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  This webpage reproduces part of
Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries

by Rodolfo Lanciani

published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Boston and New York, 1898

The text is in the public domain.


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Chapter I

p. ix Preface

Very few persons who have not seen Italy and its capital since 1870 are acquainted with the revolution which is being accomplished in Rome in the department of public works. From the official statistics which have been kindly supplied to me, it appears that between January 1, 1872, and December 31, 1885, 82 miles of new streets have been opened, paved, drained, and built; new quarters have sprung up which cover an area of 1,158 acres; 3,094 houses have been built or enlarged, with an addition of 95,260 rooms; 135 million lire (27 million dollars) have been spent in works of public utility and general improvement; and the population, which fourteen years ago numbered 244,000 souls, exceeds now the considerable figure of 379,000.

I have not quoted these statistics with the desire to create a sensation amongst those who still believe Rome to be the "city of death," and Italy a "mere geographical expression." I quote them simply on account of their connection with the progress of Roman archaeology, because, since it is impossible to turn up in Rome a handful of earth without coming upon some unexpected find, it is easy to understand what an amount of discoveries must have been made by turning up two hundred and seventy million cubic feet of that land of promise.

I have not been able to ascertain the exact number of works of art and of antiquities brought to light by the government in the official excavations of the Forum, of the palace of the Caesars, of the baths, etc., or by private individuals in building their houses. However, as regards the municipality of Rome, which owns about one third of the ground within the walls, and of whose antiquarian wealth, I am, in a certain way, the happy treasurer, the following works and objects have been stored in the Capitol since 1872: 705 amphorae with important inscriptions; 2,360 terra cotta lamps; 1,824 inscriptions engraved on marble or stone; 77 columns of rare marble; 313 pieces of columns; 157 marble capitals; 118 bases; 590 works of art in terra cotta; 405 works of art in bronze; 711 gems, intaglios, cameos; 18 marble sarcophagi; 152 bas-reliefs; 192 marble statues in a good state of preservation; 21 marble figures of animals; 266 busts and heads; 54 pictures in polychrome mosaic; 47 objects of gold; 39 of silver; 36,679 coins of gold, silver, and bronze; and an almost incredible amount of smaller relics in terra cotta, bone, glass, enamel, lead, ivory, iron, copper, and stucco. These collections do not contain merely common or ordinary objects; they contain masterpieces in every branch and department, — masterpieces which, in an age a little less devoted to finance and politics, would have created a deep sensation all over the world. Besides, the objects I have named pertain to the material side of the question only; the conquests of science are still greater. They have thrown more light on the archaeology of Rome than had been thrown in a century before. There is an instance connected with one single branch of the science, — the branch of epigraphy. The first part of volume vi. of the "Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum," published by the Berlin Academy of Sciences,º contains 3,925 ancient inscriptions (of gods, emperors, magistrates, priests, and military officers), discovered from the middle of the fourteenth century to 1876. From 1876 to the end of last year I have myself discovered and published more than one thousand; consequently in ten years' time the Roman soil has supplied epigraphy with one fourth as much as the total amount brought to light during the five preceding centuries.

It is impossible for me to mention, one by one, the scientific discoveries of special importance made under the auspices of the city of Rome; if I did, this Preface would exceed in length the volume it introduces. We have discovered a new archaeological stratum, totally unknown before, — the stratum of prehistoric or traditional antiquities; we have discovered a necropolis older than the walls of Servius Tullius, containing more than 5,000 archaic specimens in bronze, amber, stone, and clay; we have brought to light more than 5,000 feet of the great agger, or embankment of Servius, and ascertained the site of fourteen gates; we have unearthed the remains of numberless houses and palaces, temples and shrines, roads and drains, parks and gardens, fora and porticoes, fountains and aqueducts, tombs and mausolea, to such an extent that whereas before 1872 science possessed only approximate attempts at an archaeological map of Rome, we have put at the disposal of students magnificent ones, covering an area of 3,967,200 square metres of the ancient city.

It would be of no use to deny that all these great conquests in the artistic and scientific field have been obtained with a certain amount of loss and sacrifice. Persons ready to detect the mote in their neighbor's eye have filled the world with their lamentations over these partial losses and sacrifices. Pamphlets written on the subject, with but little impartiality, by eminent men, have been translated into many languages and largely circulated, with the intention of raising a crusade against the profane destroyers of the beautiful city of Rome. As is the case in all controversies not purely scientific, but mixed with personal, political, or religious feelings, the state of things has been exaggerated beyond measure. It appears to me that to satisfy our critics, whose love for art and archaeology goes beyond the limits of practical good sense, it would have been desirable to have had Rome annihilated with the empire at the end of the fifth century, so that we might excavate it now with the same ease and with the same freedom with which we excavate Ostia and Pompeii. But we must remember that Rome has always lived, and lived at the expense of the past; every generation has, in a certain measure, absorbed or destroyed the works of the preceding one, and it is wonderful that so much should be left of the works raised by the ancients, after a process of destruction and transformation which has been going on for fourteen centuries!

The history of the vicissitudes of Rome, from the point of view of the present controversy, must be divided into four periods. The first extends from the fall of the empire to the return of the popes from Avignon; the second, the glorious period of the Italian Renaissance, during which the ruins of antiquity were most abominably treated, ends with the Seicento; the third, which marks the destruction of mediaeval remains, stops with the Napoleonic conquest of Italy; during the fourth, from the empire of Napoleon to 1870, the first moves were at last made in the right direction of discovering and preserving ancient monuments.

The Romans of the Middle Ages were not excessively guilty as regards the destruction of ancient ruins, because the monuments crumbled more from sheer old age, from abandonment, from fires and earthquakes, than by the determinate action of men. In fact, the poverty and ignorance of the age made the raising of new structures either difficult or impossible; so that people took advantage, as well as they could, of the existing ruins when transforming them, or portions of them, into churches and convents and private dwellings. Thus the temple of Antoninus and Faustina became the church of S. Lorenzo; the temple of the Sacra Urbs, the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano; the Senate-House, the church of S. Adriano; the offices of the Senate-House, the church of Santa Martina. Thus, also, the basilica of Junius Bassus was dedicated to S. Andrea; the temple of Concord to SS. Sergius and Bacchus; the temple of Ceres to S. Maria in Cosmedin; the temple of Piety to S. Nicolas; that of Mater Matuta to S. Stefano; that of the Fortuna Virilis, to S. Maria Egiziaca; the Macellum Magnum became the church of S. Stefano; the Pantheon and the temple of Minerva were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; and so on indefinitely. Nearly one half of the thousand and more churches and shrines registered in Rome in the fourteenth century were indicated by the titles — in thermis, in porticu, in maximis, in archione, in formis, in palatio, in horreis, in marmorata, in paradiso, in lauro, in macello, in piscina. The example set by clergy in appropriating the above descriptive terms was followed closely by the noblemen of the age: by the Savelli, who had intrenched themselves within the theatre of Marcellus, and within the temple of Libertas on the Aventine; by the Conti, whose famous tower near the Piazza delle Carrette rests on the ruins of the Templum Telluris; by the Frangipani, whose central fortress on the palace of the Caesars was surrounded by detached works, erected on the Colosseum, on the arch of Titus, on the arch of Constantine, on the Janus of the Forum Boarium; by the Colonnas, masters of the mausoleum of Augustus and of the temple of the Sun on the Quirinal; by the Crescenzi, who sought refuge among the great halls of the thermae of Severus Alexander; by the Orsini, whose headquarters were established in the theatre of Pompey the Great; by the S. P. Q. R., masters of the Tabularium, and so forth. It is evident that such adaptations of ancient ruins for the use of churches, fortresses, houses, indirectly contributed to their preservation. At any rate, when we hear of destructions accomplished in the Middle Ages, we have, in many cases, the evidence of their absolute necessity. In the life of Hadrian I, the "Liber Pontificalis" relates how the temple of Ceres in the Forum Boarium was demolished to save the church of S. Maria in Cosmedin from being crushed by the fall of the overhanging ruins. The same Pope Hadrian was obliged to rebuild the church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus one hundred feet south of its original site, to save it from the danger of being swept away by the fall of the temple of Concord.

We must not forget, moreover, that the ruins of the ancient city were a permanent source of danger to the inhabitants of the mediaeval city; so much so that the destruction of some of those ruins must be considered to have been in legitimate self-defence. Those galleries tumbling into pieces; those crypts plunged in darkness; those thermae lost in the wilderness of the abandoned quarters of the old town; those porticoes, many stories high, half concealed under a thick growth of ivies and shrubs, were haunted by outlaws, murderers, and brigands, who, sheltered as they were, could defy from their inaccessible dens all the combined efforts of the police and of the baronial gens-d'armes. This state of things and this most curious relationship between ancient ruins and public security will be better understood from one or two incidents which have taken place lately under our own eyes or under the eyes of the preceding generation.

Antonio Uggeri, the indefatigable explorer of Roman monuments under Pius VI, after relating how a great many skeletons of murdered men had been discovered in the excavations of the Colosseum, under the arcades of which they had secretly been buried, speaks of the following personal experience ("Antichità," vol. XXII.): "There is no doubt that the Colosseum has been for centuries the safest den of Roman outlaws. This is what happened to me there in 1790. I was engaged at that time in correcting some measurements which I had taken of the building on former occasions. I arrived on the spot one afternoon, an hour before sunset, climbed up, not without danger, taking advantage of the roughness of the walls, and entered the main corridor, on my way to the upper galleries. I had walked scarcely a hundred paces when, all of a sudden, a man sprang at me from behind a corner, — a man very tall, entirely naked, with rags around his head and ankles, black in the face, bearded, and absolutely repulsive to look at. He caught me by the waist, shook me violently, asking at the same time who I was, what business I had there, and other such questions. I answered, trembling, that I was an architect, and showed him my measure and my compass as an evidence of the purpose of my expedition among those ruins. In the mean while I heard a more gentle voice close by, begging him to leave me in peace; and, proceeding a few steps farther, I discovered the rest of the company under the vault of one of the staircases. It was composed of two more men and one woman (to whose interference I most likely owed my life), all three entirely naked, as the season was very warm. One of the men was standing; the other was cooking something at the farther end of the passage. The poor woman crouched down to conceal her nudity as well as she could."

In case this adventure of 1790 should seem antiquated to the reader, I can instance a more recent and quite personal experience. In the year 1874, when the new Via Claudia was first opened between the Colosseum and the Navicella, I discovered a whole family nested in an underground corridor (thirty-six feet below the level of the temple of Claudius). The corridor or channel was but six feet wide, a few yards long, with a scanty supply of air and light. One of the family was lying dead on some straw; the others were praying and sobbing around the corpse. In 1877, when engaged in restoring the so‑called Trophies of Marius (the fountain of the Aqua Julia), in the Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele, I discovered, likewise, a family who had been living for years inside the dry channel of the old aqueduct. A few months ago the hiding-place of a daring pickpocket was discovered right in the attic-room of the arch of Titus, together with many ancient marble heads and fragments, — a proof of his additional archaeological instincts. If such things can happen in an epoch as civilized as ours, and under the eyes of a vigilant and acute police, we cannot wonder if in the Middle Ages the existence of ruins was considered in some cases inconsistent with public security.

I have said all this to prove that, in the long and sad history of the destruction of ancient Rome, the Middle Ages are perhaps the least guilty, — less guilty, at any rate, than the period of the Renaissance which followed. In spite of their enthusiastic love for ancient art and classic civilization, the great masters of the Renaissance treated our monuments and ruins with incredible contempt and brutality. The original cause of this state of things must be found, strange to say, in the increasing civilization of the age, in the softening and refining of former habits, in the development of public and private wealth, which was pushing popes, cardinals, patricians, bankers, and rich merchants to raise everywhere magnificent palaces and villas, churches and monasteries, aqueducts and fountains, harbors and bridges, castles and towers. All these constructions of the golden age, which justly form the pride of my city, and make it unique and enviable by the whole world, were built, stone by stone, with materials stolen from ancient ruins. In the course of the present book I shall have occasion to speak at length on this subject, proving that the cinquecento excavations did more harm to the monuments of imperial, republican, and kingly Rome than the ten centuries of preceding barbarism. I do not say these things to cast reproach upon the memory of men — popes, princes, artists — who so powerfully contributed to the embellishment of Rome, and who in place of the edifices destroyed by them left to us other creations which leave nothing to envy in the ancient ones. I make these remarks only to confirm what was said at the outset, namely, that the process of destruction and transformation is as old as the history of Rome itself, and that this state of things is so true and so in accordance with the nature of the city and its inhabitants that, to prevent so far as was possible further damages to our ruins, the famous legge Pacca was promulgated, a law worthy of the brutality of the Middle Ages, which partially attained its end, thanks to its clauses of unheard-of violence.

The next period, which runs from the middle of the seventeenth century to end of the eighteenth, ranks also among the saddest in our history, because it marks the almost complete destruction of mediaeval buildings. Under the pretence of restorations and embellishments, the authorities laid their hands upon the most noted and the most venerable churches of the city, which had until then preserved their beautiful basilical type in all its simplicity, purity, and majesty. Alfonzo Sotomayor in 1665, Pier da Cortona under Urban VIII, and Borromini under Alexander VII disfigured the twin churches of S. Adriano and S. Martina. Onorio Longhi destroyed in 1651 the church of S. Ambrogio and its marvellous frescoes by Pierino del Vaga, to build in its place the tasteless structure of S. Carlo all Corso. The old church of S. Alessio was shamefully modernized by Tommaso de Marchis in 1750, and so were those of S. Anastasia in 1722 by Carlo Gimach, of S. Apollinare by Ferdinando Fuga, of SS. Apostoli by Francesco Fontana, of SS. Cosma e Damiano by Arigucci. The basilica of S. Croce in Gerusalemme, profaned and reduced to its present form in 1744 by Passalacqua and Gregorini, is classified by Milizia among the works of nefarious architects. The same title of nefarious is given by Fea to Paolo Posi, who under the pontificate of Benedict XIV profaned the attic of the Pantheon, substituting chiaroscuro daubs for the exquisite marble incrustations of Septimius Severus. And we must acknowledge that the same criticism ought to be applied — from the point of view of church architecture — to Borromini for the disfigurement of the Lateran, to Antonio Canevari for that of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, to Francesco Ferrari for that of S. Gregorio on the Caelian, and so forth.

These churches, before the shameful restorations, were generally divided into three naves by means of colonnades, the shafts of which had been removed from some neighboring classic edifice; their pavements were inlaid with marble slabs, for the greater part inscribed with pagan historical inscriptions or with epitaphs, or else worked in alto or basso rilievo, with patches of Cosmati tessellated work here and there. The walls of the central nave, supported by the two parallel rows of columns, were still covered with paintings and frescoes of the Middle Ages or of the earliest Renaissance, and were perforated by narrow, oblong, Lombardesque windows, through which a thread of subdued light penetrated, enough to keep the sanctuary in a dreamy twilight, which invited the faithful to meditation and prayer. The roof was supported by beams of cedar wood; the façade was ornamented with a portico of spiral or fluted columns, with bases and capitals of various styles and workmanship; the doorposts of the only entrance rested upon the backs of lions, modelled by Vassalletus; the upper façade, above the portico, was covered with frescoes and mosaics.

The system followed in restoring these churches was everywhere uniform. The columns of the nave were walled up, and concealed in thick pilasters of whitewashed masonry; the inscribed or sculptured marble slabs and the mosaic pavements were taken up, and replaced by brick floors; the windows were enlarged out of all proportion, and assumed a rectangular form, so that floods of light might enter and illuminate every remote, peaceful recess of the sacred place. For the beautiful roofs made of cedar wood, vaults or lacunaria were substituted. The near of entrance-doors was trebled; the simple but precious frescoes of the fourteenth century were whitewashed, and the fresh surface was covered with the insignificant productions of Francesco Cozza, Gerolamo Troppa, Giacinto Brandi, Michelangelo Cerruti, Pasquale Marini, Biagio Puccini, and other painters equally obscure. All these profanations could be accomplished, not only without opposition, but amid general applause, because such was the spirit and the perverted taste of the age. It is enough to quote the example of G. B. Piranesi, architect, archaeologist, engraver, educated under the influence and the inspiration of ancient art, worshipper of ancient masterpieces of architecture, who, when asked in 1765 by Cardinal Rezzonico to restore the church of S. Maria del Priorato di Malta on the Aventine, created such an ensemble of monstrosities — inside and outside the church — that it would be difficult to find its parallel anywhere in the world. We must remember, however, that the artists who took such an active and shameful part in the crusade against our mediaeval churches and cloisters were the very ones who embellished Rome with such beautiful creations as the Trevi fountain, the Palazzo della Consulta, the Curia Innocenziana, the Corsini chapel in the Lateran, the churches of S. Agnese, of S. Andrea all Quirinale, of S. Carlo a' Catinari, the palazzi Rinuccini, Corsini, Altieri, Pamphili, Falconieri, Madama, etc.

Very few words need be spent on the fourth period, — from the end of the last century to 1870, — because the beneficial and munificent spirit shown towards our monuments by Pius VI, Pius VII, Count de Tournon, the Napoleonic prefect of the "département du Tibre," of Gregory XVI, and Pius IX is known to every one, as we know the grave faults committed at the same time, and the damages inflicted without any apparent reason upon many works of art.

Pius VI founded, in the Vatican, the gallery of inscriptions, the cabinet of masks, the hall of the Muses, the Rotunda, the halls of the Greek Cross and of the Biga. Pius VII founded the Braccio Nuovo and the Chiaramonti museum. Under the wise administration of Count de Tournon not less than one million dollars were spent in works of public utility, and in excavating and laying bare to archaeological investigation such monuments as the temples of Vespasian, of Castor and Pollux, of Antoninus and Faustina, of Venus and Rome, of the Mater Matuta, of the Fortuna Virilis, the basilica of Constantine, the Colosseum, the Golden House of Nero, the Janus of the Forum Boarium, the Basilica Ulpia, the Forum of Trajan, etc. All these works, begun by Tournon, were most successfully brought to perfection by Pius VII Gregory XVI, devoid as he was of classic instruction and refinement, left to us three incomparable new museums, the Egyptian, the Etruscan, and the Lateran. Under the rule of Pius IX, the monuments of the city, the museums, the galleries, were the object of constant and liberal care.

As for the damage done to ancient or Renaissance monuments during the same period, a small portion of it has been described by Pellegrini, in the Mémoire which was forbidden publication in Rome by the papal authorities of the time.

Coming now to our own times, and the controversy lately raised on the so‑called destruction of Rome, I must acknowledge that the sensation we felt when the controversy was opened was one of disgust rather than of sorrow. These pretended revelations of vandalism, these condemnations of operations characterized at first as destruction of Rome, later on as simple transformation or disfigurement, were levelled at men who for the last seventeen years have been constantly on the watch to defend inch by inch the archaeological ground against the princes of finance and speculation, against engineers and contractors, against the daily press. Considering, however, the state of things more calmly, we must be grateful to the authors of the controversy, not only because we believe them to have been inspired alone by the pure love they feel for art and archaeology, but also because they have given us a solemn occasion for discussing the subject, and making the light of truth shine forth in its full splendor. When at the end of 1870 the Italian government turned its attention towards the archaeological interest of the city, the valley of the Forum was still the Campo Vaccino of past ages. With the excavation of the column of Phocas, excavated by the Duchess of Devonshire, of a narrow ledge of the Basilica Julia, and a portion of the temple of Castor and Pollux, excavated by Tournon, all that classic group lay buried under an embankment thirty-three feet high. If in 1870 any one had spoken to us of the probability of an imminent and complete excavation of the Forum, from end to end, we should have denied the possibility of such an enterprise being accomplished by a single generation. But now the golden dream has become a reality. To‑day, for the first time since the fall of the empire, we are able to walk over the bare pavement of the Sacra Via, from its beginning near the Colosseum to its end near the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, admiring on either side of the wonderful road the most glorious monuments of the republic and of the empire. To the discovery and excavation of this group we must add the excavation of the baths of Caracalla, of the Stadium of Domitian, of the greater portion of the palace of the Caesars; the isolation of Agrippa's Pantheon, and of the so‑called Nymphaeum of Minerva Medica; and the transfer from private to public domain of the whole Palatine hill, the lands covering the baths of Titus and Caracalla, the necropolis on the Via Latina, the tombs of the Scipios, Ostia, and the villa of Hadrian.

As regards the art-treasures collected since 1870, it is enough to name the two bronze athletes lately discovered on the slope of the Quirinal, the bronze Bacchus of the Tiber, the Juno of the Palatine, the bas-reliefs of the Forum, and the four hundred and seventy-nine statues and busts brought together by the municipality. To obtain these results, the state and the municipality have spent about one million dollars, and excavated and removed miles away in all two hundred and eighty-six million cubic feet of earth. What state, what city, in the world can boast of having done in so short a time the hundredth part of what has been accomplished in Rome?

We must not forget that whereas in former times archaeological discoveries were made known to a limited number of privileged experts, sometimes years after they had taken place, now the "Bullettino della Commissione archeologica comunale di Rome" describes every month all the latest discoveries,1 thus enabling specialists scattered all over the world to share the privilege of those residing in Rome.

I have spoken hitherto almost exclusively of ancient monuments and works of art, to keep myself within the radius of my own studies and within the boundaries of my own province. If the action of the state and of the city authorities has not proved of equal benefit in preserving mediaeval buildings, it is only because mediaeval buildings are exceedingly scarce in Rome. Still something has been, and more will be, done. The house of the Anguillara, for instance, with its picturesque tower and surroundings, has already been purchased by the city, with the intention of having it turned into a mediaeval museum. The Torre delle Milizie has also been rescued from private hands, as well as the Tower of S. Martino a' Monti and the fortified convent of SS. Quattro Coronati.

As I have remarked above, it would be useless to deny that all these important conquests in the historical, archaeological, and artistic field have been accompanied and followed by a certain amount of loss and sacrifice. It is useless to deny that the picturesqueness and the main characteristics of the Rome of the popes are now a matter of the past. Our churches, our monasteries, our monuments, are still left undisturbed, — in fact they are better taken care of: but we miss their old surroundings; we miss the aged ilexes, forming as it were the frame of the picture, their deep green giving by contrast that vigor and brilliancy to the golden hue which old age lends to ruins in southern climates; we miss the exquisite burial-ground of the Alban hills, and the snow-capped summits of the Apennine range; we miss that sense of quiet and peaceful enjoyment which pervaded the whole scene. It is impossible to imagine anything more commonplace, and out of keeping, and shabby, and tasteless, than the new quarters which encircle the city of 1870. An excuse for this wretched state of things can be found in the rapidity with which these new quarters have sprung out of the ground, and also in the necessity of giving a hasty shelter to the new population of nearly two hundred thousand immigrants. The lovely districts crossed by the Via Salaria and the Via Nomentana, formerly studded with patrician villas and gardens, overlooking the Campagna, the valley of the Anio, the Sabine and Volscian mountains, have been transformed into an ugly city of five-storied anti-aesthetic houses, looking more like barracks and barns than like dwellings for the cultivated inhabitants of the metropolis of a great kingdom. The same practice has been followed in building on the Esquiline, the Viminal, and Quirinal hills, the plains of Testaccio and of Castello, and the outskirts of the city outside the gates S. Lorenzo, Maggiore, S. Giovanni, Angelica, and Portese.

As I wrote in the "Athenaeum" of December 10, 1887, Rome, seen from one of the neighboring heights, — from the Monte Cavo for instance, — is no more the Rome of our dreams, of a beautiful brownish hue, surrounded by dense masses of foliage: it is an immense white dazzling spot, some six miles in diameter, bordering directly on the wilderness of the Campagna. In other words, Rome is assuming the look of a modern capital, with all its comforts and disadvantages, — perhaps with more disadvantages than comforts. The thought that, to make room for the new quarters, all but two of our villas have been mercilessly sacrificed, makes us hate the very name and sight of new quarters! It is difficult to decide who is to blame for the present state of things. The city authorities have been taken by surprise: they never dreamt that the population would double in fifteen years; that Italian and foreign speculation was ready to throw hundreds of millions on the Roman market; and lastly, that the result of this sudden influx of "ready money" would be the raising of the value of land from a few centimes the square metre to more than one thousand francs. In my opinion, the blame must be cast especially on the Roman aristocracy, on our noble land-owners unworthy the great names, which to our misfortune they have inherited; because no sooner did this degenerate race discern the possibility of raising a little money on the magnificent villas which their forefathers had built and laid out for the comfort, health, and welfare of their fellow-citizens, than they did not hesitate one second to sell by the yard, as it were, the glory and pride of their families. We have seen three of them sell the very gardens which surrounded their city mansions, allowing these mansions to be contaminated by the contact of ignoble tenement houses. We have seen one of them sell, piece by piece, even his collections of works of art and of family souvenirs and documents and relics. We have seen every single one of our patrician villas — the Patrizi, the Sciarra, the Massimo, the Lucernari, the Mirafiori, the Wolkonsky, the Giustiniani, the Torlonias, the Campana, the San Faustino — destroyed, their casinos dismantled, and their beautiful old trees burnt into charcoal; the destruction of the Villa Borghese has been stopped, for the moment, by a more or less just decree of court. In one case only, a nobleman de la vieille roche resisted up to his last breath the temptation of selling his villa. His burial service was scarcely over, when the opportunity was seized, and what he had before strenuously prevented, as a shame to the family, was accomplished by his princely sons and daughters in less than a week, and the site of the villa, the most magnificent one Rome possessed within its walls, is already covered with tenement houses.

It is impossible to give an idea of the cruel persistence with which foliage, vegetation, trees, everything which is green, are persecuted in and around Rome. Public administrations, state, municipality, and private individuals seem to vie with each other in taking the lead of the crusade against the few samples of vegetable life which the auri sacra fames of the Roman aristocracy as left standing. When the municipality took possession of the Villa Corsini on the Janiculum, to transform it into a public promenade, they began their work by cutting down the great oaks planted by Queen Christine of Sweden, under the pretence that they interfered with the view. When the Italian authorities reorganized the department of public instruction in Rome, they gave up the lovely botanical gardens on the Lungara, under pretence of finding a better site for the new ones. The site has not yet been found. The Vatican authorities, to make room for a monumental column of the Council of 1870 have simply obliterated the beautiful Giardino della Pigna. No wonder that private citizens do not hesitate to follow such noble examples. No wonder that we already begin to feel the effects of this wholesale destruction, by an increase of two degrees in the average temperature in summer, and by a decrease in the average proportion of the oxygen of our atmosphere. Let us hope that the projects prepared and sanctioned by the city government for the establishment of new parks may soon be carried into execution. There will be three of them: One on the Monti Parioli, bordered by the Tiber, the Anio, and the Via Salaria and Flaminia, the ground for which — nearly five hundred acres — has already been purchased; the second on the ridge and on the slopes of the Janiculum, half of which is already opened for the recreation of the public; the last, approved by law of Parliament on July 14, 1887, will be, without exception, the finest park in the world, provided political or financial difficulties do not interfere with its construction. This Passeggiata Archeologica, as the movers of the bill, Professors Baccelli and Bongi have named it, comprises the palace of the Caesars, the valleys of the Forum and of the Colosseum, the baths of Titus, half the Caelian hill, with the temple of Claudius, the picturesque groups of S. Gregorio, SS. Giovanni e Paolo, S. Stefano Rotondo, the Villa Mattei, the vallis Egeriae, etc., the baths of Caracalla, the ancient necropolis between the Via Appia and the Via Latina, after of the Aventine hill, the Circus Maximus, the Forum Boarium, and the mediaeval fortress of S. Balbina.

To conclude this long Preface I must observe that as in all human controversies, so in this one concerning the transformation of Rome, there are many arguments in favor and many against. The impartial judge must put in each plate of the scales what has been gained and what has been lost, and must weigh the matter not from one single point of personal view, but from the general point of view of public health, cleanliness, comfort, art, science, history, and archaeology. Our judgment must start from the consideration that works of improvement, of enlargement, of transformation are absolutely necessary in Rome. We all remember how difficult it was to move or drive safely about under the old rule, on account of the narrow and winding character of the streets. Now that the population is fast approaching a half million, how could we live and move in the same space as before, without running serious risk, even risks of life? There were quarters, like the Ghetto and the Regola, the picturesqueness of which was the direct produce of filth, and of a half-savage state of moral and material life. There were the banks of the Tiber, - the main sewer of the city, — the poisonous effluvia of which, at low water, affected all the bordering districts. Can we honestly blame the city government for their efforts to improve this shameful state of things? Can we blame them for the embankment of the river, for the destruction of the Ghetto and of the Regola, for the widening and straightening of the principal thoroughfares, especially as we know that, in consequence of these works, the health of the city has improved wonderfully?

My opinion is that, since the works began, we have gained far more than we have lost: it appears to me that those who have so strongly denounced the proceedings of the municipality of Rome act like the miser, who, forgetful of the treasure already secured, gets into a fit of despair over any small gain which escapes his grip. We must remember, finally, that in every great undertaking there is a period of transition, which is exceedingly disagreeable. Let us reserve our final judgment until the period of transition is over, and the undertaking accomplished. At any rate, if there is a class of people that has no right to complain, it is the archaeological brotherhood; because never before has such a field been thrown open to their investigation, never has the Roman soil yielded such a magnificent archaeological harvest, as within the last few years.

I desire to express my obligations to Mr. Edward Robinson of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for the kind service which he has rendered me in superintending the preparation of this volume during the process of its manufacture. The distance at which I have been from the publishers and printers has been greatly lessened by his most generous interest in the work.

Rodolfo Lanciani.


The Author's Notes:

1 The Bullettino della Commissione archeologica comunale di Roma was established December, 1872, first as a quarterly, later on as a monthly publication. Issued on the first day of each month, it describes the archaeological novelties up to the twenty-fifth day of the preceding one. It is considered the most interesting "magazine" of its kind, especially on account of its beautiful illustrations.


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