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Stories in Stone from the Roman Forum by  Isabel Lovell
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THE STORY OF JULIUS CAESAR'S BASILICA AND OF HIS TEMPLE

The Story of the Basilica Julia

[212] MANY labourers were making a great noise on the south side of the Forum, and many idlers, eagerly gathering about in groups to view the work, were delighting, as idlers will, in the sight of others' toil. The old Basilica Sempronia, the house of the great general Scipio Africanus, and the row of booths known as the Old Shops, were all being torn down to make room for a vast Basilica, to be built by Julius Cæsar, who planned to make it worthy of his name. And as from day to day the idlers chatted with one another and watched the building grow, they looked forward with lazy pleasure to the happy hours they hoped to spend beneath its porticos.

[213] Although the Basilica was unfinished, it was dedicated by the great dictator, not long before his death. While the work was being completed by Augustus, a fire destroyed the building, whereupon this emperor determined to rebuild it upon a yet grander scale. This he did, not only because he always enlarged and beautified whatever he rebuilt, but also because he thought thus further to honour Cæsar's memory; his plans, however, were greater than was the length of his days, and he died leaving the Basilica still unfinished. But when the building was at last completed, the Romans were not disappointed, for this splendid court of law was acknowledged to be the most magnificent gift to the people that Rome had ever received. Notwithstanding the fact that the greater part of the Basilica built by Cæsar had been destroyed, that another than he had ended the work, and that the building had been dedicated by Augustus to his own grandsons, the memory of the great dictator proved stronger than aught else, and the building was always called the Basilica Julia.

This vast edifice soon became the favourite haunt of the Romans, and at all hours of the day [214] its marble corridors were full of people, eagerly seeking for business, and still more eagerly seeking for pleasure. Lawyers, flower-girls, money-lenders, fine ladies, there came elbow to elbow, and when a sudden shower swept over the Forum the Basilica's broad porticos gave shelter to large numbers of the crowd.

The gay young Roman, freshly perfumed from the baths, there found amusement for his afternoons; for besides the chats he might have with his many friends, he might play in the outer porticos at games of chance. There, gold changed hands with great rapidity, and from these games men departed with smiles or frowns, according to the manner in which fickle Fortune had bestowed her favours. For the warning of reckless gamblers, wise sayings were graven in the marble of the pavement, where the play went on. And such words as these are seen there to-day: "Let him that wins, triumph; let him that loses, lament," and "Be silent and depart." Cut in the floor are the markings of a sort of checker-board, used in a game played with dice, in the throwing of which the Romans were so skilful that "Like the dice players of the Forum" became a term of [215] reproach to men that would fain profit by others' losses.

The mad Emperor Caligula, who fancied that his power was more than human, not only decreed that Castor and Pollux should be the keepers of his doors, but conceiving ideas still more profane, vauntingly called himself the brother of great Jupiter. Then, that he might see the god with ease, this monarch caused a bridge to be built from his own palace on the Palatine Hill to Jupiter's splendid temple on the Capitoline. The bridge, however, was like none other, for this most vain "brother of a god," disdaining to build as did other men, used some of the Forum's buildings as the piers for his lofty crossing, and thus passed high in air from one hill to the other. One of these supports was formed by the Basilica Julia, and at this point Caligula used to stand, amusing himself by casting money to the throng in the Forum beneath. And if in the mad scramble that followed some were injured or even killed, his insane pleasure only grew the greater, and his wild laughter only rang the louder. After Caligula's death this bridge, together with other traces of his madness, was [216] taken away, for under the rule of the next Emperor, Claudius, somewhat more order reigned throughout Rome.

But the Basilica Julia was not merely a place of amusement for the people; it was also the chief law court of Rome. Within it were four tribunals, at all of which trials could be carried out at the same time without disturbing one another. This was the more wonderful, because the Basilica was not divided into rooms, as are our court-houses; the great space in its centre, where judgment was given, was enclosed only by low marble screens, to which were sometimes added heavy curtains, hung between the pillars of the portico. During any famous trial the upper galleries of the Basilica held hundreds of spectators, who came to view the scene even when they could not hear what was spoken. And the sight was well worth their pains, for when an important case was to be decided, all four courts sat together in judgment.

Here Pliny, the famous advocate and scholar, once pleaded the cause of a certain lady of high rank, whose aged father, by a foolish second marriage, had cut off her inheritance. The orator, as [217] he rose to speak, paused for a moment and looked about him. And as he gazed upon the brilliant scene, his eye gleamed with satisfaction, for even the most ambitious could ask for nothing more. First, the building itself was one fit for the utterance of the noblest eloquence; from its walls and pillars to its wonderful floor of inlaid marble, all was grandly beautiful. Second, the assembled people were among the best citizens of Rome; from the crowds in the galleries and corridors to the one hundred and eighty judges upon their benches, all were waiting anxiously for Pliny's words. Realizing the importance of the moment and the fitness of the place, this great advocate now made one of the most noted speeches of his life, and only stopped when the man standing by the clepsydra told him that his allotted time was gone. Now the clepsydra was a hollow globe of metal or of brass, filled with water that slowly dropped away through small holes in the bottom of the vessel. By thus measuring time, the length of each lawyer's speech was determined—the number of clepsydras allowed him being greater or less according to the importance of the cause he was to plead. When documents were [218] read, or other interruptions occurred, the flow of the water was stopped in order that every precious drop should be saved; and this perhaps it was that led the Romans to express by the words "wasting water" all that we mean by "killing time".

For a second and yet a third time the Basilica Julia was injured by fire. It was restored, however, first by the Emperor Severus, then by the Emperor Diocletian. And many years afterwards the magistrate Vettius Probianus again restored the building, and ornamented it with many statues, the bases of which are still to be seen.

The ruins of this law court are the largest in the Forum, and although there remain only parts of pillars and arches, and fragments of walls and flooring, one's fancy easily pictures the place as it was in days of yore, when in marble magnificence, it stood a stately edifice indeed.

But this Basilica tells only a small portion of Julius Cæsar's story. There are, however, in the Forum the ruins of another building from which, although smaller, there is learned much more concerning the great dictator. Yet, strange to say, Cæsar himself did not plan this building, [219] neither had he any knowledge of it! Nevertheless, the Roman world there offered him the deepest homage, and the world to-day there pays honour to his memory. The last and the strongest proof of his fame and power is told in—


The Story of the Temple of Julius Caesar

A low groan was heard throughout the Forum. Upon the Rostra the consul Antony knelt before Cæsar, offering him a crown and hailing him as king; around the tribunal crowded the people, watching every motion and showing their old hatred of a monarch's rule. Cæsar, hearing without seeming to listen, seeing without seeming to look, understood it all, and his hesitating gesture stiffened into an attitude of refusal, while in a firm, proud voice, he said, "I am no king. I am Cæsar"; whereupon the crowd cheered loudly. Again and again did Antony offer him the crown; again and again did the great dictator push it from him, while at each refusal the people's cheers grew louder and yet more long. Thus Cæsar and the Romans tested each other's hearts.

This happened during the celebration of the [220] ancient festival of the Lupercalia, when all Rome was in holiday dress for several days together, and when sacrifices were made in the Lupercal, the cave wherein Romulus and Remus had been tended by their strange nurse, the wolf. As Rome's great master, clothed in purple robes, sat in his golden chair upon the Rostra to watch these joyous festivities, his friend, the consul Antony, in the presence of the multitude, offered him the honours of a king. But Cæsar, hearing the people's groan, felt that the time was not yet ripe; so, knowing full well that his power already equalled that of many kings, he let the empty honour go; thus by his wisdom gaining the people's love, and making his rule mightier than before.

But there was a power even stronger than that of Cæsar. For evil Ambition plotted against him, and cruel Jealousy killed him. Hardly a single month had passed by before the envious daggers of his assassins had let out his life's blood.

Then came the proof of that people's love for Cæsar. There, upon that same Rostra whereon he had refused to be their king, his martyred body lay, and there, that same Antony who had offered him the crown spoke the words of his [221] funeral oration. The honours that he had then refused were now vainly heaped upon him; dead he was treated as if more than king. His body, covered by a cloth of gold and purple, lay upon a couch of ivory; a countless host of men and women formed his funeral guard; and the noblest in Rome thronged to pay him the last honours. The voice of Mark Antony, his fellow-consul, his relative, and his friend, rang solemnly through the Forum. As he told of Cæsar's deeds of valour, of his love for his country, of his generosity toward his enemies, the multitudes were greatly moved. And their excitement became boundless when they heard the dictator's will, wherein he left a gift of money to each Roman citizen, and all his lands by the Tiber as a pleasure park for the people.

Then Antony sang a dirge to Cæsar, as to one more than human, even as to a god, and as he sang he raised aloft Cæsar's robe, which like a trophy had been placed at the head of the bier. And when the people saw this garment, rent by daggers' thrusts, red with the dictator's blood, they cried aloud for vengeance and joined in Antony's lament. Upon this, there was raised [222] above the bier a waxen image of Cæsar himself, bearing all the horrible marks of the twenty-three wounds given him by his assassins. By means of some machinery this image was turned about so that all could see, and at the grewsome sight the multitude, mad with grief and rage, ran from Forum to search out the murderers.

But finding that the conspirators had secretly left the city, the baffled people, still more angry and excited, returned to the Forum. Reverently lifting Cæsar's bier, they bore his body to Jupiter's great temple on the Capitoline Hill, where they would have had him placed at once among the gods; but the priests forbade them entrance. Then, carrying their mournful burden back the to the Forum, they determined that the love of his people should give Cæsar that which Religion had refused. So they placed his body before the Regia, the king's house, and there they built his funeral pyre. For this they used whatever wooden objects could be found at hand,—benches, chairs, tribunals,—and as the flames rose high, each cast aside the signs of his own honours to offer them to Cæsar, as sacrifices are offered to a god. Robes of triumph were rent in twain and thrown upon [223] the pyre; the armour of Cæsar's well-tried soldiers was placed at his feet; women gave their jewels and the ornaments that hung about their children's necks; mantles of office, crowns, and other articles of value were given with unstaying hand to Cæsar, never greater than at that moment, never dearer to his people's hearts.

Nor did the Romans alone sorrow for Cæsar. Many strangers within the city came to the place where he lay, and, each after the manner of his country, mourned the noble dead. And among those that sorrowed most where large numbers of Jews, a people whose kind friend Cæsar had ever been. All through that fateful night an armed multitude watched at the Forum and guarded the sacred ashes, which were afterward taken to the tomb of Cæsar's family. Then, upon the spot where his body had been burned, was raised a tall column of rich marble. It was placed there by the people, led by an ambitious man named Amatius, and it bore the words: "To the Father of his Country." Beside it was erected an altar, where the devoted Romans offered sacrifices and bowed the knee to Cæsar, whom they called divine. [224] This greatly alarmed the Senate, fearful for the authority of the State, and Cicero publicly warned the magistrates of the danger of such a wrongful worship. Whereupon the consul Antony caused Amatius to be put to death, the column to be thrown down, and the altar to be removed. A violent riot followed, and before this could be quieted many were made prisoners, and others were condemned to die. But the citizens were not content, nor was Rome at peace, until the Senate had declared that a temple in honour of Cæsar should be built on the place where had burned his funeral pyre. The altar was then replaced, and from that time all Romans ranked Julius Cæsar among the gods. And they say that in proof of this, there was shown to the people a sign in the heavens. For during the games, given by the Emperor Augustus in honour of Cæsar, his adopted father, a wonderful comet blazed in the skies for several days together. Men, awed and amazed, believed it to be the soul of Cæsar, and as a sign of his immortal power, a star was placed upon the brow of his statue.

The Temple of Julius Cæsar, built in the [225] lowest part of the Forum, was placed upon a very high foundation, that the waters of the overflowing Tiber might not harm it. The Emperor Augustus adorned the sacred building with spoils from Egypt, and with paintings of great worth; and he dedicated the Temple with much pomp and magnificence. The wide space in front of this Temple was used as rostra, and was called the Rostra Julia. This, Augustus also ornamented, placing thereon beaks of ships taken in the great battle of Actium. It was from the Rostra Julia that this Emperor spoke the funeral oration of his beloved sister Octavia; and it was from this same platform that Tiberius, his adopted son, addressed the people after Augustus's death.

Besides the ruins of the foundation of Julius Cæsar's temple, there are to be seen to-day the remains of the altar where he was first worshipped. This, perhaps, more than aught else that reminds men of the famous Conqueror, tells the story of his greatness. For it was raised to a man so honoured by the bitterest of his enemies, so loved by the most envious of his friends, that at the end they united to bestow upon him the most exalted meed of worship.

THE STORY OF THE FORUM'S STREETS

[226] A BAND of weary, wounded men were dragging themselves slowly along the highroad toward Rome. In the distance the city could be faintly seen, but so worn were these wayfarers that showed no joy at the nearness of their journey's end. Their leader alone was hopeful, and spoke words of cheer to his downhearted men.

"Courage, brothers!" cried he. "See, Rome lies just beyond. Bethink ye of the kindness of Porsenna to these people in their time of famine. Surely, Etruscans will be well received within these walls!"

"Nay," replied a voice in the rear, " bethink thee<

[227] But the leader of these men—all that remained of the army sent by King Porsenna against the tribe of the Aricians—listened not to such dark sayings, but with brave words continued to encourage the tired soldiers until at last they stood before the gates of Rome.

Weary unto death, hopeless, forlorn, their clothing rent, their armour gone, these soldiers of the Etruscan king came as suppliants to their ancient enemy. And, as the surprised people gathered about them, they told the tale of their misfortunes. Thus the Romans learned that the Etruscans had been defeated by the Aricians, that the king's brave young son had been killed, and that of all Porsenna's army there remained only the few men that now besought their pity and their help. And this was freely given, for the Romans proved themselves as firm friends as they had been bitter enemies. The wounded soldiers were gently cared for, their hurts healed, their clothes renewed. And thus it happened that, having formed a great affection for the Roman people, many of these Etruscans remained in the city wherein they had received so much kindness, and there built themselves [228] homes. For this purpose land was given them, and the place where they dwelt was thereafter known as the Vicus Tuscus, or the Etruscan Street. This ancient roadway passes between the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Castor and Pollux, and although shorter and less important than a road called "Via," the Vicus Tuscus was among the most famous streets of Rome.

In the Vicus Tuscus, near the Basilica Julia, there stood a bronze statue of Vertumnus, god of Gardens, of Fruits, and of Flowers, who bears a pruning-knife within his hand, and to whom were offered garlands of buds, and the early ripenings of the orchard. Now Vertumnus, also the god of Change, took upon him many shapes, and because he loved Pomona, a fair goddess who shared with him the care of fruits and flowers, he appeared in various forms, hoping to catch her fickle fancy. To-day he was the hardy reaper, returning from the field, his arms laden with ripe ears of corn; to-morrow he might be a gay soldier, starting for the war, his armour brightly shining; and the next day might see him as a fisherman, sitting beside a stream, his rod in hand, his basket full of fish. Even as an aged [229] crone did Vertumnus appear before Pomona; but it was as a youth, a noble, blooming youth, that he won the heart of the goddess. In the busy Vicus Tuscus this statue of the changeful god stood for many years, seeming to say to the ever varying multitudes, passing and repassing beneath him:—

"Move on! Change on! I watch!—I guard! The time of buds, the time of fruit, the time of harvest, all are mine. Come!—Work!—Go!—the god of Change is here, and over your welfare ever watches—guards!"

And it was a motley throng indeed over which the god Vertumnus watched, for the Vicus Tuscus was a crowded, business street, and one of no fair fame. Perfumers, spice dealers, silk merchants, there had shops, and thus those that came to buy were among the idler and gayer of Rome's citizens.

On the upper side of the Basilica Julia, another street enters the Forum and joins the Sacra Via. This is the Vicus Jugarius, at whose beginning once stood the altar of Juno Juga. Now by "jugum," the Romans meant a "yoke,"—something that bound two things together,—and thus [230] Juno, the wife of Jupiter and the queen of heaven, was often worshipped as Juno Juga—the goddess of Marriage.

It happened at one time that, as a great storm was over the city of Rome, the lightning struck the Temple of Juno on the Aventine Hill. This was considered as a sign of the goddess's displeasure, and accordingly two sacrifices were ordered in her honour. One of these solemn processions, which were parts of the holy rites, passed along the Vicus Jugarius, on its way to the Temple. At the head were led two white heifers, about whose horns were twisted ribbons and garlands of flowers; for only white animals were sacrificed to the heavenly deities, and such as were chosen for this honour were not only gayly bedecked, but were led with a loose rope, that they should appear to go as willing offerings. Following the heifers were reverently carried two images of Juno; then came twenty-seven fair maidens in long, white robes, their clear, sweet voices rising and falling in a hymn to the queen of heaven. Behind these maidens walked ten magistrates, crowned with leaves of laurel and wearing purple robes. In the Forum the procession paused, and [231] a long cord was given to the damsels, each of whom rested her hand upon it, and, thus held together by that which was a symbol of their common purpose, the young girls, beating time with their feet to the music of the hymn they sang, went on with the procession as it passed up the hill to Juno's temple. And men remembered long the sight of these fair maidens; and the story of that solemn progress through the Vicus Jugarius was told and retold for many years.

Something there was, however, concerning this street that men remembered much longer, and of which they always spoke with bated breath—it was the recollection of the horrible sights that ere once seen on the Lacus Servilius.

For the Lacus Servilius was a fountain that stood in the Vicus Jugarius, at its entrance into the Forum, and during the terrible days of Sulla's misrule the heads of many senators were placed thereon. With cunning wisdom did Sulla cause these grewsome trophies of his power to meet the eyes of the Romans even as they approached the Forum, and upon the immediate, trembling obedience of the people his great and unquestioned might became established.

[232] But the street full of the greatest memories—the<

It was in the month of September in every year that the famous Ludi Romani, or games of Rome, were celebrated in honour of great Jupiter, god of the gods, who, from his temple on the Capitoline Hill, ever guarded the welfare of the State. There, from the Capitol, a solemn and magnificent procession started on its way to the Circus Maximus, the great arena formed by King Tarquin the Elder on part of that land which he had made firm by his wonderful drains. And here, when festivals were held, races and contests of [233] various sorts took place; and the rumble of chariot-wheels, the cries of wild beasts, the clanging of armour, mingled with the excited and delighted laughter of thousands of spectators. After sacrifices in Jupiter's temple, the long train of the Ludi Romani wound down the hill into the Forum, and there, having turned into the Sacra Via, and gone along that road until it reached the Vicus Tuscus, it passed out and went on to the Circus.

The hearts of all old soldiers beat fast with pride as they saw, coming at the head of this bright company, the young sons of the knights and other veterans of the army, each youth riding a fine steed or walking on foot according to his father's rank. And strangers, also looking on, marked well the rich promise of Rome's future heroes, and departing, wonderingly told their countrymen of this vision of Roman valour that they had seen. Next to the noble youths came charioteers, guiding some four, some two, fiery horses, all panting for the race; and wild huzzas broke from the crowd as combatants and dancers closely followed on. Among these dancers, who advanced in groups, and who were accompanied [234] by players of the flute and by those that made music from ivory lyres, there came, first men, then youths, then boys. All these dancers wore vests of scarlet; from their brazen belts hung swords, while in their right hands they held short spears. The men wore also helmets of brass, gayly adorned with waving plumes; and each swayed with happy grace as he slowly moved along.

Then came dancers of another sort, men that wore hairy vests of goatskins or bright coats of flowers, and that bore, standing upright on their heads, the manes of different animals. For these dancers appeared as fauns,—followers of Faunus, god of the Woodland,—whose wild frolics in the moonlight make the forests echo and reŽcho with their unbounded glee. Quietly following these capering fauns there walked many musicians, to the measure of whose strains the incense carriers coming after, softly swung their fragrant censers. And in this light haze of perfumed smoke, there shone holy objects of silver or of gold that had been given as offerings to the gods by the citizens and the State, and that were now carried in honour of the deities. For just behind, there ap- [235] peared the images of the gods themselves, borne on men's shoulders or carefully drawn in small chariots, whose traces the noblest citizens deemed it an honour to hold. In this manner the procession of the Ludi Romani moved along the Sacra Via, and through the city escorted the gods of Rome.

As the Romans worshipped many gods, so they celebrated many festivals, and again and again solemn companies, such as those of the Ludi Romani, were seen upon the Sacra Via. Like all people of all lands, the Romans found much pleasure in watching such bright array, and at the sound of coming music the crowds would quickly gather along this famous street, for it was well known that all important processions must pass that way. And perhaps the throngs were never greater than at the burial of some noble Roman, whose power and whose wealth promised them a great oration and a grand funeral train. For it was the custom to carry the body of a high-born citizen into the Forum, where it was placed before the Rostra, upon which stood some near relative who spoke in praise of the great deeds and of the many virtues of the dead. And [236] the richer and the mightier the man the more splendid his procession, the more eloquent his oration.

Thus the funeral of the Emperor Augustus was one long remembered in Rome. The people, having been summoned by the heralds, came to the Forum by the first light of day, and stationing themselves on the Sacra Via and along the rest of the procession's path, they waited for the coming of the solemn train. It was yet early morning when the body of Augustus was borne forth on its way to the Rostra, whereon Tiberius, his adopted son, was to speak the funeral oration. The corpse of the Emperor was placed upon a bier of ivory and gold, and covered with cloths of purple, woven and interwoven with golden threads; but only the images of Augustus were shown to the sorrowing multitudes. Of these images there were three: one brought from the palace on the Palatine Hill, where he had lived as Emperor; another borne from the Curia, where he had governed as supreme ruler; and yet another driven in a chariot, wherein he had ridden as victor. With the procession walked torch bearers and incense carriers, and at its head [237] advanced trumpeters and buglers, whose instruments gave forth grave, dismal sounds. Behind these musicians slowly came certain senators of Rome, bearing upon their shoulders the bier of Augustus, lovingly called by his people the "Father of his Country." In sign of their deep mourning, these senators wore no marks of office, appeared in plain togas without stripes, and with no rings upon their fingers. Then, each in a chariot, there followed many men that appeared as the distinguished ancestors of the Emperor. For when a Roman noble died, a waxen image was taken of his face, and this was reverently hung in the atrium of his home, among those of the other members of his house. At the burial of any of his name, these masks were taken down, and men were hired to appear as the living images of his family's famous ancestors. Bearing these masks upon their faces, wearing the exact clothes and marks of office due the rank of those they represented, these men were wont to ride in the funeral procession accompanied by the number of lictors allowed their assumed stations. And all the lictors, including the twelve belonging to the Emperor, were dressed in black, [238] and marched in single file, their fasces held downward. Thus the older the family, the greater the train of ancestors; and those seen at the funeral of Augustus were very many indeed. However, the greatest of them all was not represented, for Julius Cæsar had been made a god, and so had no longer a place among mortals.

Next in this great procession were borne figures of Romans whose strength, whose valour and whose wisdom, had been of value to the nation. From Romulus to the statesmen of Augustus's own day—all were there. And then were carried the images of those peoples whose lands this Emperor had conquered; as if to say, "The whole world mourns for thee, most mighty ruler."

In robes of sombre hue, the relatives and friends of Augustus now followed, their actions and their looks showing signs of greatest grief. And ending the procession came the noblest and most famous of Rome's citizens, proud indeed of the honour thus permitted them.

Before the Rostra the magnificent bier was set down, and about it were placed chairs for those that represented the ancestors of the Emperor. [239] Then Tiberius, mounting the platform, delivered a long oration in honour of Augustus; and a wonderful stillness fell throughout the Forum as the vast multitude strained forward to catch every word. When the last tribute had been paid, the last eloquent word spoken, the splendid, solemn procession formed once more, and the body of he Emperor was carried onward to his funeral pyre.

Very different from these silent, sombre multitudes, were the gay, happy crowds that flocked to the Forum whenever a great triumph was to be celebrated. For then all the world of Rome rejoiced, because the nation's enemies had been conquered, and the mighty general that had gained these victories rode in highest state to the Capitol, there to pay homage to the great god, Jupiter. Every one was in brightest, holiday attire; every side echoed with light jest and song, and everywhere many-hued ribbons and garlands floated in the breeze. The doors of all the temples were thrown wide open, and within, sweet flowers were placed before every shrine, while rare incense burned upon every altar. Eager people lined the Sacra Via from [240] end to end, particularly in the Forum, where the galleries of the basilicas, the Columna Mænia, the steps of the buildings, and many special scaffolds were all thronged to the very utmost.

Of the many days of splendour witnessed in Rome, one of the most magnificent was that on which the Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus triumphed together after their victories in Palestine. Here they had long besieged and finally captured the Holy City of Jerusalem, and so great had been their successes that the Senate had voted them separate triumphs; but these Vespasian had refused. So now there was to be a double triumph; and a motion like a long, slow wave, passed over the people as, at the sound of trumpets, each man moved forward the better see the coming show.

Amidst cries of respectful salutation, first passed the senators and the higher magistrates of Rome, all in their richest robes and ornaments; and behind them the trumpeters sent forth gayest strains of martial music, to which from time to time the delighted people joined their voices. Then exclamations and cries of wonder were heard on all sides, as the spoils and [241] treasures taken by Vespasian and Titus were displayed to the admiring people. It was as if a river of gold, of silver, of ivory, and of precious stuffs, was rolling by. For carriers, clothed in garments of purple and gold, wearing fine ornaments, and bearing laurel leaves upon their heads, now passed in great numbers, each man laden with articles of rarest value. There were all kinds of fine embroideries, cunningly fashioned objects of silver, wonderful carvings of ivory, glittering gems in crowns of gold, and costly images of the gods.

After all this splendour there came, with slow, deliberate tread, the white oxen without spot or blemish that were destined to be sacrificed to Jupiter, and beside them walked white-robed priests, accompanied by young boys, bearing sacred vessels and instruments. And following these appeared the human sacrifices; for at every Roman triumph wretched captives were put to death, that the vainglory of the victor might be complete. Among these prisoners, all in finest garments, came the chief enemy of Titus, Simon, son of Gioras, and general of the Jewish army. In chains, like the rest of the captives, this man [242] had also a rope around his neck, and as he tremblingly passed along, his proud spirit was crushed by the sneers of the pitiless crowds, and the torments of his cruel guards. Close to the captive marched the imperial lictors, holding, against scarlet tunics, fasces without axes, but wreathed with triumphant laurel.

And then came men bearing such marvellous burdens that the people were astonished, not only at the wonderful things they saw, but at the sight of such heavy weights carried for so great a distance. For there, upon large platforms, many of which were covered with carpets of gold, were seen representations of the lands conquered by the Emperor and his son; and not a few of these models were three or four stories high. Great ships were also borne before the amazed multitude; but of all the spoils shown in this famous triumph, the most noticed and applauded were the treasures taken from the wonderful Temple of Jerusalem. Stalwart men staggered under the weight of a large table of solid gold, upon which the priests had been wont to lay the sacred loaves of bread; others carried the beautiful golden candlestick of seven branches, whose lamps had light- [242] ened the innermost portion of the Temple—the Holy of Holies of the Jewish worship; and some say that in this Roman triumph yet other carriers exultingly showed the Table of the Law of the conquered nation; but of this no man is sure. However, although this last proof of greatness may have been lacking, the triumph of Vespasian and Titus was magnificent enough to satisfy the most ambitious; and rejoicings over Rome's fallen foes were expressed by men that now followed, holding aloft glittering statues of Victory, all splendidly wrought in ivory and gold.

And now, in a round chariot, drawn by four white horses, approached the Emperor himself, closely followed in a like manner by Titus, his son. Before them slowly walked priests, burning incense, as to the gods, for during a triumph the victors were thought to be none less than earthly Jupiters—and, in truth, had they not protected and even saved the State? So while in their right hands Vespasian and Titus held boughs of laurel, which showed their power to conquer mortals, in their left they carried ivory sceptres crowned with eagles—great Jupiter's sacred bird—as a sign that their might exceeded that of [244] men and that they stood equal with the gods. Behind each of the royal conquerors, whose purple robes glistened with embroideries of gold, was placed a figure of Victory that held a crown of laurel above his head. Beneath both chariots tinkled tiny bells that warned off evil spirits, and there, also, hung images of Fascinus, god of Protection, who charms away all harm from those he guards. Thus arrayed and thus protected, the two victors passed through the city, and with them, mounted on a horse of surpassing beauty, rode Domitian, Vespasian's other son. Cheers rent the air as the three grandly proceeded on their way; nor did the joyous cries grow less when, coming directly after, were seen hundreds of Roman citizens that had been rescued from the enemy, or freed from slavery. Ending this superb spectacle of wealth and of power, marched the entire force of the foot-soldiers of the Roman army, singing loud, gay songs, and shouting again and again. "Io triumphe!" "Triumph! Triumph!"

At the foot of the Scalæ Gemoni—, close by the Temple of Saturn, the Emperor paused, and, from the midst of the triumphal train, Simon, son of [245] Gioras, was dragged forth. Up those stairs of terror he was led, and while the glittering, joyous throng lingered in the Forum, he was strangled to death in the depths of the loathsome Tullianum. Whereupon, with still louder rejoicings, the magnificent procession continued its way onward and upward to Jupiter's temple, where the conquerors laid their laurel wreaths in the lap of the Ruler of the gods, thus offering him the homage of their valour and of their glory.

These are some of the many stories that the stones of the ancient Sacra Via tell; such were some of the countless processions that went over this famous road. No wonder, then, that its name is known to all that have heard of Rome, for her greatest and her humblest have passed that way.

On the Sacra Via, near the remains of the Rostra, there can be seen to-day the base of a column that the Romans called the Umbilicus, and that they proudly believed marked the centre of the world. Standing on this spot, the whole history of Rome might have been read as from an open scroll, for there were seen the signs of her struggles, of her losses, and of her successes; of [246] her religion, of her government, and of her art. The Forum, the great Record-book of the Nation, lay widespread for all to read, and, by its buildings and monuments, its columns and statues, its roads and gateways, told the wonderful story of the ancient Romans and of the mighty city wherein they dwelt.


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