The Arch Of Constantine.
Where The Triumphs Passed.
Directly opposite this memorial of Constantine rises the Palatine, the oldest and most aristocratic of Rome's seven hills: oldest, in the sense that it was there, two thousand six hundred years ago, that historic Rome began, with the fortress built by Romulus; and aristocratic, because Plebeians never occupied it. Only Consuls, Emperors, and Patricians dwelt upon the Palatine. A half century ago the hill was covered with old farms and vineyards, and only half-a-dozen unidentified fragments peered above the soil. It was then a place where one could walk in quiet revery, enjoying thoroughly the classic memories of the locality, without the necessity of studying the ruins too closely; but now excavations have been made here so extensively that the entire hill resembles a museum of antiquities, where everything is labeled with a name and number, and where the visitor becomes exhausted if he attempts to comprehend and recollect the whole. The Palatine is like a golden book upon whose pages Roman Emperors obliterated and wrote over one another's records till they have become nearly illegible. Its leaves have, also, been repeatedly torn and scattered, till a connected story is almost impossible. I think the best way, therefore, for the tourist, who does not claim to be an archaeologist, to enjoy the Palatine is to stroll thoughtfully among its old memorials of imperial luxury, without attempting to distinguish too minutely their details, and, by accepting frankly only a general idea of them, to let the impressions of their magnitude and of the great events which have transpired here leave on his mind an influence undisturbed by doubts and acrimonious disputes.
Ruins On The Palatine.
The Imperial Amphitheatre.
Some portions of the various imperial abodes which have succeeded one another here have, however, been positively identified. Thus, we can walk to-day upon a fragment of the marble pavement of Domitian's banquet-hall; and, looking round us at its ruined masonry, still lined in places with a coating of rare marble, can realize how this man - for fifteen years the ruler of the world - would walk here fearful almost of his shadow, glancing continually at the surrounding walls, whose marble surfaces were polished like a mirror, to see that no assassin followed him. Yet his precautions were in vain, and his apprehensions only too well founded. Here the freed-man Stephanus (probably instigated by the Empress herself who, with her courtiers, trembled for her life), struck down at last the hated tyrant and gave the weary world relief.
Another portion of these ruins about which there can be no doubt is the crypto portico, or subterranean gallery, through which the Emperors could enter or leave the palace unobserved. It was in this passageway that the youthful monster of iniquity and cruelty, Caligula, was murdered; and we may look now on the very walls that echoed to his shrieks and cries for mercy. What a change had taken place in the bright boy, whose advent to the throne only four years before had been so warmly welcomed, on the death of Tiberius! A descendant of the beloved Augustus, and a son of the admired Germanicus, he was expected to prove an ideal ruler. So young and popular was he, that though his name was Caius, every one called him by the pet name given him when a child, from the caligae, or soldiers' boots, which it was his delight as a boy to wear; and as Caligula, indeed, the world has known him for nearly nineteen hundred years. The only possible explanation of the horrors of his reign seems to be that for the last three years of his life his mind was unbalanced. If his insanity had merely shown itself in harmless eccentricities, like calling himself divine, and conferring on his favorite horse the title of Consul, and feeding it with gilded corn, and wine in golden bowls, he would not have been dangerous; but a tigerish thirst for blood seemed to be ever on the point of completely mastering Caligula, and Cruelty soon chose him for her favorite pupil. Thus, one day at a public banquet when the Consuls were reclining with him at table, this mad Emperor suddenly burst into roars of laughter, and to their natural inquiry as to the cause of his mirth, he replied that he was thinking how, by a word, he could cause their heads to roll upon the floor. One day, too, when fondling his wife's neck, he is said to have remarked to her, "Beautiful as it is, how easily I could cut your head from it!" When we consider all the crimes committed on the Palatine by these imperial monsters, maddened by unbounded power, and realize that we walk through the very rooms where, for example, Nero murdered his half-brother Britannicus, and where Emperor Claudius ate the poisoned mushrooms, prepared for him by his wife in order to elevate her son Nero to the throne, and where half a score of the imperial family were assassinated, Rome's vices seem to eclipse her virtues, and the imposing arches and huge walls - which have arisen, ghost-like, from their shrouds of centuries - seem haunted by appalling memories, as if the residents of the Palatine had been fiends in human form. Yet, such wise and virtuous rulers as Augustus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius almost atone for the hideous monsters whodisgraced humanity as Roman Emperors; and the incalculable debt we owe to Rome should never be lost sight of in our horror of the vices and atrocities of her evil sovereigns. The Romans as a people are immortalized in history as the Titanic race which conquered, civilized, and held for centuries the whole known world from the Pillars of Hercules to the Euphrates, and from the moors of Scotland to the cataracts of the Nile. Moreover, such was the magnificent system of government founded by them with their marvelous genius for practical administration, that even under the worst emperors justice and order were, as a rule, enforced throughout the entire Empire. Aside from certain cruel acts originating in the tyrant's mind, the world at large was never better governed than by Tiberius, when he was living in seclusion on the island of Capri. Deified despots on the Palatine might kill or torture hundreds, but the unnoticed millions lived, loved, labored, and lay down to die in peace. One afternoon, to vary our experiences in this wondrous city, we drove beyond its walls into the beautiful gardens of the Villa Borghese, which, like so many other lovely parks in the vicinity of Rome (now rapidly diminishing, alas, through the greed of speculative builders), attract the visitor to their shaded avenues, when wearied for a time with ruins, galleries, and churches.