famous Campus Martius; those on the other side, the ancient approaches to the
gardens of Sallust and Lucullus, on the Pincian Mount.
On the opposite bank of the Tiber (gained by the Ponte St. Angelo, formerly the
Pons Elius), two streets pierced through an irregular and populous neighbourhood,
conduct to the modern Church of St. Peter. At the period of our story this part of
the city was of much greater consequence, both in size and appearance, than it is
at present, and led directly to the ancient Basilica of St. Peter, which stood on the
same site as that now occupied by the modern edifice.
The events about to be narrated occur entirely in the parts of the city just
described. From the Pincian Hill, across the Campus Martius, over the Pons Elius,
and on to the Basilica of St. Peter, the reader may be often invited to accompany
us, but he will be spared all necessity of penetrating familiar ruins, or mourning
over the sepulchres of departed patriots.
Ere, however, we revert to former actors or proceed to new characters, it will be
requisite to people the streets that we here attempt to rebuild. By this process it is
hoped that the reader will gain that familiarity with the manners and customs of
the Romans of the fifth century on which the influence of this story mainly
depends, and which we despair of being able to instil by a philosophical
disquisition on the features of the age. A few pages of illustration will serve our
purpose better, perhaps, than volumes of historical description. There is no more
unerring index to the character of a people than the streets of their cities.
It is near evening. In the widest part of the Campus Martius crowds of people are
assembled before the gates of a palace. They are congregated to receive several
baskets of provisions, distributed with ostentatious charity by the owner of the
mansion. The incessant clamour and agitation of the impatient multitude form a
strange contrast to the stately serenity of the natural and artificial objects by
which they are enclosed on all sides.
The space they occupy is oblong in shape and of great extent in size. Part of it is
formed by a turf walk shaded with trees, part by the paved approaches to the
palace and the public baths which stand in its immediate neighbourhood. These
two edifices are remarkable by their magnificent outward adornments of statues,
and the elegance and number of the flights of steps by which they are respectively
entered. With the inferior buildings, the market-places and the gardens attached to
them, they are sufficiently extensive to form the boundary of one side of the
immediate view. The appearance of monotony which might at other times be
remarked in the vastness and regularity of their white fronts, is at this moment
agreeably broken by several gaily-coloured awnings stretched over their doors
and balconies. The sun is now shining on them with overpowering brightness; the
metallic ornaments on their windows glitter like gems of fire; even the trees
which form their groves partake of the universal flow of light, and fail, like the
objects around them, to offer to the weary eye either refreshment or repose.
Towards the north, the Mausoleum of Augustus, towering proudly up into the
brilliant sky, at once attracts the attention. From its position, parts of this noble
building are already in shade. Not a human being is visible on any part of its
mighty galleries--it stands solitary and sublime, an impressive embodiment of the
emotions which it was raised to represent.