The city which thou seest no other deem
Than great and glorious Rome, queen of the earth
So far renowned, and with the spoils enriched
Of nations; there the capitol thou seest
Above the rest lifting his stately head
On the Tarpeian rock, her citadel
Impregnable; and there Mount Palatine.
Th’ imperial palace, compass huge and high
The structure, skill of noblest architects,
With gilded battlements, conspicuous far,
Turrets and terraces, and glittering spires.
Many a fair edifice besides, more like
Houses of pods, thou may'st behold
Outside and inside both, pillars and roofs
Carved work, the hand of famed artificers
In cedar, marble, ivory, or gold.—Paradise Regained.
Concerning the story of ancient Italian art, it is but a continuation of the Hellenic; for while at first there may have been some rude forms of national sculpture and architecture, they can barely be traced beneath the dominating influence of the Greek. The oldest structural compositions with which we are acquainted are merely imitations or modifications of the Pelasgian and earlier Hellenic, while the temples, palaces, and monuments of the Augustan era are modeled after the later Hellenic, and so remained almost until the dawn of the Middle Ages, though with a further accession of foreign elements. While in the Rome of the regal period the Etruscans made themselves felt, both Latins and Etruscans were in part at least of Pelasgian stock, the latter especially owing to the Greeks all that was best in their civilization. The arts of Italy were not, as in Hellas, a natural production of the soil; they came only with conquest, as did other possessions, and not as nature s choicest gift to a people whose education and environment had made them worthy to receive it. While extending her empire from the seven hills and a narrow strip of adjacent territory, first over Italy and then over the face of the earth, Rome had no time for the cultivation of the artistic, and as little sympathy for its influences. Though among them were many great warriors and statesmen, many eminent writers and orators, they were not gifted with the artistic faculty; nor was it until they owned the world that they cared to own the art of the world, so that nothing valuable might escape them. Their own art, except for the work of Grecian artificers, was characterized by vulgarity and ostentation, with no trace of the intellectual beauty of the Greeks, and only to their insatiable appetite as collectors are we indebted for those priceless treasures of antiquity whose value is still more widely acknowledged than was the supremacy of the Caesars.
To Greek colonization, as we have seen, were due the most flourishing of early Italian settlements, and as these colonies spread and prospered, the region around and far to the north of the Tarentine gulf became known as Magna Graecia, while to the people themselves was given the name of Italiotes, the word Italia—probably from the italoi, or oxen, for which the district was famous—being applied to the entire peninsula many centuries later. Further to the north were numerous races, among whom the Latians, or Latins, gradually became predominant, though not until after many a fierce and doubtful struggle, especially with the Sabines, the Etruscans, and Volscians. At first they were but an insignificant people, encompassed on every side by more powerful neighbors, and possessing only the narrow tract that lay between the Tiber and the Pontine marshes. Even their origin is lost in obscurity, and only through philological research has been traced in their language a strong Pelasgic element.
Of all the races whom the Latians brought under subjection, the Etruscans were by far the most proficient in the fine and useful arts, their vase and mural paintings, their workmanship in gems and precious metals, their figured mirrors, and vessels in bronze and terracotta showing much skill in manipulation, if somewhat barbaric in style. During her earlier career Rome was largely an Etruscan settlement, and it is not until Etruscan monarchs ascend the throne that tradition gives place to history; for while the Tarquins themselves may belong to the legends of the monarchial era, it is certain that many public works were executed in the years ascribed to their reign. But long before the founding of the eternal city, the Etruscans were a powerful and civilized people. They had temples and theaters resembling those of the Greeks. Among their cities was Capua, famed for its wealth and luxury for centuries before Hannibal was welcomed within its gates, Veii, built on a rocky height and encompassed with massive walls, defied the Roman arms from the days of Romulus until its capture by Camillus. The Clusium of Lars Porsena was one of the richest of their towns, as also was Falerii, where the treacherous school-master was whipped back by the pupils whom he had offered to betray, while in the temple of Pyrgi, which Dionysius plundered, were treasures valued at thousands of talents.
The Etruscans adopted, under other names, all the principal divinities of the Greeks, and to these they added not a few of their own. Hence temples were needed; but of these no traces have been preserved, no vestige remaining even of the first temple of the Capitoline Jove, which was doubtless of Etruscan design. It is probable, however, that they differed but little from the earlier Hellenic fanes, except that instead of being oblong, they were almost in the form of a square. For their civic and domestic architecture they were also indebted to the Greeks, as appears in the ruins of the theater at Fiesole, while the form of their amphitheaters, of which there is a rock-hewn specimen at Sutri, was later imitated by the Romans. In their aqueducts, bridges, and gateways, they made a liberal use both of the radiating and pointed arch, the Cloaca Maxima, one of the most perfect structures of its class, being of Etruscan workmanship. Their tombs were somewhat remarkable, the oldest taking the form of a well, lined with masonry and containing a vase in which were the ashes and charred remains of the garments and ornaments of the deceased; for cremation was the usual form of sepulture. These were superseded by tumuli, a massive wall encircling chambers often of labyrinthine shape, as in the tomb of Porsena at Clusium and the Cucumella at Vulci, the latter the largest thus far discovered. There were also sepulchers carved out of the rocks, with chambers containing richly sculptured urns and sarcophagi, mural paintings representing, not the doleful realms of Dis but scenes of festivity and rejoicing.
To Etruria came in the seventh century the artisans whom Cypselus expelled from Corinth for disloyalty, improving greatly on Corinthian methods, so that their vases and statuary were in much request. They had no marble; but in clay they were facile workmen, a colossal Jupiter in terracotta being one of the first statues erected on the Capitoline hill, while the bronze wolf of the Capitol, with its grim realistic figure, was also of Etruscan workmanship. From Etrurian cities came most of the earlier art treasures of Rome, often in the form as is said, more than two of spoils, Volsinii alone contributing, thousand bronze images. Nearly all the painted vases commonly known as Etruscan were executed by Greek artificers, and in the few exceptions there is no great difference of style. The mural paintings are also Greek, showing traces of the various schools from the time of Polygnotus to the Hellenistic era, though in the earliest stage there are features distinctively Etruscan. Finally it may be said that while there was much to commend in their art, it was painfully disfigured with the in the monstrous and grotesque, as appears, for instance, Chimaera at Florence, a goat with dragon's tail springing forth from its back. Size takes the place of symmetry; a lavish use of material is preferred to harmony of proportion, and with the best of models and workmen at their command, they could not imitate without exaggerating. The chaste and beautiful becomes coarse in their hands; the sublime and terrible degenerates into the repulsive, and the sensuous into the obscene.
In the mythic era of Rome, which includes most and probably all of the regal period, there is little that need detain us, except as to the city which they built. Offspring of Mars and eponym founder of Rome,—a Greek word signifying force and especially brute force—Romulus, with his shepherd followers, after subduing the bandit tribes of Latium, builds with the spoils of the despoilers the walls of his city, and presently ascending to heaven, sends word that his people are destined to rule the world. Then comes Numa, that is to say nomos or law, pointing to an age when violence and lawlessness give place to a settled order of affairs. Tullus Hostilius organizes the Albans, whose capitol he destroys, as the basis of the Roman plebs, their numbers being largely increased by his successor, Ancus Martius, who gathers much booty from captured towns. The elder Tarquin, an Etruscan of means and influence, gives to the shepherd settlement the most costly of its earlier monuments and to these additions are made in the reign of Servius Tullius, together with many social and political reforms. Tarquin the Proud is the last of the seven kings, whose traditions extend over nearly two centuries and a half and as the city was at the time of his expulsion, so with further enlargements, but with little attempt at architectural decoration, it remained until late in the republican era.
It was but a poor looking city, this Rome of the regal era, and even after its sack and destruction by Brennus, early in the fourth century, the capital was rebuilt with narrow and tortuous streets, unpaved and crossed with open drains. There was little comfort in the dwellings which lined these unsightly thoroughfares, and there were none of the attractions of home. Built at first of wood and roofed with straw or shingles, the principal and often the only apartment, where meals were served and where women passed the day in spinning, was lighted by a hole in the ceiling, another hole in the ground serving to carry off the rain water. Sometimes sleeping and storerooms were built around this chamber; but there were no stairs, for none of the buildings were of more than a single story. Later, houses were constructed of sun-dried bricks or tufa—a soft, friable, conglomerate rock of volcanic ashes and sand, of which there are large deposits among the hills of Rome. At the opening of the second century all the better class of dwellings had separate bedrooms, a kitchen, and usually colonnaded gardens and courts in which was a chapel for the household gods. In the time of Cato the Censor was erected next to the senate-house a silversmiths hall with columnar treatment similar edifices, replacing the private shops or booths which lined the Forum Romanum. Before the close of this century Rome had entirely laid aside her village-like aspect, Pyrrhic and Tarentinc spoils providing funds for pretentious public buildings and for the employment of artists actors, and musicians, while silver plate, before almost unknown, was common on Roman tables. Thus began the age of luxury, presently increased by the spoils of Greece, Macedonia, and other lands, filling the treasury to overflowing, and giving to the citizens of the later republic an enormous aggregate of wealth.
First among the great works ascribed to the monarchy, of which many traces have been preserved, was the so-called Servian wall, though belonging in part to earlier and later periods. Enclosing the seven hills, but not in continuous circuit, for each one had its own fortifications, it did not include the Campus Martius, then probably a marsh but later the site of imposing edifices and now the most densely populated quarter of the capital. Tufa and peperino—the latter more durable than tufa but of similar composition—were chiefly used, except for the arched openings, which were of tougher materials, the blocks being carefully shaped and set in mortar. The backs of houses still in existence are composed of portions of this wall, some of them overlaid with stucco work more than fifteen centuries old. An agger in front was converted in the reign of Augustus into a public walk, and a foss 100 feet wide was filled in for building purposes. Of the great wall of Aurelian, completed by Probus and strengthened or restored by later emperors there are many remains, including those of the Praetorian camp, whose ramparts were in the form of a projection.
As road-builders the Romans had no equals among ancient nations, great highways connecting the metropolis with every portion of her worldwide empire. For the best of them, named viae stratae, were used blocks of basalt, carefully jointed and laid on beds similar to those used for modern pavements, as in the Via Appia, connecting Rome with Brundusium and termed by Horace the queen of thoroughfares. Of the fourteen great aqueducts which supplied the capital with water from adjacent hills, the first was constructed by Appius Claudius, and the largest, begun by Caligula, was completed as its name implies, by the emperor Claudius at an expense of 350,000,000 sesterces, or the equivalent of $17,500,000, thus affording some idea of the wealth of imperial Rome. In all the ruins of the Campagna are none more imposing than those of the triumphal arches on winch the aqueducts were built; for architects understood not the science of hydrostatics, expending vast sums on the massive structural forms which were common to the age. The earliest of bridges were built on subliciae, or piles whence the name Pons Sublicius, a drawbridge merely, as were several others; for it was not until after the destruction of Carthage, in the middle of the second century, that the Romans deemed themselves safe enough to dispense with the protection which the Tiber afforded.
The massive Pons Fabricius, of tufa and peperino, faced with travertine, built in the time of Julius Caesar, is still in use, as also is the Pons Cestius, which belongs to the same period, though with later restorations, as appears on its marble parapet. The Ponte Saint Angelo is but the modern name of the Pons Aelius, which connected the Campus Martius with the mausoleum of Hadrian, a circular edifice of cyclopean proportions, lined with Parian marble and encircled by a colonnade containing rows of statuary. On the site of this mausoleum now stands the castle of Saint Angelo, its interior chambers but slightly defaced during the wars of the Middle Ages, though the exterior has been wrecked and repaired beyond recognition.
Between the sepulchral monument of Hadrian and the basilica of St. Peter stood, until the fifteenth century, the pyramid-tomb of Romulus, a form not uncommon in the regal and consular periods, and of which at least one specimen belongs to the time of Augustus. In the later republican era imposing structures were built for the resting places of the dead, as the tombs of Scipios and of Caecilia Metella, the latter in the form of a circular tower 100 feet in diameter, but such massive blocks of masonry that the burial chamber was less than 20 feet in width. The splendid mausoleum of Augustus, whose interior was recently converted into a circus, was surrounded, as Suetonius relates, with public gardens laid out during the lifetime of the emperor. From a circular base, nearly 1,000 feet in circumference, rose a cylindrical edifice of concrete lined with marble, interior galleries radiating from the center, above which was a mound of Etruscan form, shaded with trees and planted with flowerbeds.
The boast of Augustus that he found Rome a city of brick and left it one of marble was true only as to the marble, and so far as public buildings were concerned; for few Roman mansions were of marble and none were of brick, the use of the latter being mainly for the facings of walls and arches. Yet Rome was largely rebuilt during the reign of Augustus, and even in its site were many important changes. The marshy hollows where were the Campus Martius and the Forum Romanum had been drained by the huge cloacae which were among the most important of earlier works. No longer was the capital a cluster of villages crowning the seven hills, each protected by its fort and by precipitous cliffs. To make room for the imperial city hills and ridges were partially leveled or cut away; the gigantic engineering works begun in the consular period were continued by the emperors and throughout the Middle Ages, while still in progress is a plan for reducing the city to an almost uniform level, intersected as in Paris with spacious boulevards and plazas.
The Capitoline hill was the Acropolis of imperial Rome, its peaks, named the Capitolium and Arx, with the valley between, being crowded with architectural monuments and with the art spoils of Hellenic cities. Of many temples and shrines the oldest was the sanctuary of the Capitoline Jove, built by the Tarquins and consecrated in 509, not only to Jupiter but to Juno and Minerva, worshipped under other names as the Etruscan trinity. It was a huge triple structure, plain almost to unsightliness, with stuccoed walls, wide and clumsy porticos, wooden architraves, and painted statues of terracotta. Destroyed by fire after serving for more than four centuries as the national fane of the Romans it was reconstructed of marble by Sulla, Catulus, and Augustus, pillars from the Athenian temple of Olympian Zeus being used for its colonnade. Twice again demolished, it was finally rebuilt by Domitian on a magnificent scale, its gilding and double peristyle of Pentelic marble costing $13,000,000. For centuries it was regarded as one of the grandest of Roman monuments, and though the merest fragments remain, its general outlines have been preserved on coins. Among other temples were those of Fides, built during the first Punic war on the site of a small chapel ascribed to Numa, and of Honos et Virtus, reared by Marius, both large enough for sessions of the senate. A larger edifice was that which Camillus erected on the site where now stands the church of the Ara Coeli. Dedicated to Juno Moneta, or Juno the Adviser, it was later used as a mint, whence probably it was that the word moneta came to signify money.
Built against one of the steepest slopes of the Capitoline mount was an ancient temple of Saturn, the founding of which was attributed to Tarquin the Proud, though on its site was a still more ancient altar.
Here was the public treasury and here were preserved the archives of the state, a statue of the god being secured with woolen bands, notwithstanding which he vanished from earth. Of its reconstruction in the time of Augustus and again in the reign of Diocletian, the only remains are its massive and lofty podium, portions of its marble facing, and a few granite columns, one of them wrong end up showing the careless workmanship of its later restoration.
In other parts of Rome temples were plentiful, though many were extremely simple in design, especially those of the regal period, the temple of Janus, for instance, being merely a small bronze cella in rear of its open gateway, closed only during the brief intervals when Rome was at peace. The original fane of Vesta, though the most hallowed of all Roman sanctuaries, containing the sacred fire and the sacred relics whose loss would bring calamity on the nation, was but a small circular edifice entirely void of pretension. Demolished by the Gauls in 390 and afterward thrice destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by Severus, with peristyle of eighteen columns and dome of Syracusan bronze the ruins of its circular podium, surrounded with fragments of pillars and cornice, together with coins and medals and a relief in the Uffizi gallery affording sufficient data for a fairly accurate reproduction. As with the temple, the Atrium Vestae, where was the home of the Vestal virgins was several times burned and restored, the last restoration belonging to the time of Hadrian. It was in the form of a quadrangle, having at one end cells for each of the virgins, and on the adjoining side a bathhouse and bakehouse, with servants' and other chambers. In an upper story were more handsome apartments, including the bedrooms of the vestals, lined with polished marble and floored in tessellated mosaic, the statuary showing the sacerdotal robes as worn at the time of sacrifice.
In the octostyle temple of Jupiter Stator, belonging to the Augustan era and renamed as a temple of Minerva,—perhaps to distinguish it from the primitive fane which Romulus built—Roman architecture appears at its best, so far at least as columnar treatment is concerned. In the tall Corinthian pillars, surmounted by an entablature more than twelve feet in height, is a symmetry of proportion and richness of decorative scheme which was never surpassed, except perhaps in the Pantheon. The fluting is of most finished workmanship, and though the capitals are somewhat over elaborated, especially as to the acanthus leaves, which are nearer to nature than is permissible in structural forms, the effect is far from displeasing. The carvings of the architraves and cornice are also extremely complex, expressing in sculpture what the Greeks would only have painted. While the Corinthian order has been termed the keynote of Roman architecture, the Doric and Ionic were also used, all the three sometimes appearing in conjunction in the tall and many-storied buildings of imperial Rome.
In honor of the victory of Aulus Postumus at Lake Regillus was dedicated by his son the sorry-looking temple of Castor, replaced in the Augustan era with an edifice in the purest style of Hellenic art, but with Roman solidity of construction. In the basement were strong-rooms for the safe-keeping of family treasures; for as with the Greeks, temples were the safest and indeed the only banks. The podium, lined with marble and filled with a solid mass of concrete, rose in the form of a lofty platform from which orations were delivered, for here the senate often held its sessions. Massive tufa walls supported the cella and columns, the three Corinthian pillars of Pentelic marble, which have been partially preserved, together with a portion of the entablature, showing the most finished and delicate workmanship.
Lined and paved throughout with the richest of oriental marbles was the temple of Concord which Tiberius and Drusus built with the spoils of German cities on the site of the rude structure erected by Camillus. The lower courses of the walls were of tufa blocks, the upper portions of travertine, and the inner supporting wall of tufa, travertine, and concrete, the door-sill, with its bronze caduceus as an emblem of peace, being fashioned of enormous slabs of marble; such variety of materials had the Romans at their command. The portico and cella were profusely adorned with statuary; the tympanum was handsomely sculptured, and in the Capitol are still preserved many portions of the Corinthian entablature. Here was a valuable collection of the art works of ancient Greece, both plastic and pictorial, with costly gold and silver plate and gems engraved by the most skilful of Roman artificers. To this age also belonged the temple of Divus Julius which Augustus erected on the Sacra Via, a hexastyle structure with close intercolumniation and lofty podium adorned with the beaks of vessels captured at Actium. Close to the temple of Concord was that which Domitian built in honor of his father Vespasian, and on whose entablature were recorded the restorations by Severus and Caracalla. Its travertine walls, though sufficiently massive, were secured with iron clamps and lined with Pentelic and oriental marbles, three of its Corinthian columns still supporting a richly sculptured frieze.
On a spur of the Palatine mount known as the Velia, near which may be traced the foundations of the Golden House of Nero, stood one of the largest of imperial temples,—that of Venus and Rome. Built on a platform 480 by 330 feet, it was surrounded with a double Corinthian colonnade of Pentelic marble, granite, and porphyry. Of the 200 pillars which formed the outer peristyle there are a few remaining fragments, as also of the two cellae in which were colossal statues of the goddess. Designed and in part constructed by Hadrian, completed by Antoninus Pius, and restored by Maxentius and Constantine, its ruins were converted into a quarry, the gilt bronze tiles of its roof serving for the basilica of St Peter's.
The most stately of Roman temples, and the only one that compared in magnificence with the civic architecture of the capital, was the Pantheon, built by Agrippa, its interior, though defaced by alterations, presenting the same general aspect as when restored by Hadrian and Severus. Intended originally as a portion of the great thermae, or public baths designed by the former emperor, it was later consecrated to the gods from whom the Caesars claimed descent, and early in the seventh century was consecrated as the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres. The central portion is of circular form, with brick-lined tufa walls 20 feet in thickness, a lofty podium supporting a dome 143 feet in diameter, constructed of one solid mass of concrete, and formerly covered with Syracusan bronze. The portico of sixteen monolith granite columns, with marble Corinthian capitals and pediment sculptured in relief, representing the struggle between gods and giants, was supported by the tubular girders of bronze, 225 tons in weight, which Urban VIII melted down for the cannon of Fort Saint Angelo. The interior, though handsomely decorated with pillars of colored marble and porphyry, is somewhat marred through lack of height in proportion to the overpowering dome, while the combination of circular and rectangular forms detracts from the grandeur and simplicity of the external proportion.
Of Roman basilicas, used originally as courts of law, several were erected, before the Christian era , the oldest being founded by Marcus Porcius Cato and hence called the Basilica Portia. At first they consisted merely of an unwalled space surrounded with covered porticos built on some sheltered and sunny spot in the neighborhood of the forum. Those of later construction, were in the form of spacious and lofty rectangular halls with rows of Corinthian columns terminating at one end in a vestibule and at the other in an elevated transept or semicircular apse, where were the seats of the judges and the praetors’ curule chair, galleries with sculptured parapet walls being provided for spectators of either sex. The Basilica Ulpia, or Trajan's basilica, was the largest, and especially as to its interior decorations, the most magnificent of its class about 400 feet in length and nearly as much in width, it consisted of a nave 87 feet wide, divided by tall granite columns from its double aisles, upper rows of pillars resting on the gallery walls and supporting a ceiling 120 feet high, covered with squares of gilded bronze.
The walls were cased with white marble, and in the court which contained the Trajan monument were the libraries which Sidonius names the Bibliothecae Graeca et Latina. The temple of Peace, as was commonly termed the basilica of Maxentius, named also after Constantine in whose reign it was probably completed, showed remarkable progress in structural forms during the intervening period. There were no columns except in front of the piers, and these used only as ornaments, the central nave being roofed with a huge intersecting vault in three bays, and the aisles with arches each more than 70 feet in span. Here is in fact a transition to the Gothic style, though the vaulting was much more ponderous than that of Gothic artificers, who with a more economic use of materials, produced results as striking in effect and much more beautiful in outline.
Still fronting on the forum and the Sacra Via is the Basilica Julia, founded by Julius Caesar, completed by Augustus, restored by Septimius Severus and Diocletian, after being twice destroyed by fire, and with a later restoration belonging to the ninth century. There were four tribunals, several of the emperors establishing here their principal law-courts, while among other purposes it appears to have been used for a gambling resort, as is shown by the tabulae historiae outlined on the marbled pavement. As it stood in the days of Augustus three of its sides were in the form of a double portico, and on the fourth were apartments surrounded by an arcade of the Tuscan order, with a central open space paved with richly colored marbles.
Temples, as we have seen, were used for the meeting places of the senate, though as early as the reign of Servius Tullius a curia was built for their accommodation. After being several times destroyed, it was finally rebuilt by Diocletian, probably on the site now occupied by the church of Saint Adriano, its bronze doors being utilized for the nave of the Lateran basilica, while in the structure itself, with its plain brick cornice and marble consoles, there was nothing worthy of note. Between the curia and the forum was an open space named the comitium, where met the comitia curiata, and where from rostral platforms adorned with the beaks of captured vessels Cicero and other orators delivered their orations.
Covering the marshy ground between the Capitoline and Palatine hills was the principal forum, afterward distinguished as the Forum Romanum or Magnum from the structures which the emperors built. A central space, surrounded on three sides by roads lined at first with wooden booths and later by the quarters of money changers and silversmiths, was used, after the marsh had been drained by cloacae for the meetings of the plebs, or comitia tributa, for a commercial exchange, and for funeral pageants attended not infrequently with scenic and gladiatorial shows. At one end stood the altars of Saturn and Vulcan, and at the other a temple of Vesta, to which were later added the statues and other monuments of kings and heroes, of wealthy men and women who had given of their substance for public enterprises. Thus when Rome developed into a great city, little of the open area was left.
The Forum Julium with its temple of Venus Genitrix, founded in commemoration of the battle of Pharsalia and completed by Augustus, was built in one of the most crowded quarters of the capital, its site alone costing 100,000,000 sesterces. Adjoining it a massive wall nearly 100 feet in height enclosed the forum of Augustus and the octostyle temple of Mars Ultor, which betokened the vengeance inflicted on the assassins of Julius. Of the wall a large section still exists, together with several of the richly decorated Corinthian columns and portions of the marble ceiling of the peristyle. In Vespasian's forum, restored by Severus and with additions by Maxentius, the principal building was the temple of Peace, containing what was in the first century one of the largest art collections in the world, including statues by Phidias and Lysippus. Lined with marble, adorned with Corinthian colonnades surmounted with a richly sculptured entablature, and later decorated with colossal statues of deified emperors, was the adjacent forum of Nerva, or as it was commonly termed the Forum Palladium, from its included temple of Pallas.
But largest and most magnificent of all was the forum of Trajan with its adjacent group of buildings, the main entrance being through a triumphal arch whose handsome reliefs were presently transferred to the arch of Constantine. On the shaft of Trajan s column, beneath which the ashes of the emperor were buried in a golden urn, are represented in 2,500 figures the scenes of his many victories, and beyond it was his temple, the design of which, though completed by Hadrian, is still preserved on the coins of his reign.
Columns and pillars of Victory were common in Rome and throughout the Roman world, most of them serving merely as frameworks for sculpture, but in forms that were always borrowed and seldom in good taste. At first they were erected without surmounting statues and even without capitals, but usually surrounded with open porticos, rendering less noticeable the absurdity of a pillar supporting nothing and built for no apparent purpose. The granite monolith which the adopted sons of Antoninus Pius reared in his memory, and whose marble pedestal is preserved in the Vatican, was surmounted, as was the column of Marcus Aurelius, with a colossal statue in gilded bronze, both pillars being a hundred Roman feet in height and the latter resembling the Trajan monument, especially in the spiral reliefs which illustrated the emperors victories in Germany.
Triumphal arches, the earliest of which were probably of Etruscan design, were at first in the form of entranceways to public roads—one of the greatest boons that a ruler could bestow on his country. In Rome their later use was for the commemoration of victories, though built at times for the passage of triumphal processions. Of forty or more in existence during the later empire, the arch of Titus and Vespasian, which Domitian erected on the Sacra Via—though all but the center is a modern restoration—is most remarkable for historic interest and for simplicity of design, an over-massive attic, designed as it would seem merely for its lengthy inscription, detracting from what would be otherwise a classic beauty of outline. Unlike the rest, it is not covered with sculptures representing the deeds which they perpetuate, the central portion only showing on one side Titus and his chariot, on the other Roman soldiers bearing the sacred prothesis, the golden candlesticks, and all the rich spoils of the temple at Jerusalem.
Forming one of the entrances of the Forum Boarium, and now adjoining the church of Saint Giorgio in Velabro is the profusely decorated marble gateway erected, as reads its inscription, by merchants and silversmiths in honor of Septimius Severus. But the finest of existing arches is that which Constantine built in the neighborhood of the Coliseum the best of its sculptures were borrowed, as I have said, from the Trajan monument, none of its beauties and not even its design being due to this period of art decadence and degradation.
For a people, all of whom must be amused and most of them fed at the public expense, many theaters ere required in imperial Rome, her population mustering in the time of Augustus at least a million and a quarter and at a later period more than twice that number. Enormous were the sums expended in feeding and entertaining this populace, composed almost entirely of alms-folk, mendicants, and millionaires; for the poor were subject to the extremes of poverty and as yet there was no middle class. Moreover, the road to office lay through the stomachs of the proletariat, and hence, when the wealth of the world was concentrated in its metropolis, there were daily distributions of grain and frequent distributions of money, wine, and oil. First bathing at one of the thermae, or public baths, where a small copper coin would also entitle him to the use of their art-galleries, libraries, and gymnasia, the Roman pauper could pass his remaining hours without payment of any kind, in the Circus Maximus, which was to him as an abode, an adjacent portico serving as couch and also as dining room in which to banquet on his dole of food. Regardless of summer heat or winter rain, he would gaze the livelong day on the charioteers and horses whose success or failure, though without a sesterce in his pocket to bet on the issue of the race, was to him of greater importance than the fate of armies or the destinies of empire. To the Greek his theater was more than his temple; to the Roman it was more than either temple or home.
The original Circus Maximus, a rude structure assigned by tradition to Tarquin the Proud, had been converted in the days of Constantine,—though with many intermediate improvements and more than one partial destruction by fire—into a massive and imposing edifice, with marble facade, external series of arches, and rows of marble seats resting in tiers on concrete vaults. A quarter of a million, it is said, was the seating capacity, the lower tiers being reserved for the rich and for citizens and visitors of rank, with the cubiculum, or emperors’ box, in the center of the range. At either end were goals around which the chariots passed seven times, starting in an oblique line which equalized the length of an elliptical course. Between them was a low wall, or spina, decorated with images, shrines, and obelisks, among them the pillar which Augustus presented, now standing in the piazza del Popolo. To obstruct the path of competitors and to avoid the goals, while rounding them as closely as possible, was one of the strongest tests of skill,—the jockeying in fact of the Circus Maximus. The charioteers or riders, the latter leaping from back to back of their horses, were distinguished by various colors, white and red, green and blue, gold and purple. Most of them were slaves, belonging, together with their horses and equipage, to some wealthy owner who could afford what was even a more expensive amusement than the pastimes of the modern turf. While descriptions are plentiful, except for the circus erected by Maxentius near the tomb of Caeilia Metella, there are few ruins of any of the Roman circi from which their plan can be judged.
Stone theaters were not permitted in republican Rome, one partially erected about the middle of the second century being demolished by order of the senate, while that which Pompey erected, with its portico of a hundred columns, was only tolerated on account of its temple of Venus Victrix. The foundations of the latter, as restored by Titus after being twice destroyed by fire, can be distinctly traced; but of the curia which adjoined it,—the site of Caesar's assassination—no vestige remains, for the senate decreed that it be burned to the ground and its site declared forever accursed.
The colossal statue at the foot of which ''great Caesar fell" is now in the Palazza Spada, and in the Vatican is a gilt bronze image of Hercules, also of gigantic size, a third century work unearthed near the theater some thirty years ago. Of the theater of Marcellus, reared and named by Augustus in honor of his nephew, and restored by Vespasian, the remnants of the arcade show that it was of the Tuscan and Ionic orders, with details in delicate workmanship. As Pliny relates, the finest temple of the drama, and yet a temporary structure, was that which Marcus Scaurus built,—its three stories—the first of marble, the second of glass, and the third of gilded wood—upheld by 360 columns, between which were 3,000 brazen statues. But most remarkable of all is that which Pliny describes as in two contiguous sections, the convex portions back to back but revolving on pivots, so that when filled with spectators and turned around, they enclosed an arena for gladiatorial display.
Of several amphitheaters, the most imposing structure was the Coliseum, whose ruins, after serving for centuries as a quarry, are still among the wonders of the world. Built by Vespasian and Titus, though with restorations by Alexander Severus after its partial destruction by lightning, it was probably named after the colossus or colossal statue, which stood in front of Nero's Golden House, and thence was removed to the edifice, whose grandeur poets and painters are never weary of depicting. Yet, as a structural composition, it was remarkable only for size and incongruity of plan. In the interior there was little attempt at decoration, and in the exterior design there was not a single detail that will stand the test of criticism. Especially faulty was the columniation, most of the pillars being useless, while the squat pilasters of the upper story were among the most painful blemishes of this huge architectural threat.
As the Coliseum has been a thousand times described it is unnecessary here to enter into details, and the more so as, apart from its magnitude and its somewhat unsavory associations, there is little worthy of description. At Capua was a building in three stories, resembling in design and second only in size to the great metropolitan amphitheater; at Pompeii, Fidenae, and elsewhere were similar places of amusement, and not only in Italy but in the provinces, arenas where human beings slaughtered each other, or were torn to pieces by wild beasts, were the favorite resorts for those who sought recreation throughout the Roman world. No wonder that, among such a people, art could find no home.
Next to the circi, the theaters, and amphitheaters, the thermae were the largest and probably the most costly of public buildings, many of the emperors and even private citizens, among them Maecenas, the patron of Horace, erecting and maintaining public baths at their own expense. Of their architectural features few traces have been preserved, except for the great thermal establishments of Diocletian and Caracalla. The main hall of the former, with its 3,000 marble seats, has been converted into a church; and the latter nearly a mile in circuit, was in the form of a square with curvilinear projections, a portico, 1,150 feet in length, facing the street, and the principal edifice standing amid a spacious and beautiful garden. The larger thermae were on a magnificent scale, the baths of various descriptions and the chambers where bathers stripped and dressed and were anointed forming but an insignificant portion of the design. There were also gymnasia and libraries; in some there were theaters, and in not a few were galleries of art, the choicest of statuary being found amid their corridors and colonnades, while in the baths of Titus were fresco paintings which are still regarded as among the most valuable specimens of the decorative art of the middle empire.
Of Roman palaces and mansions it may first of all be said that, in common with their monuments, they were characterized by splendor, costliness, and execrable taste. Never before in the history of the world had the world's wealth been at the disposal of a single man, as in the reign of the Caesars; nor was there, even among Assyrian or Persian monarchs, more disposition to squander it for the gratification of personal vanity.
To adorn their homes and temples they could select from the spoils of all the cities of the earth, and at their command were the most skilful artists and artificers of Hellas and of scores of subject provinces. Hence we find in the palaces of the emperors a grandeur and magnificence such as never was witnessed in medieval or modern Europe, yet too often marred with the coarse vulgarity inseparable from “great and glorious Rome."
Greatest among architectural ornaments was the palace of Augustus on the Palatine mount, with its adjacent octostyle temple and libraries of Apollo, stored with the choicest of Hellenic statuary in marble and bronze, in ivory, silver, and gold. Of the palace itself, which stood on the verge of the cliff, nothing remains above ground, though a fairly accurate description has been gathered from excavations and the drawings which show their results. Of the various chambers the best preserved are those contained in "the house of Livia,” where dwelt the wife of Augustus after her husband’s death, its mural paintings and other decorations executed in the most finished art of the Augustan era. Facing the Coliseum is an enormous mass of masonry from which all that was of value has been removed, the blocks showing the massiveness and solidity common to the structural forms of Rome.
The entrance to the temple was through propylaea more imposing, if less artistic than those which led to the Acropolis, and through a portico of fluted columns of Numidian and other marbles richly embellished with statuary. Surrounding an altar in front were the bronze oxen which Myron fashioned, and over the doorway were mythological sculptures in ivory reliefs. In the cella, as Propertius relates, were the Apollo of Scopas and the Latona of Praxiteles; around the walls were the figures of the muses which Juvenal mentions; on the apex of the pediment was an image of Phoebus in a chariot of gilded bronze, and there were vessels, vases, and images of gold and silver, with precious gems engraved in cunning workmanship. Forming one side of a large enclosure was a spacious hall where at times the senate held session, a colossal statue of Augustus reaching almost to the roof, and on other sides were the Greek and Latin libraries which together formed a collection of classic literature superior even to that which the Ptolemies gathered at Alexandria.
Covering the southeastern corner of the Palatine hill, and extended thence on arches of uniform height with its summit far into the valley beyond, was the palace of Septimius Severus, a structure of enormous proportions. Adjoining it were handsomely decorated bathrooms lined with marble, and at the foot of the hill the magnificent seven story building which the emperor dedicated to the sun and moon, its marble columns being afterward transferred to the basilica of St. Peter. Also on an arched substructure of cyclopean dimensions was built in part the mansion of Caligula, probably the most costly and by far the most unsightly of Roman palaces. To make room for its site were destroyed the former dwellings of many famous men, among them those of Crassus and Catiline; for on the mount was the fashionable quarter of Rome. Between the arches were vaulted chambers probably used as shops; but the upper rooms were rich in mosaic, columnar, and other ornamentation, of which only the merest traces have been preserved.
Of Hadrian's palace, if such it can be termed,—for it consisted merely of suites of rooms adjoining his stadium—one of the apartments, its vaults deeply coffered and tastefully embellished, is among the most suggestive ruins of the Palatine. Hadrian was a lover and patron of art, well versed in the principles of architecture, and superintending in person the erection of the monuments with which he adorned the imperial and provincial cities. In the Vatican are many of the statues and sculptures in marble and bronze collected during a progress through the provinces for his costly villa near Tivoli. Of Greek statuary there was a most valuable collection in the Flavian palace, whose walls and floors were of richly tinted oriental marbles; in the throne-room were the choicest specimens, not a few of which are still to be seen in the museums of Naples.
Excavations of a comparatively recent date, especially in the neighborhood of the Villa Farnesina, show the remains of dwellings richly decorated with mural paintings and reliefs. Near the Quirinal mount was discovered the house of Sallust, a structure in several stories, and in its center a dome-covered hall, around which were stairways and many handsome apartments. During the consular period, or at least until near its close, there were few pretentious buildings, the first private edifice decorated with marble columns being that of the orator Lucius Crassus, who in 95 BC was elected consul, probably more on account of his wealth than his eloquence. Later, colored marbles were freely used for floors and panellings, especially the yellow Numidian and Luna or Carara varieties. Yet even under the earlier empire the residences of the rich were mostly void o exterior decorations, with windowless chambers of moderate size, lighted from the ceiling and embellished with paintings and arabesques.
By the Roman millionaire his country villa, and not his city residence, was regarded as home, the former being merely a place in which to sojourn for a few months in the year and to entertain his friends at costly banquets. At Baiae and Terracina, at Tibur and Tusculum, at Naples, Pompeii, and elsewhere were the country houses of the patrician class, some of them with their gardens, parks, and artificial lakes, occupying more space than many a provincial town. There were nurseries, aviaries, and fish-ponds stocked with the choicest of plants, with birds of brilliant plumage, and with the fish of the river and the sea, while game preserves were filled with animals of the chase. A profusion of statuary was considered indispensable to the porticos and grounds of a country mansion, and the furniture was of most expensive pattern, a dining-table costing 100,000 sesterces, the guests reclining at banquets on couches mounted in silver and partaking from silver plates of all the dainties and delicacies that land and water could furnish.
Nowhere perhaps in the ancient or modern world were there such extensive art collections as in the Rome of the earlier and middle empire. For centuries the principal cities of Greece and Magna Graecia, of Sicily and Asia Minor were ransacked for pictures and statues, the spoils including the masterpieces of all the leading artists from the days of Phidias downward, pedestals now in existence showing the names of Praxiteles, Polycletus and Timarchus. The statues were of various descriptions and materials, the lists given by Pliny and others showing many of gold and ivory and many thousands of silver, while innumerable were those of marble and bronze, the paintings including all eras, schools, and branches of art, from the gems of Apelles and Zeuxis to such as were used for mural decorations.
Then there were the productions of Greek artists living in Rome, to which class belong some of the choicest sculptures contained in the Vatican and other museums. Finally there was the statuary of the regal and republican periods, though this was of archaic rather than artistic value.
As remarked in substance by an authority on Roman sculpture, the embryo love of art awakened into new life the slumbering plastic art of the Greeks, giving them tasks to achieve and incentives to execute them in finished workmanship. But this taste arose merely from love of ostentation, or at best from a desire to add to the enjoyments and refinements of life; hence the direction taken corresponded with these outward circumstances. In the imaginative sphere of Hellenic sculpture and painting essentially new ideas and new creations were not to be expected; but it was possible to reproduce the earlier works of the classic era and to take up again the sundered threads. Thus there arose in Rome, or working for Rome, a new Attic school of sculptors, and many of their compositions reached such a degree of excellence as cannot readily be surpassed, combining delicacy of conception with harmony of movement and outline, gentle transition of form, and perfection of technique.
Even in the regal period Hellenic art was not unknown in Rome, Servius Tullius securing a Greek statue for his temple of Diana on the Aventine mount, soon to be followed by other divinities in marble and bronze. In the Capitol, in the forum, and elsewhere were colossal images of kings and heroes, but these were not works of art; nor was it until Marcellus, returning with the spoils of Sicily, introduced the fashion of carrying statues in procession, that real art first became known. To transport the art spoils which Paulus Æmilius secured in Macedonia hundreds of wagons were required, while those of Corinth, as we have seen, were sufficient for the loading of several ships. Sulla and Pompey added largely to the accumulation, the latter being the first one to employ a Roman sculptor, one Componios by name, who executed allegorical figures of conquered nations and not improbably the colossal statue at the foot of which Caesar met his fate.
To Apollonios, a Greek artist contemporary with Componios, is attributed a chryselephantine statue of Jupiter which has long since disappeared, together with the temple for which it was fashioned. The name of the former also appears on the pedestal of the famous Belvedere torso of Hercules in the Vatican, pronounced by Michael Angelo the finest specimen of Roman sculpture. The figure is seated on a rock and shows, even in its mutilated form, a rare combination of strength and grace, the massive, muscular frame contrasting with a skin smooth and soft as that of a child. Here is not the Hercules of the seven labors, but a hero exalted above all earthly environment, admitted into Olympus, and receiving perhaps the cup of nectar from the fair hand of Hebe. To the same era belongs Pasiteles, a Graeco-Italian artist and art historian, none of whose works have survived, though in the Vatican, the Villa Albani, and the Villa Ludovisi are compositions by his pupils Stephanos and Menelaus. If at this period there was little of originality, there were excellent copies of the great masters, sculptors of superior taste and skill, stimulated and encouraged by Roman appreciation and Roman gold, reflecting “the afterglow of the classic sunset.”
In art, as in architecture, the reign of Augustus was the culminating era, sculptors flocking to the imperial city from all the provinces where art had made its home, while that which money could not purchase was appropriated as spoils. From the summit of the temple which Augustus reared within his palace enclosure archaic marbles from Chios looked down on recent works as on a mush room growth, Roman patricians ordering many of the copies of Phidian and other subjects which have been preserved in the Louvre and Dresden galleries. In the portico of Octavia, intended as a public walk, sheltered from wind and weather and richly adorned with statuary and paintings, was the Venus de Medici of Cleomenes, once regarded as the most perfect expression of feminine beauty. Though now but little esteemed, it is certainly an attractive figure, slender and small, the head slightly turned aside, the features perfect in shape but inane in expression, and the undraped form, graceful and delicate, shrinking in an attitude of coy, affected timidity.
While modeled doubtless after the Aphrodite of Praxiteles, it may be observed that, as with the Capitoline, the Chigi, and other Venuses there is no trace of the divine, merely a lovely woman transformed from a Grecian goddess into a coquette.
To Diogenes, a skilful artificer in bronze, was entrusted the sculptural ornamentation of the Pantheon,—its bas-reliefs, its caryatids, its horsemen at the corners, and its surmounting quadriga of Jupiter Tonans. At the sides of the bronze gates were colossal images of Augustus and Agrippa, and in the center and recesses of the temple were those of Jove the Avenger, of Mars and Romulus, of Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Of the many statues and busts of Augustus contained in European museums, one of the most remarkable was disinterred at Ostia early in the present century, and is now in the Vatican collection. It represents the emperor in early manhood, with thoughtful intelligent features in which is a tinge of sadness and melancholy, as of one who might become a philosopher but never a warrior or statesman. In the ruins of a villa near Rome was discovered in 1863, a portrait statue of Augustus addressing his troops, the right hand extended in an attitude of command, and in the left the imperial scepter partially concealed by the folds of the purple mantle, the tunic being of scarlet and the breastplate sculptured and painted in most delicate workmanship. Power and authority are expressed in every line of the cold and searching features still of meditative cast, but not the cast of a philosopher, for love of wisdom had given place to love of sovereignty. In the wall of a church at Ravenna were found marble reliefs with idealized portraits, and in Lyons, once a Roman colony, a consecrated altar on which were carved the figures of subjugated nations; for all the peoples of the earth were eager to bestow on him the In honors accorded to a divinity. In bronzes and marbles, coins and cameos, his glories were perpetuated, a large cameo in the cabinet of antiquities at Vienna representing him enthroned as a god, sceptered and side by side with Roma, Victory presenting to him the olive wreath, at his feet the bird of Jove, and beneath him a multitude of captives.
Tiberius was a patron of art, if only for the satisfaction of his inordinate self-esteem, and to his reign belong some of the most valuable statues preserved in modern museums. Among them is the 'Sleeping Ariadne' in the Vatican, with serpentine bracelet and dainty apparel, the drooping head, the curving arms, and the air of languorous repose relieving the colossal proportions of the figure. The Vatican 'Nile,' a marble image covered with playful Cupids, discovered in the sixteenth century, is believed to be a copy of a group belonging to the age of the Ptolemies. In the British museum is the 'Apotheosis of Homer,' a relief by Archelaus, son of Apollonios, and a pleasing though somewhat pretentious composition. Enthroned, crowned, and worshiped as a god, a scepter in one hand and a copy of his poems in the other. Homer is seated near an altar on mount Parnassus, beneath him Apollo and the muses, and at the summit of the hill great Jove himself. Poetry raising aloft her torch and History casting incense on the blazing shrine.
Art, it has been said, makes all men contemporaries, and monarchs who would have been otherwise but names to hang historic robes upon, become, when interpreted by the living history of their portraits, like men of yesterday. As remarks a writer on sculpture, "its deepest interest in later Roman days links itself with the individual rulers who held the fortunes of the empire in their bloody hands, and who stand in bronze or marble among us, to suffer the judgment of all the ages on their persons and on their deeds. It is their destiny thus ever to figure before the eyes of the world. They are mighty and they are many; for the potentates of the past must have had a passion for their own likenesses. No modern photograph galleries can be more prolific than the old studios where the Roman rulers were taken in stone. A hall of emperors, comprising eighty-three busts is in the Capitoline museum; emperors generally heroic, meet us at every turn in the Vatican; many are in the Louvre; a very fine collection is assembled in the Uffizi, while imperial effigies of all sizes are plentifully scattered through palaces and villas. Numerous as they are, a host of others perished.
"Busts of Tiberius are in the Capitol; he sits twice, in semi-colossal dignity, in the Vatican and the Lateran, and an excellent statue with toga and scepter, is in the Lateran. Caligula is rare; not because he failed to set up his detestable image, but because he had hardly been dead an hour before the people threw down and destroyed every memorial that could be found of him.
His basalt bust is in the Capitoline museum, and we can gaze upon his colossal head in the sculpture gallery of the Louvre, where his uncle Claudius is also to be seen. Claudius is likewise in marble in the Vatican and at the Capitol, where his wives Messalina and Agrippina are with him, Messalina, a smiling, mincing creature with double row of curls; Agrippina, the proud and beautiful, yet pitiable mother of Nero.”
And so we might continue with many others, of whom chapters could be written or quoted; but here we must confine ourselves to the more remarkable specimens of plastic art. By Zenodorus was fashioned the colossal statue of Nero in gilded bronze which, standing at the entrance of his Golden House, was remarkable only for its size, exceeding somewhat the height of the Colossus at Rhodes. In other statues, as in those of the Louvre, in one of which he appears as an athlete, Nero is shown at various ages and in many attitudes, but always, after reaching maturity, with features expressive of the coarseness and brutality, the vice and vanity characteristic of the man. For the decoration of his palace, its ceilings covered with carvings in ivory and its walls inlaid with precious stones, all the states of Hellas were plundered, the Delphic and other temples furnishing hundreds of bronze and marble statues. Then he masqueraded through Greece as a patron of art, ending his life with self-destruction—its only sensible act.
The Vatican statue of Nerva enthroned as Jove is one of the most striking in its collection, and if the emperor be not godlike, he has at least the appearance of a gentleman, which is more than could be said of most of the rulers represented in the colossal effigies of the gallery in the forum of Nerva. The forum of Trajan was also rich in statuary of marble, ivory, and bronze, most famous of which was the equestrian figure of the emperor which aroused the envy of Constantine, who freely appropriated as we have seen, some of the finest works of art.
To the reign of Hadrian as some relate, but probably the work of an earlier artist, belongs the Farnese Hercules of Glycon, so-called because his name appears in an inscription, though Glycon in fact had little to do with it, except for exaggerating the muscular effect. The Samson of the heroic age is represented as leaning on his club, which is partially covered by a lion's skin, the finely chiseled head, somewhat out of keeping with the stalwart frame, inclining forward as in meditation. Powerful is the play of limb and muscle, but altogether too strongly accentuated, these and other defects detracting from the merits of an otherwise noble composition. Of Antinous,—the superfluous god, as he has been called, bequeathed by Hadrian to the Romans—many statues and busts have been preserved from the ruins of Hadrian's villa. In the Capitoline museum, perhaps, appears to the best advantage the mysterious youth of the familiar legend, who sacrificed himself to preserve the life of his benefactor.
There is a dreamy, languid, effeminate expression in his features; the eyes deep-set and trist, and the low, broad forehead thickly clustered with curls. He appears in many characters, posing in the Capitol as Mercury, in the Louvre as a shepherd, and in the Vatican as Bacchus. Of other compositions mention might here be made; but except for rare or occasional works, we have reached the limit of the classic sculpture of Rome.
Of Roman paintings there is little to be said, for as with sculpture, the best compositions were almost entirely of Hellenic workmanship, and of the pictorial art of the Greeks a description has already been given. In its earlier forms, except for a little portraiture, painting was entirely decorative, and among the names first mentioned are those of men employed on temple embellishment. It was not until the reign of Augustus that landscape-painting was "invented," as Pliny terms it, by one Ludius, who excelled in forest and rural scenes and somewhat before this age we hear of a Cyzican woman named Laia as a famous portrait painter. Many of the emperors were liberal patrons of art, as we have seen, and not a few were connoisseurs, Julius Caesar, who more than once paid a million sesterces for a single picture, belonging to the latter class; or such at least was his reputation.
In the ruins of Pompeii, whose architectural glories have been grossly exaggerated, for it was but a Roman watering-place, are the most familiar specimens of decorative art; but these are merely imitations of the Greek masters, whether in theme or treatment. Most of the figures are mythological, though among them are many of value as illustrations of the lives and customs of the people. They are not without a certain beauty and grace; the coloring is brilliant, and sometimes in good taste, while in modeling and technical execution they are by no means devoid of merit. Among the best of them are those which represent the parting of Achilles and Briseis, Medea and her children, and the battle of the Amazons. In this connection may be mentioned the 'Aldobrandine Marriage' in the Vatican collection, which is in affinity with Pompeiian art, the mosaics from the baths of Caracalla, now in the Lateran, and the combats of gladiators in the Villa Borghese showing in common with other works the usual coarseness of execution.
In conclusion it may be said that in pictorial, as in plastic art, whatever there was of excellence was brought as spoils from Hellas, to grace the triumphs of conquerors, or to adorn the temples, the fora, the public streets, the palaces of emperors, and the mansions of the rich. The very abundance of Greek statuary and paintings rendered almost unnecessary the employment of Roman artists, even were they capable of producing works of equal merit; for it was far less costly to decorate an atrium or portico with ancient masterpieces than to order such statues as Italian sculptors could fashion. While among the productions of the latter there is not wanting a certain elegance, it is but a borrowed elegance, and toward the close of the empire symmetry and expression gradually disappeared, leaving nothing but a wilderness of commonplace. After the seat of government was removed to Byzantium, both the sculptural and pictorial compositions of the Roman world sank almost to the lowest point of degradation of which art is capable, becoming faulty and feeble in design, coarse and crude in execution, and lifeless as the face of the sphinx.
Notwithstanding periods of decadence, for twenty centuries or more Rome has been a center of art, and still in the nineteenth century, as in the first, it is the leading art center of the world. Yet, elsewhere in Italy, sculpture and painting were freely represented, as at Naples, a seat of wealth and culture throughout the imperial age and a favorite resort even for the emperors themselves.
Here it was that Nero masqueraded as an actor, hoping to meet in its Graeco-Roman population a more sympathetic audience than could be found in the capital. Of all the collections of Roman and Italian antiquities the most valuable is that which is contained in the national museum at Naples, where is much that is best worth preserving in the ruins of ancient cities. In Florence, originally a suburb of the Etruscan town of Faesulae, in Genoa and Turin, both of which played their part in the Punic wars, there are also many remains of Roman art; but of these nothing more need here be said, for the architecture and art of Rome in common with her conquests extended throughout the known world.
To Syracuse and Agrigentum brief reference has been made in connection with Grecian art. Almost coeval with Rome, the former was one of the leading figures in the great drama of the Peloponnesian war. Even then it was famous for its art; for within its walls, as Plato relates, all Sicily was gathered during the long tyranny of Dionysius; and not only Sicily but southern Italy, Hellas, and all the glories of the Hellenic world. Rich in truth were the art spoils that Marcellus secured from its pillage some two centuries later, after a long and obstinate siege, and again under Roman rule it became a splendid and flourishing city, mentioned by Cicero as still the seat of culture. Still more celebrated for its architectural monuments was Agrigentum, with its magnificent Doric temples, especially that of the Olympian Jove, whose ruins bear silent witness to the ancient grandeur of a metropolis noted for its luxury and wealth.
As to the art and architecture of Asia Minor much might be added to the little that has already been said. At an early period in the history of Hellas, Greek colonies were established on its western and northern coasts and on the islands adjacent, forming in time a chain of settlements in continuous series, but never extending far into the interior. Presently came Roman conquest and occupation, and with them Roman arts; so that to describe in detail the monuments of such cities as Pergamum and Rhodes, as Antioch, Ephesus, Smyrna, and Miletus would be almost to repeat the story that has already been told.
In the days of Attalus Pergamum became a center of art as well as the center of a powerful monarchy; for the king loved to celebrate his victories in monumental forms, inviting to his capital some of the foremost of Hellenic sculptors, and founding what has been termed the Pergamenian School. By Eumenes II was erected the great altar of Zeus Soter which stood in the agora, commemorating his defeat of the Gauls, its wealth and beauty of sculptural decoration causing it to be esteemed as among the wonders of the world. It was probably during his reign that the ancient Doric temple of Athena Polias was replaced by the splendid marble fane which was one of the finest ornaments of the kingdom that Attalus III bequeathed to the Romans. Later, Pergamum ranked with the leading cities of the province, one always leal to the Roman cause, its citizens rearing on the acropolis a stately temple to Augustus.
Of the ancient splendors of Rhodes, at one time the most splendid city in the world, with noble public edifices and works of art, no traces now exist, except the architectural fragments and a few of the altars of the classic age. To the Antioch which Seleucus Nicator founded his successors made numerous additions, and especially Antiochus Epiphanes, who gave to it many of its finest buildings. To Seleucus was ascribed the temple of Apollo and Diana, reared amid the grove of Daphne and destroyed in the time of Julian the apostate, with its colossal image of the god by the sculptor Bryaxis. A temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was built in imitation of the one at Rome, and a theater founded by Seleucid kings was enlarged and completed by Roman emperors. But even more for its streets than its structures was the city famous, the so-called golden avenues referring to the splendor of their columnar decoration, in which gold was freely used. In the principal thoroughfare, four miles in length, were as many rows of columns, leaving in the center a broad open space paved with granite, whence other streets branched at intervals, the porticos which skirted the former being continued in the form of arches at the points of intersection.
Though the daughter of Athens, Ephesus was more noted for wealth and luxury than for art; as we have yet, seen, in her temple of Diana, described in connection with Hellenic architecture, was a valuable collection of statuary, and paintings, the contributions of votaries and visitors. In Smyrna, once the most important and still the largest city of Asia Minor, were many imposing edifices, rising in tiers on its rounded hill of Pagus or clustering around its acropolis. In the sixth century Miletus, whose site is now a marsh, was the most flourishing of Grecian towns, a center also of literature, philosophy, and art. Chief among its monuments was the decastyle temple of Apollo Didymaeus, which, together with the octostyle temple at Sardis, ranks among the finest specimens of Ionic architecture.
In Roman fanes were often deposited treasures sufficient to keep in funds a score of banks. In the temple of Ops, for instance, were stored, as Cicero relates, the 700,000,000 sesterces,—equivalent to $28,000,000—which Julius Caesar left, largely for distribution among the people. This was mainly from the spoils of war; for Caesar began his public career some $1,250,000 in debt; but the Romans knew how to accumulate princely liabilities as well as princely fortunes.
Says Mommsen, speaking of the later republican era: "Ancient works of art were systematically hunted after statues and pictures less, it is true, than, in accordance with the rude character of Roman luxury, artistically wrought furniture and ornaments of all sorts for the room and table. The old Greek tombs of Capua and Corinth were ransacked for the sake of the bronze and earthenware vessels which had been placed in the tomb along with the dead. For a small statuette of bronze 40,000 sesterces were paid, and 200,000 for a pair of costly carpets; a well wrought bronze cooking machine came to cost more than an estate. In this barbaric hunting after art the rich amateur was, as might be expected, frequently cheated by those who supplied him; but the economic ruin of Asia Minor in particular, so exceedingly rich in artistic products, brought many really ancient and rare ornaments and works of art into the market, and from Athens, Syracuse, Cyzicus, Pergamus, Chios, Samos, and other ancient seats of art, everything that was for sale and very much that was not migrated to the palaces and villas of Roman grandees.”
The boudoir of a Roman dame is shown in relief in the Capitoline museum, the woman appearing in no very dignified attitude, for she is teaching her favorite tabby to dance to the sound of a lyre. Nymphs, Venuses, and fauns were the favorite subjects for the decoration of the villas and gardens of the wealthy, and genre works of all descriptions were cleverly executed for those of moderate means.
In the Sala della Biga in the Vatican are reliefs showing a circus race, together with the spectators' galleries, probably belonging to the circus which Maxentius built in memory of his son.
Among sculptors of the first century BC, in addition to those mentioned in the text, was Arcesilaus, of whose statue of Venus Genetrix, executed for Julius Caesar, the one now in the Louvre is believed to be a replica. A work whose motif has been frequently imitated is his marble lioness tormented by a group of winged Cupids.
In the remains of the palace which Diocletian built at Spalatro, where free from the cares of state he passed the closing years of his life, are many traces of the splendor of imperial abodes, though Diocletian was by no means one of the wealthiest of Roman emperors. It was almost rectangular in shape and covered about ten acres, its dimensions being almost identical with those of the Escurial in Spain. In the principal entrance, named the Golden Gate, are all the characteristics of the later period of Roman architecture, arcades leading thence to the center of the building, in the southern portion of which was the palace proper, with temples dedicated to Jupiter and Aesculapius. The private apartments, baths, and guest-chambers are on a magnificent scale, and extending along the entire seaward front is a spacious gallery forming the principal feature of the design.