Antonina HTML version
The Conclusion. 'Ubi Thesaurus Ibi
Shortly after the opening of the provision markets outside the gates of Rome, the
Goths broke up their camp before the city and retired to winter quarters in
Tuscany. The negotiations which ensued between Alaric and the Court and
Government at Ravenna, were conducted with cunning moderation by the
conqueror, and with infatuated audacity by the conquered, and ultimately
terminated in a resumption of hostilities. Rome was besiege and second and a
third time by 'the barbarians'. On the latter occasion the city was sacked, its
palaces were burnt, its treasures were seized; the monuments of the Christian
religion were alone respected.
But it is no longer with the Goths that our narrative is concerned; the connection
with them which it has hitherto maintained closes with the end of the first siege of
Rome. We can claim the reader's attention for historical events no more--the
march of our little pageant, arrayed for his pleasure, is over. If, however, he has
felt, and still retains, some interest in Antonina, he will not refuse to follow us,
and look on her again ere we part.
More than a month had passed since the besieging army had retired to their winter
quarters, when several of the citizens of Rome assembled themselves on the
plains beyond the walls, to enjoy one of those rustic festivals of ancient times,
which are still celebrated, under different usages, but with the same spirit, by the
Italians of modern days.
The place was a level plot of ground beyond the Pincian Gate, backed by a thick
grove of pine trees, and looking towards the north over the smooth extent of the
country round Rome. The persons congregated were mostly of the lower class.
Their amusements were dancing, music, games of strength and games of chance;
and, above all, to people who had lately suffered the extremities of famine,
abundant eating and drinking--long, serious, ecstatic enjoyment of the powers of
mastication and the faculties of taste.
Among the assembly were some individuals whose dress and manner raised them,
outwardly at least, above the general mass. These persons walked backwards and
forwards together on different parts of the ground as observers, not as partakers in
the sports. One of their number, however, in whatever direction he turned,
preserved an isolated position. He held an open letter in his hand, which he looked
at from time to time, and appeared to be wholly absorbed in his own thoughts.
This man we may advantageously particularise on his own account, as well as on
account of the peculiarity of his accidental situation; for he was the favoured
minister of Vetranio's former pleasures--'the industrious Carrio'.
The freedman (who was last introduced to the reader in Chapter XIV., as
exhibiting to Vetranio the store of offal which he had collected during the famine
for the consumption of the palace) had contrived of late greatly to increase his
master's confidence in him. On the organisation of the Banquet of Famine, he had