence falls.”