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Another mile and we stand before the colossal Cæcilia Metella tomb. This was within the older circuit of all visitors to Rome, and close to it are the ruins of the mediæval fortress of the Gaetani. Byron has made this noble ruin his own. Even in his descriptive poetry (and when he was in the vein what descriptive poet was equal to Byron ?) there are few passages of equal truth and sublimity. We cannot refrain from quoting a few lines—would we had space for more—especially the first stanza, which so well displays the present aspect of the monument:
• But who was she, the Lady of the dead
Tomb’d in a palace? Was she chaste and fair;
Thus much alone we know-Metella died
The wealthiest Roman’s wife-Behold his love or pride.' Within the last three miles from Rome the approach to the great city was marked by the larger intermingling of other stately and sacred edifices with the monuments of the dead. There was the temple of the Deus Rediculus, indicating the height from which Hannibal is said to have surveyed and then turned his back on unassailable Rome. No wonder! For Hannibal, ever conqueror in the field—at Trebia, at Thrasymene, at Canna,—was baffled by almost every town which he attempted to besiege ; for his army was utterly unfit for such operations. Unprovided with the materials for å siege,—the mining tools, the hands accustomed to use them, the engines, and all the apparatus necessary for such work. Terror or treachery opened the gates of fatal Capua.
After this appear on one side of the road, the valley and fountain of Egeria, of which the holy romance, the venerable reminiscences of Numa, were, to the indignation of Juvenal, profaned in his day with its occupation by the miserable Jews. These were no longer flourishing merchants—it may have been already money-lenders, for such, as we know from Cicero, they were in Asia Minor-but crushed down, by the hatred excited by the obstinate war, and by the influx of slaves (now scattered by millions throughout the Roman Empire), into mean pedlars, and defiling the soil and the waters of this sacred spot with their provision-baskets and pallets of straw.
The The noble arch of Drusus perhaps bestrode the way; and other temples crowded the road up to the Capenian Gate. But there were monuments too, and those singularly illustrative of almost every period in the annals of Rome. There was the tomb of Romolus, the son of the last Pagan Emperor of Rome. Maxentius, perhaps in honour of that son, had laid out a vast circus, as though the votive offering of expiring Paganism. There was the tomb of Geta, who fell by the fratricidal hand of Caracalla, a fearful memorial of the crimes of what we call the second period of the Empire. There were the sepulchres of the freedmen of Augustus, and of the freedmen of Livia, both, as might be expected, very capacious. The ashes of Augustus himself, as is well known, reposed in the Campus Martius. There was a tomb, which though raised by a private man, must have been of unexampled splendour, that of Priscilla, the wife of Abascantius, a favourite of Domitian. It is well, among all the monuments of pride and crime, to dwell on this one prodigal memorial of true domestic affection; and this tomb, and the inmate of the tomb, are described in a work of one of the later Roman poets, worthy to live. Like all the verse of Statius, the consolation, as we may call it, inscribed to Abascantius, is in many parts strained, forced, exaggerated; but there are lines with a depth of tenderness unsurpassed-difficult to equal, in Latin verse. He describes the dying moments of Priscilla :-.
• Jamque cadunt vultus, oculisque novissimus error,
Obtusæque aures, nisi cum vox sola mariti
Lumina, sed dulci mavult satiare marito.' All Rome poured forth, to see the costly funeral procession of Priscilla, to the Appian Way, on the banks of the Almo, near the temple of Cybele,
* Est locus ante urbem, qua primum nascitur ingens
Ponit.' She was interred (it should seem an unusual course), not burned ; her husband could not have endured the sight and the tumult of a cremation.
Nec enim fumantia busta,
stood in niches, marble statues of Priscilla, in the garb and attributes of various goddesses :
Mox in varias mutata novaris
Numina.'--Statii Silro, v. 1. Nearest to the walls of Rome, as though holding the guardians of her impregnable gates, was the well-known tomb of the Scipios. The greatest of the race, Africanus, reposed not in this sepulchre; he died, and his ashes remained, at Liternum. But there is no reason to doubt that his place was filled by the great father of Roman poetry, the conservator of her legendary annals, Ennius. And surely we may refer to the whole race the splendid lines of Lucretius. 'Scipio, the thunderbolt of war, the terror of Carthage, bequeathed his bones to the earth, even as if he had been the vilest of slaves; and wilt thou whose life, even while thou art living and in the light of day, is little more than death, wilt thou struggle, and be indignant that thou must die?'
. Scipiades fulmen belli, Carthaginis horror
Ossa dedit terræ, proinde ac famul infimus esset.
Tu vero dubitabis et indignabere obire
- Lucret. iii. 1047-8, 1058-9. Thus, along each of the great roads which led to Rome was, as it were, a great necropolis, a line of stately sepulchres, in which lay the remains of her illustrious dead, and of those who might aspire to the rank of the illustrious. We may conjecture indeed from Ciccro that, even in his day, the most famous, and hallowed by the most famous men, was the Appian necropolis. In the well-known passage, where Tully would infer the immortality of the soul from the greatness of the older Romans, he says: “When you go out of the Capenian Gate, where you behold the tombs of Calatinus, of the Scipios, of the Servilii, of the Metelli, can you suppose that they are miserable ?' (* An tu egressus porta Capena, cum Calatini, Scipionum, Serviliorum, Metellorum sepulchra vides, miseros putas illos ? ')
But during the early Empire appeared in Rome a religious community, among whom reverence for the dead, a profound feeling for the preservation of the buried body in its integrity,
was not only a solemn duty, but a deep-rooted passion. The Christians not only inherited from their religious ancestors the Jews the ancient and immemorial usage of interment, but this respect for the dead was clasped and riveted, as it were, round their hearts by the great crowning event of their faith. Christ, in their belief, had risen bodily from the grave; a bodily resurrection was to be their glorious privilege. Some, many indeed, no doubt, in the first ages of Christianity, looked for this resuscitation as speedy, imminent, almost immediate. Their great Apostle indeed had taught a more sublime, less material tenet; he had spoken of glorified bodies, not natural bodies : Flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. But the sanctity of the body committed to the earth was still rooted in the very depths of their souls; the burning of the dead was to them a profanation. Long before relics came to be worshipped, the mangled and scattered limbs, it might be of the confessor or martyr, were a pious trust, to be watched over with reverential care, to be preserved with tender affection. This feeling is well described by Prudentius :
• Hinc maxima cura sepulcris
Impenditur, hinc resolutos
Non mortua sed data somno ?'—Cathem. x. This community had grown with wonderful rapidity, so as, even in the reign of Nero, to be exposed to a cruel-it might have been supposed an exterminating-persecution. They were of sufficient importance to be cast forth, as it were a scapegoat, to the populace, who were maddened, after the fire of Rome, by the most blind and furious passions of our nature, panic, revenge, superstition; and perhaps to divert the thoughts of the multitude from the Government, against whom some suspicious murmurs had begun to spread.
But the religion had a life which defied, which gained strength from persecution. During the reign of Domitian, in Rome, certain members of the imperial family were accused of belonging to this, for a time, proscribed race. What truth there may be in the accusation, we do not distinctly know (the whole transaction is very obscure): yet we would fain indulge the hope that in their death these victims had the consolations of Christianity.
And still the Christians grew and multiplied throughout the Vol. 118.—No. 235.
Roman world—in Rome especially, the centre of that world. There can be little doubt that, during what has been called the golden age in the Roman history, the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and that of Marcus Aurelius down to the great Eastern plague, they were in constant unchecked accretion; they were in still advancing proportion to the pagan population. Of this wonderful revolution during those times history is silent ; for the best of reasons, because there is no history. Of the long reign of Antoninus Pius we have a few pages in the volume of the Augustan historians. But, as the living Christians increased in numbers, so also must the number of their dead. That, too, which, as it were, narrowed the space required for interment, the practice of cremation, by which the body was reduced to the dimensions of a small urn, which contained the ashes, and might be respectfully stowed away in the small niches of a columbarium--this practice, now almost universal among the great and wealthy (Statius, as we have seen, mentions the case of Priscilla as something rare and unusual), was to the Christians a revolting abomination. Another circumstance perhaps added to their difficulty. The tomb of the great family might admit, as a special privilege, the remains of a few faithful and favourite freedmen, even of slaves : but these added only a few urns with their ashes; and, though it is pleasing to contemplate the usage, as showing the growth of a more humane feeling which was stealing over cruel Roman slavery, it was exceptional rather than common. But to the Christian the body of the freedman or slave (no doubt these social distinctions still subsisted) was as holy as that of his master. He had the same hope of the resurrection; to him extended that equality which alone can level all earthly distinctions—the same title to immortality. The lowest Christian was equal to his master in the hope of rising in glory from the grave. What then was to be done with Christian slaves ? indeed with Christian poor? Were they to be left, abandoned, unregarded, unmourned, to be borne on the cheap sanda pila by those whose office it was, and cast into the horrible pits on the Esquiline, where the scanty earth could not (as in the time of Horace) protect them from the prowling wolf and the obscene bird of prey? We must, indeed, observe that, even among the heathen Romans, there had grown up some respect for the remains of the poor. Not only imperial personages, such as Augustus and Livia, founded common sepulchres for their household, their freedmen, and slaves. It was not an uncommon act of magnificence and generosity to dig or to build a columbarium (so called from its likeness to a dovecote with its rows of niches, one above another) for the poor