Pagan and Christian Rome
by Rodolfo Lanciani
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And now, leaving on our right the Villa Heyland, the Villa Aurelia, formerly Savorelli, which is built on the remains of the mediaeval monastery of SS. John and Paul, and the Villa del Vascello, which marks the western end of the gardens of Geta, let us enter the Villa Pamfili-Doria, interesting equally for the beauty of its scenery and its archaeological recollections. We are told by Pietro Sante Bartoli that when he first came to Rome, towards 1660, Olimpia Maidalchini and Camillo Pamfili, who were then laying the foundations of the casino, discovered "several tombs decorated with paintings, stucco-carvings, and nobilissimi mosaics." There were also glass urns, with remains of golden cloths, and the figures of a lion and a tigress, which were bought by the Viceroy of Naples, the marchese di Leve. Some years later, when Monsignor Lorenzo Corsini began the construction of the Casino dei Quattro Venti (since added to the Villa Pamfili and transformed into a sort of monumental archway), thirty-four exquisite tombs were found and destroyed for the sake of their building-materials. One cannot read Bartoli's account[128] and examine the twenty-two plates with which he illustrates his text, without feeling a sense of horror at the deeds which those enlightened personages were capable of perpetrating in cold blood.

He says that the thirty-four tombs formed, as it were, a small village, with streets, sidewalks, and squares; that they were built of red and yellow brick, exquisitely carved, like those of the Via Latina. Each retained its funeral suppellex and decorations almost intact: paintings, bas-reliefs, mosaics, inscriptions, lamps, jewelry, statues, busts, cinerary urns, and sarcophagi. Some were still closed, the doors being made not of wood or bronze, but of marble; and inscriptions were carved on the lintels or pediments, giving an account of each tomb. These records tell us that in Roman times this portion of the Villa Pamfili was called Ager Fonteianus, and that the inclined tract of the Via Aurelia, which runs close by, was called Clivus Rutarius. Bartoli attributes the extraordinary preservation of this cemetery to its having been buried purposely under an embankment of earth, before the fall of the empire. Since the seventeenth century many hundreds of tombs have been found and destroyed in the villa, especially in April, 1859. The only one still visible was discovered in 1838, and is remarkable for its painted inscriptions, and for its frescoes.[129] There were originally one hundred and seventy-five panels, but scarcely half that number are now to be seen. They represent animals, landscapes, caricatures, scenes from daily life, and mythological and dramatic subjects. One only is historical, and, according to Petersen, represents the Judgment of Solomon (see p. 271). This subject, although exceedingly rare, is by no means unique in classical art, having already been found painted on the walls of a Pompeian house.

VIA TRIUMPHALIS. The necropolis which lined the Via Triumphalis, from Nero's bridge near S. Spirito, to the top of the Monte Mario, has absolutely disappeared, although some of its monuments equalled in size and magnificence those of the viae Ostiensis, Appia, and Labicana. Such were the two pyramids, on the site of S. Maria Traspontina, called, in the Middle Ages, the "Meta di Borgo" and the "Terebinth of Nero." Both are shown in the bas-reliefs of Filarete's bronze door in S. Peter's (see p. 272), in the ciborium of Sixtus IV. (now in the Grotte Vaticane), and in other mediaeval and Renaissance representations of the crucifixion of the apostle. The pyramid is described by Ruccellai and Pietro Mallio as standing in the middle of a square which is paved with slabs of travertine, and towering to the height of forty metres above the road. It was coated with marble, like the one of Caius Cestius by the Porta S. Paolo. Pope Donnus I. dismantled it A. D. 675, and made use of its materials to build the steps of S. Peter's. The pyramid itself, built of solid concrete, was levelled to the ground by Pope Alexander VI., when he opened the Borgo Nuovo in 1495.

The "Terebinth of Nero" is described as a round marble structure, as high as Hadrian's tomb. It was also dismantled by Pope Donnus, and its materials were used in the restoration and embellishment of the "Paradisus" or quadriportico of S. Peter's.

Next to the "terebinth" was the tomb of the favorite horse of Lucius Verus. This wonderful racer, belonging to the squadron of the Greens, was named Volucris, the Flyer, and the emperor's admiration for his exploits was such that, after honoring him with statues of gilt-bronze in his lifetime, he raised a mausoleum to his memory in the Vatican grounds, after his career had been brought to a close. The selection of the site was not made at random, as we know that the Greens themselves had their burial-ground on this Via Triumphalis.

* * * * *

Proceeding on our pilgrimage towards the Clivus Cinnae, the ascent to the Monte Mario, we have to record a line of tombs discovered by Sangallo in building the fortifications or "Bastione di Belvedere." One of them is thus described by Pirro Ligorio on p. 139 of the Bodleian MSS. "This tomb [of which he gives the design] was discovered with many others in the foundations of the Bastione di Belvedere, on the side facing the Castle of S. Angelo. It is square in shape, with two recesses for cinerary urns on each side, and three in the front wall. It was gracefully decorated with stucco-work and frescoes. Next to it was an ustrinum where corpses were cremated, and on the other side a second tomb, also decorated with painted stucco-work. Here was found a piece of agate in the shape of a nut, so beautifully carved that it was mistaken for a real nutshell. There was also a skeleton, the skull of which was found between the legs, and in its place there was a mask or plaster cast of the head, reproducing most vividly the features of the dead man. The cast is now preserved in the Pope's wardrobe."[130]

Finally, I shall mention the tomb of a boot and shoe maker, which was discovered February 5, 1887, in the foundations of one of the new houses at the foot of the Belvedere. This excellent work of art, cut in Carrara marble, shows the bust of the owner in a square niche, above which is a round pediment. The portrait is extremely characteristic: the forehead is bald, with a few locks of short curled hair behind the ears; and the face shaven, except that on the left of the mouth there is a mole covered with hair. The man appears to be of mature age, but healthy, robust, and of rather stern expression.

Above the niche, two "forms" or lasts are represented, one of them inside a caliga. They are evidently the signs of the trade carried on by the owner of the tomb, which is announced in his epitaph: "Caius Julius Helius, shoemaker at the Porta Pontinalis, built this tomb during his lifetime for himself, his daughter Julia Flaccilla, his freedman Caius Julius Onesimus and his other servants."

Julius Helius was therefore a shoe-merchant with a retail shop near the modern Piazza di Magnanapoli on the Quirinal. Although the qualification of sutor is rather indefinite and can be applied indifferently to the solearii, sandaliarii, crepidarii, baxearii (makers of slippers, sandals, Greek shoes), etc., as well as to the sutores veteramentarii or menders of old boots, yet Julius Helius, as shown by the specimen represented on his tomb, was a caligarius, or maker of caligae, which were used chiefly by military men. Boot and shoe makers and purveyors of leather and lacings (comparatores mercis sutoriae) seem to have been rather proud men in their day, and liked to be represented on their tombs with the tools of their trade. A bas-relief in the Museo di Brera represents Caius Atilius Justus, one of the fraternity, seated at his bench, in the act of adjusting a caliga to the wooden last. A sarcophagus inscribed with the name of Atilius Artemas, a local shoemaker, was discovered at Ostia in 1877, with a representation of a number of tools. The reader is probably familiar with the fresco from Herculaneum representing two Genii seated at a bench; one of them is forcing a last into a shoe, while his companion is busy mending another. Class XVI. of the Museo Cristiano at the Lateran contains several tombstones of Christian sutores with various emblems of their calling.

The shoemakers formed a powerful corporation from the time of the kings; their club called the Atrium sutorium was the scene of a religious ceremony called Tubilustrium, which took place every year on March 23. They seem to have been also an irritable and violent set. Ulpianus[131] speaks of an action for damages brought before the magistrate by a boy whose parents had placed him in a boot-shop to learn the trade, and who, having misunderstood the directions of his master, was struck by him so heavily on the head with a wooden form that he lost the sight of one eye.

VIA SALARIA. Visitors who remember the Rome of past days will be unpleasantly impressed by the change which the suburban quarters crossed by the viae Salaria, Pinciana and Nomentana have undergone in the last ten years. In driving outside the gates the stranger was formerly surprised by the sudden appearance of a region of villas and gardens. The villas Albani, Patrizi, Alberoni, and Torlonia, not to speak of minor pleasure-grounds, merged as they were into one great forest of venerable trees, with the blue Sabine range in the background, gave him a true impression of the aspect of the Roman Campagna in the imperial times.

The scene is now changed, and not for the better. Still, if any one has no right to grumble, it is the archaeologist, because the building of these suburban quarters has placed more knowledge at his disposal than could have been gathered before in the lapse of a century. I quote only one instance. Famous in the annals of Roman excavations are those made between 1695 and 1741 in the vineyard of the Naro family, between the Salaria and the Pinciana, back of the Casino di Villa Borghese. It took forty-six years to dig out the contents of that small property, which included twenty-six graves of praetorians and one hundred and forty-one of civilians.

In 1887, in cutting open the Corso d' Italia, which connects the Porta Pinciana with the Salaria, eight hundred and fifty-five tombs were discovered in nine months. The cemetery extends from the Villa Borghese to the praetorian camp, from the walls of Servius Tullius to the first milestone. The gardens of Sallust were surrounded by it on two sides; a striking contrast between the silent city of death on the one hand, and the merriest and noisiest meeting-place of the living on the other.

Although the cemetery was mostly occupied by military men, the high-roads which cross it were lined with mausolea belonging to historical families. Such is the tomb of the Licinii Calpurnii, discovered in 1884, in the foundations of the house No. 29, Via di Porta Salaria, the richest and most important of those found in Rome in my lifetime.[132] Its history is connected with one of the worst crimes of Messalina.

There lived in Rome in her time a nobleman, Marcus Licinius Crassus Frugi, ex-praetor, ex-consul (A. D. 27) ex-governor of Mauritania, the husband of Scribonia, by whom he had three sons. There was never a more unlucky family than this. The origin of their misfortunes is curious enough. Licinius Crassus, whom Seneca calls "stupid enough to be made emperor," committed, among other fatuities, that of naming his eldest son Pompeius Magnus, after his great-grandfather on the maternal side: a useless display of pride, as the boy had titles enough of his own to place him at the head of the Roman aristocracy. Caligula, jealous of the high-sounding name, was the first to threaten his life; but spared it at the expense of the name. Claudius restored the title to him, as a wedding-present, on the day of his marriage with Antonia, daughter of the emperor himself by AElia Paetina. His splendid career, his nobility and grace of manners, and his alliance with the imperial family, excited the hatred of Messalina, a foe far more dangerous than Caligula. She extorted from her weak husband the sentence of death against Pompeius and his father and mother. The execution took place in the spring of 47.

The second son, Licinius Crassus, was murdered by Nero in 67.

The third son, Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus, who was only eleven at the time of the executions of 47, spent many years in banishment, while the extermination of his family was slowly progressing. Being left alone in the world, at last Galba took mercy upon him, adopted him as a son, and heir to the Sulpician estates, and lastly, in January, 69, named him successor to the throne. If he had but spared him this honor! Only four days later he was murdered, together with Galba, by the praetorian rebels; and his head, severed from his body, was given to his young widow, Verania Gemina.

History speaks of a fifth unfortunate member of the family, who died a violent death even under the mild and just rule of Hadrian. His name was Calpurnius Licinianus, ex-consul A. D. 87. Having conspired against Nerva, he, and his wife, Agedia Quintina, were banished to Tarentum. A second conspiracy against Trajan brought upon him banishment to a solitary island, and an attempt to escape from it was the cause of his death.

Such was the fate of the seven occupants of this sepulchral chamber. When I first descended into it, in November, 1884, and found myself surrounded by those great historical names of murdered men and women, I felt more than ever the vast difference between reading Roman history in books, and studying it from its monuments, in the presence of its leading actors; and I realized once more what a privilege it is to live in a city where discoveries of such importance occur frequently.

I wish I could tell my readers that my hands did actually touch the bones of those murdered patricians, and the contents of their cinerary urns. They did not, however, because the spell of adversity seems to have pursued the Calpurnii even into their tombs, and there is reason to believe that their last repose was troubled by persecutors, who followed them to their graves. Their cippi were found broken into fragments, their names half erased, and their ashes scattered to the four winds.

The inscriptions, silent on the main point at issue, that of their violent death, are worded with marvellous dignity, coupled with a sad touch of irony. That engraved on the urn of Pompeius Magnus says:—


"[Here lies] Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus, son of Crassus, etc., quaestor of the Emperor Claudius, his father-in-law." When we remember that it was precisely the alliance with the imperial family that caused the death of the youth; that his death sentence was signed by Claudius, who was his father-in-law, we cannot help thinking that the names of the murdered man and his murderer were coupled purposely in this short epitaph.

In a second and much larger chamber ten marble sarcophagi were discovered, precious as works of art, but devoid of historical interest, because no name is engraved upon them. Perhaps the experience of their ancestors warned the Calpurnii of later generations not to tempt obnoxious fate again, but to adhere to obscurity and retirement, even in the secrecy of the family vault. As a work of art, each of the coffins is a choice specimen of Roman funeral sculpture of the second century of our era. Some are simply decorated with festoons, winged genii, scenic masks, or chimeras; others with scenes relating to the Bacchic cycle, such as the infancy of the god, his triumphal return from India, and his desertion of Ariadne in the island of Naxos. The finest sarcophagus, of which we give an illustration, represents the rape of the daughters of Leukippos by Castor and Pollux.

The collection of sarcophagi, inscriptions, urns, portrait-heads, coins, and other objects belonging to the tombs, and the tombs themselves, ought to have become public property, and to have been kept together as a monument of national interest. Until recently the marbles were to be seen on the ground floor of the Palazzo Maraini in the Via Agostino Depretis, but some of them have now been removed to No. 9 Via della Mercede.

Proceeding two hundred yards farther, on the same side of the Via Salaria, we find the base of the tomb of the precocious boy Quintus Sulpicius Maximus, the tomb itself having been discovered in 1871, in the interior of the right tower of the Porta Salaria, while this was being rebuilt after the bombardment of September 20, 1870.[133] The tomb had formed the core of the tower, just as that of Eurysaces, the baker, found in 1833, had been imbedded in the left tower of the Porta Praenestina.

The tomb is composed of a pedestal, built of blocks of travertine, with a marble cippus upon it, ornamented with a statue of the youth, and the story of his life told in Greek and Latin verse. The story is simple and sad.

On September 14, A. D. 95, the anniversary of his accession to the throne, Domitian opened for the third time the certamen quinquennale, a competition for the world's championship in gymnastics, equestrian sports, music, and poetry, which he had instituted at the beginning of his reign.[134] Fifty-two competitors in Greek poetry were present. The subject, drawn by lot, was: "The words which Jupiter made use of in reproving Apollo for having trusted his chariot to Phaeton." Quintus Sulpicius Maximus improvised, on this rather poor theme, forty-three versus extemporales. The meaning of the adjective is doubtful. We are not certain whether the boy spoke his verses extemporaneously, his words being taken down by shorthand; or whether he and his fifty-one colleagues were allowed some time to consider the subject and write the composition, as is now the practice in literary examinations. Ancient writers speak of "improvvisatori" who manifested their wonderful gift at a premature age;[135] still, it seems almost impossible that fifty-two such prodigies could have been brought together at one competition. Sulpicius Maximus was crowned by the emperor with the Capitoline laurels and awarded the championship of the world. The verses by which he won the competition are really very good, and show a thorough knowledge of Greek prosody. The victory, however, cost him dearly; in fact, he paid for it with his life. The following inscription was engraved on his tomb:—

"To Q. Sulpicius Maximus, son of Quintus, born in Rome, and lived eleven years, five months, twelve days. He won the competition, among fifty-two Greek poets, at the third celebration of the Capitoline games. His most unhappy parents, Quintus Sulpicius Eugramus and Licinia Januaria, have caused his extemporized poem to be engraved on this tomb, to prove that in praising his talents they have not been inspired solely by their deep love for him (ne adfectibus suis indulsisse videantur)."

Let the fate of this boy be a warning to those parents who, discovering in their children a precocious inclination for some branch of human learning, encourage and force this fatal cleverness for the gratification of their own pride, instead of moderating it in accordance with the physical power and development of youth.

The world's competition, instituted by Domitian, had a long and successful career, and we can follow its celebration for many centuries, to the age of Petrarca and Tasso. An inscription discovered at Vasto, the ancient Histonium, describes the one which took place A. D. 107 in these words: "To Lucius Valerius Pudens, son of Lucius. Being only thirteen years old, he took part in the sixth certamen sacrum, near the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; and won the championship among the Latin poets by the unanimous vote of the judges." These last words show that special jurors were appointed by the emperor for each section of the competitions. In the year 319 Constantine the Great and Licinius Caesar celebrated with great solemnity the fifty-eighth certamen. Ausonius of Burdigala, the great poet of the fourth century, speaks of an Attius Delfidius, an infant prodigy (paene ab incunabulis poeta), who gained the prize under Valentinian I. The mediaeval and Renaissance custom of "laureating" poets on the Capitol was certainly derived from Domitian's institution.

The race of the "improvvisatori" has never died out in central and southern Italy. One of the most celebrated in the sixteenth century, named Silvio Antoniano, at the age of eleven could sing to the accompaniment of his lute on any argument proposed to him, the poetry being as graceful and pleasing as the music. One day, while sitting at a state banquet in the Palazzo di Venezia, Giovanni Angelo de' Medici, one of the cardinals present, asked him if he could improvise "on the praises of the clock," the sound of which, from the belfry of the palace, had just struck his ears. The melodious song of Silvio, on such an extraordinary theme, was received with loud applause; and when Giovanni Angelo de' Medici was elected Pope in 1559, under the name of Pius IV., he raised the young poet to the rank of a cardinal in recognition of his extraordinary talent.

The mausoleum of Lucilia Polla and her brother Lucilius Paetus was discovered in May, 1885, in the Villa Bertone, opposite the Villa Albani, at a distance of seven hundred metres from the gate. It is the largest sepulchral structure discovered in my time, and worthy of being compared in size to the mausoleum of Metella on the Appian Way, and the so-called Torrione on the Labicana. It was originally composed of two parts: a basement, one hundred and ten feet in diameter, built of travertine and marble, which is the only part that remains; and a cone of earth fifty-two feet high, covered with trees, in imitation of the Mausoleum of Augustus, with which it was contemporary. The cone has disappeared. The inscription, sixteen feet long, is engraved on the side facing the Via Salaria, in letters of the most exquisite form to be found in Rome. It states that Marcus Lucilius Paetus, an officer who had the command of the cavalry and the military engineers in one or more campaigns, in the time of Augustus, had built the tomb for his sister Lucilia Polla, already deceased, and for himself.

The fate of the monument has been truly remarkable. I believe there is no other in the necropolis of the Via Salaria which has undergone so many changes in the course of centuries. The first took place in the reign of Trajan, when the monument was buried under a prodigious mass of earth, together with a large section of an adjoining cemetery. In fact, columbaria dating from the time of Hadrian have been found built against the beautiful inscription of Lucilia Polla; and the inscription itself was disfigured by a coating of red paint, to make it harmonize with the color of the three other walls of the crypt. The whole tract between the Salaria and the Pinciana was raised in the same manner twenty-five feet; and contains, therefore, two layers of tombs,—the lower belonging to the republican or early imperial epoch, the upper to the time of Hadrian and later.

Where did this enormous mass of earth come from?

A clew to the answer is given on page 87 of my "Ancient Rome," where, in describing the construction of Trajan's forum, and the column which stands in the middle of it, "to show to posterity how high rose the mountain levelled by the emperor" (ad declarandum quantae altitudinis mons et locus sit egestus), I stated that I had been able to estimate the amount of earth and rock removed to make room for the forum at 24,000,000 cubic feet, and concluded, "I have made investigations over the Campagna to discover the place where the twenty-four million cubic feet were carted and dumped, but my efforts have not, as yet, been crowned with success." The place is now discovered. None but an emperor would have dared to bury a cemetery so important as that which I am now describing; and if we remember that it was the open space which was nearest of all to Trajan's excavations, easy of access, that the burying of a cemetery for a necessity of state could be justified by the proceedings of Maecenas and Augustus, described on page 67 of the same book, and that the change must have taken place at the beginning of the second century, as proved by the dates, and by the construction and type of tombs belonging respectively to the lower and upper strata, I think that my surmise may be accepted as an established fact.

Thus vanished the mausoleum of the Lucilii from the eyes and from the memory of the Romans of the second century. Towards the end of the fourth century the Christians, while tunnelling the ground near it, for one of their smaller catacombs, discovered the crypt by accident, and occupied it. The shape of this crypt may be compared to that of Hadrian's mausoleum; that is, it was a hall in the form of a Greek cross, in the centre of the circular structure, and was reached by means of a corridor. The Christians scattered the relics of the first occupants, knocked down their busts, built arcosolia in the three recesses of the Greek cross, and honeycombed with loculi the side walls of the corridor. The transformation was so complete that, when we first entered the corridor, in July, 1886, we thought we had found a wing of the catacombs of S. Saturninus. Some of the loculi were closed with tiles, others with pagan inscriptions which the fossores had found by chance in tunnelling their way into the crypt. Two loculi, excavated near the entrance outside the corridor, contained bodies of infants with magic circlets around their necks. They are most extraordinary objects in both material and variety of shape. The pendants are cut in bone, ivory, rock crystal, onyx, jasper, amethyst, amber, touch-stone, metal, glass, and enamel; and they represent elephants, bells, doves, pastoral flutes, hares, knives, rabbits, poniards, rats, Fortuna, jelly-fish, human arms, hammers, symbols of fecundity, helms, marbles, boar's tusks, loaves of bread, and so on.

The vicissitudes of the mausoleum did not end with this change of religion and ownership. Two or three centuries ago, when the fever of discovering and ransacking the catacombs of the Via Salaria was at its height, some one found his way to the crypt, and committed purely wanton destruction. The arcosolia were dismantled, and the loculi violated one by one. We found the bones of the Christians of the fourth century scattered over the floor, and, among them, the marble busts of Lucilius Paetus and Lucilia Polla, which the Christians of the fourth century had knocked from their pedestals. Such is the history of Rome.

VIA APPIA. A delightful afternoon excursion in the vicinity of the city can be made to the Valle della Caffarella from the so-called "Tempio del Dio Redicolo" to the "Sacred Grove" by S. Urbano. Leaving Rome by the Porta S. Sebastiano, and turning to the left directly after passing the chapel of Domine quo vadis, we descend to the valley of the river Almo, now called the Valle della Caffarella, from the ducal family who owned it before the Torlonias. The path is full of charm, running, as it does, along the banks of the historical stream, and between hillsides which are covered with evergreens, and scented with the perfume of wild flowers. The place is secluded and quiet, and the solitary rambler is unconsciously reminded of Horace's stanza (Epod. II.):—

"Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis, Ut prisca gens mortalium, Paterna rura bobus exercet suis, Solutus omni foenore,

* * * * *

Forumque vitat, et superba civium Potentiorum limina."

In no other capital of the present day can the sentiment expressed by Horace be felt and enjoyed more than in Rome, where it is so easy to forget the worries and frivolities of city life by walking a few steps outside the gates. The Val d'Inferno and the Via del Casaletto, outside the Porta Angelica, the Vigne Nuove outside the Porta Pia, and the Valle della Caffarella, to which I am now leading my readers, all are dreamy wildernesses, made purposely to give to our thoughts fresher and healthier inspirations. Sometimes indistinct sounds from the city yonder are borne to our ears by the wind, to increase, by contrast, the happiness of the moment. And it is not only the natural beauty of these secluded spots that fascinates the stranger: there are associations special to each which increase its interest tenfold. At the Vigne Nuove one can locate within a hundred feet the spot in which Nero's suicide took place. The Val d'Inferno brings back to our memory the two Domitiae Lucillae, their clay-quarries and brick-kilns, of which the products were shipped even to Africa; the Valle della Caffarella is full of souvenirs of Herodes Atticus and Annia Regilla, who are brought to mind by their tombs, by the sacred grove, by the so-called Grotto of Egeria, and by the remains of their beautiful villa.

Herodes Atticus, born at Marathon A. D. 104, of noble Athenian parents, became one of the most distinguished men of his time. Philostratos, the biographer of the Sophists, gives a detailed account of his life and fortunes at the beginning of Book II. Inscriptions relating to his career have been found in Rome, on the borders of the Appian Way, the best-known being the Iscrizioni greche triopee ora Borghesiane, edited by Ennio Quirino Visconti in 1794.[136] His father, Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herodes, lost his fortune by confiscation for reasons of state, and was therefore obliged, at the beginning of his career, to depend upon the fortune of his wife, Vibullia Alcia, for his support. Suddenly he became the richest man in Greece, and probably in the world. Many writers have given accounts of his extraordinary discovery of treasure, which was made in the foundations of a small house which he owned at the foot of the Akropolis, near the Dionysiac Theatre. He seems to have been more frightened than pleased at the amount found, knowing how complicated was the jurisprudence on this subject, and how greedy provincial magistrates were. He addressed himself in general terms to the emperor Nerva, asking what he should do with his discovery. The answer was that he could make use of it as he pleased. Even then he was not reassured, and wrote again to the emperor declaring that the fortune was far beyond his condition in life. Nerva's answer confirmed him emphatically in the full possession of this wealth. Herodes did much good with it, as a noble revenge for the persecutions which he had undergone in his younger days; and at his death his son inherited, with the fortune, his generous instincts and kindliness.

Curiosity leads us to inquire where this amount of gold and treasure came from, who it was that concealed it in the rock of the Akropolis, and when, and for what reason. Visconti's surmise that it was hidden there by a wealthy Roman, during the civic wars, and the proscriptions which followed them towards the end of the Republic, is obviously incorrect. No Roman general, magistrate, or merchant of republican times could have collected such a fortune in impoverished Greece. I have a more probable suggestion to make. When Xerxes engaged his fleet against the Greek allies in the straits of Salamis, he was so confident of gaining the day that he established himself comfortably on a lofty throne on the slope of Mount AEgaleos to witness the fight. And when he saw Fortune turn against his forces, and was obliged to retire in hot haste, trusting his own safety to flight, I suppose that the funds of war, which were kept by the treasurer of the army at headquarters, may have been buried in a cleft of the Akropolis, in the hope of a speedy and more successful return. The amount of money carried by Xerxes' treasury officials for purposes of war must have been enormous, when we consider that 2,641,000 men were counted at the review held in the plains of Doriskos.

Whatever may have been the origin of the wealth of Atticus it could not have fallen into better hands. His liberality towards men of letters, and needy friends; his works of general utility executed in Greece, Asia Minor, and Italy; his exhibitions of games and entertainments in the Circus and in the Amphitheatre, did not prevent him from cultivating science to such an extent that, on his arrival in Rome, he was selected as tutor of the two adopted sons of Antoninus Pius,—Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Here he married Annia Regilla, one of the wealthiest ladies of the day, by whom he had six children. She died in childbirth, and Herodes was accused, we do not know on what ground, of having accelerated or caused her death by ill-treatment or violence. Regilla's brother, Appius Annius Bradua, consul A. D. 160, brought an action of uxoricide against Herodes, but failed to prove his case. Still, the calumny remained in the mind of the public. To dispel it, and to regain his position in society, Herodes, although stricken with grief, made himself conspicuous almost to excess in honoring the memory of his departed wife. Her jewels were offered to Ceres and Proserpina; and the land which she had owned between the Via Appia and the valley of the Almo was covered with memorial buildings, and also consecrated to the gods. On the boundary line of the property, columns were raised bearing the inscription in Greek and Latin:—

"To the memory of Annia Regilla, wife of Herodes, the light and soul of the house, to whom these lands once belonged."[137]

The lands are described in other epigraphic documents as containing a village named Triopium, wheat-fields, vineyards, olive-groves, pastures, a temple dedicated to Faustina the younger under the title of the New Ceres, a burialspace for the family, placed under the protection of Minerva and Nemesis, and lastly a grove sacred to the memory of Regilla.

Many of these monuments are still in existence. The first structure we meet with is a tomb of considerable size built in the shape of a temple, the lowest steps of which are watered by the Almo. Its popular name of "Temple of the God Rediculus" is derived from a tradition which points to this spot as the one at which Hannibal turned back before the gates of Rome, and where a shrine to the "God of Retreat" was subsequently raised by the Romans. The Campagna abounds in sepulchral monuments of a similar design, but none can be compared with this in the elegance of its terra-cotta carvings, which give it the appearance and lightness of lace. The polychrome effect produced by the alternate use of dark red and yellow bricks is particularly fine.

Although no inscription has been found within or near this herooen, there are reasons to prove that it was the family tomb of Regilla, Herodes, and their six children. A more beautiful and interesting structure is hardly to be found in the Campagna, and I wonder why so few visit it. Perhaps it is better that it should be so, because its present owner has just rented it for a pig-pen.

Higher up the valley, on a spur of the hill above the springs of Egeria, stands the Temple of Ceres and Faustina, now called S. Urbano alla Caffarella. It belongs to the Barberinis, who take good care of it, as well as of the sacred grove of ilexes which covers the slope to the south of the springs. The vestibule is supported by four marble pillars, but, the intercolumniations having been filled up by Urban VIII. in 1634, the picturesqueness of the effect is destroyed. Here Herodes dedicated to the memory of his wife a statue, minutely described in the second Triopian inscription, alluded to above. Early Christians took possession of the temple and consecrated it to the memory of Pope Urbanus, the martyr, whose remains were buried close by, in the crypta magna of the Catacombs of Praetextatus. Pope Paschal I. caused the Confession of the church to be decorated with frescoes representing the saint from whom it was named, with the Virgin Mary, and S. John. In the year 1011 the panels between the pilasters of the cella were covered with paintings illustrating the lives and martyrdoms of Caecilia, Tiburtius, Valerianus and Urbanus, and, although injured by restorations, these paintings form the most important contribution to the history of Italian art in the eleventh century. We have therefore under one roof, and within the four walls of this temple, the names of Ceres, Faustina, Herodes and Annia Regilla, coupled with those of S. Caecilia and S. Valerianus, of Paschal I., and Pope Barberini; decorations in stucco and brick of the time of Marcus Aurelius; paintings of the ninth and eleventh centuries; and all this variety of wealth intrusted to the care of a good old hermit, whose dreams are surely not troubled by the conflicting souvenirs of so many events.

I need not remind the reader that the name of Egeria, given to the nymphaeum below the temple, is of Renaissance origin. The grotto in which, according to the legend, and to Juvenal's description, Numa held his secret meetings with the nymph Egeria, was situated within the line of the walls of Aurelian, and in the lower grounds of the Villa Fonseca, that is to say, at the foot of the Caelian Hill, near the Via della Ferratella. I saw it first in 1868, and again in 1880 when collecting materials for my volume on the "Aqueducts and Springs of Ancient Rome."[138] In 1887 it was buried by the military engineers, while they were building their new hospital near Santo Stefano Rotondo. The springs still make their way through the newly-made ground, and appear again in the beautiful nymphaeum of the Villa Mattei (von Hoffmann) at the corner of the Via delle Mole di S. Sisto and the Via di Porta S. Sebastiano.

As regards the Sacred Grove, there is no doubt that its present beautiful ilexes continue the tradition, and flourish on the very spot of the old grove, sacred to the memory of Annia Regilla, CVIVS HAEC PRAEDIA FVERVNT.

To come back, however, to the "Queen of the Roads:" among the many discoveries that have taken place in the cemeteries which line it, that made on April 16, 1485, during the pontificate of Innocent VIII., remains unrivalled.

There have been so many accounts published by modern writers[139] in reference to this extraordinary event that it may interest my readers to learn the truth by reviewing the evidence as it stands in its original simplicity. I shall only quote such authorities as enable us to ascertain what really took place on that memorable day. The case is in itself so unique that it does not need amplification or the addition of imaginary details. Let us first consult the diary of Antonio di Vaseli:—

(f. 48.) "To-day, April 19, 1485, the news came into Rome, that a body buried a thousand years ago had been found in a farm of Santa Maria Nova, in the Campagna, near the Casale Rotondo.... (f. 49.) The Conservatori of Rome despatched a coffin to Santa Maria Nova elaborately made, and a company of men for the transportation of the body into the city. The body has been placed for exhibition in the Conservatori palace, and large crowds of citizens and noblemen have gone to see it. The body seems to be covered with a glutinous substance, a mixture of myrrh and other precious ointments, which attract swarms of bees. The said body is intact. The hair is long and thick; the eyelashes, eyes, nose, and ears are spotless, as well as the nails. It appears to be the body of a woman, of good size; and her head is covered with a light cap of woven gold thread, very beautiful. The teeth are white and perfect; the flesh and the tongue retain their natural color; but if the glutinous substance is washed off, the flesh blackens in less than an hour. Much care has been taken in searching the tomb in which the corpse was found, in the hope of discovering the epitaph, with her name; it must be an illustrious one, because none but a noble and wealthy person could afford to be buried in such a costly sarcophagus thus filled with precious ointments."

Translation of a letter of messer Daniele da San Sebastiano, dated MCCCCLXXXV:—

"In the course of excavations which were made on the Appian Way, to find stones and marbles, three marble tombs have been discovered during these last days, sunk twelve feet below the ground. One was of Terentia Tulliola, daughter of Cicero; the other had no epitaph. One of them contained a young girl, intact in all her members, covered from head to foot with a coating of aromatic paste, one inch thick. On the removal of this coating, which we believe to be composed of myrrh, frankincense, aloe, and other priceless drugs, a face appeared, so lovely, so pleasing, so attractive, that, although the girl had certainly been dead fifteen hundred years, she appeared to have been laid to rest that very day. The thick masses of hair, collected on the top of the head in the old style, seemed to have been combed then and there. The eyelids could be opened and shut; the ears and the nose were so well preserved that, after being bent to one side or the other, they instantly resumed their original shape. By pressing the flesh of the cheeks the color would disappear as in a living body. The tongue could be seen through the pink lips; the articulations of the hands and feet still retained their elasticity. The whole of Rome, men and women, to the number of twenty thousand, visited the marvel of Santa Maria Nova that day. I hasten to inform you of this event, because I want you to understand how the ancients took care to prepare not only their souls but also their bodies for immortality. I am sure that if you had had the privilege of beholding that lovely young face, your pleasure would have equalled your astonishment."

Translation of a letter, dated Rome, April 15, 1485, among Schedel's papers in Cod. 716 of the Munich library:

"Knowing your eagerness for novelties, I send you the news of a discovery just made on the Appian Way, five miles from the gate, at a place called Statuario (the same as S. Maria Nova). Some workmen engaged in searching for stones and marbles have discovered there a marble coffin of great beauty, with a female body in it, wearing a knot of hair on the back of her head, in the fashion now popular among the Hungarians. It was covered with a cap of woven gold, and tied with golden strings. Cap and strings were stolen at the moment of the discovery, together with a ring which she wore on the second finger of the left hand. The eyes were open, and the body preserved such elasticity that the flesh would yield to pressure, and regain its natural shape immediately. The form of the body was beautiful in the extreme; the appearance was that of a girl of twenty-five. Many identify her with Tulliola, daughter of Cicero, and I am ready to believe so, because I have seen, close by there, a tombstone with the name of Marcus Tullius; and because Cicero is known to have owned lands in the neighborhood. Never mind whose daughter she was; she was certainly noble and rich by birth. The body owed its preservation to a coating of ointment two inches thick, composed of myrrh, balm, and oil of cedar. The skin was white, soft, and perfumed. Words cannot describe the number and the excitement of the multitudes who rushed to admire this marvel. To make matters easy, the Conservatori have agreed to remove the beautiful body to the Capitol. One would think there is some great indulgence and remission of sins to be gained by climbing that hill, so great is the crowd, especially of women, attracted by the sight.

"The marble coffin has not yet been removed to the city; but I am told that the following letters are engraved on it: 'Here lies Julia Prisca Secunda. She lived twenty-six years and one month. She has committed no fault, except to die.' It seems that another name is engraved on the same coffin, that of a Claudius Hilarus, who died at forty-six. If we are to believe current rumors, the discoverers of the body have fled, taking with them great treasures."

And now let the reader gaze at the mysterious lady. The accompanying cut represents her body as it was exhibited in the Conservatori palace, and is taken from an original sketch in the Ashburnham Codex, 1174, f. 134.

Celio Rodigino, Leandro Alberti, Alexander ab Alexandro and Corona give other particulars of some interest:—

The excavations were undertaken by the monks of Santa Maria Nuova (now S. Francesca Romana), five miles from the gate. The tomb stood on the left or east side of the road, high above the ground. The sarcophagus was imbedded in the walls of the foundation, and its cover was sealed with molten lead. As soon as the lid was removed, a strong odor of turpentine and myrrh was remarked by those present. The body is described as well arranged in the coffin, with arms and legs still flexible. The hair was blonde, and bound by a fillet (infula) woven of gold. The color of the flesh was absolutely lifelike. The eyes and mouth were partly open, and if one drew the tongue out slightly it would go back to its place of itself. During the first days of the exhibition on the Capitol this wonderful relic showed no signs of decay; but after a time the action of the air began to tell upon it, and the face and hands turned black. The coffin seems to have been placed near the cistern of the Conservatori palace, so as to allow the crowd of visitors to move around and behold the wonder with more ease. Celio Rodigino says that the first symptoms of putrefaction were noticed on the third day; and he attributes the decay more to the removal of the coating of ointments than to the action of the air. Alexander ab Alexandro describes the ointment which filled the bottom of the coffin as having the appearance and scent of a fresh perfume.

These various accounts are no doubt written under the excitement of the moment, and by men naturally inclined to exaggeration; still, they all agree in the main details of the discovery,—in the date, the place of discovery, and the description of the corpse. Who was, then, the girl for the preservation of whose remains so much care had been taken?

Pomponio Leto, the leading archaeologist of the age, expressed the opinion that she might have been either Tulliola, daughter of Cicero, or Priscilla, wife of Abascantus, whose tomb on the Appian Way is described by Statius (Sylv. V. i. 22). Either supposition is wrong. The first is invalidated by the fact that the body was of a young and tender girl, while Tulliola is known to have died in childbirth at the age of thirty-two. Moreover, there is no document to prove that Cicero had a family vault at the sixth milestone of the Appian Way. The tomb of Priscilla, wife of Abascantus, a favorite freedman of Domitian, is placed by Statius near the bridge of the Almo (Fiume Almone, Acquataccio) four and a half miles nearer the gate; where, in front of the Chapel of Domine quo vadis, it has been found and twice excavated: the first time in 1773 by Amaduzzi; the second in 1887, under my supervision. The only clew worth following is that given in Pehem's letter of April 15, now in the Munich library; but even this leads to no result. The inscription, which was said to mention the name and age of the girl, is perfectly genuine, and duly registered in the "Corpus Inscriptionum," No. 20,634. It is as follows:—


"To the infernal gods. [Here lie] Julia Prisca, freedwoman of Lucius Julius, who lived twenty-six years one month, one day; [and also] Q. Clodius Hilarus, who lived forty-six years. She never did any wrong except to die." Pehem, Malaguy, Fantaguzzi, Waelscapple and all the rest of them, assert unanimously that the inscription was found with the body on April 16, 1485, and they are all mistaken. It had been seen and copied, at least twenty-two years before, by Felix Felicianus of Verona, and is to be found in the MSS. collection of ancient epitaphs, which he dedicated to Andrea Mantegna in 1463. The number of spurious inscriptions concocted for the occasion is truly remarkable. Georges of Spalato (1484-1545) gives the following version of this one in his MSS. diary, now in Weimar: "Here lies my only daughter Tulliola, who has committed no offence, except to die. Marcus Tullius Cicero, her unhappy father, has raised this memorial."

The poor girl, whose name and condition in life will never be known, and whose body for twelve centuries had so wonderfully escaped destruction, was most abominably treated by her discoverers in 1485. There are two versions as to her ultimate fate. According to one, Pope Innocent VIII., to stop the excitement and the superstitions of the citizens, caused the conservatori to remove the body at night outside the Porta Salaria, and bury it secretly at the foot of the city walls. According to the second it was thrown into the Tiber. One is just about as probable as the other.

How differently we treat these discoveries in our days! In the early morning of May 12, 1889, I was called to witness the opening of a marble coffin which had been discovered two days before, under the foundations of the new Halls of Justice, on the right bank of the Tiber, near Hadrian's Mausoleum. As a rule, the ceremony of cutting the brass clamps which fasten the lids of urns and sarcophagi is performed in one of our archaeological repositories, where the contents can be quietly and carefully examined, away from an excited and sometimes dangerous crowd. In the present case this plan was found impracticable, because the coffin was ascertained to be filled with water which had, in the course of centuries, filtered in, drop by drop, through the interstices of the lid. The removal to the Capitol was therefore abandoned, not only on account of the excessive weight of the coffin, but also because the shaking of the water would have damaged and disordered the skeleton and the objects which, perchance, were buried inside.

The marble sarcophagus was embedded in a stratum of blue clay, at a depth of twenty-five feet below the level of the city, that is, only four or five feet above the level of the Tiber, which runs close by. It was inscribed simply with the name CREPEREIA TRYPHAENA, and decorated with bas-reliefs representing the scene of her death. No sooner had the seals been broken, and the lid put aside, than my assistants, myself, and the whole crowd of workmen from the Halls of Justice, were almost horrified at the sight before us. Gazing at the skeleton through the veil of the clear water, we saw the skull covered, as it were, with long masses of brown hair, which were floating in the liquid crystal. The comments made by the simple and excited crowd by which we were surrounded were almost as interesting as the discovery itself. The news concerning the prodigious hair spread like wild-fire among the populace of the district; and so the exhumation of Crepereia Tryphaena was accomplished with unexpected solemnity, and its remembrance will last for many years in the popular traditions of the new quarter of the Prati di Castello. The mystery of the hair is easily explained. Together with the spring-water, germs or seeds of an aquatic plant had entered the sarcophagus, settled on the convex surface of the skull, and developed into long glossy threads of a dark shade.

The skull was inclined slightly towards the left shoulder and towards an exquisite little doll, carved of oak, which was lying on the scapula, or shoulder-blade. On each side of the head were gold earrings with pearl drops. Mingled with the vertebrae of the neck and back were a gold necklace, woven as a chain, with thirty-seven pendants of green jasper, and a brooch with an amethyst intaglio of Greek workmanship, representing the fight of a griffin and a deer. Where the left hand had been lying, we found four rings of solid gold. One is an engagement-ring, with an engraving in red jasper representing two hands clasped together. The second has the name PHILETVS engraved on the stone; the third and fourth are plain gold bands. Proceeding further with our exploration, we discovered, close to the right hip, a box containing toilet articles. The box was made of thin pieces of hard wood, inlaid alla Certosina, with lines, squares, circles, triangles, and diamonds, of bone, ivory, and wood of various kinds and colors. The box, however, had been completely disjointed by the action of the water. Inside there were two fine combs in excellent preservation, with the teeth larger on one side than on the other: a small mirror of polished steel, a silver box for cosmetics, an amber hairpin, an oblong piece of soft leather, and a few fragments of a sponge.[140] The most impressive discovery was made after the removal of the water, and the drying of the coffin. The woman had been buried in a shroud of fine white linen, pieces of which were still encrusted and cemented against the bottom and sides of the case, and she had been laid with a wreath of myrtle fastened with a silver clasp about the forehead. The preservation of the leaves is truly remarkable.

Who was this woman, whose sudden and unexpected reappearance among us on the twelfth of May, 1889, created such a sensation? When did she live? At what age did she die? What caused her death? What was her condition in life? Was she beautiful? Why was she buried with her doll? The careful examination of the tomb and its contents enable us to answer all these questions satisfactorily.

Crepereia Tryphaena lived at the beginning of the third century after Christ, during the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla, as is shown by the form of the letters and the style of the bas-reliefs engraved on the sarcophagus. She was not noble by birth; her Greek surname Tryphaena shows that she belonged to a family of freedmen, former servants of the noble family of the Creperei. We know nothing about her features, except that she had a strong and fine set of teeth. Her figure, however, seems to have been rather defective, on account of a deformity in the ribs, probably caused by scrofula. Scrofula, in fact, seems to have been the cause of her death. In spite of this deformity, however, there is no doubt that she was betrothed to the young man Philetus, whose name is engraved on the stone of the second ring, and that the two happy lovers had exchanged the oath of fidelity and mutual devotion for life, which is expressed by the symbol of the clasped hands. The story of her sad death, and of the sudden grief which overtook her family on the eve of a joyful wedding, is plainly told by the presence in the coffin of the doll and the myrtle wreath, which is a corona nuptialis. I believe, in fact, that the girl was buried in her full bridal costume, and then covered with the linen shroud, because there are fragments of clothes of various textures and qualities mixed with those of the white linen.

And now let us turn our attention to the doll. This exquisite pupa, a work of art in itself, is of oak, to which the combined action of time and water has given the hardness of metal. It is modelled in perfect imitation of a woman's form, and ranks amongst the finest of its kind yet found in Roman excavations. The hands and feet are carved with the utmost skill. The arrangement of the hair is characteristic of the age of the Antonines, and differs but little from the coiffure of Faustina the elder. The doll was probably dressed, because in the thumb of her right hand are inserted two gold keyrings like those carried by housewives. This charming little figure, the joints of which at the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows are still in good order, is nearly a foot high. Dolls and playthings are not peculiar to children's tombs. It was customary for young ladies to offer their dolls to Venus or Diana on their wedding-day. But this was not the end reserved for Crepereia's doll. She was doomed to share the sad fate of her young mistress, and to be placed with her corpse, before the marriage ceremony could be performed.


[121] See chapter iii., p. 67, of Ancient Rome

[122] De titulis in quibus impensae monumentorum sepulcralium indicatae sunt.

[123] See Luigi Grifi: Sopra la iscrizione antica dell' auriga Scirto, in the Accademia archeologica, 1854, v. xiii.

[124] See the Corpus inscriptionum latinarum, vol. vi., part 2, nos. 4327-5886.

[125] See Walch: Ad Gorii Xenia, p. 98.—Orelli-Henzen: vol. 2, no. 4789, etc.

[126] Monumenti inediti dell' Instituto di correspondenza archeologica, Supplemento, 1891.

[127] Titus, 4.

[128] See:—Pietro Sante Bartoli: Gli antichi sepolcri. Roma: de Rossi, 1727.—Corpus inscriptionum latinarum, vol. vi., part ii., pp. 1073, 1076.—Villa Pamphylia, ejusque palatium cum suis prospectibus: statuae, fontes, vivaria. Romae: fol. max.—Ignazio Ciampi: Innocenzo X Pamfili e la sua corte. Roma: Galeati, 1878.

[129] See:—Otto Jahn: Die Wandgemaelde des Columbariums in der Villa Pamfili, in the Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie, 1857.—Eugen Petersen: Sitzungsberichte des Archaeologischen Instituts, Roemische Abtheilung, March 18, 1892.

[130] A discovery of the same kind has come within my experience. In 1885, while excavating near the city walls, between the Porta S. Lorenzo and the Porta Maggiore, we found an amphora of great size, containing the corpse of a little child embedded in lime. He had probably died of a contagious disease. The corpse had been reduced to a handful of tiny bones; and the impression of them was so spoiled by dampness and age that it was found impossible to cast the form of the infant.

[131] Digest, ix., 2, 5, Sec. 3.

[132] See:—Notizie degli Scavi, 1884, p. 393.—Henzen: Bullettino dell' Instituto, 1885, p. 9.—Stevenson: idem, 1885, p. 22.—Geffroy: Melanges de l'Ecole francaise de Rome, 1885, p. 318, pl. vii-xiii.

[133] See C. Ludovico Visconti: Il sepolcro del fanciullo Quinto Sulpicio Massimo. Roma, 1871.—Wilhelm Henzen: Sepolcri antichi rinvenuti alla porta salaria, in the Bullettino dell' Instituto, 1871, p. 98.—Luigi Ciofi: Inscriptiones latinae et graecae, cum carmine graeco extemporali Quinti Sulpicii Maximi. Roma, 1871.—J. Henry Parker: Tombs in and near Rome. Oxford, 1877. (Plate X.)

[134] On the subject of this competition see:—Suetonius: Domitian, 4.—Stefano Morcelli: Sull' Agone Capitolino. Dissertazione postuma. Milano, 1816.—Joachim Marquardt: Handbuch der roemischen Alterthuemer, iv., 453.

[135] See Cesare Lucchesini: Esame della questione se i latini avessero veri poeti improvvisatori. Lucca, 1828.

[136] The bibliography on Herodes Atticus and his villa at the second milestone of the Appian Way is so rich that I can mention but a few of the leading works, besides Visconti's.—Claude Saumaise: Memoires sur la vie d'Herodes Atticus, in Academie des inscriptions et belles lettres, xxx. p. 25; Corpus inscriptionum graecarum: vol. iii. no. 6280, p. 924.—Wilhelm Dittenberger: Die Familie des Herodes Atticus.—Richard Burgess: Description of the Circus on the Via Appia. Italian translation, p. 89. Rome, 1829.—Ludovico Bianconi: Descrizione dei circhi e particolarmente di quello di Caracalla. Roma, 1786.—Antonio Nibby: Del circo volgarmente detto di Caracalla. Roma, 1825.

[137] When Maxentius repaired the Appian Way in 309, one of these commemorative columns was converted into a milestone, the seventh from the Porta Capena. The column was removed in the Middle Ages to the Church of S. Eusebio on the Esquiline, where it was seen and purchased, at the beginning of the last century, by cardinal Alessandro Albani. It now belongs to the Capitoline Museum.

[138] I comentari di Frontino intorno le acque e gli acquedotti: Opera premiata dalla r. Accademia dei Lincei col premio reale di lire 10,000. Roma, Salviucci, 1880.

[139] Among the modern writers on the subject are:—Christian Huelsen: Die Auffindung der roemischen Leiche vom Jahre 1485, in the Mittheilungen des Instituts fuer oesterreichische Geschichtforschung, Band iv., Heft 3.—J. Addington Symonds: History of the Renaissance, i. 23.—Giovanni Antonio Riccy: Dell' antico pago Lemonio. Roma, 1802 (p. 109).—Gregorovius: Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter, vii., 3, p. 571.—Corpus inscriptionum latinarum, vol. vi., no. 20,634.

Contemporary documents:—Stefano Infessura: Diario, edited by Tommasini. Rome, 1890.—Notarius a Nantiportu: in Cod. Vatic., 6,823, f. 250.—Raffaele Maffei da Volterra (Volterranus, born 1451, died 1522): Commentarii rerum Urbanarum, column 954 of the Lyons edition, 1552.—Bartolomeo Fonte (Humanist, born 1445, died 1513): letter to Francesco Sassetto, published by Janitschek: Gesells. der Renaissance, p. 120.—Letter from Laur Pehem, dated April 15, 1475, in the Cod. Munich, 716 (among the papers collected by Hartman Schedel).—Copy of a letter from messer Daniele da San Sebastiano to Giacomo di Maphei, citizen of Verona, in the Cod. Marciano (Venice), xiv. 267.—Alexander ab Alexandro (born at Naples, 1461, died in Rome, 1523): Genialium Dierum, iii. 2.—Fragment of the diary of Antonio di Vaseli (1481-1486), in the Archives of the Vatican, Armar. XV. fasc. 41.—Fragment of the diary of Corona (first entry Jan. 30, 1481; last July 25, 1492) in the possession of H. D. Grissel, Esq.—Anonym ap. Mountfaucon, Diarium Italicum, xi. 157.

[140] Sponges are most frequently found in the cistae at Palestrina, which were nothing else but toilet-boxes. I have had the opportunity of examining the contents of twelve of them, lately discovered. These include sponges, combs of various kinds and shapes, hairpins, wooden boxes with movable lids, still full of excellent powders, cosmetics, and ointments, and other articles of the mundus muliebris.



Sanctity of tombs guaranteed to all creeds alike.—The Christians' preference for underground cemeteries not due to fear at first.—Origin and cause of the first persecutions.—The attitude of Trajan towards the Christians, and its results.—The persecution of Diocletian.—The history of the early Christians illustrated by their graves.—The tombs of the first century.—The catacombs.—How they were named.—The security they offered against attack.—Their enormous extent.—Their gradual abandonment in the fourth century.—Open-air cemeteries developed in proportion.—The Goths in Rome.—Their pillage of the catacombs.—Thereafter burial within the city walls became common.—The translation of the bodies of martyrs.—Pilgrims and their itineraries.—The catacombs neglected from the ninth to the sixteenth century.—Their discovery in 1578.—Their wanton treatment by scholars of that time.—Artistic treasures found in them.—The catacombs of Generosa.—The story of Simplicius, Faustina and Viatrix.—The cemetery of Domitilla.—The Christian Flavii buried there.—The basilica of Nereus, Achilleus and Petronilla.—The tomb of Ampliatus.—Was this S. Paul's friend?—The cemetery "ad catacumbas."—The translation of the bodies of SS. Peter and Paul.—The types of the Saviour in early art.—The cemetery of Cyriaca.—Discoveries made there.—Inscriptions and works of art.—The cemetery "ad duas Lauros."—Frescoes in it.—The symbolic supper.—The discoveries of Monsignor Wilpert.—The Academy of Pomponio Leto.

The Roman law which established the inviolability of tombs did not make exceptions either of persons or creeds. Whether the deceased had been pious or impious, a worshipper of Roman or foreign gods, or a follower of Eastern or barbaric religions, his burial-place was considered by law a locus religiosus, as inviolable as a temple. In this respect there was no distinction between Christians, pagans, and Jews; all enjoyed the same privileges, and were subject to the same rules. It is not easy to decide whether this condition of things was an advantage to the faithful. It was certainly advantageous to the Church that her cemeteries should be considered sacred by the law, and that the State itself should enforce and guarantee the observance of the rules (lex monumenti) made by the deceased in connection with his interment, and tomb; but as the police of cemeteries, and the enforcement of the leges monumentorum, was intrusted to the college of high priests, who were stern champions of paganism, the church was liable to be embarrassed in many ways. When, for instance, a body had to be transferred from its temporary repository to the tomb, it was necessary to obtain the consent of the pontifices; which was also required in case of subsequent removals, and even of simple repairs to the building. Roman epitaphs constantly refer to this authority of the pontiffs, and one of them, discovered by Ficoroni in July, 1730, near the Porta Metronia, contains the correspondence exchanged on the subject between the two parties. The petitioner, Arrius Alphius, a favorite freedman of the mother of Antoninus Pius, writes to the high priests: "Having lost at the same time wife and son, I buried them temporarily in a terra-cotta coffin. I have since purchased a burial lot on the left side of the Via Flaminia, between the second and the third milestones, and near the mausoleum of Silius Orcilus, and furnished it with marble sarcophagi. I beg permission of you, my Lords, to transfer the said bodies to the new family vault, so that when my hour shall come, I may be laid to rest beside the dear ones." The answer was: "Granted (fieri placet). Signed by me, Juventius Celsus, vice-president [of the college of pontiffs], on the 3d day of November [A. D. 155]."

The greatest difficulty with which the Christians had to deal was the obligation to perform expiatory sacrifices in given circumstances; as, for instance, when a corpse was removed from one place to another, or when a coffin, damaged by any accidental cause, such as lightning, inundation, fire, earthquake, or violence, had to be opened and the bones exposed to view. But these were exceptional cases; and there is no doubt that the magistrates of Rome were naturally lenient and forbearing in religious matters, except in time of persecution. The partiality shown by early Christians for underground cemeteries is due to two causes: the influence which Eastern customs and the example of the burial of Christ must necessarily have exercised on them, and the security and freedom which they enjoyed in the darkness and solitude of their crypts. Catacombs, however, could not be excavated everywhere, the presence of veins or beds of soft volcanic stone being a condition sine qua non of their existence. Cities and villages built on alluvial or marshy soil, or on hills of limestone and lava, were obliged to resort to open-air cemeteries. In Rome itself these were not uncommon. Certainly there was no reason why Christians should object to the authority of the pontiffs in hygienic and civic matters. This authority was so deeply rooted and respected, that the emperor Constans (346-350), although a stanch Christian and anxious to abolish idolatry, left the pontiffs full jurisdiction over Christian and pagan cemeteries, by a constitution issued in 349.[142]

From apostolic times to the persecution of Domitian, the faithful were buried, separately or collectively, in private tombs which did not have the character of a Church institution. These early tombs, whether above or below ground, display a sense of perfect security, and an absence of all fear or solicitude. This feeling arose from two facts: the small extent of the cemeteries, which secured to them the rights of private property, and the protection and freedom which the Jewish colony in Rome enjoyed from time immemorial. The Romans of the first century, populace as well as government officials, made no distinction between the proselytes of the Old Testament and those of the New.

Julius Caesar and Augustus treated the Jews with kindness, and when S. Paul arrived in Rome the colony was living in peace and prosperity, practising religion openly in its Transtiberine synagogues.[143] The same state of things prevailed throughout the peninsula. Thus the rabbi or archon of the synagogue at Pompeii called the Synagoga Libertinorum (the existence of which was discovered in September, 1764), could take, in virtue of his office, an active part in city politics and petty municipal quarrels, and in his official capacity could sign a document recommending the election of a candidate for political honors, as is shown by one of the Pompeian inscriptions:—


The persecution which took place under Claudius was really the first connected with the preaching of the gospel. According to Suetonius (Claud. 25) the Jews themselves were the cause of it, having suddenly become uneasy, troublesome, and offensive, impulsore Chresto, that is to say, on account of Christ's doctrine, which was beginning to be preached in their synagogues. The expression used by Suetonius shows how very little was known at the time about the new religion. Although Christ's name was not unknown to him, he speaks of this outbreak under Claudius as having been stirred up personally by a certain Chrestus, as though he were a living member of the Jewish colony. At that early stage the converts to the gospel were identified by the Romans with the Jews, not by mistake or error of judgment, but because they were legally and actually Jews, or rather one Jewish sect which was carrying on a dogmatic war against the others, on a point which had no interest whatever in the eyes of the Romans,—that is, the advent of the Messiah. This statement is corroborated by many passages in the Acts, such as xviii. 15; xxiii. 29; xxv. 9; xxvi. 28, 32; xxviii. 31. Claudius Lysias writes to the governor of Judaea that Paul was accused by his fellow-citizens, not of crimes deserving punishment, but on some controversial point concerning their law. In Rome itself the apostle could preach the gospel with freedom, even when in custody, or under police supervision.[145] And as it was lawful for a Roman citizen to embrace the Jewish persuasion, and give up the religion of his fathers, he was equally free to embrace the Evangelic faith, which was considered by the pagans a Jewish sect, not a new belief.

The pagans despised them both, and mixed themselves up with their affairs only from a fiscal point of view, because the Jews were subject to a tax of two drachms per head, and the treasury officials were obliged to keep themselves acquainted with the statistics of the colony.

This state of things did not last very long, it being of vital importance for the Jews to separate their cause from that of the new-comers. The responsibility for the persecutions which took place in the first century must be attributed to them, not to the Romans, whose tolerance in religious matters had become almost a state rule. The first attempt, made under Claudius, was not a success: it ended, in fact, with the banishment from the capital of every Jew, no matter whether he believed in the Old or the New Testament. Judaeos, impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes, Claudius Romae expulit (Suetonius: Claud. 25). It was, however, a passing cloud. As soon as they were allowed to come back to their Transtiberine haunts, the Jews set to work again, exciting the feelings of the populace, and denouncing the Christians as conspiring against the State and the gods, under the protection of the law which guaranteed to the Jews the free exercise of their religion. The populace, impressed by the conquests made by the gospel among all classes of citizens, was only too ready to believe the calumny. The Church, repudiated by her mother the Synagogue, could no longer share the privileges of the Jewish community. As for the State, it became a necessity either to recognize Christianity as a new legal religion, or to proscribe and condemn it. The great fire, which destroyed half of Rome under Nero, and which was purposely attributed to the Christians, brought the situation to a crisis. The first persecution began. Had the magistrate who conducted the inquiry been able to prove the indictment of arson, perhaps the storm would have been short, and confined to Rome; but as the Christians could easily exculpate themselves, the trial was changed from a criminal into a politico-religious one. The Christians were convicted not so much of arson (non tam crimine incendii) as of a hatred of mankind (odio generis humani); a formula which includes anarchism, atheism, and high treason. This monstrous accusation once admitted, the persecution could not be limited to Rome; it necessarily became general, and more violent in one place or another, according to the impulse of the magistrate who investigated this entirely unprecedented case.

Was the hope of a legal existence lost forever to the Church? After Nero's death, and the condemnation of his acts and memory, the Christians enjoyed thirty years of peace. Domitian broke it, first, by claiming with unprecedented severity the tribute from the Jews and those "living a Jewish life;"[146] secondly, by putting the "atheists," that is, the Christians, to the alternative of giving up their faith or their life. These measures were abolished shortly after by Nerva, who sanctioned the rule that in future no one should be brought to justice under the plea of impiety or Judaism. The answer given by Trajan to Pliny the younger, when governor of Bithynia, is famous in the annals of persecutions. To the inquiries made by the governor, as to the best way of dealing with those "adoring Christ for their God," Trajan replied, that the magistrate should not molest them at his own initiative; but if others should bring them to justice, and convict them of impiety and atheism, they deserved punishment.[147] These words contain the solemn recognition of the illegality of Christian worship; they make persecution a rule of state. The faithful were doomed to have no respite for the next two centuries, except what they could obtain at intervals from the personal kindness and tolerance of emperors and magistrates. Those of the Jewish religion continued to enjoy protection and privileges, but Christianity was either persecuted or tolerated, as it happened; so that, even under emperors who abhorred severity and bloodshed, the faithful were at the mercy of the first vagrant who chanced to accuse them of impiety.

Strange to say, more clemency was shown towards them by emperors whom we are accustomed to call tyrants, than by those who are considered models of virtue. The author of the "Philosophumena" (book ix., ch. 11) says that Commodus granted to Pope Victor the liberation of the Christians who had been condemned to the mines of Sardinia by Marcus Aurelius. Thus that profligate emperor was really more merciful to the Church than the philosophic author of the "Meditations," who, in the year 174, had witnessed the miracle of the Thundering Legion. The reason is evident. The wise rulers foresaw the destructive effect of the new doctrines on pagan society, and indirectly on the empire itself; whereas those who were given over to dissipation were indifferent to the danger; "after them, the deluge!"

At the beginning of the third century, under the rule of Caracalla and Elagabalus, the Church enjoyed nearly thirty years of peace, interrupted only by the short persecution of Maximus, and by occasional outbreaks of popular hostility here and there.[148]

In 249 the "days of terror" returned, and continued fiercer than ever under the rules of Decius, Gallus, and Valerianus. The last persecution, that of Diocletian and his colleagues, was the longest and most cruel of all. For the space of ten years not a day of mercy shone over the ecclesia fidelium. The historian Eusebius, an eye-witness, says that when the persecutors became tired of bloodshed, they contrived a new form of cruelty. They put out the right eyes of the confessors, cut the tendon of their left legs, and then sent them to the mines, lame, half blind, half starved, and flogged nearly to death. In book VIII., chapter 12, the historian says that the number of sufferers was so great that no account could be kept of them in the archives of the Church. The memory of this decade of horrors has never died out in Rome. We have still a local tradition, not altogether unfounded, of ten thousand Christians who were condemned to quarry materials for Diocletian's Baths, and who were put to death after the dedication of the building.

Towards the end of 306, Maxentius stopped the persecution, but the true era of peace did not begin before 312, which is the date of Constantine's famous "edict of Milan," granting to the Church liberty and free possession of her places of worship and cemeteries forever.

The events of which I have given a summary sketch are beautifully illustrated by the discoveries which have been made in early Christian cemeteries, from May 31, 1578, which is the date of the discovery of the first catacomb, to the present day.

From the time of the apostles to the first persecution of Domitian, Christian tombs, whether above or below ground, were built with perfect impunity and in defiance of public opinion. We have been accustomed to consider the catacombs of Rome as crypts plunged in total darkness, and penetrating the bowels of the earth at unfathomable depths. This is, in a certain measure, the case with those catacombs, or sections of catacombs, which were excavated in times of persecution; but not with those belonging to the first century. The cemetery of these members of Domitian's family who had embraced the gospel—such as Flavius Clemens, Flavia Domitilla, Plautilla, Petronilla, and others—reveals a bold example of publicity.

The entrance to the crypt, discovered in 1714 and again in 1865, near the farmhouse of Tor Marancia, at the first milestone of the Via Ardeatina, is hewn out of a perpendicular cliff, which is conspicuous from the high road (the modern Via delle Sette Chiese). The crypt is approached through a vestibule, which was richly decorated with terra-cotta carvings, and, on the frieze, a monumental inscription enclosed by an elaborate frame. No pagan mausolea of the Via Appia or the Via Latina show a greater sense of security or are placed more conspicuously than this early Christian tomb. The frescoes on the ceiling of the vestibule, representing biblical scenes, such as Daniel in the lions' den, the history of Jonah, etc., were exposed to daylight, and through the open door could be seen by the passer. No precaution was taken to conceal these symbolic scenes from profane or hostile eyes. We regret the loss of the inscription above the entrance, which, besides the name of the owner of the crypt, probably contained the lex monumenti, and a formula specifying the religion of those buried within. In this very catacomb, a few steps from the vestibule, an inscription has been found, in which a Marcus Aurelius Restitutus declares that he has built a tomb for himself and his relatives (sibi et suis), provided they were believers in Christ (fidentes in Domino). Another tombstone, discovered in 1864, in the Villa Patrizi, near the catacombs of Nicomedes, states that none might be buried in the tomb to which it was attached except those who belonged to the creed (pertinentes ad religionem) of the founder.

The time soon came when these frank avowals of Christianity were either impossible or extremely hazardous; and although legally a tomb continued to be a locus religiosus, no matter what the creed of the deceased had been, a vague sense of anxiety was felt by the Church, lest even these last refuges should be violated by the mob and its leaders. Hence the extraordinary development which underground cemeteries underwent towards the end of the first and the beginning of the second century. These catacombs were considered by the law to be the property of the citizen who owned the ground above, and who either excavated them at his own cost, or gave the privilege of doing so to the Church. This is the reason why the names of our oldest suburban cemeteries are derived, not from the illustrious saints buried in them, but from the owner of the property under which the catacomb was first excavated. Balbina, Callixtus, Domitilla were never laid to rest in the catacombs which bear their names. Praetextatus, Apronianus, the Jordans, Novella, Pontianus, and Maximus, after whom other cemeteries were named, are all totally unknown persons. When these cemeteries became places of worship and pilgrimage, after the Peace of Constantine, the old names which had sheltered them from the violence of persecutors were abandoned, and replaced by those of local martyrs. Thus the catacomb of Domitilla became that of Nereus and Achilleus; that of Balbina was named for S. Mark; that of Callixtus for SS. Sixtus and Caecilia; and that of Maximus for S. Felicitas.

One characteristic of Christian epigraphy shows what a comparatively safe place the catacombs were. Inscriptions belonging to them never contain those requests to the passer to respect the tomb, which are so frequent in sepulchral inscriptions from tombs above-ground, and which sometimes, on Christian as well as pagan graves, take the form of an imprecation. An epitaph discovered by Hamilton near Eumenia, Phrygia, contains this rather violent formula: "May the passer who damages my tomb bury all his children at the same time." In another, found near the church of S. Valeria, in Milan, the imprecation runs: "May the wrath of God and of his Christ fall on the one who dares to disturb the peace of our sleep."

The safety of the catacombs was not due to the fact that their existence was known only to the proselytes of Christ. The magistrates possessed a thorough knowledge of their location, number, and extent; and we have evidence of raids and descents by the police on extraordinary occasions, as, for instance, during the persecutions of Valerian and Diocletian. The ordinary entrances to the catacombs, which were known to the police, were sometimes walled up or otherwise concealed, and new secret outlets opened through abandoned pozzolana quarries (arenariae). Some of these outlets have been discovered, or are to be seen, in the cemeteries of Agnes, Thrason, Callixtus, and Castulus. In May, 1867, while excavating on the southern boundary line of the Cemetery of Callixtus, de Rossi found himself suddenly confronted with sandpits, the galleries of which came in contact with those of the cemetery several times. The passage from one to the other had been most ingeniously disguised by the fossores, as those who dug the catacombs were called.[149]

The defence of these cemeteries in troubled times must have caused great anxiety to the Church. Tertullian tells how the population of Carthage, excited against the Christians, sought to obtain from Hilarianus, governor of Africa, the destruction of their graves. "Let them have no burial-ground!" (areae eorum non sint) was the rallying cry of the mob.

The catacombs are unfit for men to live in, or to stay in even for a few days. The tradition that Antonio Bosio spent seventy or eighty consecutive hours in their depths is unfounded. When we hear of Popes, priests, or their followers seeking refuge in catacombs, we must understand that they repaired to the buildings connected with them, such as the lodgings of the keepers, undertakers, and local clergymen. Pope Boniface I., when molested by Symmachus and Eulalius, found shelter in the house connected with the Cemetery of Maximus on the Via Salaria. The crypts themselves were sought as a refuge only in case of extreme emergency. Thus Barbatianus, a priest from Antiochia, concealed himself in the Catacombs of Callixtus to escape the wrath of Galla Placidia.

Many attempts have been made to estimate the extent of our catacombs, the length of their galleries, and the number of tombs which they contain. Michele Stefano de Rossi, brother of the archaeologist, gives the following results for the belt of catacombs within three miles of the gates of Servius:[150]—

(A) Surface of tufa beds, capable of being excavated into catacombs, 67,000,000 square feet.

(B) Surface actually excavated into catacombs, from one to four stories deep, 22,500,000 square feet,—more than a square mile.

(C) Aggregate length of galleries, calculated on the average construction of six different catacombs, 866 kilometres, equal to 587 geographical miles.

The sides of the galleries contain several rows of loculi, sometimes six or eight. Some bodies are buried under the floor, or in the cubiculi which open right and left at short intervals. Assuming these galleries to be capable of containing two bodies per metre, the number of Christians buried in the catacombs, within three miles from the gates of Servius, may be estimated at a minimum of 1,752,000.

The construction of this prodigious labyrinth required the excavation and removal of 96,000,000 cubic feet of solid rock.

With regard to the number of inscriptions, I quote the following passage from Northcote's "Epitaphs," page 3: "Of Christian inscriptions in Rome, during the first six centuries, de Rossi has studied more than fifteen thousand, the immense majority of which were taken from the catacombs; and he tells us there is still an average yearly addition of about five hundred, derived from the same source. This number, vast as it is, is but a poor remnant of what once existed. From the collections made in the eighth and ninth centuries it appears that there were once at least one hundred and seventy ancient Christian inscriptions in Rome, which had an historical or monumental character; written generally in metre, and to be seen at that time in the places which they were intended to illustrate. Of these only twenty-six remain, either whole or in parts. In the Roman topographies of the seventh century, one hundred and forty sepulchres of famous martyrs and confessors are enumerated; we have recovered only twenty inscribed memorials, to assist us in the identification of these. Only nine epitaphs have come to light belonging to the bishops of Rome during the same six centuries; and yet, during that period, there were certainly buried in the suburbs of the city upwards of sixty. Thus, whatever facts we take as the basis of our calculation, it would seem that scarcely a seventh part of the original wealth of the Roman church in memorials of this kind has survived the wreck of ages; and de Rossi gives it as his conviction that there were once more than one hundred thousand of them."

When the catacombs began to be better known to the general public, and were visited by crowds of the devout or curious, they became one of the marvels of Rome. Travellers who so admired the syringes or crypts of the kings of Thebes, calling them [Greek: ta thaumata] (the wonders), could not help being struck with awe at the great work accomplished by our Christian community in less than three centuries. An inscription found by Deville at Thebes, in one of the royal crypts, and published in the "Archives des missions scientifiques," 1866, vol. ii. p. 484, thus refers to the parallel wonders of Roman and Egyptian catacombs: "Antonius Theodorus, intendant of Egypt and Phoenicia, who has spent many years in the Queen-city of Rome, has seen the wonders ([Greek: ta thaumata]) both there and here." The allusion to the catacombs in comparison with the syringes is evident. The inscription dates from the second half of the fourth century.

To the edict of Milan, and to the peace which it gave to the Church, we must attribute the origin of the decadence of underground cemeteries. Burial in open-air cemeteries having become secure once more, there was no reason why the faithful should give preference to the unhealthy and overcrowded crypts below. The example of desertion was set by the Popes themselves. Melchiades (311-314), who was the first to occupy the Lateran palace after the victory of the Church, was the last Pope buried near his predecessors in coemeteris Callisti in cripta. Sylvester, his successor, was buried in a chapel built expressly, above the crypt of Priscilla, Mark above the crypts of Balbina, Julius above those of Calepodius, and so on. Still, the desire of securing a grave in proximity to the shrine of a martyr was so intense that the use of the catacombs lasted for a century longer, although in diminishing proportions. When a gallery is discovered which contains more graves than usual, and has been excavated even in the narrow ledges of rock which separated the original loculi, or else at the corners of the crossings, which were usually left untouched, as protection against the caving-in of the earth, we may be sure we are approaching a martyr's altar-tomb. Sometimes the paintings which decorate a martyr's cubiculum have been disfigured and their inscriptions effaced by an overzealous devotee. The accompanying cut shows the damage inflicted on a picture of the Good Shepherd in the cubiculum of S. Januarius, in the Catacombs of Praetextatus, by an unscrupulous disciple who wished to be buried as near as possible to his patron-saint.

By the end of the fourth century burials in catacombs became rare, and still more between 400 and 410. They were apparently given up altogether after 410. The development of open-air cemeteries increased in proportion, those of S. Lorenzo and S. Paolo fuori le Mura being among the most popular. In 1863, when the entrance-gate to the modern Camposanto adjoining S. Lorenzo was built, fifty tombs, mostly unopened, were found in a space ninety feet long by forty feet wide. Since that time five hundred tombstones have been gathered in the neighborhood of that favorite church. As regards S. Paul's cemetery, more than one thousand inscriptions, whole or in fragments, were found in rebuilding the basilica and its portico, after the fire of 1823;[151] two hundred in the excavations of S. Valentine's basilica, outside the Porta del Popolo. These last excavations are the only ones illustrating a Christian cemetery which are left visible; but their importance is limited. The cemeteries of Arles and Pola, alluded to by Dante, have disappeared; and so has the magnificent one of the officers and men employed in the Roman arsenal at Concordia Sagittaria, which was discovered in 1873, near Portogruaro, by Perulli and Bartolini. This cemetery, which contains, in the section already explored, nearly two hundred sarcophagi, cut in limestone, in the shape of Petrarch's coffin, at Arqua, or Antenor's at Padua, was wrecked by Attila in 452, and buried soon after by an inundation of the river Tagliamento, which spread masses of mud and sand over the district, and raised its level five feet. The accompanying plate is from a photograph taken at the time of the discovery.

I have just stated that burial in catacombs seems to have been abandoned in 410, because no inscription of a later date has yet been found. The reader will easily perceive the reason for the abandonment. On August 10, 410, Rome was stormed by Alaric, and the suburbs devastated. This fatal year marks the end of a great and glorious era in Christian epigraphy, and in the history of catacombs the end of the work of the fossores. More fatal still was the barbaric invasion of 457. The actual destruction began in 537, during the siege of Rome by Vitiges. The biographer of Pope Silverius expressly says: "Churches and tombs of martyrs have been destroyed by the Goths" (ecclesiae et corpora sanctorum martyrum exterminata sunt a Gothis). It is difficult to explain why the Goths, confessed and even bigoted Christians (Arians) as they were, and full of respect for the basilicas of S. Peter and S. Paul, as Procopius declares, should have ransacked the catacombs, violated the tombs of martyrs, and broken their historical inscriptions. Perhaps it was because none of the barbarians could read Latin or Greek epitaphs, and make the distinction between pagan and Christian cemeteries; or perhaps they were moved by the desire of finding hidden treasures, or securing relics of saints. Whatever may have been the reason of their behavior, we must remember that two encampments, at least, of the Goths were just over catacombs and around their entrances; one on the Via Salaria, over those of Thrason; the other on the Via Labicana, above those of Peter and Marcellinus. The barbarians could not resist the temptation of exploring those subterranean wonders; indeed they were obliged to do so by the most elementary rules of precaution in order to insure the safety of their intrenchments against surprises. Here I have to record a remarkable coincidence. In each of these two catacombs the following memorial tablet has been seen or found, written in distichs by Pope Virgilius:—

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