Before we give our attention to the sites of individual buildings which once stood here, and around which some of the greatest events in history have transpired, we will think about the course of the Sacra Via, second in fame only to the Forum itself. We are looking over nearly the whole section traversed by this most renowned of all roads. When standing here before, we pointed out some of the most striking landmarks on this patch of earth, almost every spot of which is interesting, and we must be sure we have them in mind now. In the distance at the left are the great arches of Constantine’s Basilica; to the right of the Basilica is the Colosseum with its tier upon tier of colonnades lifted high in the air. Farther to the right is the Arch of Titus, standing on the elevated ground between us and the Colosseum. and still farther in the same direction is the wooded summit of the Palatine Hill. The church with the tall, graceful bell-tower, between us and the Colosseum, is that of S. Francesca Romana. In the earliest times the Sacra Via is supposed to have run from a point on this side of the Colosseum near its center, directly toward us over the site of the present church of S. Francesca Romana, down the slope toward the eastern end of the Forum, passed along the Forum on the north, and finally ascended in a zigzag way to the summit of the Capitoline Hill. In kingly and re-publican times it diverged near the east end of the Forum toward the south, between the Regia (the home of the Pontifex Maximus), and the Temple of Vesta. The place where the Regia stood is hidden from us here by the entablature on these columns of the Temple of Saturn near us. The Temple of Vesta (Aedes Vestæ on the map) stood more to the right. From that point to this hill the Sacra Via skirted the south side of the Forum, and then probably passed in front and to the left of this Temple of Saturn and made its way with several turns to the Capitoline summit.
In the early days the whole course of this road or path was undoubtedly irregular and winding, but as many buildings began to rise on either side it followed a definite line with sharp angles. This original path received its name, Sacra Via, it is belived, because of three very sacred hut-temples which stood beside it: the hut in which the public fire was kept, the Temple of Vesta; the hut which sheltered the household gods or Penates brought from Troy; and a third which served as the abode of the high priest. In those times the road was divided into three sections, the first extending from its origin to the house of the “rex sacrificulus,” the priest who made the offerings once made by a king, on the summit of the ridge this side of the Colosseum; the second from this house to that of the Pontifex Maximus, the Regia; the third section lay between the Regia and the Capitoline summit. During Imperial times the name of Clivus Capitolinus was given to the road from the base to the summit of the Capitoline Hill. (Lanciani.)
The Sacra Via changed its course considerably during the last of the Republic and in Imperial times. When the Temple of Cæsar was erected (as some claim, near the place where his body had been burned), in the east end of the Forum, the Sacred Way was made to pass around it to the north and then turn sharply toward its old course on the south side of the Forum. One of the most extensive changes took place under Hadrian when he built a temple to Venus and Rome this side of the Colosseum, on ground now partly occupied by the Church of S. Francesca Romana. At that time he caused the Sacred Via to be turned toward the south around the Temple of Venus and Rome, passing through the Arch of Titus and then to the north in front of the Basilica of Constantine. The pavement of this road of Hadrian’s time was uncovered in 1900, a part of which we are to see (Position 29).
Now let us fix our eyes upon those eight granite columns of the Temple of Saturn directly in front of us. The first temple was built on the spot where these columns stand in 497 B. C., though the tradition is that an altar to Saturn stood there many years earlier. For centuries the Saturn Temple was the Aerarium or Public Treasury. The pediment was surrounded with figures of Tritons blowing horns, of which design Macrobius (1 : 8) gives the somewhat fanciful explanation, that, since the time of Saturn, history has become clear and vocal, while previous to that, like the tails of the Tritons, it was hidden in the earth. The light gray columns we now see be-long to a rebuilding as late as Diocletian. They have probably been taken from some other building, and the work of restoration must have been done in a bungling manner, as is shown by the fact that they are placed at irregular intervals. Thrilling indeed are the memories that gather about this ancient structure, and immortal the fame of many of the men whose deeds still influence the world, and who, like ourselves, lingered about it. In the days of the long ago Pompey stood down by these columns surrounded by Roman centurions, listening to the orations that Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, was delivering from the Rostra. On these columns, two thousand years ago, the hands of Horace and of Nero may have rested; and it was there, on the steps right in front of these columns, that Caesar, marching south-ward from the Rubicon with his Roman war-dogs, encountered the dauntless form of Metullus who vainly opposed his attempt to secure the public funds abandoned by the terrified Senate. ” Stand back, young man!” cried Caesar. ” It is easier for me to do a deed than threaten it.” If we notice the location of this temple on the map we see that it really stood at the southwestern corner of the Forum, though it is usually classed as one of those standing at the west end of the Forum.
This brings us to the ruins of buildings on the south side of the Forum. Nearest us on this south side is that spacious and noble pavement laid upon a foundation of ponderous masonry, the site of the Basilica Julia. On the pavement are bases for four rows of columns, sixteen in a row, showing, as you will observe, that the building had a broad central space and double side aisles. The first Basilica Julia was founded there, we remember, by Julius Caesar in B. C. 46 to enlarge the Forum. That structure was enlarged by Augustus, who dedicated it to his daughter Julia, but before the work was completed it was destroyed by fire. As restored, the building was used for two purposes – as a place for holding the law courts, and as an exchange. It was over three hundred feet long and one hundred and fifty feet wide, a flight of steps ascending to the building from the street. The pavement is partly ancient and partly restored. The central space was covered with richly colored marble and the side aisles were paved with white marble, a portion of which is still preserved, there being drawn upon it a number of circles used by the ancients in playing a game resembling our modern game of draughts. If you will count the pedestals of that row of columns to the left of the center you will find there are just sixteen, including the broken pillar at this end of the line. The pillars were built of brick and faced with marble. The crumbling columns seen at this end of the Basilica are supposed by some authorities to be ancient. On the roof of this Basilica the crazy Caligula used to stand and throw into the Forum gold and silver coins for which the rabble scrambled.
Beyond the Basilica Julia on a raised superstructure may be seen three beautiful Corinthian columns, among the most magnificent architectural remains of the ancient city, belonging to the Temple of Castor and Pollux. The columns are of the purest Parian marble and their capitals and architraves are most splendid, giving evidence of the finest workmanship. The platform of masonry, upon which these columns rest, is twenty-two feet high and was reached by a flight of eighteen marble steps ; the columns are forty-five feet high and five feet in diameter. The temple was dedicated by A. Postumius, B. C. 482, to the twin gods Castor and Pollux, in grateful remembrance of aid rendered by them in defeating the Latins at the battle of Lake Regillus in B. C. 496; and ever after, on the anniversary of the battle, numerous sacrifices were offered in that temple, and Roman knights rode by in splendid array crowned with olive wreaths.
Originally, the temple had eleven columns on each side and eight on the front, facing the Forum, and with its lofty superstructure and commanding position it was one of the most striking and impressive buildings in the Forum. The columns we see belong to a reconstruction by Tiberius in 7 B. C. Caligula united the temple with his palace on the Palatine Hill, utilizing it as a kind of vestibule, and, in his mad caprice, he frequently came into the temple and sat between the statues of the gods, receiving with them the worship of the people.
The story is told that a Gaul, once seeing him seated on a throne between the twin gods, with an artificial beard of beaten gold, in imitation of these divinities, burst out laughing. Caligula sent for him, and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
” Most certainly I do,” replied the barbarian with blunt candor, “you are an arrant fool.”
“Who is this man?” asked the Emperor. On learning that he was a shoemaker, Caligula waved him away saying that it was beneath his dignity to take vengeance upon a cobbler.
Caligula had a favorite horse which he called “Go-ahead,” and he built for him a marble stall with an ivory manger, purple housings, and a jeweled frontlet. He even proposed making him consul. Another piece of eccentricity on the part of this Emperor was the throwing of a bridge from the Pala-tine Hill to the Capitoline and making temples and triumphal arches serve as its support.
In 88 B. C. Sulla and his colleague in the consulship, Q. Pompeius Rufus, were attacked on the terrace in front of this temple by the followers of Marius, and the contest between Cato and Metullus in reference to the recall of Pompey from Asia occurred in the same place.
Pliny tells of a raven that was hatched upon the roof of the Temple of Castor and Pollux and flew to a bootmaker’s shop opposite. Every morning it would fly to the Rostra Julii, which some claim was directly in front of this temple near the Temple of Cæsar (see the map of the Forum) where he would salute the Emperor Tiberius, as well as Germanicus, Drusus and other notables as they passed along the Sacra Via in front of the Rostra, after which he returned to the shop. This the bird did for several years, till the owner of a competing shop, jealous of the advertising his rival was receiving, killed the bird. For so doing, the man was put to death, and the bird, such was its place in the popular esteem, was given a public funeral and was buried in the field of Rediculus on the western side of the Appian Way, at the second milestone. “No such crowds,” says Pliny, “had ever escorted the funeral of anyone out of the whole number of Rome’s distinguished men.”
A glance at the map shows the exact location of the Temple of Castor and Pollux (Aedes Castorum) on a line with and to the east of the Basilica Julia. These are the two structures which bound the Forum on the south.
As we note also on the map, the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Castor were separated by a narrow street – all the streets in the Forum, for want of space, were necessarily narrow – called the Vicus Tuscus, which led from the Forum to the Circus Maximus. We can see its course in the Forum just this side of the raised platform on which the Temple of Castor stood. Originally, a colony of Tuscans settled there, and from this came its name. The street rivaled the Sacra Via in its religious importance, being the direction taken by the great procession of the Ludi Romani, in which the statues of the gods were carried from the Capitol to the Circus Maximus, That street was anciently occupied by perfumers and incense dealers, whose bazaars offered a very attractive appearance. You can see some brick work, the remains of this line of shops, between the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Castor and Pollux. The end one has been excavated, and, unlike the rest, is a meat shop, famous for a single incident. Those who have been saddened by the pathetic story of Virginius will be interested to learn that this meat shop stood where the Vicus Tuscus meets the Sacra Via, at the northeast corner of the Basilica Julia. It was from this shop that the knife was taken which saved Virginia’s honor but took her life. You re-member the story. Virginius, who saw his daughter being led away, the captive of a despot, demanded permission to speak with her, and, it being granted, he drew her near a butcher’s shop which stood at the corner of the two streets, and, seizing a knife which lay on a meat block, plunged it into his daughter’s heart.
Coming now to the east side of the Forum, there are two structures of which remains are found – the Rostra Julii and the Temple of Julius Caesar. Their location is found definitely on the map (Rostra Julii and Templum divi Julii). To that place the body of Cæsar was taken after his murder. According to some authorities, the new Rostra had been erected there some time before by Julius Cæsar him-self. It was on this new tribune of the orators, in March, B. C. 44, the day of Cæsar’s funeral, that Mark Antony pronounced his vehement oration, which so powerfully affected the minds of the people that they immediately burned the body behind the Rostra. Such an act among the most sacred temples of the city was an honor unparalleled in the history of Rome. Afterwards, the ashes were interred where the funeral pyre had stood and a memorial column dedicated to the father of his country (parenti patriae), was erected to commemorate the august occasion. Augustus subsequently extended the temple over the place where the body had been cremated and the ashes deposited, and dedicated it (aedem divi Julii), to the deified Julius Caesar.
The temple was a small building erected on a lofty superstructure, as were most of the buildings in the Forum, probably to protect them against inundations of the Tiber. That was the first temple in Rome dedicated to a mortal. It was totally destroyed in 1546, and is now nothing but a mass of rough and broken stones.
The Rostra Julii, which stood on this side of the temple, was adorned by Augustus with the beaks of galleys captured in the battle of Actium. There the body of Augustus was taken and placed on a bier, while Tiberius pronounced a eulogy over it.
But according to some the Rostra was famed for an earlier event than the funeral of either Julius or Augustus Cæsar. The occasion referred to was when the greatest of Roman generals, Julius Cæsar, was celebrating his last triumph in commemoration of his victory over the Pompeians, at Munda. He had well-nigh reached the summit of his earthly ambition. But one thing remained-to be Emperor of Rome. It is said that Julius Cæsar was fond of repeating the words of the Greek poet:
“Hold sacred law and right! But if thou break them, Then break them for a throne.”
But for centuries the government here had been a republic, and soft words about liberty and fraternity and modest bearing were necessary before even the mighty Caesar could amsume that title. Five months after this final triumph, in February, B. C. 44, a wild and ancient feast of the Lupercalia was being celebrated, in which, nearly destitute of clothing and amid scenes of the most revolting abandonment, the Romans carried on the festival. Cæsar, dressed in his splendid and triumphal robes, sat out there on the Rostra Julii, which had just been erected, watching the mad bacchanalian feast, when Mark Antony, the Consul, half drunk and nearly naked, approached him, bearing in his hand a laurel wreath, which he offered to Cæsar as King of Rome. Twice Cæsar, with well-simulated modesty, refused it, affirming that Rome was a Republic, and that the everlasting principles of equality and liberty forbade his acceptance. A burst of thunderous applause greeted this remark from the crowds that thronged the Forum. But this spontaneous outburst on the part of the people was not in accordance with Caesar’s desires, and it angered him. Springing to his feet he offered to bare his neck if anyone would strike. Many in the vast crowd would have liked to accept the invitation, but the hour had not come.
Afterwards Caesar accepted the crown on religious grounds, shielding himself behind a prophecy in the Sibylline books that none but a king could ever gain victory over the Parthians; and thus, in order, as he pretended, to extend the benefits of the Republic and he victor over its enemies, he fastened upon the Romans the rule and despotism of the Csars. It was this piece of disinterested benevolence that cost the Emperor his life. Only a month later he was assassinated, not in the Capitol from which we are looking, as Shakespeare says, nor yet in the Senate House to our left beside the Forum, but the “brute part was played” in the new Senate House of Pompey, situated a half-mile behind us, on the site of the Church of S. Andrea delle Valle on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuel, to which we have already referred.
In this very place where the life of Julius Caesar centered and where his death was first mourned, the stirring events of his great career come to us with wonderfully increased interest. Julius Cæsar, more perhaps than any other man who ever lived, has impressed himself upon the history and civilization of western Europe. He stood here at the turning point in Roman affairs, when it seemed as though centralized power in Rome was about to vanish, and the numerous Roman provinces revert to their former independence. As with a stroke of magic, he changed all this, and laid the foundation for the most splendid and despotic imperialism the world has ever seen.
Nothing that unfolds or illumines that wonderful life can ever be without interest to men. It is told of him that when but a lad, on a voyage to the island of Rhodes, he was captured by Mediterranean pirates who asked twenty talents for his ransom. To their astonishment he offered them fifty and remained with them thirty-eight days after the money was paid and he was entitled to his liberty, in order to inform himself as to their secret haunts and methods of procedure.
The pirates, who were greatly amused at his wit and humor, were loth to part with him; but their sorrow was greatly increased when they met him again, for he returned and captured their entire fleet and carried the pirates as prisoners to Pergamos.
During his consulate, he gave shows of extraordinary splendor and adorned the city with a magnificent colonnade. Bibulus, a mere nobody, was his companion in the consulate, and the wits of the day, in consideration of his nonentity, used to date their notes, “in the consulship of Julius and Caesar,” insted of the consulship of Cæsar and Bibulus. Caesar took care, however, that his colleague contributed his share to the expense of these extravagant entertainments and elegant structures, but the people lost sight of Bibulus completely and attributed all to Cæsar. “I see,” Bibulus was wont to say, ” it is with us as with the Dioscuri ; everyone speaks of the Temple of Castor and forgets to name his fellow Pollux.”
It is not to be wondered at that, at the close of this consulate, Julius Cæsar was a bankrupt. To one asking him how much he was worth, he replied laughingly, ” I need two hundred and fifty millions of sesterces to be worth nothing.” Fortunately, he had rich supporters, and he borrowed eight hundred and three talents (nearly a million dollars) from Crassus, which, by the aid of the opportunities presented to him in the public service, he readily found means to repay.
As we have already pointed out, the Sacra Via was made to pass around the Temple of Cæsar on the north and then turn sharply south, on this side of the temple, toward the Temple of Castor. It was this construction of the Temple of Caesar and the turning of the street around it that so materially shortened the Forum, as we have already stated.
At some later time another building was erected across the east end of the Forum, this side of the Sacra Via. It is represented on the map by an open rectangle. Nothing as to the age or use of this latter structure has yet come to light.
Between the Temple of Cæsar and the Temple of Castor stood the triumphal Arch of Augustus (Arcus Augusti on the map). We can almost see the foundations of this arch beneath the short piece of entablature which rests upon that pillar of the Saturn Temple, the pillar nearest the Basilica Julia. The arch was raised in 29 B. C. to commemorate the victories of Augustus in Dalmatia, in Egypt and at Actium.
This completes the ruins of structures that more immediately bordered on the Forum. There are a few more objects of interest within the Forum area that should receive attention. The Arch of Tiberius stood over the Sacra Via in front of this near or western end of the Basilica Julia, but the foundation platform of the Saturn temple hides the site from us. It was erected in 17 A. D. in memory of a victory by Germanicus, in which he recovered the standards which Varus had lost.
On the Forum side of that part of the Sacra Via which lay in front of the Basilica Julia are what seem to be pedestals of monumental columns. Some authorities have claimed that they are the ruins of the row of ancient shops that once stood there – the tabernæ veteres – but stamps on bricks found at the foot of two of them show that they belong to the age of Constantine. These columns must have added greatly to the picturesqueness of the Forum.
The great Cloaca Maxima ran beneath the farther or eastern end of the Forum and the Basilica Julia. The map shows its exact course.
From now we are to consider the ruins of buildings which stood on either side of the Sacra Via between the Forum and the Colosseum.
Excavations in 1900-1901 beyond and to the right of those columns of the Castor and Pollux temple brought to light not only an eighth century church but the far more ancient well of Juturna where the twin gods watered their horses. Near it, directly before us, are some of the most interesting ruins in all this vicinity – the ruins of the Temple of Vesta. On the map their position is given by a heavy circle with the name Aedes Vestæ.
In prehistoric times, when fire could only be obtained by friction, every community preserved a public fire which was always burning night and day, and which was located in the most central part of the village, generally in or near the Forum or market-place. When anyone wanted to start a fire, he went to this common hearthstone, obtained a burning brand and carried it off with him. The care of this public fire was always given to the young girls of the village, since their duties did not call them away from home to cultivate the fields or in pursuit of the chase or abroad on the war-path.
As time went on this simple custom was dignified into a most sacred religious rite. And so it was that, when the early settlers came here, they instituted the worship of Vesta, which consisted simply in the keeping of a public fire by young girls in a little hut out there by the Palatine Hill. Numa, Romulus’ successor, built the first Temple of Vesta, and set apart the Vestal Virgins to care for it. These were destined to be, next to the King himself, the most exalted personages in those ancient times. Two considerations doubtless led the King and the Roman people to give such distinction to the worship of Vesta and to her priestesses ; one that in a Roman family, the hearth was the center of social purity and affection, so a public fire burning on a public hearthstone was to be emblematic of this social purity for the community, and the virtue of the Vestal a model for all the nation; second, because Romulus’ mother was a Vestal Virgin, and hence all those who succeeded to the office were accorded the highest consideration. Numa appointed four Vestals, but the number was afterwards increased to six, each of whom served thirty years. Plutarch tells us that for ten years they were being instructed in their duties, ten years they practiced them, and ten years they passed in instructing others. Ovid says that the Temple of Vesta was made round, as a symbol of the earth. That circular structure was surmounted by a conical roof, which was crowned by a statue of a Vestal Virgin, supposed by some to represent the mother of Romulus, and the Temple contained, besides the fire, the Palladium or protecting image of Pallas, believed to have been brought from Troy. The original temple built by Numa was destroyed by the invasion of the Gauls in B. C. 390. Learning of their approach the Vestals hid the Palladium and the other relics in an earthen jar and buried them in the earth. A second fire, in 241 B. C., again demolished the temple; and in order to save the Palladium, Caeccilius Metellus, the pontifex maximus, threw himself into the flames and rescued it at the peril of his life, losing an eye and an arm. In 210 B. C. another fire broke out in the temple, but the structure was saved by the heroism of a company of slaves. Nero rebuilt it after the fire in his reign. It was again burned under Commodus in 191 A. D., and the restoration by the Empress of Septimius Severus is the last of which there is any record. Theodosius II closed the temple in 394, when the sacred fire, which had been burning for more than a thou-sand years, was extinguished for ever. As late as 1489 the little structure was in good condition, but in 1549 the builders of St. Peter’s razed it to the ground. Thirty-five fragments were found scattered over the Forum in 1877, but only a mass of concrete now marks its site.
Farther away, east of the Temple of Vesta, was the House of the Vestals (Atrium Veste or Domus Virginum Vestalium). This was an oblong brick building constructed during the reign of Septimius Severus.
We can get the best idea of the plan of the structure by studying its position on the map to the right of the Temple of Vesta looking toward the Colosseum. We perceive that it was bounded on the north by the Sacra Via, and on the south by the Nova Via. As we can see, the Atrium (Atrium Vestae), the central room or court of the palace, comprised a large part of the whole area. The Atrium was surrounded by state apartments and the private apartments of the Vestals (Domus Virginum Vestalium). Excavations recently made reveal the fact that the Vestals lived in almost regal splendor.
The atrium of their palace had niches in its walls filled with statues of celebrated Vestals, being one of the most magnificent chambers in Rome, and indeed, from this one apartment the whole structure was named, being frequently called the Atrium Vestæ. A stately colonnade of forty-eight Corinthian columns inclosed the ground floor of the palace, surmounted by a second colonnade of an equal number of columns, made of costly breccia corallina, which gave to the building an elegant and impressive appearance. Two of these columns have been preserved, simply because they could not be burnt into lime. On the ground floor of this palatial abode were spacious courts and splendid apartments of state, and on the second floor were the private apartments of the virgins, consisting of luxurious bathrooms and a sumptuous suite of rooms for each priestess. The walls and pavements of the whole house were faced with richly covered marbles and rare mosaics. Notwithstanding these superb appointments, the building was damp and unwholesome, caused by the moist and clammy bank of the Palatine Hill, which was just beside it on the south, rising abruptly above the ground floor of the house for more than thirty feet. In the beginning physicians were not allowed in the palace, but the miasma which lurked in its marble chambers necessitated a change in this rule. As a precaution against rheumatism and fever the walls were made hollow and a current of hot air passed through them and between the floors, and hot-air furnaces were placed in all parts of the building, but the danger was only partly averted.
It was customary to choose a child under ten years of age to fill a vacancy in the order caused by the death or retirement of a Vestal, which was obligatory at the age of forty. Upon her election by the Senate, the successful candidate took the oath of fidelity and chastity. If they allowed the sacred fire to go out, thus breaking their oath of fidelity, they were scourged by the Pontifex Maximus. If they violated their oath of chastity, they were buried alive. At public functions in ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins took precedence even of the consuls, and occupied seats with the Empress on all state occasions. If a Vestal passed a condemned man on his way to execution, the man was immediately set at liberty. So great were the privileges of the order, and so eager were aristocratic families to obtain the honor, that Augustus is said to have made a defeated candidate a present of one hundred thousand dollars as a salve for her wounded feelings and in order to propitiate her friends.
The Regia, the official residence of the Pontifex Maximus or high priest, was located a short distance to the left of the Temple of Vesta, near the eastern end of the Forum. The map shows its position just to the right or east of the Temple of Julius Cæsar. It is said that Numa erected a religious structure near these ruins, on neutral ground, between the Romans and the Sabines. Later on this building took its place as the residence of the Pontifex Maximus. It was used in this capacity down to the time of Augustus, who, we are told by Dion Cassius, presented it to the Vestals because it adjoined their temple.
In 1900 a well was discovered near one of the walls of this structure, belonging perhaps to the third or second century B. C. The well, which was about twenty feet deep, was filled with cinders, ashes, pottery, marble fragments of the palace, and bronze spear-points. Records show that spears, with marble shafts and metal points, said to belong to Romulus, were kept in the Regia. These spears were suspended in such a way as to indicate the slightest vibration by their oscillatory motion, and the least movement on their part was thought to foretell coming disaster, frequently an earthquake. They became connected with public worship in this way: Foremost among the gods to whom the Pontifex Maximus offered sacrifices was Jupiter, always represented as holding the threefold bolts in his hand – the bolt penetrating, the bolt burning, and the bolt shaking; the first was represented by the water in the well; the second (burning or lightning) by the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta; and the third (shaking or earthquake) was represented by the spears.
The memory of Julius Cesar must always be closely associated with the site of the Regia, for it was there he lived as Pontifex Maximus during the greater part of his public life. His own private living rooms were on the opposite side of the way. There he lived with his mother, to whom he was devotedly attached. Indeed, she, rather than his girl wife, kept house for him. And then, too, we remember, it was from that little plot of ground, hardly more than two hundred yards from us, that the great man started out to Pompey’s senate house on that last morning of his remarkable life, that ill-fated 15th of March, 44 B. C.
Looking beyond the Forum, there are three structures which we must notice at this point. They stand almost in line extending from the northeast corner of the Forum toward the Church of S. Francesca Romana in front of the Colosseum. The first of these structures is the Church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda, the pillared front of which can be discerned just over the Column of Phocas. It is built on the ancient walls of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and the portico with its six columns on the front and three on the side belongs to the original temple. The full extent and the exact location of the Church and Temple should be noted on the map.
When Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius, died A. D. 141, the subservient Senate decreed that Temple, with priestesses attached to it, to commemorate her death. As the Emperor died before the structure was finished they dedicated the Temple to him as well. Those old Corinthian columns are of Euboean (cipollino) marble, a variegated green stone, and are forty-six feet high. The frieze, with its griffins, vases, festoons and candelabra, is considered one of the finest gems of Roman art. The beautiful steps of the temple were taken to St. Peter’s. Its first dedication as a Christian church was in the seventh or eighth century, and this is largely accountable for its partial preservation.
Just beyond the Church of S. Lorenzo we can see a low circular structure crowned with a small cupola that belonged to the Temple of Romulus (Heroon Romuli), the son of one of the last emperors, Maxentius. Immediately behind that Temple of Romulus was the site of the Temple of the Sacred City (Templum Sacræ Urbis), whose back wall formed part of the enclosure of the Forum of Peace. In the sixth century Pope Felix IV opened a communication between the two temples and dedicated them both as a church to SS. Cosmas and Damianus, two physicians and martyrs. The map by its black lines shows how much of the walls of the ancient buildings still remain. In 1902 excavations near by brought to light remains of buildings of the time of the Republic. After a time we shall be in a better position to inspect the Temple of Romulus (Position 29), and then we can see that it shows a decline in elegance and taste. Instead of having its round cupola surrounded by a peristyle of fluted Corinthian columns, as we saw in the Temple of Matuta (Position 1), we find a ” confusion of curved and straight lines, a round hall between two rectangular ones.”
As we shall not be in a better position at any other time to view the Basilica of Constantine, we will direct our attention now to its three gigantic arches. The great area just east of the Temple of Romulus, covered by the ruins of this vast building, was formerly the Forum Cupedinis, or fruit market, ” the latest mention of which dates from the time of Augustus.” Afterward Domitian built spice warehouses there, but they were burned down before the Basilica was begun. The monstrous structure, of which those three arches are but fragmentary remains, was commenced by Maxentius in the early part of the fourth century and was finished by Constantine. The Basilica had a broad nave with two side aisles, as we can readily see by the plan on the map. The vaulted ceiling of the nave was supported by eight Corinthian columns. Originally, the structure faced the east and the entrance was on the side toward the Colosseum ; afterward a. new entrance was opened, on the south side, looking toward the Sacra Via. Lanciani suggests that the roof of the Basilica remained standing until the earthquake of 1349, when the ceiling of the nave and the south aisle collapsed. The roof of the north aisle is still perfect, and for centuries it was covered with so deep an accumulation of soil that, at times, it has been used for a garden. Of course the three arches we see were those on the north side of the nave. The structure itself has been used for various purposes, as a cattle-shed and a riding-school and, in 1725, as a hayloft.
Contemplating that immense structure, Raphael justly remarked that architecture was the last art that decayed at Rome, the buildings of the later Emperors being as good as those of the first, but that the painting and sculpture of their period were abominable. Only the name of the Christian Emperor Constantine saved the Basilica from destruction in the dark period of the Middle Ages. It is the last of a long series of wonderful buildings which bear the impress of the grandeur of the genius of Ancient Rome, exciting the amazement and winning the admiration of the world.
This brings us to the Church of S. Francesca, nearer the Colosseum, and the ancient Temple of Venus and Rome, built by Hadrian on the site of the vestibule of Nero’s Golden House. The S. Francesca Church was constructed on a portion of the site of the temple by Leo IV and Nicholas I, in the ninth century, and was restored in 1612 by Paul V, while the handsome bell tower is one of the best that have been preserved to us from the thirteenth century. The church is a monument to one of the devoted Christians of the earlier centuries. It is seldom that the passing tourist takes time to think of the beautiful and heroic lives commemorated by these old churches. S. Francesca Romana was of noble family and remark-able for her piety. She founded the order of Oblate Nuns, all of whom belonged to aristocratic families. The foundations of the Temple of Venus and Rome were laid on the anniversary of the founding of Rome, April 21, A. D. 131, but the dedication took place A. D. 135. Little remains standing of the original edifice except a mass of Corinthian cornice near the cellar and facing toward the Colosseum. In 391 A. D. the
splendid building was closed and abandoned to its fate, but it continued to stand in good state of preservation until A. D. 625, when Pope Honorius carried off the gilt bronze tiling of its roof to the Basilica of St. Peter’s.
Hadrian drew the plans for the temple himself and afterwards submitted them to Apollodorus of Damascus, the famous architect of Trajan’s Forum. The architect frankly criticised the Emperor’s drawings, saying that the statues were too large for their niches, that the deities, if they rose from their seats would certainly thrust their heads through the ceiling; that the substructure upon which the temple rests ought to have been higher so as to be seen to greater advantage from the Sacra Via and the Forum. Furthermore, he argued that the alterations suggested would have given room for spacious vaults beneath the temple which, from their proximity to the Colosseum, could be used for the storing of the machinery necessary for the amphitheater. It is recorded that this just criticism so angered Hadrian that he ordered the man’s eyes put out, but this is very improbable.
Originally the temple had a grand portico of gray granite columns and a double front, so to speak, one toward the Forum and the other facing the Colosseum. Formerly the renowned statue of Nero, one hundred feet high, built by order of Nero, stood near the Colosseum at the entrance of the Golden House of Nero, which covered all the ground between that place and the Palatine. When Hadrian deter-mined to build his temple he decided to remove the statue. This removal was effected by the aid of twenty-four elephants, the statue all the time remaining in an upright position. Hadrian, moreover, changed the statue from that of Nero into a statue of the God of the Sun by altering its features and surrounding its head with bronze rays.
The seemingly barren space lying this side of the Church of S. Francesca and the Arch of Titus, extending approximately, from the church and arch on the southeast to the House of the Vestals nearer us, and from the Sacra Via, in front of the Basilica of Constantine on the northeast, to the Nova Via near the Palatine on the southwest, was very much disputed territory until the excavations of 1878-79. Then the bases of ten or eleven rows of stone pillars were found, which, with other remains, have led to the conclusion that a large building known as the Porticus Margaritaria stood there, a portico occupied by jewelers and goldsmiths. Later on the space was probably cut up into regular shops by brick walls raised between each pair of stone pillars. The shops probably date from about 134 A. D.
The celebrated Arch of Titus, standing so proudly upon the summit of the Sacra Via, is the most beautiful of the remaining arches of Rome. It speaks eloquently for the artistic taste of Titus, who planned the arch, although he did not live to finish it, the work being completed after the death of Titus by his brother Domitian. The arch was erected to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem, and its fine bas-reliefs represent spoils taken from the temple there – as the silver trumpets, the table with the shew-bread, and the seven-branched candlestick.
The short reign of Titus was saddened by three public calamities, ever memorable in history – the eruption of Vesuvius, when Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed ; a fearful plague in Rome, attended by scenes of indescribable horror ; and a fire, which raged for three days and three nights, devastating nearly all the buildings of the Campus Martius. During the ceaseless combats of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries waged here, the Arch of Titus formed the doorway into the fortified enclosure of the domain of the warlike Frangipani family, which included the Colosseum and a greater part of the Palatine Hill, and on this account it suffered great damage.
That portion of the Sacra Via extending from the Summa Sacra Via (the eminence on which the Arch of Titus now stands), and the Colosseum, was the favorite walk of Horace, and we can almost imagine him taking it now. Why, it seems but yesterday when right there on the famous street he met the bore who nearly plagued him to death, as he tells us in the ninth Satire of his first book, which is said to be the best picture of a bore ever written.
“How do you do, my sweet friend?” asked the bore.
” Pretty well, as times go,” replied the poet; and then, to his horror, he sees the bore turn and follow.
“Can I do anything for you?” asks Horace, a little sarcastically, broadly hinting in his tone that he prefers being al-lowed to resume his walk alone. The bore starts in by praising himself and, as he does so, Horace walks very fast in this direction on past the Temple of Vesta, then skirting the Basilica of Julia, vainly looking for the sight of a friendly face or an opportunity to escape this human plague.
“Where are you going?” asks the bore.
“I am going to visit a friend across the Tiber, who lives not far from Cæsar’s Gardens,” said Horace, inventing a visit far enough distant to dampen the ardor of his companion in case he was set upon following him.
“Very well,” replied the leech, “I have nothing to do and am far from lazy; I will go all the way with you. If I am any judge of my own worth, you will make me one of your intimate friends, for I can make good verses, as good and as fast as another. I am sure Hermogenes is jealous of me!”
“Have you a mother, sir?” asks Horace impressively. “Have you any relatives to whom your safety is a matter of importance?”
“None, whatever,” was the answer.. “I have buried them all.”
“Fortunate people ! ” muttered the poet to himself, and he almost wished that he, too, was dead. He certainly would have been relieved had the bore just then been gathered to his ancestors. As for the bore himself, he was in good health, neither a cough, nor gout, nor poison seemed likely to cause his demise. So Horace, evidently, was destined to be talked to death.
“How do you stand with Mæcenas?” continued the bore. “I am sadly in need of money. Now if you would introduce me, I might be helpful to you as well as to myself.”
Very laughable were Horace’s repeated attempts to rid himself of this chattering nuisance, in all of which he failed, until finally his salvation appeared in the shape of a man to whom the bore was in debt and who had instituted an action against him in the courts.
” Coward, villain!” yelled the man, pouncing upon the bore. “Why are you not in court to answer my claim?”
In the excitement caused by the arrest Horace disappeared, thankful to the gods for having saved him after all.
This completes our survey of the Forum and the Sacra Via from the Capitol. The massive ruins on the extreme right piled against the side of the Palatine Hill belong to the palace of the Emperor Caligula, but we shall leave all consideration of buildings that have stood on this eminence until we look at it from the Colosseum.
Turn now to the Column of Phocas down on our left. You will remember that while in our former position (Position 26) we pointed out two sculptured slabs of marble standing on edge a few feet north of the base of the Column of Phocas. Well, we are to stand next on the farther or northeast side of those pieces of marble and look back this way, but more to our right ; that is, we shall then be looking up toward the front of these eight columns of the Temple of Saturn. On the map, this next position is given exactly by the number 28 in a circle near the north side of the Forum, and the two lines that branch from it toward the left or southwest.