IT would be easier to write ten lectures upon Rome than one. The supreme difficulty is: first, to choose what is essential to even an approximately thorough delineation of the Eternal City, and then to treat of it in words which shall not be so brief as to suggest a catalogue of names. Ancient, mediaeval, papal, ecclesiastical, artistic, and modern Rome are the fewest divisions possible for any genuine study of the subject, and these can be subdivided almost indefinitely. A single lecture, therefore, on so vast a theme must of necessity be fragmentary; and whatever method be adopted to describe the Eternal City within the limits of a hundred and twenty pages, immeasurably more will be omitted than can be even mentioned. Still, as the rendering of a few selections from an opera may serve to stimulate the wish to hear it all, from the first measure of the overture to the last strain of the finale, so it is hoped the following pages may awaken in anticipation, or revive in memory, something of the reverence and affection created in the writer by Eternal Rome - a reverence inspired by no other city upon earth - and an affection that has left no room for rivalry.
If every reader of these lines were requested to select the city which, could he choose but one, he would desire above all others to behold, I think there would be only one reply. It would be, - Rome.
Whence comes this universal interest?
Why should this ruined city of the Past prove more attractive than any other capital? The secret is not merely its antiquity. Athens is still more ancient, yet it possesses no such charm. It is not solely its relation to Christianity.
Constantinople was for centuries the Eastern capital of the Christian church, in some respects more striking and magnificent than Rome; and yet how small is the attraction of the Bosphorus compared to that which lures us to the Tiber! The cause is doubtless this : that, more than any spot on earth, Rome centres in itself the history of the race for twenty centuries. Absorbing by its universal conquests the fruits of all preceding civilizations and the treasures of all lands, it is, historically, the intellectual capital of the world. The current of continuous historic life flows through it now as surely and inevitably as the Tiber. Its modes of government, politics, art, jurisprudence, military science, and Church history have traveled further even than the Roman legions, till they have reached the confines of the globe. We are in many ways Rome's offspring. In every sentence that we speak, we use, perhaps unconsciously, some relics of her glorious language; much of our varied culture has come directly from her literature; and many of the laws which keep our social framework from disintegration were first promulgated beneath the arches of the Forum. Nor is this strange, for Rome was, what no other place has ever been, the one administrative centre of the world. All other capitals, however great, were in comparison petty and provincial. Rome only could be called in grand simplicity Urbs - the City.
The Marble Faun.
Rome, From The Balcony Of ST. Peter's.
Nothing stands out more prominently in my remembrance of Rome than the first morning after my arrival there. I had seen practically nothing on the previous night, between the railway station and my hotel, and the delightful consciousness of being actually in the City of the Caesars had, therefore, wakened me at an early hour. Sleep was of course no longer possible, and pushing back the shutters I looked out. Beneath me was a square, still quite deserted at that morning hour, and from it rose a lofty column glistening in the sun. Winding around this, on a spiral path, I could discern a multitude of figures in relief, portraying Roman soldiers and their conquests under Marcus Aure-lius. Yet, when I leaned out of my window and viewed the column in its entirety, I saw that it was surmounted by a statue of St. Paul. "What a complete and comprehensive introduction to old Rome is this!" I murmured, "for my first glance embraces here proofs of the three great epochs in her history : an imperial monument, an apostolic statue, and a modern square. Yes, Pagan, Christian, Modern Rome, all these are now awaiting me beneath the bright, blue sky of Italy!" Two hours later I started out upon my first and ever-memorable walk in Rome. My companion was a cultivated gentleman of middle life who, though he had lived longer in Rome than I had in the world, apparently took delight in acting as my guide, sharing and even stimulating my enthusiasm. "I leave my course entirely to you," I said, as we emerged from the hotel, "where will you take me first?"