Rome tends to diminutives in names as in facts. The first emperor was Augustus, the last was Augustulus; with the Popes, the Roman Senate dwindled to a mere office, held by one man, and respected by none; the ascent to the Capitol, the path of triumphs that marked the subjugation of the world, became in the twelfth century 'Fabatosta,' or 'Roast Beans Lane'; and, in the vulgar tongue, 'Capitolium' was vulgarized to 'Campitelli,' and the word gave a name to a Region of the city. Within that Region are included the Capitol, the Forum, the Colosseum and the Palatine, with the palaces of the Cæsars. It takes in, roughly, the land covered by the earliest city; and, throughout the greater part of Roman history, it was the centre of political and military life. It merited something better than a diminutive for a name; yet, in the latest revolution of things, it has fared better, and has been more respected, than many other quarters, and still the memories of great times and deeds cling to the stones that are left.
In the dark ages, when a ferocious faith had destroyed the remnants of Latin learning and culture, together with the last rites of the old religion, the people invented legend as a substitute for the folklore of all the little gods condemned by the Church; so that the fairy tale is in all Europe the link between Christianity and paganism, and to the weakness of vanquished Rome her departed empire seemed only explicable as the result of magic. The Capitol, in the imagination of such tales, became a tower of wizards. High above all, a golden sphere reflected the sun's rays far out across the distant sea by day, and at night a huge lamp took its place as a beacon for the sailors of the Mediterranean, even to Spain and Africa. In the tower, too, was preserved the mystic mirror of the world, which instantly reflected all that passed in the empire, even to its furthest limits. Below the towers, also, and surmounting the golden palace, there were as many statues as Rome had provinces, and each statue wore a bell at its neck, that rang of itself in warning whenever there was trouble in the part of the world to which it belonged, while the figure itself turned on its base to look in the direction of the danger. Such tales Irving tells of the Alhambra, not more wonderful than those believed of Rome, and far less numerous.
There were stories of hidden treasure, too, without end. For, in those days of plundering, men laid their hands on what they saw, and hid what they took as best they might; and later, when the men of the Middle Age and of the Renascence believed that Rome had been destroyed by the Goths, they told strange stories of Gothmen who appeared suddenly in disguise from the north, bringing with them ancient parchments in which were preserved sure instructions for unearthing the gold hastily hidden by their ancestors, because there had been too much of it to carry away. Even in our own time such things have been done. In the latter days of the reign of Pius the Ninth, some one discovered an old book or manuscript, wherein it was pointed out that a vast treasure lay buried on the northward side of the Colosseum within a few feet of the walls, and it was told that if any man would dig there he should find, as he dug deeper, certain signs, fragments of statues, and hewn tablets, and a spring of water. So the Pope gave his permission, and the work began. Every one who lived in Rome thirty years ago can remember it, and the excited curiosity of the whole city while the digging went on. And, strange to say, though the earth had evidently not been disturbed for centuries, each object was found in succession, exactly as described, to a great depth; but not the treasure, though the well was sunk down to the primeval soil. It was all filled in again, and the mystery has never been solved. Yet the mere fact that everything was found except the gold, lends some possibility to the other stories of hidden wealth, told and repeated from generation to generation.
The legend of the Capitol is too vast, too varied, too full of tremendous contrasts to be briefly told or carelessly sketched. Archæologists have reconstructed it on paper, scholars have written out its history, poets have said great things of it; yet if one goes up the steps today and stands by the bronze statue in the middle of the square, seeing nothing but a paved space enclosed on three sides by palaces of the late Renascence, it is utterly impossible to call up the past. Perhaps no point of ancient Rome seems less Roman and less individual than that spot where Rienzi stood, silent and terrified, for a whole hour before the old stone lion, waiting for the curious, pitiless rabble to kill him. The big buildings shut out history, hide the Forum, the Gemonian steps, and the Tarpeian rock, and in the very inmost centre of the old city's heart they surround a man with the artificialities of an uninteresting architecture. For though Michelangelo planned the reconstruction he did not live to see his designs carried out, and they fell into the hands of little men who tried to improve upon what they could not understand, and ruined it.
The truth is that half a dozen capitols have been built on the hill, destroyed, forgotten, and replaced, each one in turn, during successive ages. It is said that certain Indian jugglers allow themselves to be buried alive in a state of trance, and are taken from the tomb after many months not dead; and it is said that the body, before it is brought to life again, is quite cold, as though the man were dead, excepting that there is a very little warmth just where the back of the skull joins the neck. Yet there is enough left to reanimate the whole being in a little time, so that life goes on as before. So in Rome's darkest and most dead days, the Capitol has always held within it a spark of vitality, ready to break out with little warning and violent effect.
For the Capitol, not yet the Capitol, but already the sacred fortress of Rome, was made strong in the days of Romulus, and it was in his time, when he and his men had carried off the Sabine girls and were at war with their fathers and brothers, that Tarpeia came down the narrow path, her earthen jar balanced on her graceful head, to fetch spring water for a household sacrifice. Her father kept the castle. She came down, a straight brown girl with eager eyes and red lips, clad in the grey woollen tunic that left her strong round arms bare to the shoulder. Often she had seen the golden bracelets which the Sabine men wore on their left wrists, and some of them had a jewel or two set in the gold; but the Roman men wore none, and the Roman women had none to wear, and Tarpeia's eyes were eager. Because she came to get water for holy things she was safe, and she went down to the spring, and there was Tatius, of the Sabines, drinking. When he saw how her eyes were gold-struck by his bracelet, he asked her if she should like to wear it, and the blood came to her brown face, as she looked back quickly to the castle where her father was. 'If you Sabines will give me what you wear on your left arms,' she said—for she did not know the name of gold—'you shall have the fortress tonight, for I will open the gate for you.' The Sabine looked at her, and then he smiled quickly, and promised for himself and all his companions. So that night they went up stealthily, for there was no moon, and the gate was open, and Tarpeia was standing there. Tatius could see her greedy eyes in the starlight; but instead of his bracelet, he took his shield from his left arm and struck her down with it for a betrayer, and all the Sabine men threw their shields upon her as they passed. So she died, but her name remains to the rock, to this day.
It was long before the temple planned by the first Tarquin was solemnly dedicated by the first consuls of the Republic, and the earthen image of Jupiter, splendidly dressed and painted red, was set up between Juno and Minerva. Many hundred years later, in the terrible times of Marius and Sylla, the ancient sanctuary took fire and was burned, and Sylla rebuilt it. That temple was destroyed also, and another, built by Vespasian, was burned too, and from the last building Genseric stole the gilt bronze tiles in the year 455, when Christianity was the fact and Jupiter the myth, one and twenty years before the final end of Rome's empire; and the last of what remained was perhaps burned by Robert Guiscard after serving as a fortress for the enemies of Gregory the Seventh.
But we know, at last, that the fortress of the old city stood where the Church of Aracœli stands, and that the temple was on the other side, over against the Palatine, and standing back a little from the Tarpeian rock, so that the open square of today is just between the places of the two. And when one goes up the steps on the right, behind the right-hand building, one comes to a quiet lane, where German students of archæology live in a little colony by themselves and have their Institute at the end of it, and a hospital of their own; and there, in a wall, is a small green door leading into a quiet garden, with a pretty view. Along the outer edge runs a low stone wall, and there are seats where one may rest and dream under the trees, a place where one might fancy lovers meeting in the moonlight, or old men sunning themselves of an autumn afternoon, or children playing among the flowers on a spring morning.
But it is a place of fear and dread, ever since Tarpeia died there for her betrayal, and one may dream other dreams there than those of peace and love. The vision of a pale, strong man rises at the edge, bound and helpless, lifted from the ground by savage hands and hurled from the brink to the death below,—Manlius, who saved the Capitol and loved the people, and was murdered by the nobles,—and many others after him, just and unjust, whirled through the clear air to violent destruction for their bad or their good deeds, as justice or injustice chanced to be in the ascendant of the hour. And then, in the Middle Age, the sweet-scented garden was the place of terrible executions, and the gallows stood there permanently for many years, and men were hanged and drawn and quartered there, week by week, month by month, all the year round, the chief magistrate of Rome looking on from the window of the Senator's palace, as a duty; till one of them sickened at the sight of blood, and ordained that justice should be done at the Bridge of Sant' Angelo, and at Tor di Nona, and in the castle itself, and the summit of the fatal rock was left to the birds, the wild flowers, and the merciful purity of nature. And that happened four hundred years ago.
Until our own time there were prisons deep down in the old Roman vaults. At first, as in old days, the place of confinement was in the Mamertine prison, on the southeastern slope, beneath which was the hideous Tullianum, deepest and darkest of all, whence no captive ever came out alive to the upper air again. In the Middle Age, the prison was below the vaults of the Roman Tabularium on the side of the Forum, but it is said that the windows looked inward upon a deep court of the Senator's palace. As civilization advanced, it was transferred a story higher, to a more healthy region of the building, but the Capitoline prison was not finally given up till the reign of Pius the Ninth, at which time it had become a place of confinement for debtors only.
Institutions and parties in Rome have always had a tendency to cling to places more than in other cities. It is thus that during so many centuries the Lateran was the headquarters of the Popes, the Capitol the rallying-place of the ever-smouldering republicanism of the people, and the Castle of Sant' Angelo the seat of actual military power as contrasted with spiritual dominion and popular aspiration. So far as the latter is concerned its vitality is often forgotten and its vigour underestimated.
One must consider the enormous odds against which the spirit of popular emancipation had to struggle in order to appreciate the strength it developed. A book has been written called 'The One Hundred and Sixty-one rebellions of papal subjects between 896 and 1859'—a title which gives an average of about sixteen to a century; and though the furious partiality of the writer calls them all rebellions against the popes, whereas a very large proportion were revolts against the nobles, and Rienzi's attempt was to bring the Pope back to Rome, yet there can be no question as to the vitality which could produce even half of such a result; and it may be remembered that in almost every rising of the Roman people the rabble first made a rush for the Capitol, and, if successful, seized other points afterwards. In the darkest ages the words 'Senate' and 'Republic' were never quite forgotten and were never dissociated from the sacred place. The names of four leaders, Arnold of Brescia, Stefaneschi, Rienzi and Porcari, recall the four greatest efforts of the Middle Age; the first partially succeeded and left its mark, the second was fruitless because permanent success was then impossible against such odds, the third miscarried because Rienzi was a madman and Cardinal Albornoz a man of genius, and the fourth, because the people were contented and wanted no revolution at all. The first three of those men seized the Capitol at once, the fourth intended to do so. It was always the immediate object of every revolt, and the power to ring the great Patarina, the ancient bell stolen by the Romans from Viterbo, had for centuries a directing influence in Roman brawls. Its solemn knell announced the death of a Pope, or tolled the last hour of condemned criminals, and men crossed themselves as it echoed through the streets; but at the tremendous sound of its alarm, rung backward till the tower rocked, the Romans ran to arms, the captains of the Regions buckled on their breastplates and displayed their banners, and the people flocked together to do deeds of sudden violence and shortlived fury. In a few hours Stefaneschi of Trastevere swept the nobles from the city; between noon and night Rienzi was master of Rome, and it was from the Capitol that the fierce edicts of both threatened destruction to the unready barons. They fled to their mountain dens like wolves at sunrise, but the night was never slow to descend upon liberty's short day, and with the next dawn the ruined towers began to rise again; the people looked with dazed indifference upon the fall of their leader, and presently they were again slaves, as they had been—Arnold was hanged and burned, Stefaneschi languished in a dungeon, Rienzi wandered over Europe a homeless exile, the straight, stiff corpse of brave Stephen Porcari hung, clad in black, from the battlement of Sant' Angelo. It was always the same story. The Barons were the Sabines, the Latins and the Æquians of Mediæval Rome; but there was neither a Romulus nor a Cincinnatus to lead the Roman people against steel-clad masters trained to fighting from boyhood, bold by inheritance, and sure of a power which they took every day by violence and held year after year by force.
In imagination one would willingly sweep away the three stiff buildings on the Capitol, the bronze Emperor and his horse, the marble Castor and Pollux, the proper arcades, the architectural staircase, and the even pavement, and see the place as it used to be five hundred years ago. It was wild then. Out of broken and rocky ground rose the ancient Church of Aracœli, the Church of the Altar of Heaven, built upon that altar which the Sibyl of Tivoli bade Augustus raise to the Firstborn of God. To the right a rude fortress, grounded in the great ruins of Rome's Archive House, flanked by rough towers, approached only by that old triumphal way, where old women slowly roasted beans in iron chafing-dishes over little fires that were sheltered from the north wind by the vast wall. Before the fortress a few steps led to the main door, and over that was a great window and a balcony with a rusty iron balustrade—the one upon which Rienzi came out at the last, with the standard in his hand. The castle itself not high, but strong, brown and battered. Beyond it, the gallows, and the place of death. Below it, a desolation of tumbling rock and ruin, where wild flowers struggled for a holding in spring, and the sharp cactus sent out ever-green points between the stones. Far down, a confusion of low, brown houses, with many dark towers standing straight up from them like charred trees above underbrush in a fire-blasted forest. Beyond all, the still loneliness of far mountains. That was the scene, and those were the surroundings, in which the Roman people reinstituted a Roman Senate, after a lapse of nearly six hundred years, in consequence of the agitation begun and long continued by Arnold of Brescia.
Muratori, in his annals, begins his short account of the year 1141 by saying that the history of Italy during that period is almost entirely hidden in darkness, because there are neither writers nor chroniclers of the time, and he goes on to say that no one knows why the town of Tivoli had so long rebelled against the Popes. The fact remains, astonishing and ridiculous,—in the middle of the twelfth century imperial Rome was at war with suburban Tivoli, and Tivoli was the stronger; for when the Romans persuaded Pope Innocent the Second to lay siege to the town, the inhabitants sallied out furiously, cut their assailants to pieces, seized all their arms and provisions, and drove the survivors to ignominious flight. Hence the implacable hatred between Tivoli and Rome; and Tivoli became an element in the struggles that followed.
Now for many years, Rome had been in the hands of a family of converted Jews, known as the Pierleoni, from Pietro Leone, first spoken of in the chronicles as an iniquitous usurer of enormous wealth. They became prefects of Rome; they took possession of Sant' Angelo and were the tyrants of the city, and finally they became the Pope's great enemies, the allies of Roger of Apulia, and makers of antipopes, of whom the first was either Pietro's son or his grandson. They had on their side possession, wealth, the support of a race which never looks upon apostasy from its creed as final, the alliance of King Roger and of Duke Roger, his son, and the countenance, if not the friendship, of Arnold of Brescia, the excommunicated monk of northern Italy, and the pupil of the romantic Abelard. And the Pierleoni had against them the Popes, the great Frangipani family with most of the nobles, and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who has been called the Bismarck of the Church. Arnold of Brescia was no ordinary fanatic. He was as brave as Stefaneschi, as pure-hearted as Stephen Porcari, as daring and eloquent as Rienzi in his best days. The violent deeds of his followers have been imputed to him, and brought him to his end; but it was his great adversary, Saint Bernard, who expressed a regretful wish 'that his teachings might have been as irreproachable as his life.' The doctrine for which he died at last was political, rather than spiritual, human rather than theological. In all but his monk's habit he was a layman in his later years, as he had been when he first wandered to France and sat at the feet of the gentle Abelard; but few Churchmen of that day were as spotless in their private lives.
He was an agitator, a would-be reformer, a revolutionary; and the times craved change. The trumpet call of the first Crusade had roused the peoples of Europe, and the distracted forces of the western world had been momentarily concentrated in a general and migratory movement of religious conquest; forty years later the fortunes of the Latins in the East were already waning, and Saint Bernard was meditating the inspiring words that sent four hundred thousand warriors to the rescue of the Holy Places. What Bernard was about to attempt for Palestine, Arnold dreamed of accomplishing for Rome. In his eyes she was holy, too, her ruins were the sepulchre of a divine freedom, worthy to be redeemed from tyranny even at the price of blood, and he would have called from the tomb the spirit of murdered liberty to save and illuminate mankind. Where Bernard was a Christian, Arnold was a Roman in soul; where Bernard was an inspired monk, Arnold was in heart a Christian, of that first Apostolic republic which had all things in common.
At such a time such a man could do much. Rome was in the utmost distress. At the election of Innocent the Second, the Jewish Pierleoni had set up one of themselves as antipope, and Innocent had been obliged to escape in spite of the protection of the still powerful Frangipani, leaving the Israelitish antipope to rule Rome, in spite of the Emperor, and in alliance with King Roger for nine years, until his death, when it required Saint Bernard's own presence and all the strength of his fiery words to dissuade the Romans from accepting another spiritual and temporal ruler imposed upon them by the masterful Pierleoni. So Innocent returned at last, a good man, much tried by misfortune, but neither wise nor a leader of men. At that time the soldiers of Rome were beaten in open battle by the people of Tivoli, a humiliation which it was not easy to forget. And it is more than probable that the Pierleoni looked on at the Pope's failure in scornful inaction from their stronghold of Sant' Angelo, which they had only nominally surrendered to Innocent's authority.
From a distance, Arnold of Brescia sadly contemplated Rome's disgrace and the evil state of the Roman people. The yet unwritten words of Saint Bernard were already more than true. They are worth repeating here, in Gibbon's strong translation, for they perfect the picture of the times.
'Who,' asks Bernard, 'is ignorant of the vanity and arrogance of the Romans? a nation nursed in sedition, untractable, and scorning to obey, unless they are too feeble to resist. When they promise to serve, they aspire to reign; if they swear allegiance, they watch the opportunity of revolt; yet they vent their discontent in loud clamours, if your doors, or your counsels, are shut against them. Dexterous in mischief, they have never learnt the science of doing good. Odious to earth and heaven, impious to God, seditious among themselves, jealous of their neighbours, inhuman to strangers, they love no one, by no one are they beloved; and while they wish to inspire fear, they live in base and continual apprehension. They will not submit; they know not how to govern; faithless to their superiors, intolerable to their equals, ungrateful to their benefactors, and alike impudent in their demands and their refusals. Lofty in promise, poor in execution: adulation and calumny, perfidy and treason, are the familiar arts of their policy.'
Fearless and in earnest, Arnold came to Rome, and began to preach a great change, a great reform, a great revival, and many heard him and followed him; and it was not in the Pope's power to silence him, nor bring him to any trial. The Pierleoni would support any sedition against Innocent; the Roman people were weary of masters, they listened with delight to Arnold's fierce condemnation of all temporal power, that of the Pope and that of the Emperor alike, and the old words, Republic, Senate, Consul, had not lost their life in the slumber of five hundred years. The Capitol was there, for a Senate house, and there were men in Rome to be citizens and Senators. Revolution was stirring, and Innocent had recourse to the only weapon left him in his weakness. Arnold was preaching as a Christian and a Catholic. The Pope excommunicated him in a general Council. In the days of the Crusades the Major Interdiction was not an empty form of words; to applaud a revolutionary was one thing, to attend the sermons of a man condemned to hell was a graver matter; Arnold's disciples deserted him, his friends no longer dared to protect him under the penalty of eternal damnation, and he went out from Rome a fugitive and an outcast.
Wandering from Italy to France, from France to Germany, and at last to Switzerland, he preached his doctrines without fear, though he had upon him the mark of Cain; but if the temporal sovereignty against which he spoke could not directly harm him, the spiritual power pursued him hither and thither, like a sword of flame. A weaker man would have renounced his beliefs, or would have disappeared in a distant obscurity; but Arnold was not made to yield. Goaded by persecution, divinely confident of right, he faced danger and death and came back to Rome.
He arrived at a moment when the people were at once elated by the submission of Tivoli, and exasperated against Innocent because he refused to raze that city to the ground. The Pierleoni were ever ready to encourage rebellion. The Romans, at the words Liberty and Republic, rose in a body, rushed to the Capitol, proclaimed the Commonwealth, and forthwith elected a Senate which assumed absolute sovereignty of the city, and renewed the war with Tivoli. The institution then refounded was not wholly abolished until, under the Italian kings, a representative government took its place.
The success and long supremacy of Arnold's teaching have been unfairly called his 'reign'; yet he neither caused himself to be elected a Senator, nor at any time, so far as we can learn, occupied any office whatsoever; neither did he profit in fortune by the changes he had wrought, and to the last he wore the garb of poverty and led the simple life which had extorted the reluctant admiration of his noblest adversary. But he could not impose upon others the virtues he practised himself, nor was it in his power to direct the force his teachings had called into life. For the time being the Popes were powerless against the new order. Innocent is said to have died of grief and humiliation, almost before the revolution was complete. His successor, Celestin the Second, reigned but five months and a half, busy in a quarrel with King Roger, and still the new Senate ruled the city.
But saving that it endured, it left no mark of good in Rome; the nobles saw that a new weapon was placed in their hands, they easily elected themselves to office, and the people, deluded by the name of a Republic, had exchanged the sovereignty of the Pope, or the allegiance of the Emperor, for the far more ruthless tyranny of the barons. The Jewish Pierleoni were rich and powerful still, but since Rome was strong enough to resist the Vatican, the Pontificate was no longer a prize worth seizing, and they took instead, by bribery or force, the Consulship or the Presidency of the Senate. Jordan, the brother of the antipope Anacletus, obtained the office, and the violent death of the next Pope, Lucius the Second, was one of the first events of his domination.
Lucius refused to bear any longer the humiliation to which his predecessors had tamely submitted. Himself in arms, and accompanied by such followers as he could collect, the Pope made a desperate attempt to dislodge the Senate and their guards from the Capitol, and at the head of the storming party he endeavoured to ascend the old road, known then as Fabatosta. But the Pierleoni and their men were well prepared for the assault, and made a desperate and successful resistance. The Pope fell at the head of his soldiers, struck by a stone on the temple, mortally wounded, but not dead. In hasty retreat, the dying man was borne by his routed soldiers to the monastery of Saint Gregory on the Cœlian, under the safe protection of the trusty Frangipani, who held the Palatine, the Circus Maximus, and the Colosseum. Of all the many Popes who died untimely deaths he was the only one, I believe, who fell in battle. And he got his deathblow on the slope of that same Capitol where Gracchus and Manlius had died before him, each in good cause.
It has been wrongly said that he had all the nobles with him, and that the revolution was of the people alone, aided by the Pierleoni. This is not true. So far as can be known, the Frangipani were his only faithful friends, but it is possible that the Count of Tusculum, seventh in descent from Theodora, and nephew of the first Colonna, at that time holding a part of the Aventine, may have also been the Pope's ally. Be that as it may, the force that Lucius led was very small, and the garrison of the Capitol was overwhelmingly strong.
Some say also that Arnold of Brescia was not actually in Rome at that time, that the first revolution was the result of his unforgotten teachings, bearing fruit in the hearts of the nobles and the people, and that he did not come to the city till Pope Lucius was dead. However that may be, from that time forward, till the coming of Barbarossa, Arnold was the idol of the Romans, and their vanity and arrogance knew no bounds. Pope Eugenius the Third was enthroned in the Lateran under the protection of the Frangipani, but within the week he was forced to escape by night to the mountains. The Pierleoni held Sant' Angelo; the people seized and fortified the Vatican, deprived the Pope's Prefect of his office, and forced the few nobles who resisted them to swear allegiance to Jordan Pierleone, making him in fact dictator, and in name their 'Patrician.' The Pope retorted by excommunicating him, and allying himself with Tivoli, but was forced to a compromise whereby he acknowledged the Senate and the supremacy of the Roman people, who, already tired of their dictator, agreed to restore the Prefect to office, and to express some sort of obedience, more spiritual than temporal, to the Pope's authority. But Arnold was still supreme, and after a short stay in the city Eugenius was again a fugitive.
It was then that he passed into France, when Lewis the Seventh was ready armed to lead the Second Crusade to the Holy Land; and through that stirring time Rome is dark and sullen, dwelling aloof from Church and Empire in the new-found illusion of an unreal and impossible greatness. Seven hundred years later an Italian patriot exclaimed, 'We have an Italy, but we have no Italians.' And so Arnold of Brescia must many times have longed for Romans to people a free Rome. He had made a republic, but he could not make free men; he had called up a vision, but he could not give it reality; like Rienzi and the rest, he had 'mistaken memories for hopes,' and he was fore-destined to pay for his belief in his country's life with the sacrifice of his own. He had dreamed of a liberty serene and high, but he had produced only a dismal confusion: in place of peace he had brought senseless strife; instead of a wise and simple consul, he had given the Romans the keen and rapacious son of a Jewish usurer for a dictator; where he had hoped to destroy the temporal power of Pope and Emperor, he had driven the greatest forces of his age, and two of the greatest men, to an alliance against him.
So he perished. Eugenius died in Tivoli, Anastasius reigned a few months, and sturdy Nicholas Breakspeare was Adrian the Fourth. Conrad the Emperor also died, poisoned by the physicians King Roger sent him from famous Salerno, and Frederick Barbarossa of Hohenstauffen, his nephew, reigned in his stead. Adrian and Frederick quarrelled at their first meeting in the sight of all their followers in the field, for the young Emperor would not hold the Englishman's stirrup on the first day. On the second he yielded, and Pope and Emperor together were invincible. Then the Roman Senate and people sent out ambassadors, who spoke hugely boasting words to the red-haired soldier, and would have set conditions on his crowning, so that he laughed aloud at them; and he and Adrian went into the Leonine city, but not into Rome itself, and the Englishman crowned the German. Yet the Romans would fight, and in the heat of the summer noon they crossed the bridge and killed such straggling guards as they could find; then the Germans turned and mowed them down, and killed a thousand of the best, while the Pierleoni, as often before, looked on in sullen neutrality from Sant' Angelo, waiting to take the side of the winner. Then the Emperor and the Pope departed together, leaving Rome to its factions and its parties.
Suddenly Arnold of Brescia is with them, a prisoner, but how taken no man can surely tell. And with them also, by Soracte, far out in the northern Campagna, is Di Vico, the Prefect, to judge the leader of the people. The Pope and the Emperor may have looked on, while Di Vico judged the heretic and the rebel; but they did not themselves judge him. The Prefect, Lord of Viterbo, had been long at war with the new-formed Senate and the city, and owed Arnold bitter hatred and grudge.
The end was short. Arnold told them all boldly that his teaching was just, and that he would die for it. He knelt down, lifted up his hands to heaven, and commended his soul to God. Then they hanged him, and when he was dead they burnt his body and scattered the ashes in the river, lest any relics of him should be taken to Rome to work new miracles of revolution. No one knows just where he died, but only that it was most surely far out in the Campagna, in the hot summer days, in the year 1155, and not within the city, as has been so often asserted.
He was a martyr—whether in a good cause or a foolish one, let those judge who call themselves wise; there was no taint of selfishness in him, no thought of ambition for his own name, and there was no spot upon his life in an age of which the evils cannot be written down, and are better not guessed. He died for something in which he believed enough to die for it, and belief cannot be truer to itself than that. So far as the Church of today may speak, all Churchmen know that his heresies of faith, if they were real, were neither great nor vital, and that he was put to death, not for them, but because he was become the idol and the prophet of a rebellious city. His doctrine had spread over Italy, his words had set the country aflame, his mere existence was a lasting cause of bloody strife between city and city, princes and people, nobles and vassals. The times were not ripe, and in the inevitable course of fate it was foreordained that he must perish, condemned by Popes and Emperors, Kings and Princes; but of all whole-souled reformers, of all patriot leaders, of all preachers of liberty, past and living, it is not too much to say that Arnold of Brescia was the truest, the bravest and the simplest.
To them all, the Capitol has been the central object of dreams, and upon its walls the story of their failure has often been told in grotesque figures of themselves. When Rienzi was first driven out, his effigy was painted, hanged by the heels upon one of the towers, and many another 'enemy of the state' was pictured there—Giuliano Cesarini, for one, and the great Sforza, himself, with a scornful and insulting epigraph; as Andrea del Castagno, justly surnamed the 'Assassin,' painted upon the walls of the Signoria in Florence the likeness of all those who had joined in the great conspiracy of the Pazzi, hung up by the feet, as may be seen to this day.
It has ever been a place of glory, a place of death and a place of shame, but since the great modern changes it is meant to be only the seat of honour, and upon the slope of the Capitol the Italians, in the first flush of victorious unity, have begun to raise a great monument to their greatest idol, King Victor Emmanuel. If it is not the best work of art of the sort in existence it will probably enjoy the distinction of being the largest, and it is by no means the worst, for the central statue of the 'Honest King' has been modelled with marvellous skill and strength by Chiaradia, whose name is worthy to be remembered; yet the vastness of the architectural theatre provided for its display betrays again the giantism of the Latin race, and when in a future century the broad flood of patriotism shall have subsided within the straight river bed of sober history, men will wonder why Victor Emmanuel, honest and brave though he was, received the greater share of praise, and Cavour and Garibaldi the less, seeing that he got Italy by following the advice of the one, if not by obeying his dictation, and by accepting the kingdom which the other had destined for a republic, but was forced to yield to the monarchy by the superior genius of the statesman.
That day is not far distant. After a period of great and disastrous activity, the sleepy indifference of 1830 is again settling upon Rome, the race for imaginary wealth is over, time is a drug in the market, money is scarce, dwellings are plentiful, the streets are quiet by day and night, and only those who still have something to lose or who cherish very modest hopes of gain, still take an interest in financial affairs. One may dream again, as one dreamed thirty years ago, when all the clocks were set once a fortnight to follow the sun.
Rome is restoring to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. They are much bigger and finer things than the symmetrical, stuccoed cubes which have lately been piled up everywhere in heaven-offending masses, and one is glad to come back to them after the nightmare that has lasted twenty years. Moreover, one is surprised to find how little permanent effect has been produced by the squandering of countless millions during the building mania, beyond a cruel destruction of trees, and a few modifications of natural local accidents. To do the moderns justice, they have done no one act of vandalism as bad as fifty, at least, committed by the barons of the Middle Age and the Popes of the Renascence, though they have shown much worse taste in such new things as they have set up in place of the old.
The charm of Rome has never lain in its architecture, nor in the beauty of its streets, though the loveliness of its old-fashioned gardens contributed much which is now in great part lost. Nor can it be said that the enthralling magic of the city we used to know lay especially in its historical association, since Rome has been loved to folly by half-educated girls, by flippant women of the world and by ignorant idlers without number, as well as by most men of genius who have ever spent much time there.
In the Middle Age one man might know all that was to be known. Dante did; so did Lionardo da Vinci. But times have changed since a mediæval scholar wrote a book 'Concerning all things and certain others also.' We cannot all be archæologists. Perhaps when we go and stand in the Forum we have a few general ideas about the relative position of the old buildings; we know the Portico of the Twelve Gods in Council, the Temple of Concord, the Basilica Julia, the Court of Vesta, the Temple of Castor and Pollux; we have a more vague notion of the Senate Hall; the hideous arch of Septimius Severus stares us in the face; so does the lovely column of evil Phocas, the monster of the east, the red-handed centurion-usurper who murdered an Emperor and his five sons to reach the throne. And perhaps we have been told where the Rostra stood, and the Rostra Julia, and that the queer fragment of masonry by the arch is supposed to be the 'Umbilicus,' the centre of the Roman world. There is no excuse for not knowing these things any more than there is any very strong reason for knowing them, unless one be a student. There is a plan of the Forum in every guide book, with a description that changes with each new edition.
And yet, without much definite knowledge,—with 'little Latin and less Greek,' perhaps,—many men and women, forgetting for one moment the guide book in their hands, have leaned upon a block of marble with half-closed, musing eyes, and breath drawn so slow that it is almost quite held in day-dream wonder, and they have seen a vision rise of past things and beings, even in the broad afternoon sunshine, out of stones that remember Cæsar's footsteps, and from walls that have echoed Antony's speech. There they troop up the Sacred Way, the shock-headed, wool-draped, beak-nosed Romans; there they stand together in groups at the corner of Saturn's temple; there the half-naked plebeian children clamber upon the pedestals of the columns to see the sights, and double the men's deep tones with a treble of childish chatter; there the noble boy with his bordered toga, his keen young face, and longing backward look, is hurried home out of the throng by the tall household slave, who carries his school tablets and is answerable with his skin for the boy's safety. The Consul Major goes by, twelve lictors marching in single file before him—black-browed, square-jawed, relentless men, with their rods and axes. Then two closed litters are carried past by big, black, oily fellows, beside whom walk freedmen and Greek slaves, and three or four curled and scented parasites, the shadows of the great men. Under their very feet the little street boys play their games of pitching at tiny pyramids of dried lupins, unless they have filberts, and lupins are almost as good; and as the dandified hanger-on of Mæcenas, straining his ear for the sound of his patron's voice from within the litter, heedlessly crushes the little yellow beans under his sandal, the particular small boy whose stake is smashed clenches his fist, and with flashing eyes curses the dandy's dead to the fourth generation of ascendants, and he and his companions turn and scatter like mice as one of the biggest slaves threateningly raises his hand.
Absurd details rise in the dream. An old crone is selling roasted chestnuts in the shadow of the temple of Castor and Pollux; a tipsy soldier is reeling to his quarters with his helmet stuck on wrong side foremost; a knot of Hebrew money-changers, with long curls and high caps, are talking eagerly in their own language, clutching the little bags they hide in the sleeves of their yellow Eastern gowns—the men who mourned for Cæsar and for Augustus, whose descendants were to burn Rienzi's body among the thistles by Augustus's tomb, whose offspring were to breed the Pierleoni; a bright-eyed, skinny woman of the people boxes her daughter's ears for having smiled at one of the rich men's parasites, and the girl, already crying, still looks after the fashionable good-for-nothing, under her mother's upraised arm.
All about stretches the vast humming city of low-built houses covering the short steep hills and filling all the hollow between. Northeastward lies the seething Suburra; the yellow river runs beyond the Velabrum and the cattle market to the west; southward rise the enchanted palaces of Cæsar; due east is the Esquiline of evil fame, redeemed and made lovely with trees and fountains by Mæcenas, but haunted even today, say modern Romans, by the spectres of murderers and thieves who there died bloody deaths of quivering torture. All around, as the sun sinks and the cool shadows quench the hot light on the white pavements, the ever-increasing crowds of men—always more men than women—move inward, half unconsciously, out of inborn instinct, to the Forum, the centre of the Empire, the middle of the world, the boiling-point of the whole earth's riches and strength and life.
Then as the traveller muses out his short space of rest, the vision grows confused, and Rome's huge ghosts go stalking, galloping, clanging, raving through the surging dream-throng,—Cæsar, Brutus, Pompey, Catiline, Cicero, Caligula, Vitellius, Hadrian,—and close upon them Gauls and Goths and Huns, and all barbarians, till the dream is a medley of school-learned names, that have suddenly taken shadows of great faces out of Rome's shadow storehouse, and gorgeous arms and streaming draperies, and all at once the sight-seer shivers as the sun goes down, and passes his hand over his eyes, and shakes himself, and goes away rather hastily, lest he should fall sick of a fever and himself be gathered to the ghosts he has seen.
It matters very little whether the day-dream much resembles the reality of ages long ago, whether boys played with lupins or with hazel-nuts then, or old women roasted chestnuts in the streets, or whether such unloving spirits should be supposed to visit one man in one vision. The traveller has had an impression which has not been far removed from emotion, and his day has not been lost, if it be true that emotion is the soul's only measure of time. There, if anywhere, lies Rome's secret. The place, the people, the air, the crystal brightness of winter, the passion-stirring scirocco of autumn, the loveliness of the long spring, the deep, still heat of summer, the city, the humanity, the memories of both, are all distillers of emotion in one way or another.
Above all, the night is beautiful in Rome, when the moon is high and all is quiet. Go down past the silver Forum to the Colosseum and see what it is then, and perhaps you will know what it was in the old days. Such white stillness as this fell then also, by night, on all the broad space around the amphitheatre of all amphitheatres, the wonder of the world, the chief monument of Titus, when his hand had left of Jerusalem not one stone upon another. The same moonbeams fell slanting across the same huge walls, and whitened the sand of the same broad arena when the great awning was drawn back at night to air the place of so much death. In the shadow, the steps are still those up which Dion the Senator went to see mad Commodus play the gladiator and the public fool. On one of those lower seats he sat, the grave historian, chewing laurel leaves to steady his lips and keep down his laughter, lest a smile should cost his head; and he showed the other Senators that it was a good thing for their safety, and there they sat, in their rows, throughout the long afternoon, solemnly chewing laurel leaves for their lives, while the strong madman raved on the sand below, and slew, and bathed himself in the blood of man and beast. There is a touch of frightful humour in the tale.
And one stands there alone in the stillness and remembers how, on that same night, when all was over, when the corpses had been dragged away, it may have been almost as it is now. Only, perhaps, far off among the arches and on the tiers of seats, there might be still a tiny light moving here and there; the keepers of that terrible place would go their rounds with their little earthen lamps; they would search everywhere in the spectators' places for small things that might have been lost in the press—a shoulder-buckle of gold or silver or bronze, an armlet, a woman's earring, a purse, perhaps, with something in it. And the fitful night-breeze blew now and then and made them shade their lights with their dark hands. By the 'door of the dead' a torch was burning down in its socket, its glare falling upon a heap of armour, mostly somewhat battered, and all of it blood-stained; a score of black-browed smiths were picking it over and distributing it in heaps, according to its condition. Now and then, from the deep vaults below the arena, came the distant sound of a clanging gate or of some piece of huge stage machinery falling into its place, and a muffled calling of men. One of the keepers, with his light, was singing softly some ancient minor strain as he searched the tiers. That would be all, and presently even that would cease.
One thinks of such things naturally enough; and then the dream runs backward, against the sun, as dreams will, and the moon rays weave a vision of dim day. Straightway tier upon tier, eighty thousand faces rise, up to the last high rank beneath the awning's shade. High in the front, under the silken canopy sits the Emperor of the world, sodden-faced, ghastly, swine-eyed, robed in purple; all alone, save for his dwarf, bull-nosed, slit-mouthed, hunch-backed, sly. Next, on the lowest bench, the Vestals, old and young, the elder looking on with hard faces and dry eyes, the youngest with wide and startled looks, and parted lips, and quick-drawn breath that sobs and is caught at sight of each deadly stab and gash of broadsword and trident, and hands that twitch and clutch each other as a man's foot slips in a pool of blood, and the heavy harness clashes in the red, wet sand. Then grey-haired senators; then curled and perfumed knights of Rome; and then the people, countless, vast, frenzied, blood-thirsty, stretching out a hundred thousand hands with thumbs reversed, commanding death to the fallen—full eighty thousand throats of men and women roaring, yelling, shrieking over each ended life. A theatre indeed, a stage indeed, a play wherein every scene of every act ends in sudden death.
And then the wildest, deadliest howl of all on that day; a handful of men and women in white, and one girl in the midst of them; the clang of an iron gate thrown suddenly open; a rushing and leaping of great, lithe bodies of beasts, yellow and black and striped, the sand flying in clouds behind them; a worrying and crushing of flesh and bone, as of huge cats worrying little white mice; sharp cries, then blood, then silence, then a great laughter, and the sodden face of mankind's drunken master grows almost human for a moment with a very slow smile. The wild beasts are driven out with brands and red-hot irons, step by step, dragging backward nameless mangled things in their jaws, and the bull-nosed dwarf offers the Emperor a cup of rare red wine. It drips from his mouth while he drinks, as the blood from the tiger's fangs.
"What were they?" he asks.
"Christians," explains the dwarf.
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