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Chapter 5
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Pagan and Christian Rome

by Rodolfo Lanciani

published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Boston and New York, 1892

Text, maps and black & white illustrations are in the public domain.
Any color photos are © William P. Thayer.


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Chapter 7

 p253  CHAPTER VI.


Inhumation seems to have been more common than cremation in prehistoric Rome; enclosure, certain families, to give material evidence of their ancient lineage, would never submit to cremation. Such were the Cornelii Scipiones, whose sarcophagi were discovered during the last century in the Vigna Sassi. Sulla is the first Cornelius whose body was burned; but this he ordered done to avoid retaliation, that is to say, for fear of its being treated as he had treated the corpse of Marius. Both systems are mentioned in the law of the twelve tables: hominem mortuum in urbe ne sepelito  p254 neve urito, a statement which shows that each had an equal number of partisans, at the time of the promulgation of the law.

This theory is confirmed by the discoveries in the prehistoric cemeteries of the Viminal and Esquiline hills, which contain coffins as well as cineraria, or ash-urns. The discoveries have been published only in a fragmentary way, so that we cannot yet follow their development stage by stage, and determine at what periods and within what limits the influence of more civilized neighbors was felt by the primitive dwellers upon the Seven Hills. One thing is certain; the race that first colonized the Campagna was buried in trunks of trees, hollowed inside and cut to measure, as is the custom among some Indian tribes of the present day. In March, 1889, the engineers who were attending to the drainage of the Lago di Castiglione — the ancient Regillus — discovered a trunk of quercus robur, sawn lengthways into two halves, with a human skeleton inside, and fragments of objects in amber and ivory lying in it. The coffin, roughly cut and shaped, was buried at a depth of fourteen feet, in a trench a trifle longer and larger than itself, and the space between the coffin and the sides of the trench was filled with archaic pottery, of the type found in our own Roman necropolis of the Via dello Statuto. There were also specimens of imported pottery, and a bronze cup. The tomb and its contents are now exhibited in the Villa di Papa Giulio, outside the Porta del Popolo.

When Rome was founded, this semi-barbaric fashion of burial was by no means forgotten or abandoned by its inhabitants. We have not yet discovered coffins actually dug out of a tree, but we have found rude imitations of them in clay. These belong to the interval of time between the foundation of the city and the fortifications of Servius  p255 Tullius, having been found at the considerable depth of forty-two feet below the embankment of the Servian wall, in the Vigna Spithoever. They are now exhibited in the Capitoline Museum (Palazzo dei Conservatori), together with the skeletons, pottery, and bronze suppellex they contained.

Nearly every type of tomb known in Etruria, Magna Graecia, and the prehistoric Italic stations has a representative in the old cemeteries of the Viminal and the Esquiline. There are caves hewn out of the natural rock, with the entrance sealed by a block of the same material; in these are skeletons lying on the funeral beds on either side of the cave, or even on the floor between them, with the feet turned towards the door, and Italo-Greek pottery, together with objects in bronze, amber, and gold. There are also artificial caves, formed by horizontal courses of stones which project one beyond another, from both sides, till they meet at the top. Then there are bodies protected by a circle of uncut stones; others lying at the bottom of wells, and finally regular sarcophagi in the shape of square huts, and cineraria like those described on page 29 of my "Ancient Rome."

Comparing these data we reach the conclusion that inhumation was abandoned, with a few exceptions, towards the end of the fifth century of Rome, to be resumed only towards the middle of the second century after Christ, under the influence of Eastern doctrines and customs. For the student of Roman archaeology these facts have not merely a speculative interest; a knowledge of them is necessary for the chronological classification of the material found in cemeteries and represented so abundantly in public and private collections.

The acceptance of cremation as a national, exclusive system brought as a consequence the institution of the ustrina,  p256 the sacred enclosures in which pyres were built to convert the corpses into ashes. Several specimens of ustrina have been found near the city, and one of them is still to be seen in good preservation. It is built in the shape of a military camp, on the right of the Appian Way, five and a half miles from the gate. When Fabretti first saw it in 1699, it was intact, save a breach or gap on the north side. He describes it​a as a rectangle three hundred and forty feet long, and two hundred feet wide, enclosed by a wall thirteen feet high. Its masonry is irregular both in the shape and size of the blocks stone, and may well be assigned to the fifth century of Rome, when the necessity for popular ustrina was first felt. When Nibby and Gell visited the spot in 1822 they found that the noble owner of the farm had just destroyed the western side and a portion of the eastern, to build with their materials a maceria, or dry wall.

The ustrina which were connected with the Mausoleum of Augustus and the ara of the Antonines have already been described in chapter iv. Another institution, that of columbaria, or ossaria, as they would more properly be called, owes its origin to the same cause. Columbaria are a specialty of Rome and the Campagna, and are found nowhere else, not even in the colonies or settlements originating directly from the city. They begin to appear some twenty years before Christ, under the rule of Augustus and the premier­ship of Maecenas. Inasmuch as the Campus Esquilinus, which, up to their time, had been used for the burial of artisans, laborers, servants, slaves, and freedmen, was suppressed in consequence of the sanitary reforms described by Horace,​1 and was buried under an embankment of pure earth, and converted into a public park; as, moreover, the disappearance of the said cemetery was followed closely  p257 by the appearance of columbaria, I believe one fact to be a consequence of the other, and both to be a part of the same hygienic reform. No cleaner, healthier, or more respectable substitute for the old puticoli could have been contrived by those enlightened statesmen. Any one, no matter how low in social position, could secure a decent place of rest for a paltry sum of money. The following inscription, still to be seen in the columbarium discovered in 1838, in the Villa Pamfili, —

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has been interpreted by Hülsen to mean that Paciaecus Isargyros had sold to Pinaria Murtinis a place for one as. Tombstones often mention transactions of this kind, and state the cost of purchase for one or more loculi, or for the whole tomb. Friedländer, in a Königsberg Programm for October, 1881,​2 has collected thirty-eight documents concerning the cost of tombs; they vary from a minimum of two hundred sestertii ($8.25) to a maximum of one hundred and ninety-two thousand ($8,000).

There were three kinds of columbaria: first, those built by one man or one family either for their own private use, or for their servants and freedmen; second, those built by one or more individuals for speculation, in which any one could secure a place by purchase; third, those built by a company for the personal use of shareholders and contributors.

As a good specimen of the columbaria of the second kind we can cite one built on the Via Latina, by a company  p258 of thirty-six shareholders. It was discovered in 1599, not far from the gate, and its records were scattered all over the city. As a proof of the negligence with which excavations were conducted in former times, we may state that, the same place having been searched again in 1854 by a man named Luigi Arduini, other inscriptions of great value were discovered, from which we learn how these burial companies were organized and operated. The first document, a marble inscription above the door of the crypt, states that in the year 6 B.C. thirty-six citizens formed a company for the building of a columbarium, each subscribing for an equal number of shares, and that they selected two of the shareholders to act as administrators. Their names are Marcus Aemilius, and Marcus Fabius Felix, and their official title is, curatores aedificii xxxvi. sociorum. They collected the contributions, bought the land, built the columbarium, approved and paid the contractors' bills, and having thus fulfilled their duty convened a general meeting for September 30. Their report was approved, and a deed was drawn up and duly signed by all present, declaring that the administrators had discharged their duty according to the statue. They then proceeded to the distribution of the loculi in equal lots, the loculi representing, as it were, the dividend of the company. The tomb contained one hundred and eighty loculi for cinerary urns, and each of the shareholders was consequently entitled to five. The distribution, however, was not so easy a matter as the number would make it appear. We know that it was made by drawing lots, per sortitionem ollarum, and we know also that in some cases the shareholders, as a remuneration to their chairmen, administrators, and auditors of accounts, voted them exemption from the rule, by giving them the right of selecting their loculi without drawing (sine sorte). Evidently some places  p259 were more desirable than others, and if we remember how columbaria are built, it is not difficult to see which loculi must have been most in demand.

The pious devotion of the Romans towards the dead caused them to pay frequent visits to their tombs, especially on anniversaries, when the urns were decorated with flowers, libations were offered, and other ceremonies performed. These inferiae, or rites, could be celebrated easily if the loculus and the cinerary urn were near the ground, while ladders were required to reach the upper tiers. The same difficulty was experienced when cinerary urns had to be placed in their niches; and the funeral tablets and memorials containing the name, age, condition, etc., of the deceased, which were either written in ink or charcoal, or else engraved on marble, could not be read if too high above the pavement. For these reasons, and to avoid any suspicion of partiality in the distribution of lots, the shareholders trusted to chance. The crypt discovered in the Via Latina contained five rows of niches of thirty-six each. The rows were called sortes, the niches loci. Now, as each shareholder was entitled to five loci, one on each row, lots were drawn only in regard to the locus, not to the row. The inscriptions discovered in 1599 and 1854 are therefore all worded with the formula: "Of Caius Rabirius Aeschinus, fourth tier, twenty-eighth locus;" "Of Lucius Scribonius Sosus, fourth tier, twenty-third locus": — in all, nine names out of thirty-six. The allotment of Rabirius Faustus is the only one known entirely. He had drawn No. 30 in the first row, No. 28 in the second, No. 6 in the third, No. 8 in the fourth, No. 31 in the fifth.

It took at least thirty-one years for the members of the company to gain the full benefit of their investment; the  p260 last interment mentioned in the tablets having taken place A.D. 25. This late comer is not an obscure man; he is the famous charioteer, or auriga circensis, Scirtus, who began his career A.D. 13, enlisting in the white squadron. In the lapse of thirteen years he won the first prize seven times, the second thirty-nine times, the third forty times, besides other honors minutely specified on his tombstone.3

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The theory that Roman tombs were built along the high roads in two or three rows only, so that they could all be seen by those passing, has been shown by modern excavations to be unfounded. The space allotted for burial purposes was more extensive than that. Sometimes it extended over the whole stretch of land from one high-road to the next. Such is the case with the spaces between the Via Appia and the Via Latina, the Labicana and Praenestina, and the Salaria and Nomentana, each of which contains hundreds of acres densely packed with tombs. In the triangle formed by the Via Appia, the Via Latina, and walls of Aurelian, one thousand five hundred and fifty-nine tombs have been discovered in modern times, not including the family vault of the Scipios.​4 Nine hundred and ninety-four have been found on the Via Labicana, near the Porta Maggiore, in a space sixty yards long by fifty wide. The number of pagan tombstones registered in volume VI of the "Corpus" is 28,180, exclusive of the additamenta, which will bring the grand total to thirty thousand. As hardly one tombstone out of ten has escaped destruction, we may assume as a certainty that Rome was surrounded by a belt of at least three hundred thousand tombs.

The reader may easily imagine what a mass of information  p261 is to be gathered from this source. In this respect, the perusal of parts II, III, and IV of the sixth volume of the "Corpus" is more useful to the student than all the handbooks and "Sittengeschichten" in the world; and besides, the reading is not dry and tiresome, as one might suppose. Many epitaphs give an account of the life of the deceased; of his rank in the army, and the campaigns in which he fought; of the name of the man-of‑war to which he belonged, if he had served in the navy; of the branch of trade he was engaged in; the address of his place of business; his success in the equestrian or senatorial career, or in the circus or the theatre; his "état civil," his age, place of birth, and so on. Sometimes tombstones display a remarkable eloquence, and even a sense of humor.

Here is an expression of over­powering grief, written on a sarcophagus between the images of a boy and a girl: "O cruel, impious mother that I am: to the memory of my sweetest children, Publilius who lived 13 years 55 days, and Aeria Theodora who lived 27 years 12 days. Oh, miserable mother, who hast seen the most cruel end of they children! If God had been merciful, thou hadst been buried by them." Another woman writes on the urn of her son Marius Exoriens: "The preposterous laws of death have torn him from my arms! As I have the advantage of years, so ought death to have reaped me first."

The following words were dictated by a young widow for the grave of her departed companion: "To the adorable, blessed soul of L. Sempronius Firmus. We knew, we loved each other from childhood: married, an impious hand separated us at once. Oh, infernal Gods, do be kind and merciful to him, and let him appear to me in the silent hours of the night. And also let me share his fate, that we may be reunited dulcius et celerius." I have left the two adverbs  p262 in their original form; their exquisite feeling defies translation.

The following sentence is copied from the grave of a freedman: "Erected to the memory of Memmius Clarus by his co-servant Memmius Urbanus. I know that there never was the shade of a disagreement between thee and me: never a cloud passed over our common happiness. I swear to the gods of Heaven and Hell, that we worked faithfully and lovingly together, that we were set free from servitude on the same day and in the same house: nothing would every have separated us, except this fatal hour."

A remarkable feature of ancient funeral eloquence is found in the imprecations addressed to the passer, to insure the safety of the tomb and its contents:​5

"Any one who injures my tomb or steals its ornaments, may he see the death of all his relatives."

"Whoever steals the nails from this structure, may he thrust them into his eyes."

A grumbler wrote on a gravestone found in the Vigna Codini:—

"Lawyers and the evil-eyed keep away from my tomb."

It is manifestly impossible to make the reader acquainted with all the discoveries in this department of Roman archaeology since 1870. The following specimens from the viae Aurelia, Triumphalis, Salaria, and Appia seem to me to represent fairly well what is of average interest in this class of monuments.

Via Aurelia. Under this head I record the tomb of Platorinus, which was found in 1880 on the banks of the Tiber, near La Farnesina, although, strictly speaking, it  p263 belongs to a side road running from the Via Aurelia to the Vatican quarters, parallel with the stream. The discovery was made in the following circumstances:—

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Ancient house in the Farnesina Gardens.
A strip of land four hundred metres long by eighty broad was bought by the state in 1876 and cut away from the gardens of la Farnesina, to widen the bed of the Tiber. It was found to contain several ancient edifices, which have since become famous in topographical books. I refer more particularly to the patrician house discovered near the church of S. Giacomo in Settimiana, the paintings of which are now exhibited in Michelangelo's cloisters, adjoining the Baths of Diocletian.

These paintings have been admirably reproduced in color and outline by the German Archaeological Institute,​6 but they have not yet been illustrated from the point of view of the subjects they represent. They are divided into panels by pilasters and colored columns, each half being distinguished by a different color: white (Nos. 1, 5, 6, of the plan), red (Nos. 2, 4), or black (No. 3). The frieze of the "black" series represents the trying of a criminal case by a magistrate, very likely the owner of the palace, with curious details concerning the evidence asked and freely given to him.

Near the frieze, the artist has drawn pictures as though  p264 hung to the wall, with folding shutters, some wide open, some half-closed. They are genre subjects, such as a school of declamation, a wedding, a banquet; and though the figures are not five inches long, they are so wonderfully executed that even the eyebrows are discernible.

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Specimen of outline designs in the ancient house in the Farnesina Gardens.
The pictures in the centre of the panels are of larger size. Those of the "white" room are painted in the style of the Attic lekythoi, or oil-jugs. The figures are drawn in outline with a dark, subtle color, each space within the outline being filled in with the proper tint; though a few only are drawn without the colors. One of these remarkable pictures represents two women, — one sitting, the other standing, and both looking at a winged Cupid. Another represents a lady playing on the seven-stringed lyre, each of the strings being marked by a sign which, perhaps, corresponds to the notes of the scale. In one of the panels from room No. 4 is still visible what we suppose to be the signature of the artist: ϹΕΛΕΥΚΟϹ ΕΠΟΕΙ (sic). It seems as if Baldassare Peruzzi, Raphael, Giulio Romano, il Sodoma, il Fattore, and Gaudenzio Ferrari, to whom we owe the wonders of the Farnesina dei Chigi, must have unconsciously felt the influence of the wonders of this Roman house which was buried under their feet. It is a great pity that the two could not have been left standing together. With a subject for study and comparison these two sets of masterpieces of the golden ages of Augustus and Leo X would have offered to the lover of art!

The ceiling of the room No. 2, carved in stucco, is worthy of the paintings. The reliefs are so flat that the prominent points do not stand out more than three millimetres. The artist might have modelled them by breathing over the stucco, they are so light and delicate. One of the scenes represents the borders of a river, with villas, temples,  p265 shrines, and pastoral huts scattered under the shade of palm or sycamore trees, the foliage of which is waving gently in the breeze. The people are variously occupied, — some are fishing with the rod, some bathing, some carrying water-jars on their heads. The gem of the reliefs is a group of oxen, grazing in the meadow, of such exquisite beauty as to cast into shade the best engravings of Italo-Greek or Sicilian coins.

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Next in importance to the Roman house comes the tomb of Sulpicius Platorinus, discovered in May, 1880, at the  p266 opposite end of the Farnesina Gardens, near the walls of Aurelian. A corner of this tomb had been exposed to view for a couple of years, nobody paying attention to it, because, as a rule, tombs within the walls, having been exposed for centuries to the thieving instincts of the populace in general, and of treasure-hunters in particular, are always found plundered and barren of contents. In this instance, however, it was our fortune to meet with a welcome exception to the rule.

From an inscription engraved on marble above the entrance door, we learn that the mausoleum was raised in memory of Caius Sulpicius Platorinus, a magistrate of the time of Augustus, and of his sister Sulpicia Platorina, the wife of Cornelius Priscus. The room contained nine niches, and each niche a cinerary urn, of which six were still untouched. These urns are of the most elaborate kind, carved in white marble, with festoons hanging from bulls' heads, and birds of various kinds eating fruit. Some of the urns are round, some square, the motive of the decoration being the same for all of them. The cover of the round ones is in the shape of a tholus, a building shaped something like a beehive, the tiles being represented by acanthus leaves, and the pinnacle by a bunch of flowers.

The covers of these urns were fastened with molten lead. The unsealing of them was an event of great excitement; it was performed in the coffee-house of the Farnesina, in the presence of a large and distinguished assembly. I remember the date, May 3, 1880. They were found to be half full of water from the last flood of the Tiber, with a layer of ashes and bones at the bottom. The contents were emptied on a sheet of white linen. Those of the first had no value; the second contained a gold ring without its  p267 stone, — which was found, however, in the third cinerarium; a most extraordinary circumstance. It can be explained by supposing that both bodies were cremated at the same time, and that their ashes were somehow mixed together. The stone, probably an onyx, was injured by the action of the fire, and its engraving nearly effaced. It seems to represent a lion in repose. Nothing was found in the fourth; the fifth furnished two heavy gold rings with cameos representing respectively a mask and a bear-hunt. The last urn, inscribed with the name of Minasia Polla, — a girl of about sixteen, as shown by the teeth and the size of some fragments of bone, — contained a plain hair-pin of brass.

Having thus finished with the cineraria and their contents, the exploration of the tomb itself was resumed. Inscriptions engraved on one of the parts of the frieze gave us a full list of the personages who had found their last resting-place within, besides the two Platorini, and the girl Minasia Polla, just mentioned. They are: Aulus Crispinus Caepio, who played an important part in court intrigues at the time of Tiberius; Antonia Furnilla; and her daughter, Marcia Furnilla, the second wife of Titus. She was repudiated by him A.D. 64, as described by Suetonius.​7 Historians have inquired why, and found no clew, considering what a model man Titus is known to have been. If the marble statue found in this tomb, and reproduced in our illustration, is really that of Marcia Furnilla, and a good likeness, the reason for the divorce is easily found, — she looks hopelessly disagreeable.

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The bust represented in the same plate, one of the most refined and carefully executed portraits found in Rome, is probably that of Minasia Polla, and gives a good idea of the appearance of a young noble Roman lady of the first half  p268 of the first century. Another statue, that of the emperor Tiberius, in the so‑called "heroic" style, was found lying on the mosaic floor. Although crushed by the falling of the vaulted ceiling, no important piece was missing.

Both statues, the bust, the cinerary urns, and the inscriptions, are now exhibited in Michelangelo's cloisters in the Museo delle Terme.

It is difficult to explain how this rich tomb escaped plunder and destruction, plainly visible as it was for many centuries, in one of the most populous and unscrupulous quarters of the city. Perhaps when Aurelian built his wall, which ran close to it, and raised the level of Trastevere, the tomb itself was buried, and its treasures left untouched.

Beginning now the ascent of the Janiculum, on our way towards the Porta S. Pancrazio and the Villa Pamfili, I must mention a curious discovery made three centuries ago near the church of S. Pietro in Montorio; that of a platform, lined with terminal stones inscribed with the legend: DEVAS CORNISCAS SACRVM ("this area is sacred to the divine crows"). The place is described by Festus (Ep. 64). It is a remarkable fact that in Rome not only men but animals should remain faithful to old habits and traditions. Some of my readers may have noticed how regularly every day, towards sunset, flights of crows are seen crossing the skies on their way to their night lodgings in the pine-trees of the Villa Borghese. They have two or three favorite halting-places, for instance the campanile of S. Andrea delle Fratte, the towers of the Trinità de' Monti, where they hold noisy meetings which last until the first stroke of the Ave-Maria. This sound is interpreted by them as a call to rest. Whether the area of the sacred crows described by Festus was planted with pines, and used as a rest at night, or simply as a halting-place, the fact of  p269 their daily migration to and from the swamps of the Maremma, and of their evening meetings, dates from classical times.

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​8 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  p270 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.​9 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 p271). 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.

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The Judgment of Solomon.

Via Triumphalis. The necropolis which lined the Via Triumphalis, from Nero's bridge near S. Spirito, to the top  p271 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 p272),º 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 Iº 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.

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Panel from the bronze door of S. Peter's, by Filarete.

The "Terebinth of Nero" is described as a round marble structure, as high as Hadrian's tomb. It was also dismantled  p272 by Pope Donnus, and its materials were used in the restoration and embellishment of the "Paradisus" or quadri-portico 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  p273 tombs discovered by Sangallo in building the fortifications or "Bastione di Belvedere." One of them is thus described by Pirro Ligorio on p139 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."10

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Tomb of Helius, the shoemaker.
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  p274 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 Fontinalis, 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, sandalarii, 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  p275 their day, and liked to be represented on their tombs with the tools of their trade. A bas-relief in the Museo di Breraº 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​11 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,  p276 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.​12 Its  p277 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 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,  p278 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,  p279 coupled with a sad touch of irony. That engraved on the urn of Pompeius Magnus says:—

Cn · Pompeius

Crassi F · Men


pontif · quaest

Ti · Clavdi · Caesaris · Avg


soceri · svi

"[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 refinement, 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,  p280 represents the rape of the daughters of Leukippos by Castor and Pollux.

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Sarcophagus of the Leukippides.

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.​13 The tomb had  p281 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.

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For a more scholar­ly treatment and better photos in which the inscription is fully readable, see the article in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

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.​14 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 "improvisatori" who manifested their wonderful gift at a premature age;​15 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  p282 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  p283 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  p284 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 monumentis et locus sit egestus),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  p285 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 these 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  p286 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 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  p287 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."

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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.

 p288  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.​16 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  p289 fortune was far beyond his condition in life. Nerva's answer confirmed him emphatically in the full possession of his 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.

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Tomb of Annia Regilla (fragment).
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;  p290 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."​17

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 burial-space  p291 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  p292 "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 heroön, 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  p293 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 Anna 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."​18 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 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.

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The Sacred Grove and the Temple of Ceres; now S. Urbano alla Caffarella.

As regards the Sacred Grove, there is no doubt that its present beautiful ilexes continue the tradition, and flourish  p294 on the very spot of the old grove, sacred to the memory of Annia Regilla, cvivs haec praedia fvervnt.º

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​19 in reference to this extraordinary event that it may  p295 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 crown 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;  p296 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 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 cheeks the color would disappear as in a living body. The tongue could be seen through the pink lips; the articulation of the hands and feet still retained their elasticity.  p297 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 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 retain 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,  p298 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.

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The body of a girl found in 1485.

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

The excavations were undertaken by the monks of Santa  p299 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 three 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  p300 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:-

D · M


VIX · ANN · XXVI · M · I · D · I ·





"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  p301 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 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  p302 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 above 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.

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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  p303 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.​20 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.

 p304  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 belong 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.

 p305  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 woman's form, and ranks among the finest of its kind yet found in Roman excavations. The hands and feet are carved with the most 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. 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.º

The Author's Notes:

1 See chapter iii., p67, of Ancient Rome.

2 De titulis in quibus monumentorum sepulcralium indicatae sunt.

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

4 See the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. VI., part 2, nos. 4327‑5886.

5 See Walch: Ad Gorii Xenia, p98. — Orelli-Henzen: vol. 2, no. 4789, etc.

6 Monumenti inediti dell' Instituto di correspondenza archeologica, Supplemento, 1891.

7 Titus, 4.

8 See:— Pietro Sante Bartoli: Gli Antichi sepolcri. Roma: de Rossi, 1727. — Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. VI, part ii, pp1073, 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.

9 See:— Otto Jahn: Die Wandgemälde des Columbariums in der Villa Pamfili, in the Abhandlungen der bayerischen Akademie, 1857. — Eugen Petersen: Sitzungsberichte des Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abtheilung, March 18, 1892.

10 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.

11 Digest. IX.2.5, § 3.

12 See:— Notizie degli Scavi, 1884, p393. — Henzen: Bullettino dell' Instituto, 1885, p9. — Stevenson: idem, 1885, p22. — Geffroy: Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome, 1885, p318, pl. vii‑xiii.

13 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, p98. — 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)

14 On the subject of this competition see:— Suetonius: Domitian, 4.— Stefano Morcelli: Sull' Agone Capitolino. Dissertazione postuma. Milano, 1816. — Joachim Marquardt: Handbuch der römischen Alterthümer, iv. 453.

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

16 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: Mémoires sur la vie d'Herodes Atticus, in Académie des inscriptions et belles lettres, xxx. p25; Corpus inscriptionum graecarum: vol. III. no. 6280, p924. — Wilhelm Dittenberger: Die Familie des Herodes Atticus. — Richard Burgess: Description of the Circus on the Via Appia. Italian translation, p89. 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.

17 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 last century, by cardinal Alessandro Albani. It now belongs to the Capitoline Museum.

18 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.

19 Among the modern writers on the subject are:— Christian Hülsen: Die Auffindung der römischen Leiche vom Jahre 1485, in the Mittheilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtforschung, Band iv., Heft 3. — J. Addington Symonds: History of the Renaissance, i. 23. — Giovanni Antonio Riccy: Dell' antico pago Lemonio. Roma, 1802 (p109). — Gregorovius: Geschichte der Stadt Rom in Mittelalter, vii., 3, p571. — 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 Rénaissance, p120. — Letter from Laur Pehem, dated April 15, 1485, 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. 44. — 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.

20 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.

Thayer's Note:

a Inscriptionum Antiquarum . . . p231.

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