Ch. 68 While Mid‑Italy is in arms, Romagna has rent herself free from the Papal domination, and the Question Romaine is stirring all minds, I invite my reader to take a peaceful excursion with me through the frontier lands. Starting from 1 Veroli, I propose to go to 2 Isola and 3 Sora, 4 Arpino and 5 Arce, 6 Aquino, 7 San Germano, and 8 Monte Cassino, beginning with 9 Casamari.
: a place not mentioned in the text, where a Roman city has been found. Details and links are given in the marker.
[and if you need it,
here's help in using the map,
This border country is the Latian outpost. The Campagna is divided by the river Liris into two districts. The Roman, or Campagna proper, is watered by the Sacco, which falls into the Liris below Ceprano. The Neapolitan Campagna comprises the plain stretching from the feet of the Apennines to the slopes of the Volscian Mountains. Through this flows the Liris as far as Capua. The mountains standing around San Germano divide its meadows from the so‑called Campania Felice, or Happy Campania. From the top of Monte Cassino, a man once pointed out to us the Castle of San Pietro p194in Fine, saying that Latii should be added. "Perhaps," said the learned Dom Sebastiano Kalefati, "he inferred that in fine signified the end of the Monte Cassino Diocese." As we were in the act of remounting to ride over the rocks from Veroli to the banks of the Liris, we were not disposed to be captious as to geographical limits.
It was a Latian afternoon in October — the warm light resting on the meadows below, while the hillsides glowed in all the tints of autumn. Classic meads lay spread at our feet, traversed by the green waters of the Liris — most beautifully designated of all Italian streams — a name which fills the mind with gladness, with lyrical suggestions, and exhales its poetic aura over all those meadows through which it strays.
As I rode through the gate in those great walls which compass about Veroli — set aloft on its rocky eminence — the country I longed to explore lay for the first time stretched beneath me. To the right, deep in the Ceprano vale, was the bridge in crossing which Manfred was betrayed. Yonder stood the Volscian Mountains, a long chain of peaks blue in the distance. To the left, the majestic Sora stepped forth from his parent Apennines towards the river's brink. My eyes p195were, however, now riveted on the broad hills in front of me; or, rather, on a white city, now clearly visible, standing on one of them. It was — Arpino!
There is a great charm in seeing some spot connected with world-renowned, epoch-making men, afar off, shimmering mysteriously out of the distance, a place whose name has been familiar to us from our earliest childhood. Childhood's memories now thronged in upon me thick and fast. I saw myself declaiming my Cicero from the form at school; I recalled the look of the well-worn, grey book from which I learnt the Orations by heart — best of all, that high-sounding, never-to‑be-forgotten tandem Catilina — and there before me I could see Cicero's birthplace, a town I had dreamt about, yet could scarcely have hoped to behold.
I dismounted to descend the steep limestone rocks encircling Veroli more safely. No practicable road exists until Casamari is reached. There is but one other connecting highway, the Via Latina, which goes on to Capua.
The Campagna cities, standing around on their rocky eminences, are far older than Rome. They go back to the Saturnian epoch, and remain now just as they have stood for unknown centuries, dark and sad of aspect. The counts and p196feudal lords of the Campagna each built his particular fortress, now empty and forsaken, a home for nesting owls. Their feudatories grew vines and olives and the Turkish (or Indian) corn, toiling in the sweat of their brows for their rulers — the Roman princes or abbots. To this day their condition remains as it was then, though the labourer is no longer a bondsman. The desolation which characterises the Campagna immediately encircling Rome is generally ascribed to malaria, which is supposed to render it dangerous during the summer. This is not quite a correct idea, as Latium is really a healthy province. It is strange to find a district which looks an Elysium from the distance change to a desert, sparsely sown with maize, its barren earth only waving with golden broom and asphodel, the falcon circling aloft in the summer sky, when we come to tread its soil — picturesque and beautiful as it is. Where we expect to find an active and energetic peasantry and prosperous towns, all that meets the eye is, here and there, a huddled clump of houses, perched at intervals on the heights. The Latian people, a sturdy, good-hearted, good-looking race, remain very much in their aboriginal condition. Their modes of life, their education, their wants are so unchanged that if their remote p197ancestors were to revisit them they would find nothing new, with the exception of tobacco-smoking, lucifer matches, and gunpowder. Most of the mediaeval castles retain their ancestral names — Veroli, , Arnara, (Babucum), and Ripi. The deeds, or diplomas, respecting their ownership date from the ninth and tenth centuries. Their names, their churches, their counts and judices, all have a Lombard origin. I know of no place in all that district which has sprung to life at a later date than the above.
As I scrambled down over those horrible rocks towards Casamari, the afternoon sun was pouring down his beams on the burnt‑up fields below me. Presently, passing by a solitary farmstead, I was pleasantly surprised to see a little company of smartly dressed girls disporting themselves in a meadow. As they ran races and played games, they looked like a flock of singing birds newly alighted in the heart of the desert.
Here the road begins, and on each side of it the careful cultivation of the vines and olives betokens the vicinity of some considerable agricultural centre. Presently groups of pilgrims, their long staves in their hands, began to meet us, the women carrying heavy baskets on their heads, while the men, unencumbered, marched on gaily beside them. They were all in holiday p198garb — the gay national dress of the mountains of Latium. These pilgrims were coming away from far‑famed Casamari.
I had often heard of this Monastery, the finest of its kind in the whole of Latium, with the exception of Fossanova. It was said to be a marvel of Gothic architecture, and here it stood before me, lonely, dominating, and very remarkable, on its platform of rock; a mass of grey masonry above which rose the cupola of its church. The monastic buildings are enclosed within a court, into which a great Romanesque portal leads by an arcade, the of the rich monks of the Middle Ages. Beside it a little river, fringed by sad‑looking poplars, runs past; all around it is an arid and silent wilderness.
When, in these our later times, we find some great Convent, cut off utterly from the outer world, it moves us strangely. By nothing else is the past made so present. Time, for it, seems truly to have stood still. The moral atmosphere of centuries gone by, of the older races of mankind then existing, remains still within it. The monks follow the same ordinances, pursue the same daily round, that they followed a thousand years ago. They chant, they pray, they keep silence, they wear p199the same frocks and cowls, they sleep in the same cells, their lives are filled with the same monotonous activities now, as in past ages. The outside world may change, they heed it not; it suffices for them to know that their Church, its Pope and its Bishops, remain the same from century to century. Their own immediate surroundings are unchanged. Veroli, , San Giovanni, there they stand with their churches and their saints, just as they have always stood. The pilgrim knocks at the Convent gate just as he has always knocked. They are tortured no longer by terror of the Saracen, the robber count, the condottieri; but the dread of revolution is on them, and revolution may yet prove a more inexorable foe to them than either robber count or Saracen. In the older times it was only a question of fire and sword, plunder and devastation. Now it may mean "to be or not to be." The Convent lands are smaller nowadays. The Church has to draw in and lessen her work in consequence. Such a Monastery as this does indeed resemble a parchment chronicle whose miniatures are living persons passing by as in some phantasmagoria.
The word Casamari has been incorrectly supposed to mean Casa ; hence erroneously speaks of it as "the bitter house," p200so called because of the frightful silence in which Trappists are doomed to exist. The name is really derived from the Casa Marii, or house of Marius, because the Monastery was built on the Fundus Marii, an ancient appanage of the hero of Arpino. So tradition has it, and so says its historian : Monasterii Sanctae Mariae et Sanctorum Johannis et Pauli, de , brevis historia. Roma, 1707. Pious citizens of Veroli founded it in 1036. It was bestowed, in the first instance, on the Benedictines; but as their discipline grew lax they were superseded by the Cistercians, in 1152, under Pope Eugenius III. At the same period, monks of the same order were established in the neighbouring Monastery of Trisulti. The Emperor Frederick II confirmed its edicts in 1221. The deed dates from Veroli, where it may be read to this day, and yet his troops sacked the Abbey at the same time that they beleaguered Rome.
The history of Casamari is not an uncommon one. It suffered, as all other monastic foundations suffered, in the Middle Ages. It was destroyed, then reconstructed; no man of distinction came forth from it, nor did it possess an annalist of its own as did Fossanova — Muratori edited the chronicles of this latter place — nor was it p201ever so wealthy as Trisulti, although possessing certain farms in the Campagna. Its glory is its beautiful church, the first stone of which was laid in 1203, when the Italians began to build in the Gothic style.
When I entered the courtyard and saw its façade I feared I should be disillusioned, for it promised but little, with its circular openings and broad flight of steps leading to the vestibuli. Here was a statue of Pius VI, and a tablet recording how that Pius IX had restored the Abbey to the patrimony of the Church. Then I entered the church, and was most pleasantly surprised. It is a large building, perfect in its proportions, with three aisles all harmonious in character, and only divided from the beautifully vaulted choir by an open metal screen. The simplicity of its architecture — my own native Gothica — the harmony of all its parts, the soft colour of the travertine of which it is built — all this moved me profoundly. If for many years you have been accustomed to the Roman basilica with its flat roof or its cupola overladen with ornament, this Gothic strikes you as being so new, so full of life, so bold, striving after so high an ideal, so imposing in its combined richness and simplicity, boldness and grace, strength and lightness. Its massiveness is tempered by the p202combination of all its parts to support and carry out its own fundamental idea. Accustomed as I was to churches overladen with sculpture, with baroque and ponderous ornamentation, with pictures and inscriptions, filled with monuments and altars, and finding none of these things here, this seemed to be a fair and beautiful temple consecrated to a pure and free worship. The absence of pictures, niches, and chapels — just one high altar beneath its arched tabernacle — made it resemble our reformed cathedrals at home. Casamari is indeed well worth a visit. In all Italy I have found nothing comparable to it in the simplicity of its style. Its central aisle possesses some pointed arches supported by double columns. At the fifth came the screen closing in the charming choir. There was nothing fantastic — no statues; simply, at each side of the altar, stood a large vase with tall amaranth in full bloom in it. Imagine the effect of such beautiful natural objects set in so vast a space.
Its purer Gothic is confined to the church. The Monastery is Romanesque in style. The cloisters are spacious, the four sides filled with semi-Gothic arches supported by double pillars, yet the quadrangle is not especially fine. The chapter-house impressed me as being strange, p203for here the Gothic tends towards the Moresque. The roof is upheld by four groups of clustered columns, each group consisting of eight bound together, and from these eight-angled pillars spring arches, terminating half‑way down the walls in strange ornamental bosses. It is built of alternate courses of white and of brown stone, which give it a decorative effect.
I could see but a few monks, pacing silently up and down. They took no notice of me, but a lay brother gave me some water in a pitcher. When he heard I had come from Rome he asked how things were looking there, and where was Garibaldi now?
The name of that valiant leader, a Lombard name too, flies from mouth to mouth hereabouts, just as the same name, Dux (or Duke) Garibald, and Grimoald, Romoald, and Gisulfus of Benevento, resounded through the Neapolitan boundaries long centuries ago. Garibaldi's personality is popular, though it may present less of hope than of terror to the public mind just now. He would even seem to have been represented to the populace as possessing certain demoniac qualities. Of this I became more aware when I had crossed into the kingdom of Naples. The names of Nicolo , of Montone, , and other mediaeval p204champions who gained their fame by a hundred marches, battles, and bold sackings of towns, carried with them into the Campagna of old just the same sort of excitement. They were brave robbers; their deeds of arms were then the pest and the greatest scandal of Italy, while Garibaldi has consecrated his sword to the freeing of his native land from the tyrant.
Ch. 69 The shades of evening began to paint the beautiful mountains above Arpino in darker hues when I remounted to ride on to the frontier — one short hour distant from Arpino. It is always pleasant to find oneself in a border land, where states, races, forms of social and political life, come into conflict. The narrow mid‑territory between them must always be interesting. You become aware of a certain tension of mind, an advance and recoil; the dwellers there must keep themselves in a state of constant watchfulness. Those who live far away in the midlands may easily fall into well-worn grooves and grow indolent, while the border folk remain restless, emotional, consumed by curiosity, distrustful, and ready to try any experiment. They are always impelled by others. Crossing over from one form of government to another, they become uncertain to which they may adhere. The goddess Fame has her abode on those frontiers which she loves.
p205 I soon reached the Roman custom-house, standing alone by the roadside, its guardians sitting contentedly smoking cigars. A little circuit shows where the actual line of demarcation is defined by a stone.b The tutelary deity — Terminus — has left the Roman and Neapolitan meadows to mingle most amicably, not even separating them by a fence.
10 Castelluccio, the first Neapolitan town, is a tiny place, and below it lies 2 Isola, that charming island in the river Liris. Through great groups of trees, standing in a deep shadowy hollow, glimpses of the waters are to be seen, gleaming through the branches. Out of this green shade peep pretty villas and large factories, while the well-cultivated, prosperous district stretching away beyond it shows what life a great river can bring with it. Up above the happy fields, folding in one behind another in many a charming interchange of hill and dale, rises the great mountain Sora in all its indescribable grandeur. I was impelled to think of the Conca d' Oro, that marvellous plain near Palermo, when I first beheld this landscape all bathed in the roseate hues of sunset.
The mountains take the same majestic forms in both plains, and the plain is equally rich, but here there is no ocean, only the beautiful Liris — or p206Garigliano — leaping down from the Abruzzi, like a young Apollo, to fill the meads with lyric melodies as he pours his waters through the clefts of the Volscian Mountains. Roman and Neapolitan drink there alike, while he cleaves his path to the sea, to end his career by its silent shores.
Leaving the "Holy Republic" of St. Peter to enter the "Kingdom," many not delectable differences present themselves to us. It cannot be gainsaid that the people of Romagna still bear traces of the "double glory" distinguishing the Roman government. In the "States" you find a certain thoughtfulness, earnestness — a sense of proportion. Their people have an unconstraint, a freedom of demeanour, a liberality of speech, at all events, which have come down to them from older times, and find expression in a careless, irresponsible mode of speech. The peculiar constitution of the Papal States, where monarchical and purely political power are in abeyance by the nature of the State, and the absence of any strong secular government, are perhaps not sufficiently appreciated by the subjects of the Pope. They are oppressed by no standing army; the constitution of their municipality, assured to the Roman citizens by long-existing statutes and contracts — statutes first removed by p207the French Revolution, and afterwards confirmed by the Restoration under ; and, finally, the non‑existence of any hereditary dynasty — these reasons account for the beneficent republican atmosphere of the Roman States.
That there is much less of this in the kingdom of Naples is apparent directly you cross the border. Suddenly the more serious temper of mind of the Romans has gone. The language sounds barbarous and unintelligible. The people look poorer in physique, less good-humoured, less intelligent and lively. They look frightened. Soldiers, police, spies, custom-house officials, swarm — a knavish, suspicious, unreliable crew. No one dares to speak his mind, yet the Neapolitan must be almost at his last gasp when he cannot venture any more to talk.
Isola welcomed us with the sound of many waters, and the verdure of many sloping meadows, and also with its Dogana. I was kept there a long time, and all because of six books. These all, with the exception of a Horace, concerned the history of the Middle Ages. They were harmless enough, in all conscience, but the officers could make nothing of their titles. These gentlemen condoled with me on Humboldt's death — Naples would appear to have sustained a severe blow from it. They p208lauded the Prussian government, where every one can be trusted with philosophical books, while in the same breath my six little books were declared contraband. They must be relegated to a higher tribunal. The magnates composing it might let me have their decision in a coule of days. I remarked that if one thing made me rejoice more than another in our German government it was that there it was made easy instead of difficult for men of letters to travel. I thought Neapolitan fiscal arrangements about books were barbarous. I thanked my guardian angel for warning me to take no manuscripts with me to Monte Cassino, for I might have lost the labour of years, and have never beheld those manuscripts again. In days when literature is supposed to flourish universally, a peaceable student was subject to incidents like this. Prohibitions concerning books are simply barbarous and useless. Finally I got out of the impasse, and convinced those excellent and intelligent gentlemen of the innocent nature of my six books. On my return the Roman officials were much more liberal. I had then, besides the six books bestowed upon me by Dom Luigi , all the materials collected at Monte Cassino. When I displayed all this dangerous matter in the custom-house at p20912 Ceprano, the Roman officer, glancing at it, said, with true Roman gentilezza, "Passate pure, Signor."
Meantime I had lost much valuable time and the chance of beholding Isola by the light of the setting sun. This friendly little island, beautifully shaded by trees, is encircled by emerald waters, which fling themselves with a leap on its northern shore, descending •eighty feet from a cliff, over which they fall in a milk-white cataract. Above, the ruins of a castle stand out against the sky. The turmoil of these waters reached me from afar, and now I could see the countless channels into which the river is led. Gardens planted with all the rich growths of this southern clime lay surpass out around me. The Liris is a brimming river here, having received the waters of the Fibreno just above Isola. This junction of the streams has brought about beneficent industrial results. The water drives numbers of wool and paper mills, which give employment to the whole district, and supply thousands of men and women with food. Colonies of sturdy operatives have settled in all the surrounding country to share in the beneficent effects of all this industry.
Isola and Sora are both places of business. The excellent road which connects them is lined p210with country houses, gardens, casinos — a most surprising oasis truly, created here during the present century. It did my heart good to see all this industrial activity in the midst of such surroundings — a sight long denied to me.
I drove in a char-à‑banc — they give the French name to the Neapolitan in these parts — in brilliant moonlight to Sora, one hour from Isola. The one‑horse carriage now came into use; the poor nag was whipped with the same blind fury that forces him into a gallop in Naples.
The moonlight, lending its charm to this drive, also idealised the houses by the way, as I discovered later. Coming from Romagna the modern edifice looks unusual. When he recalls the dark hill‑towns amongst which he has lived so long — towns standing on their rocks since the days of Janus and Evander — the traveller gives a sigh to the memories of what is past.
The factories are chiefly paper mills, on a large scale, and new system. They were established by a Frenchman — a M. Lefebvre — who came with Murat to Naples. A poor man when he came, the river Liris became a very El Dorado to him, and enabled him to leave these factories and some millions of money to his son. Ferdinand p211II, of Naples, I think it was, who raised the family to the ranks of nobles, an honour they richly deserved. A district hitherto little cultivated has to thank M. Lefebvre, a stranger to it, for its prosperity, for its comfortable condition, which, let us hope, may go on increasing. The creative genius of one man in one specific branch of industry has brought about results here which may be regarded with the most unalloyed satisfaction and sympathy. In England, in Germany, in France such activities as these are found, but seldom in the kingdom of Naples. Here we can well imagine how beneficial they are.
Lefebvre's two largest mills are palatial structures — the Cartiera del Liri and the Cartiera del Fimbreno.º It is delightful to see the efficiency of all that multitude of operatives who manipulate the paper. It gushes out first of all in a grey stream; as it is more confined within bounds, it becomes more milky in hue and more solid in consistency. In the end it emerges from its steaming, whirling dance as paper. Yes, here it is, a never-ending white railway on which the thoughts of humanity may travel along. We can conceive of the creation of the world as running very much on the same lines as M. Lefebvre's paper. For ourselves, God spreads our lives out before us — an endless white p212path — a sheet of paper on which to inscribe our folly or our wisdom. When we see this genesis of paper — this stream flowing on — all the possibilities it offers to us crowd on the imagination. This wonderful thing which we call paper — it controls our lives. Think of it! It may bring to light genius or mere absurdity, art, science, politics, an honest or dishonest mode of exchange, as it is inscribed with true or false conventions. It may bring us a death warrant, a jubilee message, a contract ensuring peace, a tragedy, a passport; give us a pamphlet entitled Le Pape et le Congrès,c a pack of cards to be used in a gambling saloon, a photograph, or a love letter! In all those multifarious ways in which our lives are bound up, one with another, this paper plays its part.
I was received at a villa near Isola, whose kind host took me into his neighbour Count Lefebvre's grounds. These had been his own formerly. The beautiful gardens he showed me rivalled any of which Rome can boast. Prince Doria or Prince Borghese might well covet the wealth which Count Lefebvre has drawn out of the waters of that Fibreno which runs through his park. After flinging itself over rocks in a thousand tiny cascades, there it flows quietly, a green mirror reflecting the fragrant woodlands through p213which it wanders. The great trees on its banks are kept green by the spray which never fails to refresh them, and through their huge branches we see verdant lawns stretching down to its banks. Dark alleys, caves, Elysian resting-places, flowering shrubs invite the visitor to explore farther, to repose, or to idyllic dreams. This place is a lesser Tivoli, an abode of the nymphs, a delightful retreat.
We got to 3 Sora, the first Neapolitan town — it possesses a Bishop — at ten o'clock that evening, and I slept at a good inn. The menu proved that I was in a new kingdom. It would have been unintelligible to a Roman waiter. Here, too, the traveller is called "Don." Sora revealed itself to me next morning as a clean modern town with good streets; its mercantile activities were very evident. It stands on the banks of the emerald-green Liris, flowing past softly, beneath tall whispering poplars, just as do so many German rivers, and with a wooden bridge across it. I could have lingered gladly in many an enchanting spot by its shores. All around a rich champaign country lies spread, with good roads crossing its vineyards and gardens, and leading to neighbouring towns.
The valley in which the town lies is bounded by mountains — sometimes drawing near to the p214river, then standing away from it. Just behind it rises a huge pyramid, rocky, torn and rent and bare. A picturesque castle, now in ruins, borne aloft on its crest, is named Sorella. It looks as brown and dusky as is the mountain itself. Under its shadow lies the modern Sora, peaceful and idyllic now, though it is one of the greatest as well as most ancient of those Volscian cities which have never changed their names. It has been, since its ancient days, by turns , , and Roman. In this last period it gave birth to the famous Atilius Regulus, of the family of the Valerii, of which family were the orator Quintus Valerius, and Lucius Mummius, names which lend lustre to their native town.
In the earliest mediaeval times Sora was one of the frontier towns so often overrun and plundered by the Lombard Counts of Benevento. It was then, in all probability, a Byzantine town, dominated by the Lombards, who at one period filled all this district. Ultimately it fell into the hands of the Emperor Frederick II, by whom it was destroyed. More recently it belonged to the Counts of Aquino, when they were possessors of all the district between the Liris and the . Charles of Anjou Counts of Sora — they were kinsmen of the house of Stuart — of Aragon raised p215it to the rank of a Duchy; its first Duke was . The Popes had long coveted this beautiful region, and finally Pius II succeeded in gaining possession of it by means of his captain, Napoleone Orsini. This conquest was ratified by Ferdinand I of Naples, but Sixtus IV, when he married his nephew, Leonardo della Rovere, to the king's niece, bestowed this town of Sora upon her as a dowry in . In 1580 Gregory XIII purchased it for his son, Dom Giacomo Buoncompagni, from the Duke of Urbino. Seldom has a Papal nephew enjoyed a more charming possession. Up till the end of the eighteenth century it remained in the Buoncompagni-Ludovisi family, and then it once more fell into the hands of the King of Naples. Afterwards, all that had once belonged to that splendid nepotic house, except the palace in Rome, and title of Duke of Sora, now borne by the eldest son of Prince Ludovisi-Piombino, departed from them.
Ch. 70 Under the rule of the family of Della Rovere, a remarkable man — its last notable personage — was born at Sora. His name was Caesar Baronius.
So enchanting, so melodious, so dreamy, are the poplar-clad banks of the Liris, that it is strange that no poet — no Horace, no Ovid, or Ariosto — should have been cradled by them; but p216those classic meads produced only warriors and orators — truly, rhetoricians might well have been inspired by such surroundings, for here Nature seems inexhaustibly suggestive in her tropes and similes.
Caesar Baronius, born in 1538, was the Muratori of Church history. He wrote the Annals of the Christian Faith from the birth of Christ up till the year 1198. The first volume appeared in 1588. It is a work of colossal labour, its materials supplied entirely by the Vatican, and of no value whatever. It is useless and defective in all its parts, because of the source from which it was drawn, and also because those better sources of knowledge which we now possess were not then open to him. He writes in a narrow, false spirit, with all the bitterness against the Reformation caused by the Roman Catholic reaction. Baronius possesses none of the Attic salt of his compatriots the orators; he had no urbanity, no spirit of philosophic discussion, no inherited eloquence. Of Quintus Tullius he only possessed the breadth, and yet he had a certain magnanimity, which shines the more from the limitations of his editors, Rainaldus, Laderchius, and , all of whom are immeasurably his inferiors. He had his first schooling at Veroli, and studied later in Naples. When in Rome he was the most zealous of all the p217pupils of that celebrated saint, Filippo Neri, in whose oratorium, Santa Maria della Vallicella, he spent his life, after assuming the cowl. He became a Cardinal, and after the death of Clement VIII, the Papacy itself hovered within his reach. He was not, however, an ambitious man, and he relegated the dignity to his friend Leo XI, of the Medici family. Two years later he died, on 30th June 1607. He was buried in the Church of the Oratory in Rome. He remains the chief glory of the ecclesiastical world of letters, and his industry — his power of working — deserves our highest commendation.
I will ask my reader to now turn his eyes back to that lofty and still visible Veroli from whence we set forth. Who is there who had not heard of that once famous book, "The Good Works of Christ"? This book appeared in in 1542. Innumerable copies of it were printed; it was spread abroad by means of translations; and yet, thirty years after it first came out, not a trace of it was to be found — the little volume had vanished utterly. A thousand busy hands had helped to destroy it. A thousand funeral pyres had devoured it. In the year 1840 we heard that a copy of it had been discovered in a library at Cambridge, and now it has been reprinted in England, in Germany, and in Italy. p218Its author was Aonio Paleario; his portrait I would now confront with that of his youthful compatriot, Baronius. They were born in towns not two hours distant from each other. Paleario did not die a Cardinal; after spending three years in the dungeons of the Inquisition, he was sent to the galleys, and in 1570 he was burnt, by order of that fell tribunal. In these days we can scarcely grasp such a fact. How could it possibly come to pass that men should be burnt alive because they had taught, with all the fervour of saints, the doctrine of righteousness as gained through faith in Jesus Christ? When, in future times, a more fortunate generation may be permitted to read this good book, founded solely on the teachings of the Gospels, they may well doubt of the authenticity of such an act, or that the author of this book could have been condemned to death by so‑called Christians. It occurred in the days when , the friend of Pope Clement VII, was murdered; the days when Juan , Bernardino , the Vergerii, Paolo Ricci, Antonio Flaminio, and Cardinals such as Contarini, Morone, and ,d were brought before the Inquisition. The flames of that fire, in the midst of which Aonio was tied to the stake, heated the imagination of Baronius, whose pages would seem to be illuminated by the p219glow of such funeral pyres; by their light his Annals were apparently written.
The town of Sora was filled with soldiers, as are all the frontier towns now; a cordon had been drawn between each of them. A mountain battery was placed in one of the squares, and lancers were galloping about in all directions. Just before I left, the Seventh Regiment of the Line marched in from Capua, filling the streets with the glitter of their bayonets. The infantry, so it seemed to me, looked far more "fit" and in better trim than the cavalry. I noticed that many of their officers had happy, healthy faces. Their uniform is made of grey and blue linen, like the cavalry; this gives them rather a dull aspect. The gleam of arms, the frequent word of command, the uniforms thick with dust, and the thronging into quarters, made Sora appear to be engaged in a small war. Here, as everywhere, I find myself confronted with the Question Romaine. These troops are marching to the Abruzzi. If they realise a foe at all, he takes the form of either Victor Emmanuel, or of Garibaldi. Conflicting accounts are current. We hear that Garibaldi has already fallen on the outposts in the mountains, and that the French are marching through Latium on Ceprano. Naples has been cut off, newspapers suppressed; p220rumours are exciting and wild — the more readily believed because all this military activity points to war as imminent.
Wherever I turn I meet troops in marching order. Returning from , I could scarcely credit my eyes to see outposts stationed all along the road to Ceprano, just as if Hannibal were thundering at the gates. "You cannot conceive what terror the name of Garibaldi inspires here in Naples," said a Ceprano man to me. "A few days ago we burnt two Papal Bulls on a Church festival. We sent up a few rockets. And what did these Neapolitans do? They blew their trumpets, beat their drums, and so raised the danger signal in and in Isola." "What do these Neapolitans mean?" — a Roman said to me — "If we were to march 500 men into their country at any one point, they might ride on huzzaing through the whole extent of it. Ma bisogna che siamo parlatori — ? — they must be great chatterboxes." This is an essentially Italian expression, which really does meet the occasion.
The war‑clouds were gathering so fast that I resolved to take a post-carriage, and promptly visit the birthplace of Marius. The coachman drove at such a mad pace that we almost threw down a woman on the bridge. I shouted, and, at the same moment, she luckily held up her arms. p221My driver only blasphemed, and whipped his horse all the more. To reach Arpino from Sora we had almost to return there from Isola. Then we picked up two men from Arpino, most cautious and afraid of expressing themselves, but I avoided politics, and no sooner had we come to their native town than they vanished, ignoring the stranger altogether.
Near Sora we passed by the once celebrated convent church, now in ruins, of St. , standing on an island in the Fibreno (it is called Carnello just before it falls into the Liris) — a truly delectable spot embowered in trees. Cicero's villa, where he and his brother Quintus were born, is there also. St. Dominic was a tenth-century saint, a contemporary of St. Nilo and St. Romualdo. He was born at Foligno, in the year 951. Under Abbot Aligern he became a Benedictine at Monte Cassino. He founded many monasteries in the Sabina, and this one — at the prayer of Count Pietro di Sora — in 1011. The deed affirming its foundation is still legible. Dominic was its Abbot, and under him Pope Gregory VII lived here when a monk of the Benedictine Order — at least, so tradition has it.
This wonderful man may often have sat, lost in dreams, on Cicero's beautiful island, beneath p222the whispering poplars, no one forecasting then that an Emperor would one day stand at the door of his Convent, a penitent in a hair shirt. A greater mission awaited Dominic in Rome — yes! in the world's history — than that of the weak Cicero or the valiant Marius.
Forgetful of Gregory, the Dominican monks forsook their modest traditions, and seduced by the siren voices of an enervating land, by its too delightful climate and surroundings, they took to high living and carousals. Ah, you monks! Paradise has its dangers for you. Better for you would have been the rugged mountain where your patron saint abode so long. Pope Honorius III united St. di Sora — that hortus deliciarum as his bull designates it — in perpetuity, with Casamari, and for five long centuries the place remained unoccupied. After the lapse of those centuries Pope Clement established there a colony of Trappists, affiliated to those of Casamari. Finally, Ferdinand II presented St. to the Vatican basilica, which still draws a small rent from it. Its Gothic church is in ruins, and of the Convent nothing worthy of note remains.
The memories of Cicero would alone make this a place in which to gladly linger. Here it was that Cicero, Quintus, and Atticus held p223those high discourses which we still possess in his three books, De Legibus. They strolled up to that "island which is in Fibreno" — insula quae est in — there they seated themselves and philosophised. Atticus admires the beauty of their surroundings; Cicero remarks that here he is apt to reflect, to read, to write; it has a special charm for him as having cradled him in his infancy: Quia haec est mea et hujus fratris mei germana patria, hinc enim orti stirpe antiquissima, hic sacra, hic gens, hic majorum multa vestigia. His grandfather, so he relates to them, possessed this villa. His father, an invalid, added to it, and grew old in it, pursuing his studies ever. Cicero declares that, when he sees his birthplace, the same feeling steals over him that hoary Ulysses experienced when he said he would rather behold Ithaca once more than be assured of immortality. Then he tells them that Arpinum is his home, as civitas — he is of the ager of Arpinum. Atticus proceeds to describe the beautiful island embraced by the Fibreno. He describes how it refreshes the waters of the Liris by its coldness. So cold is it, indeed, that it is scarcely possible to dip your foot into it. As they sit there discoursing of law, we prefer those three men in togas, with their Roman urbanity, their fine culture, to a company p224of monks in their cowls, even if one of them was Gregory, seated beside some saint of the eleventh century, in the days of Rome's deepest degradation. How curiously Cicero, Quintus, and Atticus would have gazed at those men of a later century!
And now graceful poplars stand around the spot which cradled Cicero, by the Fibreno. Ay! an enviable birthplace truly! But how to describe it? Of what avail are words if you have never beheld the place? — if you have never had a glimpse of that land of the nymphs — of perpetual spring! Around, what a panorama of mountains — some brown, others of hyacinthine hue — losing themselves in the far distance! Cicero was a child of the Lowlands. His great intellect absorbed to itself all the learning of his day as a great river takes to its bosom the smaller brooks as it flows on to the sea. Marius was a son of the mountains, born up amongst those Cyclopean walls. To the study of him we must soon betake ourselves.
I have seldom seen so restless and noisy a region as that in which Cicero had his home. At every step you come upon a spring, a rushing brook or a canal — some blue, some green, others of a milky hue. Add to this the clattering of the mill‑wheels, the voices of the operatives, the rattle of our char-à‑banc as it flies madly over p225the ground as if trying to escape from the avenging powers of Industry. We passed many a country house and garden, before we quitted the valley by a good road, from which we saw new aspects of the Roman Campagna at every turn, as well as the charming plains near Pontecorvo.
•For four of the seven miles dividing Sora from Arpino, we ascended into a mountain land rich in olives, the Liris flowing deep down below us, houses and cultivated lands becoming more rare as we climbed higher. At one o'clock a series of zigzags brought us to our destination.
4 Arpino — the birthplace of Cicero and of Marius — has now about 17,000 inhabitants. Its streets are narrow, its squares small, but it does not want for palatial houses. Yet everything seems to have died out here centuries ago. The towns in Romagna possess, at least, churches, which give them a certain distinction. Arpino has none. Its cathedral was once a temple dedicated to the nine Muses; now nine choirs have taken possession of it — all these, and such a massive body of sacred music, does it need to silence the sweet persuasive voices of the heavenly Olympian maidens.
Ch. 71 Like most of the old Volscian towns, Arpino is cleft in two. On the crest of the mountain stands its ancient Citadel, the more recent p226town lying at its feet and stretching up towards it. Cyclopean walls surround this Citadel, proving that the modern Arpino occupies the old site. Not only do these Cyclopean walls prove it, but so does the ancient gate of the town, from which a zigzag path over steep bare rocks leads to the bold summit of the hill, which is clothed with olives.
There on the crest of the mountain was the earliest structure, the Cyclopean arx, to be replaced in the Middle Ages by a Lombard castle. Of this castle, one ivy‑mantled tower remains, in close proximity to the mighty walls encircling the Citadel. These walls rise to such an impressive height that one beholds them with amazement. They form a quadrangle, and are entered by an ancient gateway of strange construction. These Cyclopean portals are usually closed at the top in either an acute or an obtuse angle. Thus they are at Segni, Alatri, and Norba; but this opening springs up into an almost Gothic arch, its keystones leaning towards each other in a graceful curve. The sides are formed of triple blocks placed close together, six on each side. This portal is seven paces wide, eight paces deep, and •about fifteen feet high. It is formed of limestone and blocks of tufa of a porous nature.
p227 The walls, like those at Segni, slope gently downwards; every here and there a four-sided Etruscan tower rises about them, while mediaeval watch-towers have been added at a later period. They are all draped with ivy, oleanders and other flowering plants growing in their deep fissures. These weather-worn structures take one back to a primeval Italy, of which says: "First Fauns conquered Italy. Then Saturn, fleeing from the face of his father Jupiter in the land of Greece, afterwards founded the town of Saturnia. Now, because this Saturn hid (latuit) in Italy, was that land of his hiding called Latium."
The Arpino folk believe that Saturn founded their city, but what Latian town was not founded by Saturn? They say he was buried there, and point to a colossal, ancient sepulchre hard by the Porta , which they call "The tomb of Saturn." A modern inscription on the Citadel runs thus: "Arpinum a Saturno conditum, Volscorum civitatem, Romanorum municipium, Marci Tullii Ciceronis eloquentia Principis, et Caii Marii septies Consulis patriam ingredere viator; hinc ad imperium triumphalis egressa urbi totum Orbem ; ejus dignitatem agnoscas et sospes esto."
We may well forgive so ancient a town if it be proud of three such notable citizens as Saturn, p228Cicero, and Marius. The arms of the town are two towers, over which hovers the eagle — either of Jupiter, or of the Roman Legions.
We can grant cheerfully that ancient Saturn may lie entombed here, but when a herdsman's hut is shown us as La casa del famoso Cicerone ("the birthplace of the famous Cicero") our credulity is taxed overmuch. I was conducted up to the arx, and there amongst a small collection of huts I was shown the one which does duty as Cicero's villa.
I sat down on that great wall, commanding, far and wide, the Latian landscape, spreading out vast and grand as seen from such a height. The great mountain over Sora looked like an Egyptian pyramid and cast its dark shadow over the town at its feet. Yonder is La Posta, whence the Fibreno takes its source; then Sette Frati — the seven brethren — dedicated to the sons of Felicitas. There the strange monk Alberich had that vision which preceded, and may even have suggested, Dante's. Many other towns and castles glimmered out of the blue mists of distance on the sides of the mountains which surround the lovely vale of the Liris, and stretch far away beyond it. Veroli, Monte San Giovanni, Frosinone, Ferentino — all stood out bravely. On one side towered up the obelisk p229which bears aloft the 5 Citadel of Arce — on another, the solitary tower of Monte Negro — all of Saturnian origin. I gazed upon them, from that lofty Cyclopean wall, draped with ivy, which had withstood the wear and tear of countless centuries.
Over these walls the young Marius once climbed, testing his strength, mayhap, while the peoples of Calabria, of the Liris, of the Adriatic shores, were rising up to claim their rights as citizens. From this spot he may have looked longingly to Rome, that mighty city to which tended all the stronger personalities of the provinces, in the hope of achieving fortune within her sheltering walls. Surely this old Arpino — built by the hands of giants — was a fitting cradle for Marius: a cradle for a giant whose rough and reckless nature was built on the Cyclopean model — in contrast to the fine aristocratic Sulla, he who would compass his selfish ends by doublings like those of the fox. The whole air of Arpino is permeated by those two personalities, Marius and Cicero. Here, in the same way placed in an historical centre, which I had sought as eagerly for as for the head water of some great river, rising in its rocky bed to carry life and progress through all the countries of the earth, and down through future ages likewise.
p230 Cicero's learning was a spring from whence all the ancient literature of the Middle Ages took its source. Even now our literature is created by Cicero — a glory, undying and eternal, of which all the vanity and weakness of our poor personal pride cannot rob him. And Caius Marius was an artery through which flowed the blood which fed and founded the Roman Empire. Think of the impetus given by this one man to Rome — to the whole world! Without him there would have been no Empire, no Augustus, no Tiberius, no Caligula. The whole race of despots — or heroes — the idea of the proscription of humanity — sprang from the bloody track left behind him by this Marius. Arpino may therefore well be called the Dragon's Lair in the history of the Roman Emperors.
The African Jugurtha, his fearful fate in the dungeons of the Capitol; the ; the Teutons, precursors of the fall of Rome, brought about, at last, by the Germans; the dreadful citizen war; the Asiatic figure of Mithridates; Marius hidden in the marshes of ; Marius a fugitive in the ruins of Carthage; Marius a victor borne in triumph through Rome; Marius slaughtering the proscribed, an old man of seventy‑two; then, strangest of all, Marius dying quietly, peacefully — all this passes before my mind's eye, and accords strangely with the landscape around me.
p231 Then appears Cicero, a youth when his compatriot is old, bringing the fall of the Republic to man's comprehension, that fall for which the citizen war under Marius had paved the way. Around Cicero gathered the learned, the eloquent, the statesmen — efflorescence of the last days of the dying Republic. He gives to names and figures such as those of Pompey, Caesar, Anthony, Octavius, Brutus, Cassius, Cato, Atticus, Agrippa, living reality. Then the head of Cicero placed above the rostrum from which he had addressed the people so frequently and copiously!
I leave the reader to carry out for himself these historical reflections, which cast some rays of light on the surrounding landscape; they are such as would occur to him if he looked down from the Citadel of Arpino. Lofty heights command the best views; from this place all history herself seems spread out beneath me. I cannot quit the spot without trying to give a short summary of the character of Marius as it was left to us by Valerius Maximus.e
"From this Marius, an Arpinian of low birth, a humble resident in Rome, a candidate for power, well-nigh abhorred, was evolved that Marius who was to subjugate Africa, to drive King Jugurtha before his chariot wheels, to annihilate the armies of the Cimbrian and the Teuton. His triumph — twice repeated — was beheld by p232all the men of Rome; his seven Consulships were recorded in her Fasti. After being himself exiled and proscribed, he became a proscriber. What other life could afford such vivid contrasts? Yes! this was indeed a man who, if amongst the miserable, would be, of all men, the most miserable; if to be counted fortunate, must have attained to the highest pitch of fortune of any man."
This rude Marius, and the cunning Sulla, with his pale flabby face, enervated, worn out, slipping out of all his obligations, or dominating them, despising every one, confounding every one, yet keeping company with the jade Fortune always, may well be set up as the types, in history, of Rome herself.
However to‑day no one in the old market-place of Arpino heeds those antique persons. It is the 4th of October, the joint birthday of King Francis II of Naples and his Queen.g Their portraits are displayed in the gaudy, over-decorated Loggia of the Town Hall, which resembles the Coulisse of a theatre. There hangs the likeness of a Bavarian princess, the descendant of those very Cimbrians and Teutons driven out of Rome by Marius long centuries ago!
But here in recesses of the façade of a large building is an inscription. The fortunate Arpinians claim Agrippa also as a son of their soil — " a Saturno Romanorum p233Municipium, M. Tullii Ciceronis, C. Marii, M. Vipsanii Agrippae Alma Patria." This building, called the Collegium Tullianum, is a Jesuit College — the world has changed somewhat since the days of Cicero! Out of all the open windows of this edifice were leaning Jesuits in their black gowns. They are the all‑powerful and favoured nursing fathers of the Bourbon dynasty here, so might well gaze out on the Festa. In the piazza, a band, with harlequin masks over the men's faces, was playing. The inhabitants were shouting "Evviva il Re!" Then the band trooped off to escort around the Judiciary (or Giudice) the chief man of the municipality of Arpino. And lo! when he appeared, following it, he was not arrayed in a purple toga, rich with gold embroidery, as might have been conjectured, but was only a neat man in a black frock-coat, and black kid gloves. Next came the Sindaco and the Primo Eletto, also in frock-coats and black kid gloves, pacing forth bravely in couples. Once more every one shouted, "Evviva il Re!" and then they all vanished into the church.
In the evening there was music — more correctly speaking, the noise of a band — in the piazza. It was called a concerto. Rockets were sent up, and there was the burning of Papal Bulls which always accompanies such Festas.
Here I must not neglect to name a comparatively p234modern celebrity, the painter Cesare, who is known as the Cavaliere d' Arpino. Like Marius and Cicero, he also left his native hills to seek his fortune in Rome, where he decorated many buildings, amongst them the Palazzo dei Conservatori, whose walls he adorned with frescoes of the history of Rome. These frescoes belong to the best period of modern Italian art, the end of the sixteenth century. The cathedral at Arpino treasures a picture of a Madonna as coming from his brush.
I quitted Arpino to drive in a char-à‑banc to Monte Cassino. The high-road descends through a district rich in olives. Following the course of the Liris, the Roman boundary is close at hand. The green waters of the river gleam out from beneath the poplars now and then, and San Giovanni may be seen perched high above its banks. The great mountain region to the left is almost destitute of inhabitants save where some mediaeval tower stands forth, such as Monte Negro, or the Santo Padre, on its precipitous rock. We traversed a low wooded hill which divides the streams of the Melfa and the Liris, and passed beneath many a hill town, such as Fontana and Arce, but without entering them. Looking up, I saw the Citadel of 5 Arce; that very strange place is set on a dizzy precipice and resembles Aornos. It used to be considered the p235one inaccessible fortress of the Middle Ages, yet Charles of Anjou's Provençal soldiers scaled its heights and subdued it just as expertly as the Zouaves might do so to‑day. Its fall struck terror into all the Ghibelline towns in the kingdom. It was the evil omen presaging the death of Manfred.
The ancient arx of the Volscians rises up on the crest of a grey, rent and torn mountain which seems to pierce the clouds. The remnants of this old fortress are surrounded by Cyclopean walls — the modern town lies below it. All these towns are alike in this respect: on the summit the giant Citadel, below it the town. The inhabitants were wont to fly to those strongholds at the approach of the invading Hun or Saracen. As we journeyed by the banks of the Liris, and especially when the smiling levels of Aquino came in sight, those frightful days when the Saracens established themselves here came vividly before me. For thirty long years they dominated these lower districts of the Liris (or Garigliano). From that robber hold of theirs at they streamed forth into the Campagna, driving all before them, and subduing the inhabitants to their rule as far north as Tuscany and the Sabina. They reduced all its noblest monasteries to ashes — Monte Cassino, San on the Vulturnus, Subiaco, Farfa. They destroyed their libraries, their archives — an p236irreparable loss to the civilised world. At last Pope X, a strong prelate, aided by the Italian-Byzantine League, vanquished them in of 910, and thus he became the saviour of his Italy.
Below Arce there is a custom-house, where my passport was demanded, but luckily my baggage was not examined. With connivance of the driver, a fine cheery young fellow from Arpino, I had concealed a precious book and also my travelling diary in the carriage. When we were safely past the frontier we drew it out laughingly, and I locked it up in my bag.
Ch. 72 We met soldiers everywhere, and they were in keeping with the old battlefields we passed by. Having seen those, I felt a still greater impulse to go back upon the history of this beautiful region. It is the theatre on which was enacted the history of Southern Italy. In the earlier Middle Ages three groups of towns had parcelled out this country amongst them — Benevento, and Capua belonged to the Lombards — Calabria belonged to Byzantium — Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta, and Sorrento to the Maritime Republics. Later on they all fell to the Normans. So many hostile powers were striving for the possession of Italy that her history became chaotic. The Lombards, the Greeks, the Emperor of Germany, the Popes, the Republicans, the Saracens, all these were p237fighting for supremacy in that fair land. Dante's Inferno presents but a feeble picture of the reality, and of the crimes and governments in those centuries when terror reigned supreme. History became labyrinthine, records were lost, and yet at Monte Cassino many treasures — diplomas — remain which were saved in those dark days, that of Gaeta more especially. Excellent as is the history by Giannone as regards judiciary and municipal matters, it is by no means exhaustive. It is far below our modern requirements in matters of research.
There is a bridge across the Melfa, which retains its ancient name, but now, in October, it is reduced to a trickling rill, stealing through its broad, flinty bed. Beside this bridge soldiers were encamped round a haystack, their lances, with little red pennons, piled up against it. It would have been a good subject for a Dutch artist. As we sped on along that most beautiful of all roads leading to Capua, the verdant meadows round about Aquino and came into sight. To the left, quite close to us, rose the Apennines and the lofty Cimarone, their flanks gleaming with white towns — Castello, 11 Rocca Secca, , Piedimonte — while beyond rose the great mountain Cairo, the goal of our present excursion, with Monte Cassino, the Athens of the p238Dark Ages, rising up, a palatial edifice crowned with cupola and dome, beyond it. And there it was that Paulus Diaconus wrote his "History of the Lombards." To the right, the blue peaks of the Volscian range rose up, showing just the same aspect as from Segni , many towns on their acclivities coming into view — San Giovanni in Carico, and Pontecorvo — that little Papal possession which once held — more distant Oliva, and others. The Liris bathes the feet of these mountains, flowing on in links and convolutions, as if reluctant to leave the rich meadows he fertilises. From both sides rushing mountain streams come leaping down to fling themselves into his shining waters. Most enchanting to the eye is his tortuous course.
How those Saracens must have battened on his banks! No , or , could afford them pleasanter quarters.f This Paradise has been the prey of many successful conquerors — Alaric's and Ataulf's Ostrogoths — the valiant Goths under and — the Isaurians, the Huns, the Sarmatians — the Greeks — the terrible hordes of Lothaire and Bucelin — the cultured Lombards, who filled all the land and colonised it, making it flourish — the Arabs — the Hungarians — the Normans — the French — the Spaniards — the Germans — all these nations had regarded these p239meadows with hostile eyes on their bloody marches through the "happy Campania," the key of the Neapolitan kingdom.
On the mountains above 7 San Germano are Rocca d' Evandro — San Pietro in Fine — St. Elia — above them again is the territory of Aquilone. The greater portion of the lands and diocese of Monte Cassino lies in these beautiful plains, to many a town within their bounds the Monastery owes its maintenance. This "ultimate" Latium has none of the solemnity and sadness of the Roman Campagna. It is more southern, warmer in colour, softer, better farmed. It lies all together, and is not intersected by so many hills.
Because the Fiera had just been held in San Germanoº we met numbers of country folk. The costume resembles that of the valley of the Sacco — some, indeed, were Ciociari, from Sandal-land — but instead of the high busto these women wore a high bodice with straps over the shoulders, and two skirts, the upper one draped across like an apron; this has a very beautiful effect.
Now I will ask the reader to leave the road to Capua, and turning to the left to accompany me to 6 Aquino, which is in the plain. It was pleasant to come upon the newly laid railway, which, however, ends here. It is a great pity p240that its opening should be delayed; while giving all honour to the Neapolitans for carrying this important line thus far, one must be sorry that the Romans have not advanced to meet it yet. The Campagna line is only opened as far as Albano (1859). A path through fields brought us to Aquino in a quarter of an hour. Once the great Roman city of Aquinum, one long narrow Borgo is all it now possesses, only one church tower rises above its houses. Its position beside a mountain stream and in the middle of a plain is in no way remarkable, but the verdure of its trees and gardens lends an idyllic beauty to it, while the horizon all round is unequalled. The ruins of the ancient city are close by — gates — walls — remains of temples to Diana and to Ceres — none of them calling for much notice. Near the river are the ruins of a church of excellent design, a basilica with three aisles; over its portal is a mosaic of the Madonna, still in good preservation. So do the remains of two epochs approach each other. Aquino has had much to be proud of, in both her Roman and her mediaeval period.
Her glory can scarcely be said to be enhanced by the fact that an Emperor was born here. Niger, like Marius, was of humble origin. This capable man rose to the rank of p241 in Syria, and when Pertinax was murdered he seized the Imperial purple. His reign was short. He was slain by the African Septimius Severus, who caused him to be beheaded. From two of her other sons Aquino gained more glory, two men characteristic of their different epochs, and in the same juxtaposition to each other as are the ruined Roman Temples and the Christian Basilica of Santa Maria Libera. Could there be a greater contrast than that which these two men — Juvenal and St. Thomas Aquinas — present? Juvenal, the great satirist of the heathenism and depravity of the Romans, and St. Thomas, called the " Doctor," the famous exponent of theology, of scholastic belief? Aquinas exemplifies the trenchant antithesis between the Christian Atonement and the pagan corruption of Rome, described by Juvenal when he leads us into the centre of the city as established by Marius, the man who placed the Julian dynasty firmly on the throne of Rome.
Rome steeped in blood — a moral swamp — one great lie — plague-stricken both morally and physically. Every one venal, the nobles, and the citizens, alike, crowding round the table of the despot either to riot or to starve — as it might turn out. All thought, literature, the very tribune itself gagged — nothing but flattery p242free. The slavish spirit, the inordinate love of pleasure, and all men prostituting their natures to it. Amongst that terrorised groveling mass of sensuality a few stoical spirits strove to express the disgust they felt for it all — as soon as a milder despotism permitted them to do so — by means of satirical and historical writings.
Juvenal was born at Aquino. His origin is obscure, as is that of most of the ancient poets, and this fact those worthies have no reason to deplore. Each of their personalities is legendary. No indiscreet descendant, friend, or relative edited their letters, no journalist described their looks with such precision that not a birthmark could escape. No one accompanied their every step from childhood up, cataloguing each weakness, each fault, each debt — inexorable as Shylock. The lives of Horace, and of Ovid, as they are known to the world, can be recorded in two pages. Of , of Euripides, only very doubtful descriptions of their deaths exist. Terence, the exquisite, vanished somewhere in Hellas, in a Stygian morass.
It is by his own verses that we know of Juvenal's birthplace. Was he banished to Egypt? or perhaps to Scotland? Where did he die? The gods alone can tell. His long life lasted through the reigns of many Caesars — p243Claudius, Nero, , Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian. His wit was darkened — or illumined? — by all these Caesars successively. He saw in them contrasts — a line of destructive demons with the rare exception of a few who reigned to benefit the world from the world's throne — it was really the most wretched period in the history of the Roman race, however unveraciously it may have been called the "fortunate epoch."
We can scarcely realise what a man of humane feelings and sympathies must have experienced when beholding, in the flesh, the scarred visage of Nero, or the mild countenance of Titus. If that succession of Emperors had been reversed, if Juvenal had lived under Titus first of all, we should probably not possess his Satires, for his youthful impressions generally influence a man's later writings. Yet Rome was much the same socially under Titus, that it was under Nero. Unhappy Juvenal, condemned to be the poet of his day and times! His utterances, his position in that oppressive Roman atmosphere, his life, like that of Tacitus, embittered by painful experiences. Both those men have left some statues which had better been cast in mud and filth than in marble.
Who is there who can read Juvenal's Satires on the men and women of his day without his p244gorge rising? Who is there who does not deplore that so richly endowed a mind should have had to resort to the very slums and pits of iniquity for his inspiration? Facit indignatio versum qualemcunque potest.
With some justice, Juvenal has been compared to his nobler and greater contemporary, Tacitus. But a historian is in some degree exempt from the need to acknowledge the tragic doom which must in the end befall all despotisms. The satirist is bound to depict, with whatever abhorrence he may do it, the lewdness of the men and women he scourges. Yet how immeasurably above the novelists and dramatists of our present times was Juvenal! While things more prurient and feeble than Petronius depict sin with a sickly sentimentality — or show the venal judge as an angelic personage — Juvenal's spirit is always lofty. We Germans may venture to congratulate ourselves on the absence of a Juvenal, or a Sue, or a Dumas from our own literature, while we lay a fresh wreath on the brow of our high-hearted poet, our Schiller, who sings to us of freedom and of a human ideal.
Both Juvenal and Tacitus sighed for the lost republican freedom of Rome. Both dreaded the days that were to come, for an abyss seemed yawning and threatening to engulf the p245future. The danger seemed more immediate to the poet than to the historian.
To both, that Jewish sect, the despised and misrepresented sect of Christianity, appeared occult — immature, though they were not unaware of its ideals.
Those Germans whose heroic simplicity, whose vigorous natures excited the admiration of their historian, Tacitus, were to shatter the despotism, and cleanse the falsity of Rome.
Christianity — we are standing now amongst the ruins at Aquino — comes forth to meet us in the form of a celebrated saint — the doctor — from the church of Santa Maria Libera. Tall of stature he looked in his Dominican cowl, a roll of books under his arm, thin, slightly stooping, with a large powerful head and a dark brown face, "wrinkled, but the flesh still soft" — carne, quae acumen ingenii et excellentiam .
A thousand years and more had gone by since Tacitus and Juvenal had lived, when — not in Aquino, but above it, in the picturesque Castle of 11 — Thomas was born in 1224.1
This castle was built on the mountain of Asprano, by the Abbot Manso of Monte Cassino, p246in the tenth century. It belonged in the thirteenth century to the Lombard Count of Aquino, of the ancient family of Landolfo. His father was Count Landolfo, his mother Teodora Caracciolo; his uncle was Landolfo, Abbot of Monte Cassino. When the boy was a few years old his parents took him to the great Benedictine Monastery, vainly thinking he might live to be its Abbot in time. It has been the custom of the followers of St. Benedict to receive children of tender years into their monasteries, and it remains so still. Dom Luigi , of our own day, the celebrated author of the History of Italy, and Dom Sebastian Kalefati, the learned librarian of Monte Cassino, both of them worthy men whose names are known and respected by many German students, were each admitted to the Monastery of Monte Cassino at the age of eight.
For seven years Thomas remained there. He then went on to Naples, where he studied theology, and became a Dominican. He studied in Paris. He visited Cologne to learn wisdom from that wonderful man Albertus Magnus. He became a professor at Naples, and finally, he died at the Cistercian Monastery of Fossanova, near , only distant a few miles from his birthplace. This, then, was the great personality of the Middle Ages, who introduced the study p247of philosophic theology, or rather, we may say, who raised theology to a philosophic system.
The word "scholastic" is too apt now to suggest, quite inaccurately, a labyrinth constructed during successive centuries by persons of disconnected, dull, and limited understandings. Who, in these days, ventures to dip into the "Summa" of Thomas Aquinas? Who will trust himself in that dark and ghostly forest where dwells the Aristotelian-Christian Minotaur? We now regard his colossal Gothic philosophy as an antique system exciting our wonder. Its hair-splitting distinctions, its moral speculations and researches, its problems, so remote from all modern aims, no longer occupy a generation become more materialistic and practical, freer and more simple in its modes of thought. But let us not forget that his was the fundamental system for the study of metaphysics. Let us also confess that we are just as helpless now, when having to confront the highest questions which the mind of man can evolve from this nineteenth century, as was the Scholastic of the Middle Ages, or as was the first man Adam in Paradise.
We departed from Aquino, then, glad to have been able to behold it. Returning to the main road to Capua, a short hour brought us to the foot of Monte Cairo, which we skirted, for was not Monte Cassino awaiting us? Were not the p248Roman amphitheatre, the friendly San Germano, the famous fortress of Janula, before us? But these present sheets are already too numerous, so this much must now suffice.
When I consider all that this short excursion has opened up to me, I may well feel astonished by the richness of this district, this Land of Italy. No other Land on the face of the earth is so permeated — so inspired — with the spirit of the past. Nature and history have both emptied their treasures over her — each epoch has left its developments visible on her soil. She is, indeed, the mother of all the Western lands, a Pandora in her gifts, which have been both good and evil. If Italy should ever arise from her ashes and take her place amongst those European nations which she has educated — partially, at all events — nations which have by turns conquered, plundered, and received their chief pleasures from her — she will only be enjoying what is due to her. Yes! this is a noble land, well deserving the love of the whole human race. Even in the midst of the chaos now existing — the dreadful mingling of truth and falsehood which prevails — we Germans cannot but give her our warmest sympathy, our best hope that she may attain to Liberty — and this is the land which we, too, have ourselves so often oppressed!
1 Mr. Hare, in his "Days near Rome," disposes of this idea, and states, as a fact now established, that St. Thomas was born at Aquino. (Translator's note.)
a The Gothic style, as is firmly attested, was born in France; Gregorovius' "die vaterländische Gotik" — "the Gothic of (my) fatherland" — is explained a few sentences further on.
b In this odd sentence, "little circuit" yields no sense — not to me at least — and doesn't correspond to anything in the German that I can see. The edition of Gregorovius online has:
Dann bogen wir vom Weg in ein Weingartenland ein und kamen gleich zur Grenze selbst, die durch einen einfachen Stein bezeichnet wird.
Then we wended our way in a land of vineyards and came straightway to the border, which is marked by a single plain stone.
c A pamphlet, one of several, by French political writer Arthur de la Guéronnière who served as a mouthpiece for the Italian policy of Emperor Napoleon III.
d As noted, the printed text actually has Poli: but I find no trace of that cardinal (Fausto Poli, 1581‑1653: with fuller details of his career elsewhere onsite) ever having got in trouble with the Inquisition; I'm almost certain that Reginald Pole (1550‑1558) is meant, as indeed we read in Gregorovius' German text. All the other typos in this paragraph also seem to be due to the English typesetter, or at least the names are correctly given in the German text I linked in the margin.
f Something seems to be wrong in the translation here, which my German is not quite good enough to fix; if your German is better, please drop me a line, of course. The Sebethus (in Italian: Sebeto), at any rate, is a small watercourse of Campania now completely channeled and buried in the sewer system of Naples. I suspect this sentence should read something like: "No pleasanter shore will you find on the Guadalquivir River, than by the Sebethus or the river Cyane", the sense being that the Saracens found rivers in Italy to be every bit as good as those in their long-occupied territories in Spain.
g October 4 was not the birthday of the new king Francis II (born January 16, 1836; acceded to the throne May 22, 1859), but only that of his wife, Marie Sophie of Bavaria (born October 4, 1841). October 4 is the feast of St. Francis, however, which is thus the king's name-saint day. The looseness is not due to translation, but is in Gregorovius' original text.
Images with borders lead to more information.
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 17 Jul 13