Rome – The Sacra Via

Ah ! This is an interesting prospect. From what-ever side you look, this old-time center of mighty power is entrancing. Down on our left is the Arch of Constantine, and beyond that is the Palatine Hill ; the Sacra Via stretches away before us beneath the beautiful Arch of Titus; still farther is the Forum, and in the distance, to the right, is the tower-crowned Capitol.

That bee-hive shaped structure in front of the Arch of Constantine is the same that we saw some time ago when we were looking this way from among those ruins to the left of the Arch of Titus (Position 30). As we then stated it is the remains of a fountain, called ” Meta Sudans ” or ” sweating goal,” so named, as many suppose, because of its perpetual issue of foaming water, as though the fountain were sweating ; and ” Meta” (Goal), from its resembling in shape the goal in the circus. The name ” sweating goal ” has added significance from the fact that it was right out there that the gladiators used to bathe after their conflicts in the Colosseum, on which we are standing. It is said that these fighters were always surrounded by admiring crowds, their broad ox-like shoulders being stroked patronizingly by the soft, lily-white hands of effeminate patricians, who gathered about the fountain, offering wagers on the next combat. There, too, when the show in the amphitheater was over, the crowds of spectators collected to refresh themselves from its plentiful supply of water.

Some hold that the fountain is of very ancient origin, being restored by Domitian in A. D. 97. And the philosopher Seneca, who died A. D. 65, mentions the space about the fountains as the place where people, without consideration for their neighbors, would come and try new bugles and flutes and make other unbearable noises. ” The round basin which supports the railing dates from the time of Constantine.”

The memories of the past continually crowd upon us in this place. What masses of people have flocked to this Colosseum over the ground before us ! What people of note – Emperors, Vestal Virgins and Sena-tors – have traveled this way beneath the Arch of Titus ! Then we are to remember that the great Appian Road, or its continuation within the city, the Via Triumphalis, ended at this fountain, coming up on our left through the Arch of Constantine. The road was there many centuries before the Arch was built.

The first section of that road was constructed in 312 B. C. as far as Capua, and later it was extended to Brundisium at the southern end of Italy, a distance of about three hundred and fifty miles. It was the main thoroughfare from southern Italy, Greece and the farthest Eastern possessions of the Roman Empire. We might stand here for days recalling the notable people and resplendent processions that have passed over that road. Every Roman triumph and every Roman conqueror has passed here on his way to the Capitol and the Temple of Jupiter.

One of the best points from which to look at the Arch of Constantine is on the opposite or southern side, near the Palatine Hill. We are to go to that point now and look back toward this space in front of us. We may find our exact location by consulting the map and finding the two red lines, with the number 34, which extend from the southern side of the Arch toward the northeast.