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Stories in Stone from the Roman Forum by  Isabel Lovell
Table of Contents


 

 

THE STORY OF THE FORUM ITSELF

[1] THIS is a story about a "place out of doors," for that is what "forum" means. It is a story in stone, told by the buildings and monuments of the great Forum of Rome, one of the most interesting places in all the world. And the story tells, not only of the making of the Forum, but of the many things that happened there, and from it we learn of a people strong and warlike, of a nation of conquerors and lawgivers, who became the masters of the ancient world.

This Forum was the place out of doors in which the people were most fond and proud, and like the forums of other Roman towns, it was a open, oblong space through which passed several [2] narrow roads, and in and round which were many of the principal buildings of the city. It was used for many purposes—as a market-place, where all kinds of things were bought and sold, from a sack of meal to a necklace of finest gold; as a court of law, where men were tried and judged, from the pickpocket to the traitor of his country; as a meeting-place, where friends came together, both the common citizens and the men of high degree; and as a place of entertainment, where the people amused themselves with games, and where feasts were given in honour of great events, such as the birthday of an emperor, or the triumph of a victorious general.

Although it became much more important, the Forum took the place of the central square, or green, or common, of one of our small towns. To such an open space the people go to meet each other, to listen to public speeches, to rally in times of war, or to buy and to sell; and here are found such buildings as the shops, the court-house, the theatre, or the churches.

But the Roman shops were not like our shops, which are parts of houses, or are great buildings in themselves; they were more like booths, with [3] fronts entirely open, and with the wares shown on low counters, so that every one who went by could easily see and examine what was offered for sale. Behind the counter sat the merchant, greeting any friend who happened to pass that way, bargaining with persons who stopped to buy, and perhaps inviting good customers inside to show them some rare and costly thing. There were two rows of such shops in the Forum, one on the north, the other on the south side. Among them were the public schools for children, and here, after the manner of those days, the youths and maidens learned to write on tablets of wood; on these, with a small, pencil-like stick called a stilus, they traced the tasks set by their teachers. They also learned to recite poems about the brave heroes of their country, to do simple sums, and to repeat those laws that in Rome were always taught the children. Many of the shops were those of jewelers and silversmiths, whose beautiful wares were shown in place of the meat, the fish, and the vegetables of the humble market-men who, as the Forum became more important, moved into the back streets of the city. Rome being in a warm country, much of the business [4] was done out of doors, and many things were sold in the Forum by men who, with stands or baskets, stood about the corners of the buildings and cried out their goods, much as is done on our streets to-day; still other venders had their places in the porticos of the Forum's great basilicas.

Now these basilicas were the Roman courts of law, but were different from our court-houses, for besides having a great hall in the middle of the building, where the trials were carried on, they were made with wide, shady porticos. These were so large that the quiet of the court room was undisturbed by the noise of the crowds outside, where the people were walking up and down among the marble pillars, gossiping together, bargaining with the money-changers, or playing games of chance, for the Romans were very fond of gambling.

But there were no theatres like ours in the Roman Forum, although plays were sometimes given there. At such times the people, in gay holiday dress, sat on rows of wooden benches which, whenever the shows took place, were put up round the centre of the Forum, where the [5] acting was all done in the open air. Some of the citizens looked on from the upper stories of the shops and basilicas, while a few very wealthy and honourable families sat in balconies round columns, placed in the Forum to the memory of some of their famous ancestors.

And the plays themselves were not like our plays, for the actors wore large masks—a crying face if the part was sad, a laughing face if the part was gay—and spoke long poems, and made many gestures. Besides the plays, games were often given in the Forum, and these again were different from our games, for although the Romans had of course games for children, and sports simply for amusement and to show skill and strength, when they spoke of a "game," or "the games," they meant not only a contest of some sort, but a part of a great religious ceremony or festival. These games were of many kinds, but only two sorts were given in the Forum—fights between wild beasts, and combats between men called gladiators who, skilled in the use of various weapons, fought in pairs against each other until one of them was killed. When these gladiatorial shows were given in the Forum they [6] also, like the plays, took place in the centre, and the people watched them with even more interest than they did the actors, for these contests were the favourite amusement of the Romans. But one thing about the fights of the gladiators seems even stranger than the fact that men, and women, too, enjoyed looking upon their fellows as they strove to kill each other, and that is, that these gladiators were hired to fight at funerals. For the Romans believed that the spirits of their ancestors were fond of blood, and that if much of it was spilled round the pyre on which a body was burned, the soul of the dead would be safe and happy. So the gladiators were hired to fight there; and the richer the family of the person who dies, the greater the number of them employed in these contests, which all the people of Rome came to watch.

The churches of the Romans, too, were not like our churches, for they had no bells or spires, no seats or galleries, no organs or pulpits. The buildings, called temples, in which they worshipped, had flat roofs, or sometimes none at all; and the people never sat, but stood or knelt before the image of the god, or gods, to whom [7] the temples were built. The priests preached no sermons, but, amid chants and solemn prayers, burned incense and offered sacrifices on the altars. For these temples were sacred, not to the one True God, but to one or more of the many gods whom the Romans worshipped, and to whose honour they placed in the Forum many of these beautiful buildings.

But although many of the ways of the Romans were not like our ways, there was much about their life that was not so very different from ours of to-day; for, after their own manner, as we have seen, they traded with one another in the shops, tried and sentenced men in the court-houses, came in gaily dressed crowds to the plays and entertainments, and worshipped in the temples, just as in this country, after our manner, we do the same sort of things to-day.

Then why was the Forum of Rome so different from other places? Why was it so important?

The Forum was so different, because it contained a greater number of beautiful buildings and monuments, placed there for more purposes and uses, than any other place of its size and kind in all the world. For although it was not much wider or [8] longer than one of our city blocks, as we see them bounded by four streets, there were on the Forum the Senate-house, the Prison, the Tabularium, or record building, the Rostra, or platform from which the orators spoke; also temples, and basilicas, and statues, and triumphal arches, and columns raised in honour of famous men, or great national events. And each building, each monument, told its story, a story in stone.

And the Forum was so important, because these stories give us the history of the Roman nation, which is that of a city, not of a country; for, however far the all-conquering Romans went, it was always for Rome that they fought, always to Rome that they returned—to Rome, whose praise or blame made or marred a Roman's life—to Rome, the beginning and the end of all things to her people.

So the Forum and the Nation grew in importance together, for the Forum was the centre of the City, and the City was the centre of the Nation. When the Nation was small, and the people were simple in their ways, there were only a few plain buildings in the Forum; but when the Nation was large, and the people rich and [9] learned, the buildings crowded one upon another, and were as beautiful as men could make them. But even when most crowded with monuments, the Forum never became larger in size, and this was because it was measured, not by a foot-rule, but by the human voice—it was as large as a man's voice could carry, and no larger. For there were no newspapers in those days, nor was there any telegraph. All things of interest to the people were told them by the criers or orators, according to the importance of what was said; and the Forum had, therefore, to be large enough to hold the people of Rome, yet small enough for a man's voice to be heard throughout its limits. It was here that every one came for news,—to know of the latest movements of the army, to learn the result of some election, to hear who won at the races, or to listen to the announcement of some new play. But more stirring than anything ever spoken there, is the story of the Forum itself, a story in four parts, the same into which the history of ancient Rome is divided; the very early times, the times of the Kings, the times of the Republic, the times of the Empire.

In the very early times, the ground on which [10] the Forum now stands was but a marsh in a valley among some green hills, the seven famous hills on which the city of Rome was afterward built. Near the centre of this marsh was a hollow into which trickled the waters from the springs of the hills above, forming a deep pool, or little lake, around which grew bulrushes and other reeds. Here and there, too, were other pools, and along the valley ran a river called the Tiber, into which emptied a small brook, called the Spinon, and both brook and river often over-flowed their banks. So the land was swampy and unfit to build upon, and was used as a pasture for the cattle and the sheep. But at its upper end, at the foot of the hill called the Capitoline, was some higher ground where the people of the valley met to buy and sell the simple things needed for their daily life. Some of them were fishermen, who gave their catches for the game the hunters had killed in the forests; and some were makers of bows and spears, who offered their weapons for the sheep the shepherds had chosen from their flocks; others brought furs and skins, others came with meal or fruit, and yet others sold vessels of clay—pots, and plates, and [11] pitchers. All the things in this market of the very early times were most plain and simple, but the day came when the best and the finest that the world could offer was placed there on sale, for it was on this spot that, many years later, the great business of the Roman Forum was carried on.

In one of the huts of the market-place a fire was always kept burning, and was tended by the young maidens of the village, who had it in their special care, while their fathers and brothers hunted or were at war, and while their mothers worked in the home, or wove stuffs for their simple clothing. It was hard to get fire in those early days, when it was done by striking sparks from wood or stone, and therefore from this hearth of the people brands were taken to light the home-fires, from which each household received warmth, and by which the daily meals were cooked.

The people of those early days lived in small huts thatched with straw, and busied themselves by raising cattle, and in working in the fields. Therefore the first altar in the market-place was one to Saturn, the god of Agriculture, who holds [12] the sickle in his hand, who watches over the seed-time and the harvest, and to whom the market-days were sacred. This altar, on which the people offered sacrifices of cakes of salted meal, that their crops might be successful, was probably only a rough block of stone, as were the few other altars and shrines that were placed there in honour of some of the other gods.

Now we are told that, in those far-off times when men believed that the greatest among them were descended from the gods, and that sturdy heroes sprang from the hearts of oaks, the good Evander ruled with justice over his people among those peaceful hills. And they say that one fair day he, his son Pallas, and his warrior chiefs, were making a solemn feast to Hercules, in a grove not far beyond their simple homes, and that the sacrifice had just been killed, when two ships, bearing men in shining armour, were seen rearing the banks of the Tiber before them. Then suddenly the worship ceased, all hearts beating with the fear of coming evil, and none moved save Pallas who, bold with youthful courage, ran forward to the nearer vessel, calling out to the chieftain, standing calmly at the prow:—

[13] "Come ye in peace or war?"

In reply, the noble stranger held out an olive branch, and, stepping from the ship, asked to be led before Evander, to whom he told his errand and his name, saying that he was Æneas, exiled from Troy, and in need of arms to battle for his rights.

Good Evander gave him gracious welcome and caused him to rest upon a couch covered with a lion's shaggy skin, and, when the holy rites were ended, offered refreshment to the royal stranger and his followers. Then, as the twilight was come, he took the arm of his guest, and that of Pallas, his son, and led the way through the wood to his home at the foot of one of the seven hills, and, as they walked, he told the simple history of his people, and the stories of the places round about.

And so they reached Evander's home, before the door of which were cattle feeding on the grass of the plain, just where, years after, hurrying multitudes passed to and fro in the business of a great city's life. Of this the poet Virgil tells when he says,—

[14]

"In talk like this Evander's modest home

They reach, while here before their eyes

Are cattle bellowing,where anon shall stand

The Roman Forum, and Rome's proudest street."

When the next day came, Æneas, refreshed and brave at heart, bade his gracious host farewell, and, accompanied by Pallas, at the head of many warriors, went forth to fight his battles, and to win his cause.

Since those very early times, many travelers have journeyed to this valley of the seven hills, and have stood upon the ground where once the cattle were pastured, and where later the great Roman Forum was built; but the first visitor whose foot crossed this famous place was Æneas of Troy, guest of the good Evander.

After many wanderings and many adventures, the days of the noble Æneas came to an end, and, when the time of the kings had come, Romulus, his strong and valiant descendant, was the first to rule over Rome—for so was called the city that he founded on the Palatine, one of the seven hills. And with his reign came changes to that peaceful valley, for Romulus waged many wars with the people round about, [15] and when history first speaks of the Roman Forum it is to tell us of a fierce battle, fought there between the Romans and the Sabines, a neighbouring tribe ruled over by Tatius, their warlike king.

Down to the plain, from their wooded fastness, came the Romans to meet the enemy and to begin the terrible fight. At first, victory seemed with the Sabines, for their general, Mettius Curtius, drove the Romans back the entire length of the Forum, even to the gate of their own city. But at that desperate moment, Romulus prayed to Jupiter for help, and immediately, so the story goes, their flight was stayed, and they turned with fresh courage to the battle.

But now the Romans seemed to have won the day, for, when the fight was fiercest, they pursued Mettius Curtius until he and his horse sank in the large pool in the hollow of the plain; where-upon, believing him to be lost, they turned another way. But Mettius, forced to desert his faithful beast, struggled bravely in the mire, and, encouraged by the affectionate words of his people, dragged himself from the marsh. Then, amid the shouts and the rejoicings of his fol- [16] lowers, he led them once more to the strife, and, in honour of his bravery, men called this place the Lacus Curtius, or the Lake of Curtius.

Yet to neither Roman nor Sabine was given the victory of that day, but rather to their women belongs the glory; for to the battle-field they came, full of horror at the dreadful slaughter, crying out, "Peace! Peace!" and filling the air with wails and lamentations. So great indeed was their distress, and so loud were their entreaties, that the terrible contest was stopped, and a council of peace was held between the two kings and the chief men of their peoples.

This council met on a quiet spot just beyond the market, and it was agreed that their tribes should be united as one people, and that Tatius should rule equally with Romulus. Tatius chose as his home the hill called the Capitoline, while Romulus remained on the Palatine, but they still came together in the valley between, on the place where the treaty had been made, to consult with their wisest men about the government of the people. And this place was thereafter known as the Comitium. Here Romulus sat in judgment upon the people, here were hold the first meet- [17] ings of the Senate, and here were made the beginnings of the laws for which the Romans were so famous.

Just above the Comitium, Romulus raised an altar to Vulcan, the god of Fire, who, in his great forge, makes all the thunderbolts of Jupiter, and fashions the armour of the gods. The ground about this shrine was called the Vulcanal, and was one of the most ancient of the sacred places of the Forum, and upon it grew two great trees—a lotus and a cypress—which for eight hundred years, men say, gave shade to those who worshipped there. On this spot the two kings met secretly in time of trouble, and offered sacrifices for the welfare of the State, and there, also, as a thank-offering to Vulcan, Romulus placed a bronze chariot with four bronze horses, a treasure seized from his enemies, the people called the Camerini, over whom he was twice conqueror; and besides this, to remind all men of his power, he ordered his own statue to be made, and on its base he caused to be graven a list of all his glorious deeds.

Not very far from the Vulcanal, Romulus made another altar—one to Janus, the god of Entrances, [18] to whom the gates and doorways were sacred, and who, because of his double face, could see both backward and forward.

So, in the beginning of Rome's history, we find the Forum, telling us about three altars erected by the people to three gods,—to Saturn, to Vulcan, and to Janus,—to Saturn, because he gave the increase of the fields by which the men of their nation grew strong; to Vulcan, because he gave the fire by which the metal for their armour was melted and wrought; and to Janus, because he gave the protection by which their houses were made safe, and also because he was the god of all Beginnings—for were they not a young nation, standing in the very doorway of their history?

And under Romulus and Tatius the market was made better, for not only did the people from the neighbouring hill villages come there to trade, but the nation, grown larger by the conquest of other tribes, now had need of more things—of more food and clothing, and of more tools with which to build. And the woods were cut down, houses were built, and the marshy land was somewhat drained, while across it was made a way on [19] which to Romans and the Sabines passed and repassed on friendly business; and this road, which lay between people once such bitter enemies, became a path of peace, a sacred way, or the Via Sacra, as it was called years afterward when it was "Rome's proudest street," and the chief one of the Forum.

Still greater changes took place under Numa, the next ruler, who reigned alone, as did all the kings who followed him; and the buildings that he made on the Forum tell us that he taught the Romans many things.

Now Numa was a man so good and wise, that the Romans had sent messengers to his quiet country home to invite him to become their king; and when it was known that he was nearing the city, the people went out to meet him, and brought him into Rome with great rejoicings. Then they led him to the Forum, where all the citizens gathered together to prove that every man was content to have him king, and when this vote was taken the people agreed as with one voice, while their cheers rang far down the valley. Upon this, the chief men offered Numa the royal robes, but these he refused to [20] accept until he had first asked the favour of the gods, and to do this, he and the priests went up on the Capitoline Hill, while the crowd waited in great silence below. After he had prayed to Jupiter, some birds flew by on his right hand, in token, so said the wise men, that all was as the gods desired. Then Numa came down to the waiting people in the Forum, and, with shouts of joy, they hailed him as their king.

He ruled over the Romans many years, not only governing justly, but building wisely. First, he enclosed the public fire in a round temple to Vesta, the goddess of the Hearth, who had no statue, but was represented by the living flame that burned, not only on her altar, but in every household, and who was the special guardian of every home. And next to this he built a house, called the Atrium, for the young maidens, her priestesses; thus teaching this warlike nation the gentle duties of the home. Near the Temple of Vesta, he also built the king's house, called the Regia, where he lived as both priest and ruler; thus teaching the Romans that their king should direct the worship of the gods, as well as control the affairs of men. He also changed the altar of [21] Janus, the god of Entrances, into a temple having doors, which were to be opened in time of war, and closed in time of peace; thus teaching that the people set about with enemies must watch out from their entrances, but that those who are at peace need no sentinel, and may leave their gates unguarded. During all the days of Numa's reign, the doors of the Temple of Janus were shut, for he turned the fierce Romans from battle and conquest to the ways of peace, showing them how best to worship and to please the gods, and how to govern and to make themselves good laws.

The makers of these wonderful laws were given a house by Tullus Hostilius, the next king, during whose reign no other building was added to the Forum. It was built on the Comitium, still the meeting-place of the ruler and his counselors, and was called the Curia, or Senate-house, or more often, the Curia Hostilia, after its royal founder. When Tullus first became king, the senators used to meet in a small hut of clay; for they no longer came together in the open air under the green trees, as in the days of Romulus. But this did not please the king, for not only was [22] it small, but its floor was often wet by the overflowing waters of the little brook Spinon; so he caused it to be torn down, and he made there a house of stone, entered by steps, and raised from the ground so as to be safe from floods. And there, in the Curia, on the Comitium, the great Roman Senate met for many hundred years.

After the building in which the laws were made, came the building in which those who disobeyed those laws were punished, and in the side of the hill, just above and behind the Comitium, Ancus Martius, the fourth king of Rome, made a dreadful prison. Now Ancus was the grandson of the good Numa, and, loving peace and order, even as did that wise king, he tried to make clear to all the people the meaning of the laws. First, he had the rules, given by Numa for the worship of the gods, written on tablets of wood and hung in the Forum, that every man might learn them; and then, because there are bad men as well as good, he made the prison, that the Romans should respect their government and fear its power. But wrong-doers were not many in the simple days of the [23] kings, and this prison was not at all like our great prisons, with their barred windows and iron doors; it was only a single cell, underneath the ground, and hewn from the solid rock. After a while, a second cell was made, over the first, but still in the rock; and the prison became knows as the Tullianum, because of the little jet of water, or "tullus," which sprang from the ground of the lower cell. Small as was this prison, it was held in dread by all men, for its two cells told only tales of cruelty and horror. When the prisoner had been tried on the Comitium, he was brought up to the prison by a flight of steps, heading from the Forum to the Tullianum, and was fortunate indeed if kept in the upper cell, for the lower dungeon was but a pit, cold and damp from the waters of the spring, and almost without air or light, its only opening being a round hole in the floor of the cell above. Through this hole the miserable victim was dropped into the black depth beneath, and there was strangled, put to death by torture, or cruelly left to starve. No marvel then that the word "Tullianum" filled the hearts of the people with fear! As years went on, the Romans made other prisons, [24] but none were so dreaded, or so filled with terrible memories, as was this one of the Forum.

And now took place the greatest of all the changes made in the valley of the seven hills, for Tarquin, who reigned after Ancus Martius, drained the marshy land, and made it dry and firm, so that it was fit to bear large buildings, and the weight of many men. This king was called Tarquin the Elder because, later, another Tarquin ruled over Rome.

Great were the dreams of this first Tarquin for the glory of the Romans and for their city. He made long drains through the valley, built stone embankments along the sides of the river Tiber, that it should no more overflow the plain, and enclosed the little brook Spinon in a huge sewer called the Cloaca Maxima, or "the greatest of the sewers," which was made to pass under the Forum, at about its centre, and to empty into the Tiber.

These drains were not like our drains, which are large pipes made of clay or iron, but were formed of blocks of stone, so closely and so wonderfully fitted together that no cement was needed to hold them, or to prevent the water from leaking through. The work was done so [25] well that, although many hundred years have passed, these great sewers are still used by the city of Rome, and the vast Cloaca Maxima is pointed out to-day with the same pride that was felt by the ancient writer who boastingly said that it was so large that a Roman hay-cart could be driven through it, and so strong that a falling house could not shake it!

Then Tarquin went yet further in his great work, for having prepared the ground, he planned to improve and adorn the Forum. Perhaps, as he looked upon the grassy plain at the upper end of the valley, he saw, not the market, nor the Senate-house, nor the rude temples, but beheld, instead, as in a vision, vast buildings and beautiful monuments, standing in the centre of a most splendid city—the Rome that was to be. So the King planned for the years to come, and ordered that the length of this large, open space be bordered by shops and houses, all having porticos facing the Forum, that the place should be regular both in look and form. And the King's will was done, for the men to whom he sold the plots of land about the Forum build as he had said.

[26] The Forum, then, was laid out is a regular form by Tarquin the Elder, for which reason he is often spoken of as its founder; and its length and breadth were never changed from the days when, under his command, the people began to make their city great and strong.

Many other plans also had this mighty king, but his life was not long enough for the carrying out of them all, and his vast works were left to be finished by the last two kings of Rome. Little was done by Servius Tullius, the first of these, but Tarquin the Proud, a hard and unjust man, forced the Romans to give both their money and their strength to complete that which his grandfather had begun. In the Forum, he commanded the people to build a temple to Saturn on the place where the old altar stood, and he sent them under the ground to labour on the great drains, and made them toil, like slaves, without reward. At last, however, a day came when the oppressed people rose and said, "There shall be no more kings!" and Tarquin the Proud was driven from his throne, and the reign of the kings was ended.

The Forum, at this time, was the centre of a [27] nation growing strong and famous, and it told a story of energy and progress—told by the great drains, of the energy of a people who, from such swampy ground, could make so firm a foundation for their city; told by the temples, of their progress in religion; by the market-place, of their progress in trade; and by the Regia, the Curia, and the Tullianum, of their progress in government—and it stood forth as a sign to the peoples of the earth that a great nation had been formed among them.

In the time of the Republic, the first building placed in the Forum told the tale of a great victory. This was a temple to Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of the god Jupiter, and was made in gratitude for their aid in an hour of sore distress. For Tarquin the Proud, striving to regain his lost kingdom, had been joined by men from other cities, and had come against the Romans at Lake Regillus, not far from Rome, and during this fierce battle Castor and Pollux, in glistening armour, and on pure white steeds, had fought with the Romans, and then, having won for them the victory of the day, had brought to the Forum the good news of their success. So the people hon- [28] oured honoured the great Twin Brothers, the guardians of all brave warriors, and made a temple on the spot where they had stood.

However, all the battles of the Romans, in the time of the Republic, were not waged with enemies beyond their gates, nor yet with those of foreign lands, for many of them were fought among the people of Rome itself, and within the city's very walls. The chief field of battle was the Forum, and in it took place fight after fight in that bitterest of wars—the struggle between the rich and the poor.

Now the rich men of Rome were those of the old families, and were called Patricians because the patres, or fathers, had helped to govern the nation since the days when the chiefs had aided Romulus; while the poor men of Rome were those of the new families, and were called Plebeians because they were the "people," and had come in from conquered tribes or from other cities. So the Patricians were the governors, the law-makers, and the money-lenders; but the Plebeians were the workmen, the farmers, and the common soldiers.

In the long strife between these Patricians of [29] the Comitium, and these Plebeians of the open Forum, the rich fought for power, the poor struggled for justice. Often, after fighting for his country, the poor Plebeian came back only to find his lands seized and his home in ruins. This forced him to borrow from the rich Patrician, allowed by unjust laws to put him in prison when he could not pay, to sell his whole family as slaves, to torture, and even to kill him. These wrongs went on year after year until, moved by the sight of one man's cruel sufferings, the people rose against their hard oppressors.

For one day there came into the Forum an old and wretched man, on whose hands and feet were clanking chains, and round whose thin, starved body were only a few miserable rags. His long, white beard hung unkempt about this haggard face, and his eyes were full of suffering and despair. Changed and dreadful as were his looks, there were some in the crowd who thought they knew him, and who, turning to their neighbours, said:—

"Was not this man a brave soldier? Did he not serve Rome with honour? How has he come in such a pass?"

[30] Whereupon the old man, standing before them in all his wretchedness, cried out that he was, in truth, the one of whom they spoke, and that he appealed to them as Romans for help in his sorry plight. He showed them on his breast the scars of nearly twoscore battles, and then, pointing to his back, on which were stripes fresh from cruel blows, he asked, "Are these the just reward for faithful services to Rome?" he told them, moreover, how when the wars were ended, he had found his house in ashes, his cattle stolen, and his lands unjustly taxed; and how he had been thus forced to borrow from a rich Patrician, by whom, when he could not pay, and was too ill to work, he had been thrown into the prison from which he had but just escaped.

This sad tale moved the people with great anger against the Patricians, and in the midst of the uproar that followed, horsemen, riding at full speed into the Forum, announced that the Volscians, enemies of Rome, were fast nearing the city's gates. At the call to arms, however, the Plebeians refused to fight, saying, with scorn, "Let the powerful Patricians save Rome!" Thus threatened from both without and within, the dis- [31] mayed Patricians knew not how to act. But, at last, one of the magistrates came forth from the Curia, and, at the wish of the senators therin assembled, spoke to the excited people, promising safety for the families and the lands of all soldiers defending Rome. Then the Plebeians—even the ill-treated debtors—enrolled their names, and in the battle that followed none were more brave then they.

However, the word of the magistrate was not always kept, nor was the soldier always sure of the safety of those he loved; for some years after this promise had been given a grievous wrong was done a fair maiden, named Virginia, while her father, Virginius, was away from home at the head of his troops. She was falsely claimed as a slave by Appius Claudius, a powerful, but base magistrate, who was pleased with her great beauty and who caused her to be seized one morning as she entered the Forum on her way to school.

When, however, the people knew the wrong planned by the hated Appius, they made so loud an outcry that the maiden was allowed her freedom fro one day more, in order that her father might appear to answer for her. And so, faithful [32] friends of Virginius rode at full speed to the place where the army was encamped, and told him of the danger threatening his fair daughter.

With anxious heart Virginius returned in haste to Rome, only to find Appius all-powerful, and the very laws changed to suit his wicked ends. Then, at the next daybreak, Virginius and his daughter, clad in the garments of mourning, were followed into the Forum by the young girl's nurse and Icilius, to whom she was betrothed, and a train of weeping friends; and there, before the assembled people, Virginius pleaded his cause at the judgment-seat of Appius. But when he found that cruel magistrate unmoved by pity and deaf to justice, he himself decided his child's fate. Leading her to one of the shops, he seized a knife from a butcher's stall, and, plunging it into her heart, cried out, "So only, dear child, can I keep thee free!" Then, holding the knife before him, he passed from the Forum, the throng making way for him in awful silence. And again there was an uprising of the men of Rome against their oppressors, and the people conquered, and gained some power in the making of the laws. From this time the Plebeians were less miser- [33] able, and as the years went on, some among them became honoured citizens, and even men of wealth.

Then the struggle between Patrician and Plebeian was for power in the government, and to reach his end, each used whatever means he could—means not always honest nor yet successful. Once more the Forum was the scene of contest and this time victory was with the Patricians. It happened in a certain year when there was a great famine in the city, and much suffering among the poor. Spurius Mælius, a rich Plebeian anxious for public honours, seized this moment of need to win the favour of the people by selling them corn at a low price, or by giving it freely to those who could not pay. Through this use of his wealth, he not only hoped to become a magistrate of the Republic, but he also dreamed of greater glory—even the high honours of a king.

So, at least, the Patricians looked upon this matter, and, fearing for the welfare of the State they appointed a dictator—a man whose office gave him an unquestioned right to command, but who only held his position during times of unusual danger to the nation. This honour was [34] now offered to Cincinnatus, a wise and courageous man who had served Rome nobly, and who, although over eighty years of age, was trusted in this troublous hour beyond all other men.

He ordered that he people assemble in the Forum, and that Mælius appear before him for trial. Then, having placed Patrician guards throughout the place, he came with a strong escort to his judgment-seat, and sent a young officer, named Ahala, to seek out the ambitious Plebeian. Mælius had come into the Forum with many of his friends, but now, seeing the fate that awaited him, he shrank back into the throng, and refused to obey the command of the Dictator. Whereupon Ahala, deeming him a traitor to the Republic, rushed through the crowd, and killed him on the spot. So, in this struggle for power, a man's life counted as nothing, and charity but as a covering for ambition.

Then came days when disaster overtook the nation, and when Rome itself was laid in ashes. The Romans had full warning of the coming danger, but filled with the pride of conquest, and sure of the strength of their city, they refused to [35] listen to the message of the gods, because it only came to them through a poor man of the people. As this honest Plebeian was walking in the Forum one night, and was passing through the street close to the Temple of Vesta, there happened a wonderful thing. The hour was still, and as he neared the sacred place, he heard a loud, clear voice, saying to him in tones more than human:—

"Marcus Cædicius! The Gauls are coming! Rome's walls must be strengthened!"

Now Cædicius was a good man, who honoured the gods and loved his country, and so, although the Gauls were a far-off people, not likely to venture against the power of Rome, he at once sought out the Plebeian leaders of the army, and repeated to them the unearthly command. But the proud officers turned him away with scornful laughter, and would not listen to what he said.

However, the time soon came when they bitterly repented their stubbornness and pride, for before long the fierce men of the North were within Rome's very gates. Then the proud Romans, who for three hundred and sixty years had been victorious over all their foes, were griev- [36] ously defeated, and forced to make terms with their savage enemy. The price of peace demanded by Brennus, the leader of the Gauls, was a thousand pounds' weight of rich gold. This the Romans brought into the Forum, that it might be weighed before their conquerors, but finding the Gauls using false weights, they angrily asked the reason of so great injustice. By way of answer, Brennus threw his heavy sword also into the scales, and said:—

"It meaneth woe to the vanquished!"

But the ancient writers tell us that this bargain was never carried out, for hardly had these insulting words been spoken, then Camillus, at the head of his army, arrived in the Forum, this great general was absent from Rome during the city's disaster, but now, in this hour of peril, he was sent for by the Senate, and was made dictator. At once rallying the Romans, and saying, "Rome pays in steel, not gold!" he threw the weights—even the scales—at the amazed barbarians, and rove them in confusion from the city.

So the nation was saved a great disgrace, but although the Romans kept their gold, they paid [37] dearly for this peace. For the Gauls had left Rome destroyed and desolate; they had torn down that which could not be burned, and had injured that which could not be torn down. Looking upon the woful wreck of their homes and of their city, the people cried out that they could not stay amid such ruin, but would begin their lives anew elsewhere. Then Camillus called them to the Forum, and, as the mourning multitude stood before him, there, among the ruins of what had once been the city's pride, he spoke to them of the noble deeds of their ancestors, and, pointing to the temples, asked, "Is this the time for you to leave the city of your fathers? Is this the hour for a Roman to desert his gods?" so he put new courage into the hearts of the people, and they set about the rebuilding of their Forum and of their city; and for his wisdom in this sad hour, Camillus is known as the second founder of Rome. Among their first works, the repentant Romans, in atonement for their neglect of the warning given them by the gods, made an altar, near the Temple of Vesta, to Aius Locutius, the Speaking Voice.

And now a disaster happened to the Forum [38] itself, for the ground fell in, forming a great abyss, in that part where, before the Tarquins drained the valley, was the pool called the Lacus Curtius. This deep hole the Romans labored to refill with earth, but although each man did his utmost, their efforts were in vain. Then the priests consulted the will of the gods, but both they and the people failed to understand the message, which declared that the chasm could not close nor the State prosper, until a sacrifice had been made of that on which Rome's greatness was founded. Then, from among the young men, came forth one named Marcus Curtius, who asked:—

"Tell me, O men of Rome, has the nation aught of greater value than a brave man, armed in her defence?"

No voice denying him, he stood for a while looking toward the shrines of the gods in the Forum, and toward the temple of great Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill; then, stretching out his hands toward heaven, he offered himself as the sacrifice. Then he clad himself in full armour, caused his horse in finest trappings to be brought, and, while the people stood around in silence, [39] gave a last look toward the heavens, and straightway leaped into the abyss. The men and women threw in over him fruits of the earth and other offerings, and immediately the ground closed and become firm as before. And the place was named, some say, for this brave youth, and not for the Sabine general of the days of Romulus; but of the truth concerning this who can tell?

Now, not long after, three monuments were made in the Forum, the one closely following the other. Two of these told of further progress in Rome's own government, and one of them of Rome's honoured place among the governments of the world. For near the Comitium was a covered porch, called the Senaculum, where the senators might assemble before entering the Curia, and where, also, they met to consult with such magistrates of the people as were not allowed within the Senate-house itself. Then, at the edge of the Comitium, on the Forum side, there was raised a platform, called the Rostra, from which the laws and the actions of the Senate were explained to the populace—the people now having a voice in the government, and their good-will meaning much to those in power. From [40] here, too, speeches were made by orators who sometimes arrived at the place before daybreak, that their words might be the first to influence the throng; for the quick-tempered Romans were easily moved, and, as the wind the needs, so the orators swayed the multitudes, often exciting them to riots and even to bloodshed. The third of these monuments was on the Comitium itself, just in front of the Curia. It was an enclosed terrace, called the Græcestasis, and in it ambassadors from foreign countries listened to speeches from the Rostra, or awaited the pleasure of the Senate to receive them.

As this story of the Forum goes, on, it tells, not only of Rome's growth and progress, but also of its joys and sorrows; for to the Forum, the place of the people, the Romans always came whenever the city was stirred by good or ill. At one time, the sad news was brought that the entire army had been taken by the Samnites, the nation's foes for many ears, and that Rome had been forced into a disgraceful treaty. Upon learning this, the people, stripping off their ornaments, and putting on their plainest robes, came to the Forum, where, without any order from the [41] Senate, they closed the shops, and stopped all business, in token of their grief and shame. Then there followed a time of general mourning for the loss of Roman valour, and for the dishonor of the nation.

At another time, when the Romans had conquered these same Samnites, and had brought back much booty, among which were many splendid shields adorned with god, the people were beside themselves with joy and pride. And they came in gayest dress to the Forum to celebrate the triumph by a feast. Over the shops of the silversmiths they hung the shields of the Samnites, thus adding to the decoration of the Forum, and showing that Rome's honour was avenged. So great, indeed, was the rejoicing over this victory, that these magnificent shields were set apart as sacred to the gods, and were always shown in the Forum whenever grand processions, or the great games took place.

At such times the Forum was, of course, thronged with crowds eager to see the splendor and the glitter of the celebrations; but even when there was no special excitement, the Forum was filled, all day and every day, with a busy [42] multitude of many kinds of people. For besides those who came on regular business, there were those who came to the Forum on all sorts of other matters#8212;to seek advice from cheap lawyers, to buy slaves at public auction, to engage cooks, flute-players, and dancing-girls for some grand feast, or only to idle away the sunny hours in lazy gossip with a friend. In the middle of the Forum, around a gutter for the rain-water, were usually found miserable loaders and drunkards; so the men of honourable character chose rather to walk at the lower end of the Forum, although, in those days of the Republic, men of humble station might speak freely with the noblest of the throng. Children played about on the steps of some of the buildings; fine ladies came to the shops to buy perfumes, jewellery, and silken stuffs; and beggars and pickpockets moved in and out among the ever changing crowd.

Now this mass of people in the Forum greatly annoyed some of the haughty Patricians, who disliked to come too close to men of humble birth, whom they looked upon with much contempt; and among those who complained most loudly of the crowded Forum, was Claudia, a lady [43] of high rank, whose brother had once been consul. Under his unwise command, however, the Roman fleet had lost many hundred lives, and another such disaster would have greatly lessened the number of Rome's citizens. One day, as the proud Claudia was borne in her litter through the busy Forum, and her slaves were with difficulty making their way, she looked out, full of scorn, upon the press of people.

"I would my brother were alive, and that he were again admiral!" said she.

However, as the years went on, the number of citizens not only became greater, but so much space was taken up by statues and columns, placed there to men whom the city desired to honour that the living crowd of to-day would hardly move in and out among the marble multitude of yesterday.

So Cato, one of the chief magistrates, wishing to please the Romans, and to make more room in the Forum, built a basilica, which he placed near the Curia, and called the Basilica Porcia, after his family name Porcius. Now this sort of a building was new in Rome, and greatly delighted the people; and its porticos, giving shelter from the [44] sun and from sudden showers, soon became the favourite place of meeting and amusement. After the success of the Porcia, several other basilicas were also built in the Forum. The first of these was the Basilica Fulvia, made near the silversmiths' shops, and close by the Temple of Janus; then followed the Basilica Sempronia, placed near those shops which were on the north side of the Forum; and, some time later, the Basilica Opimia was built, near the Temple of Concord. Each of these basilicas was erected by some one of the chief magistrates, and was called after the family of its builder. The name of the Fulvia, however, was twice changed, for members of two great families made it, in turn, larger and more beautiful, and it became known first as the Æmilia, and then as the Paulli.

In the court rooms of these basilicas was carried on much of the law business that before this had all been done out of doors at tribunals, or judgment-seats, placed in different parts of the Forum; but these tribunals were not all taken away at once, many years even passing before they entirely ceased to be used. Being of wood, they were often torn to pieces during riots, and used as a [45] means of attack and defence; they were also easily moved, when space was needed for a large assembly, for the shows of the gladiators, or for any great feast. And, in truth, much room was often necessary, for when the gladiators fought, so vast were the crowds that they even overflowed into the streets which overlooked the Forum; sometimes, too, hundreds of people sat down to tables spread there for the entire populace. Some of the most magnificent feasts of the Forum were given at the funerals of great men; but of them all, none were more splendid than was the one in honour of Publius Licinius Crassus, at one time Pontiff, or High Priest. His funeral ceremonies lasted three days, for one hundred and twenty-five pairs of gladiators fought around the funeral pyre and not only was a gift of meat made to the people, but all Rome was bidden to the feast.

While the multitude were feasting, a great storm arose. The wind struck the Forum in such violent gusts that the tables were over-turned, and the rain fell in such torrents that the people were drenched, and forced to make themselves tents of whatever they could find—cloths, cloaks, and coverings of any kind. And [46] so was fulfilled a saying of the soothsayers that, of a surety, a day would come when tents would be pitched in the Roman Forum.

Now as Cato pleased the Romans by the building of a basilica, so other men sought to win public favour in other ways. And a certain man, named Mancinus, greatly desiring to become consul, thought of a way in which to bring himself to the notice of the people, and, at the same time, to gain their good-will. He caused large paintings to be made of the siege and destruction of Carthage, the chief city of the Carthaginians, a distant nation long at war with Rome; and these pictures he hung over some of the shops in the Forum, and he himself showed them to the curious populace,—for it happened that he had been the first Roman to enter Carthage. So, using his fame to aid his ambition, he told the people of his own adventures, explained to them the position of the army, and answered, with untiring patience, the many questions asked by men of both high and low degree. Thus his good-nature won for him the liking of the people, who elected him consul, even as he had planned.

At the lower end of the Forum, near the [47] Regia and across the Sacra Via, was now made an arch. It served as an entrance to that part of the Forum, and was called the Arch of Fabius, because it stood as a sign of triumph, marking the victory of the consul Fabius over the Gauls, and telling that Rome's ancient enemy was meeting with Rome's revenge.

And at the upper end of the Forum, on the slope of the Capitoline Hill, a large building was soon afterward erected, called the Tabularium. It was a place for the safe-keeping of the Records of the State, and it held, engraved on tablets of bronze, deeds of importance, treaties of peace, and decrees of the Senate; and it told of the order and system of the government and of the dignity and power of Rome. And now was added to the Forum a building whose story was different from that of any other. Until now, the buildings and monuments there have told how the Romans reverenced their gods, and how they won victories at home and abroad; bow they honoured their brave men, and how they punished their evil-doers; how they improved their Forum, and how as a people they gained in power. But this building told of a great change [48] in the entire government of their nation, for it formed a link between the two chief periods of Rome's history. It was a basilica, placed between the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the Temple of Saturn, and it was begun in the last days of the Republic, by Julius Cæsar, the greatest of the Romans; but it was finished in the first days of the Empire, by Augustus, the greatest of the Emperors. It was known, however, as the Basilica Julia, because of the wonderful man who commenced it; for although Augustus was the Emperor, Julius Cæsar was the greater of the two. For it was Cæsar, conqueror and statesman, who was so great in mind, and so strong of will, that he won his way, step by step, to the highest position that could be given by the nation; and it was Augustus, Rebuilder and Beautifier of Rome, who received, but only as a legacy, the place and honour of supreme ruler. During the last years of the Republic, the long struggle between the Patricians and the Plebeians became a contest for power among two or three ambitious men. And Rome, weary of the rule of tyrants—for such were the consuls at that time—would have gladly placed the entire govern- [49] ment in the hands of one just and strong man Julius Cæsar, already dictator for life, would have been made king had not the jealousy of evil men ended his life, for he died covered with wounds given him by assassins and associates. And so this vast basilica, the largest building in the Forum told a story in two parts—the first, about the end of the Republic and the loss of Roman liberty and the second, about the beginning of the Empire and the increase of Roman splendor.

In the time of the Empire, the first monument placed in the Forum was a type of all the magnificence that was to follow; it was a column of gilded bronze, set on a base of beautifully carved marble, and was called the Milliarium Aureum or the Golden Milestone. It was put up near the Temple of Saturn by the Emperor Augustus, and on it by his order were marked the names and the distances of the chief towns on the highroad that led from the thirty-seven gates of Rome. So this Golden Milestone told a long story about the great changes that had been made by the Romans, not only in the valley of the seven hills but throughout the whole land of Italy. For it showed that in those places where, in the early [50] times, and in the times of the kings, small tribes had lived in simple huts, there were now thriving cities, full of busy people and of fine buildings. And it told also of the wisdom of the Romans—the most famous of all road-builders—who, by these wonderful highways, bound each town to Rome itself, and thus made the centre of the nation mighty, even as a great tree upholding many wide-spreading branches.

Over this realm Augustus reigned supreme; yet, in the midst of all his power, he did not forget the great man who had made the Empire possible, for among his first works, he built a temple in the Forum to the memory of Julius Cæsar. This temple stood near the Regia, on the spot where Cæsar's funeral pyre had been made, and it told of the affection of the Roman people, as well as of the gratitude of the Emperor, for, although erected and dedicated by Ausustus, its building had been first planned by the magistrates of the Republic. In the same year in which the Emperor paid this homage to the memory of the great dictator, he himself received high honours from the Senate, who offered him a triumphal arch in the Forum. [51] This Arch of Augustus spanned the Sacra Via, near the Temple of Cæsar, and it reminded men of those great victories in Dalmatia, in Egypt, and at Actium that had made him master of the Roman nation.

However, Augustus was not only a brave warrior, he was also a great builder; and during his reign, still remembered as a "Golden Age," the Forum shared with the city in the many improvements and adornments that he made. Thus Romulus began Rome, Tarquin the Elder laid its foundations, Camillus raised it from its ashes, and Augustus beautified it. For from plain and simple brick structures, the buildings were now remade into marble, ornamented with all that art could bestow, and were wrought in all the beauty that man's mind could conceive. The Emperor also finished many of the works that Cæsar had begun; and because of the ever increasing number of the citizens, as well as to add to his own glory, he built a new forum, even as Cæsar had done before him. So the Forum of this story was no longer the only one in Rome; but it was always the one most dear to the people, it was always the centre of their life, and men spoke of [52] it as the  Forum, even as they do to-day, for there is no place in all the world so full of the memories of great men and great deeds; of the echoes of great tragedies and great triumphs.

One day when the Emperor came into the Forum, at the time of an assembly of the people, he beheld many of the citizens of his fair white city clad in somber cloaks of grey. "Are these," he cried in indignation, "the lords and conquerors of the world?" and he commanded that henceforth no Roman should appear in the Forum without his toga, a long and graceful robe of white. For the citizens of Rome were alone permitted to wear this garment, forfeited by banished Romans and forbidden to strangers. Augustus, therefore, by this command, sought to make his subjects ever mindful of their proud birthright as Romans, and to have each remember that the greatest of good fortunes was that of having been born and bred in that mightiest of cities—Rome. When a young man became of age, the boy's toga, which was bordered with a stripe of purple, was changed with much ceremony for the pure white robe of manhood; and, after he had sacrificed to the gods of his home, [53] the youth was taken by his father and his friends to the Forum, where he was enrolled as a citizen. And when a man died, the toga still covered his body, brought by grieving friends to the Forum, where his funeral oration was spoken. So all his life, from his boyhood to his death, the toga marked the true Roman from other men.

This Emperor gave much thought to the pleasure of his people, for he not only entertained them by feasts and games, but he showed them in the Forum all sorts of curious things from strange countries, and many works of art, such as paintings, bronzes, and marble statues. Great too, was his care over them, for he sent extra guards to protect their homes from thieves while they themselves were at the games and festivals. He also caused a huge awning, such as had first been used by Julius Cæsar, to be spread over the entire Forum, this awning, which same say was of silk, was allowed to remain all summer, the season being very hot; and the sockets for the poles that supported it can be seen to-day in the pavement of the Forum. In return for all his kindness, Augustus gained the love of his people who called him the "Father of his country."

[54] Now the place in the Forum where the Lacus Curtius had been was held sacred, and was marked by an altar; close beside this was a well, and bout it were growing a vine, an olive and a fig tree, giving welcome shade to the passer-by. The spot was believed to be a place of good fortune, and here, once a year, the people came, rich and poor, knights and labourers, to throw a piece of money into the well and to pray for the health of the Emperor. So all the Romans wished their ruler happiness, for he was a man with many friends, and among those whom he knew best were the three great poets, Virgil, Horace and Ovid, from whose beautiful verses so much has been learned about the Forum and the people of their day.

Sad and terrible was the story of the Forum during the reign of Tiberius, a cruel and wicked man, who was made Emperor after the death of Augustus. The story showed the beginning of the downfall of mighty Rome, and was told by two different structures. Of these, the first was another triumphal arch; this was called the Arch of Tiberius, and was raised over the Sacra Via, near the Temple of Saturn.

[55] Tiberius received this honour because his kinsman, Germanicus, had been victorious over some of the Germans, and had regained the standards lost by Rome in a former dishonourable defeat. But, although called an arch of triumph, it was in reality an arch of disgrace, for it showed that Roman valour was now held so lightly that even the highest man of the nation was willing to profit by another's bravery, to conquer by another's hand, and to be praised for another's deeds. This Arch of Tiberius stood for selfishness and untruthfulness, and was indeed, a sign of the times, for with the Empire's wealth and magnificence had come the loss of Roman nobleness and bravery. There were many nobles, but little true nobility; many bravely dressed, but few brave at heart. The people no longer assembled to make the laws, but came together, for the most part, only to feast and to be amused. Over them the Emperor ruled with a power that none dared gainsay, but that many ambitious men plotted to destroy, while others schemed, in turn to ruin these. So Rome might well have been likened to a fine garden, full of rare growths and costly marbles, but whose paths so turned and [56] twisted that all who walked therein were lost in the mazes of a labyrinth, whence there was no escape.

Not far from the Arch of Tiberius was the structure that told the rest of this part of the Forum's story. It was the stairway that led from the Forum to the Tullianum, that dreadful prison begun by Ancus Martius, in the times of the Kings. These stairs were called the Scalæ Gemoniæ, or the "Stairs of Sighs," for they told of horrible cruelty and suffering, of gross abuse and injustice. The bodies of those who had been strangled or tortured in the dungeons of the prison, were thrown out on these steps, where they were sometimes left for days. At other times, the corpses were rolled down these awful stairs, and, after having been dragged by great hooks through the streets, were cast into the Tiber.

Now as envy and the love of power go hand in hand, the Emperor Tiberius feared and hated successful men, and he was jealous, above all others, of his popular nephew, Germanicus. He therefore sent Piso, one of his spies, to Syria, of which distant province Germanicus was then governor. Not [57] long afterward, news was received in Rome that the brave Germanicus was dead. Piso, accused of having given him poison, at a time when they were feasting together, was brought to trial before the Senate, and, although it could not be proved that he had done this dreadful thing, the people were furious against him. While he was being tried, the maddened mob dragged his statues from the Forum, and rolled them down the Scalæ Gemoniæ. To the crash of the marble they added loud shouts of anger, and demanded that Piso's own body be flung out before them and in order that the enraged people might not tear him limb from limb, many guards were sent to protect him as he went back to his home. There, no help coming to him from the Emperor whom he had faithfully served, Piso, giving up all hope, killed himself, and thus avoided a yet more horrible death.

No man was safe in those days of treason and conspiracy, and to be known as the friend of the Emperor was to be in constant danger of one's life. Even Tiberius's minister, Sejanus, fell at last under the Emperor's suspicions, and became a victim of the awful prison.

[58] For three whole days the corpse of Sejanus lay on the Scalæ Germoniæ, where it was insulted by the angry crowds, who vented on the body of this wicked favourite their hatred of his still more wicked master. But the Emperor did not stop here, and soon afterward the children of Sejanus were also put to death in the Tullianum. His youngest son and little daughter were taken by rough men to the prison; the boy was silent and seemed to know that he must die, but the tiny girl did not understand, and was frightened, like a child fearing to have done wrong and dreading punishment. As they dragged her along, she cried out pleadingly to the jailers, asking them what she had done amiss and whither she was being taken. Then telling them that they might use the rod and strike her if they wished, she promised, again and again, to be good, to be very good indeed. But her pitiful cry fell upon deaf ears, and even the tender bodies of these little children were thrown upon the Stairs of Sighs.

Among these terrible tales of the Scalæ Gemoniæs there is one gentle story, a story of loving faithfulness, although shown only by a dog. It happened when the Emperor Tiberius con- [59] demned to death a man names Sabinus, whose only crime was that he had been too good a friend to the popular Germanicus. With Sabinus were also killed his slaves, and to one of these belonged a dig that followed its master to the prison, before which it watched day and night in the vain hope that he would again come forth. But when, at last, the doors were opened, the poor dog was in great distress, for amongst others, the body of its owner was thrown out upon the stairs, and there lay in awful stillness. Then the dog stole bread, and tried to feed its master staying faithfully beside him until men came and dragged the bodies away to the Tiber. Yet even there the loving animal did not desert its friend but following, as the waters closed over him, it struggled with all its strength to keep its master afloat and to bring him to land. Only a dog! but showing more humanity than the men of those cruel days.

Now a great disaster befell the Forum during the reign of Nero, the last of the line of Julius Cæsar and the most cruel man of those cruel days. He caused Rome to be set on fire, in order that narrow, winding streets and small [60] ugly houses might be destroyed; for the city was to be made more beautiful and so his own fame rendered greater. Then, unmindful of the terror and the suffering of his people, this Emperor stood upon a tower, watching Rome in flames, and singing even as he watched. Many of the buildings and monuments of the Forum were sadly injured, for the fierce fire lasted for six days, sweeping away, not only the old and ugly parts of the city, but destroying also much that was new and beautiful. So Rome lay again in ashes. Nero and the emperors that followed rebuilt the Forum and the city, both of which, however, suffered again and again from fires in the years to come, and were as often restored.

Now at this time there were in Rome certain people who did not believe in the ancient gods, but who prayed to a God not made with hands, whose Son had been born in a manger at Bethlehem, and whose word of Truth had been brought by the Apostles Peter and Paul even to this great and wicked city. These people were called Christians and were much hated. So Nero, to screen his own evil deed, accused them of having set Rome on fire, and for this they were made to [61] suffer dreadful tortures, and many of them were most unjustly killed. Some old writers tell us that about this time St. Peter was imprisoned in the Tullianum, where, according to their story there was no jet of water, but only a floor of solid stone. And they say that while in this dungeon, St. Peter turned the hearts of the jailer and his family to the love of Christ, and that at his earnest prayer, a spring gushed from the rock, with which heaven-given water the new believers were baptized. Some deny this story, some think it is true, but however it may be, there were certainly many Christians in Rome during those terrible days of Nero; and notwithstanding ill-treatment and torture, they became ever greater, until the armies of the Roman Empire went forth to conquer under the sign of the Cross.

For many years the Romans still worshipped after the manner of their fathers, and it was not long before another temple was added to the Forum. The Emperor Titus began this building, placing it in front of the Tabularium, and erecting it in memory of his father, the Emperor Vespasian; but it was finished by his youngest brother, the Emperor Domitian. Men usually [62] called it, however, the Temple of Vespasian, for, although it told of three rulers whose reigns brought happier and better days to Rome, Vespasian was the one best remembered. For he was the first to govern after the terrors of the year following Nero's death, when the Romans had three bad emperors; of these two were murdered and one died by his own hand.

From those days until their great Empire came to an end, the Romans were ruled and misruled by many different emperors. Rome's history was like a Wheel of Fortune that is running down, and the arrow of time pointed sometimes to trouble and sometimes to peace, then to power and then to weakness, often to ambition and often to cruelty, again to splendor and at last to ruin.

It was in one of these times of peace that another and last temple was made in the Forum. This was called the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and was built near the Regia by the Emperor Antonisus in memory of his wife. It told of the best ruler and of the best days that Rome ever had, for during the twenty-two years of Antoninus's reign, the vast Empire was at peace both at home and abroad.

[63] Slowly and yet more slowly turned the Wheel of Fortune, and once, while the arrow was pointing to ambition and cruelty, another arch of triumph was raised in the Forum. It was called the Arch of Severus, and was built near the Comitium, and over the Sacra Via, and, while the Arch of Tiberius showed disgrace, this new arch showed crime. It told of triumph, because it was made in honour of victories in distant eastern countries; it told of crime, because it showed that a brother's ambition had been satisfied at the price of a brother's blood. At first, the arch was dedicated to the Emperor Severus, and to Caracalla and Geta, his sons; but Caracalla killed Geta in order that his own power might not be lessened and then the name of Geta was cut from the arch. So by the word that was not  there men read to-day of this terrible deed, and, in trying to make the world forget that he had a brother, Caracalla forced all men to remember his wicked ambition.

The story of the Forum is nearing its close. No one structure, however, continues it, but all the temples unite to show what happened next and then all the buildings join together to tell its mournful end.

[64] The temples tell that a time came when the ancient worship of the Romans was forbidden, when the gods were dishonoured, and when on their altars were seen the emblems of the New Faith. For one of the emperors, names Constantine, had openly became a Christian, and later, Theodosius, another Christian Emperor, commanded that none should bow the knee to nay save to the One True God.

And now from every part of the Forum comes the dreary story of its ruin. So much of Roman strength had been needed to protect the far-off lands, conquered at great cost, that little energy or money was left with which to resist attacks from enemies at home. And the simple and powerful Nation of old was lost in the proud and vainglorious Empire. Thus Rome was conquered at last by the barbarians over whom she once so proudly held the mastery, and again and again they entered the city's gates and laid their destroying hands upon her vaunted glories.

In a half-hearted fashion the Romans restored some of the monuments and buildings of the Forum, and once the rough strangers themselves, feeling the power of the great memories that [65] filled the place, labored to rebuild what they had torn down. But, for the most part, the beautiful structures were left in ruins, and the marbles were taken away for other buildings. The great Forum of Rome became a place of desolation, used by the people as a dumping-ground and, as the years went on, its ruined temples, its triumphal arches, its great basilicas, and its other monuments were buried under the neglect of ages. Over the unsightly spot, kind Nature laid a covering of green, and the Italian people called the place the Campo Vaccino, or the field for cows. And there, in truth, where once Evander's herd had fed, the cattle were again pastured, and only a few columns marked the grave of Rome's past splendor.

Then came a time, not farther away from our own days than a hundred years, when men began to search for these great monuments, and to cast aside the earth and rubbish covering them. Many broken and scattered ruins have been discovered, but some of the things that the old writers have told us about have not yet been found. So carefully, however, have shattered columns been repaired and the stones of build- [66] ings replaced, that one can see to-day a part, at least, of what was there three centuries ago, and, with imagination's aid, can picture much of the Forum's bygone glories.

Nor is mankind yet satisfied, and so the search goes steadily on. The wonderful old monuments are being carefully uncovered, and discovery after discovery is being made of the marvels of the Past.

The story of the Forum itself is finished; but so long as there shall rest one stone upon another, there shall not be silence within its boundaries. For, although its life is past, the Forum still speaks, and its tales, old, yet ever new, shall be told and retold in all the years to come.


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