A short walk brought us to another portion of the Forum. No graceful columns rose before me here, but there were memories connected with a mass of masonry which I discerned that held me spellbound. For this was the foundation of the Rostra, - the platform of that Roman eloquence which even now, when merely followed silently in printed characters, delights the world. Here Cicero delivered against Antony the speech that cost the orator his life; and after he had been put to death, his head and hands were fastened to the Rostra and exhibited, and Fulvia the wife of the triumvir pierced his tongue with her bodkin and spat in the dead man's face. Who could have dreamed a year before, when Cicero was in his glory, that this would be the fate of that tongue which had so charmed the people with its silver speech, and of those hands whose gestures had lent emphasis to the most polished rhetoric ever framed by man ? What visions of the past recurred to me while lingering here! I seemed to see, as if it were but yesterday, Julius Caesar passing through the Forum on the Ides of March to the adjacent Senate-House. The hour for the greatest tragedy in Roman history had come. The shadow of impending death was hanging over him; but he moved on, unconscious of its presence. Some one had thrust into his hand the story of the plot and even the list of the conspirators, but it remained unread. The murderers gathered quickly round him, resolved to act immediately, lest their hearts should fail. Cimber, whom he had just made Governor of Bithynia, came close, as if to ask a favor, and dragged his robe from off his shoulders. Cassius then stabbed him in the throat. At this Caesar sprang to his feet and seized the assassin's arm. Meantime, another dagger pierced his breast. He looked around him. What! not one man in all that group to show him gratitude at least for countless favors he had done them ? No, nothing but a ring of angry faces, lifted arms and gleaming daggers; a score of cowardly fanatics round one defenseless man. Despite his knowledge of the ingratitude of humanity, one face here drew from Caesar's lips an exclamation of surprise. "You, too, Brutus?" he exclaimed. That was all; then drawing his mantle over his face, that he might die with dignity, he stood for a moment propped by the blows which he received on every side until, as the assassins' arms grew wearied from their cruel work, he sank in death. The Senate rose at once with shrieks and cries and rushed out to the Forum. The murderers waved their gory daggers, and shouted to the populace that Rome was free; but, to their great astonishment, the populace did not respond. An ominous silence filled the city; the climax being reached when, on the Rostra, where he had so often spoken, the body of the murdered chieftain was displayed, wrapped in the mantle he had worn upon the field of victory, now torn with daggers and besmeared with blood. What wonder that under such conditions Marc Antony's superb address roused the populace to madness.
Ru1ns Of The Rostra.
The Murder Of Caesar.
The murder. (Gerome).
Marc antony's oration.
One of the most interesting statues of antiquity now visible at Rome is a colossal figure of Pompey which was discovered, in 1553, buried deep in the soil near the site of the old Senate-House, and exactly under the spot where the historian Suetonius states that it was placed by Augustus. There seems to be no doubt, therefore, that it is the very statue at the base of which the greatest of all Romans fell; and, by a strange fatality, perhaps the last glance of the conqueror of the world, dimmed by the swiftly creeping film of death, rested upon the statue of his vanquished rival, which fixed, unmoved, its stony gaze upon his bleeding form. But did his helpless body, pierced with ghastly wounds, prove that great Caesar's spirit was no more ? Ah, no! The jealous and short - sighted men who plunged their daggers into his prostrate form had thought it would be so; but hardly had their blows been given, when to their great astonishment, they saw that Caesar triumphed over them in death as he had done in life. "We have killed the King," said Cicero in bitter disenchantment, "but the kingdom is still with us." And why was it with them? Because the world had need then of a government like that of Caesar's, and it was felt intuitively that Caesar had been killed, not for destroying the liberty of the Roman citizen, but because he had suppressed the power of the Aristocracy.