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3. Rome
The perusal of the title to this chapter will, we fear, excite emotions of
apprehension, rather than of curiosity, in the breasts of experienced readers. They
will doubtless imagine that it is portentous of long rhapsodies on those wonders of
antiquity, the description of which has long become absolutely nauseous to them
by incessant iteration. They will foresee wailings over the Palace of the Caesars,
and meditations among the arches of the Colosseum, loading a long series of
weary paragraphs to the very chapter's end; and, considerately anxious to spare
their attention a task from which it recoils, they will unanimously hurry past the
dreaded desert of conventional reflection, to alight on the first oasis that may
present itself, whether it be formed by a new division of the story, or suddenly
indicated by the appearance of a dialogue. Animated, therefore, by apprehensions
such as these, we hasten to assure them that in no instance will the localities of
our story trench upon the limits of the well-worn Forum, or mount the arches of
the exhausted Colosseum. It is with the beings, and not the buildings of old Rome,
that their attention is to be occupied. We desire to present them with a picture of
the inmost emotions of the times--of the living, breathing actions and passions of
the people of the doomed Empire. Antiquarian topography and classical
architecture we leave to abler pens, and resign to other readers.
It is, however, necessary that the sphere in which the personages of our story are
about to act should be in some measure indicated, in order to facilitate the
comprehension of their respective movements. That portion of the extinct city
which we design to revive has left few traces of its existence in the modern town.
Its sites are traditionary--its buildings are dust. The church rises where the temple
once stood, and the wine-shop now lures the passing idler where the bath invited
his ancestor of old.
The walls of Rome are in extent, at the present day, the same as they were at the
period of which we now write. But here all analogy between the ancient and
modern city ends. The houses that those walls were once scarcely wide enough to
enclose have long since vanished, and their modern successors occupy but a third
of the space once allotted to the capital of the Empire.
Beyond the walls immense suburbs stretched forth in the days of old. Gorgeous
villas, luxurious groves, temples, theatres, baths-- interspersed by colonies of
dwellings belonging to the lower orders of the people--surrounded the mighty
city. Of these innumerable abodes hardly a trace remains. The modern traveller,
as he looks forth over the site of the famous suburbs, beholds, here and there, a
ruined aqueduct, or a crumbling tomb, tottering on the surface of a pestilential
The present entrance to Rome by the Porta del Popolo occupies the same site as
the ancient Flaminian Gate. Three great streets now lead from it towards the
southern extremity of the city, and form with their tributaries the principal portion
of modern Rome. On one side they are bounded by the Pincian Hill, on the other
by the Tiber. Of these streets, those nearest the river occupy the position of the