The Statue Of Pompey.
Julius Caesar is the central figure of antiquity. A skillful lawyer, a brilliant orator, an unsurpassed historian of war, the greatest general of ancient times, a statesman never equaled in stupendous plans, he was the connecting link between a great republic five hundred years old, and the only universal empire the world has ever seen. What wonder that his amiable qualities and glorious genius endeared him to his friends and have enshrined him in the affections of humanity! No foe was ever more generous than Caesar. To the captured leaders of the Pom-peian party after the battle of Pharsalia, who knelt down in supplication for their lives, Caesar exclaimed, "Rise! After a victory Caesar knows no enemies." In the tent of Pompey a secret correspondence was found revealing all the intrigues of the past few years and implicating, doubtless, some whom the Dictator never had suspected; but Caesar burned the entire mass unread.
"What are you doing?" inquired Antony in great astonishment. "I am burning these letters," replied Caesar. "But why?" again demanded Antony. "That I may have," said Caesar, calmly, "no motive for revenge".
Beyond the Forum extends the Via Sacra, - the fashionable street of ancient Rome. This was to the City of the Caesars what Broadway now is to New York, or Regent Street to London. The poet Ovid, exiled to the Danube, longed for the splendor of the Sacred Way, as if that were equivalent to Rome itself, and poured forth his request for a return to it in unavailing song; while one of Horace's witty satires commences, "I was strolling one day, as is my custom, on the Via Sacra".
The Arch Of Titus.
In one place part of the ancient pavement is visible in lava blocks, which may have been pressed by the sandaled feet of Caesar, Cicero, and Virgil. Especially conspicuous on this ancient thoroughfare is the Arch of Titus which, even after the lapse of eighteen centuries, ranks among the grandest relics of imperial Rome, and is an eloquent reminder of the occasions when along the highway, which it still adorns, the splendid Roman Triumphs passed with matchless pageantry to reach the Forum and the Capitol. Although designed to commemorate the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus, the sculptured concave of this arch did not, as was formerly supposed, cast its broad shadow on the conqueror and his train of captive Jews in the great celebration of his Triumph, but was erected in his honor by his brother Domitian shortly after his decease. There is, however, no possibility of mistaking its significance; for, on one side of it, figures, carved in high relief, plainly portray the Hebrews led in the Triumph of Titus, while on their shoulders are distinctly visible the seven-branched golden candlestick, the trumpet of the Jubilee, and other treasures from the Temple of Solomon. All this is no mere legend, therefore, to be read in books and dimly understood. It was an actual occurrence. Over this very pavement rolled the chariot of Titus, drawn by snow-white horses; before him really walked just such a line of captives from the walls of Zion; while these hills echoed to the blasts of Roman trumpets, the eagles of Rome's legions glittered in the sun, and the air throbbed with the inspiring shouts of thousands. What a suggestive and realistic teacher, therefore, of the Past is this sublimely sculptured portal of old Rome!
Relief In Arch.
I suppose the world has never elsewhere seen such a magnificent pageant as that presented by a Roman Triumph. A conqueror expected and demanded this as a conclusive proof of his success. To pass along the Via Triumphalis, preceded by the spoils of conquest and many of the captives he had made was, naturally, the proudest moment of his life. Nothing could have so gratified his personal vanity, or so contributed to the pride of the Romans who, in beholding such a spectacle, believed themselves to be, as in truth they were, the masters of the world. In a triumphal procession the Senators, who had decreed the honor to the victorious general, met him at the city gates and led the way. After them came the booty of the conquered nation, conveyed either on the shoulders of the slaves and prisoners, or in hundreds of wagons following one after another, in which were placed the pictures, statues, and innumerable ornaments in gold, silver, and bronze. Then were displayed the weapons of the vanquished: shields, battle-axes, swords, and war chariots, together with the crowns and sceptres of defeated kings, the horses, elephants, or dromedaries which they had ridden, their gorgeous tents and countless proofs of personal luxury. Fol lowing them came the most illustrious of the captives: kings,queens, or warriors, as the case might be, usually walking barefooted and accompanied by their families. Sometimes the booty was so large that two entire days were necessary for its exhibition; and, finally, when the minds of the people had been thoroughly impressed with the magnificence and importance of the conquest, the conqueror himself appeared in a triumphal chariot drawn by four or six white horses. Dressed in a purple toga embroidered with gold, and holding a branch of laurel in one hand, and in the other an ivory sceptre, the hero of the Triumph must have seemed the most exalted of his race; and it is not strange that the slave who stood behind him in his car of victory, and held above his head a golden wreath, was bidden to whisper to him ever and anon the words, "Remember thou, too, art a man." Behind them all appeared the representatives of the Roman legions, whose valor and fidelity had won the victory, and who were destined, little by little, to feel their power, until by their decision they made and unmade emperors at will. The ending of these Triumphs differed greatly according to the character and rank of their participants. The conqueror himself, reaching the Capitol, climbed on his knees the stairway leading to the shrine of Jupiter, and humbly laid the gold wreath on the statue of the deity; the thousands who had brought the spoils along the Via Sacra deposited them within the temple area, and went their way; the soldiers marched back to their camp outside the walls; and in the Forum, the populace was lavishly entertained at the expense of the victorious general, - on one occasion twenty-two thousand tables having been spread for such a public banquet. Meantime the principal captive had been cast into the Mamertine Prison, to meditate, in the appalling darkness of that dungeon, on the bitterness of life, and to await inevitable death.