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Chapter 3


Full in the centre of these wondrous works The pride of earth! Rome in her glory see.--Thomson.


1. The city of Rome, according to _Varro_, was founded in the fourth year of the sixth _Olympiad_, B.C. 753; but Cato, the censor, places the event four years later, in the second year of the seventh Olympiad. The day of its foundation was the 21st of April, which was sacred to the rural goddess Pa'les, when the rustics were accustomed to solicit the increase of their flocks from the deity, and to purify themselves for involuntary violation of the consecrated places. The account preserved by tradition of the ceremonies used on this occasion, confirms the opinion of those who contend that Rome had a previous existence as a village, and that what is called its foundation was really an enlargement of its boundaries, by taking in the ground at the foot of the Palatine hill. The first care of Ro'mulus was to mark out the Pomoe'rium; a space round the walls of the city, on which it was unlawful to erect buildings.

2. The person who determined the Pomoe'rium yoked a bullock and heifer to a plough, having a copper-share, and drew a furrow to mark the course of the future wall; he guided the plough so that all the sods might fall inwards, and was followed by others, who took care that none should lie the other way. 3. When he came to the place where it was designed to erect a gate, the plough was taken up,[1] and carried to where the wall recommenced. The next ceremony was the consecration of the commit'ium, or place of public assembly. A vault was built under ground, and filled with the firstlings of all the natural productions that sustain human life, and with earth which each foreign settler had brought from his own home. This place was called _Mun'dus_, and was supposed to become the gate of the lower world; it was opened on three several days of the year, for the spirits of the dead.

4. The next addition made to the city was the Sabine town,[2] which occupied the Quirinal and part of the Capitoline hills. The name of this town most probably was Qui'rium, and from it the Roman people received the name Quirites. The two cities were united on terms of equality, and the double-faced Ja'nus stamped on the earliest Roman coins was probably a symbol of the double state. They were at first so disunited, that even the rights of intermarriage did not exist between them, and it was probably from Qui'rium that the Roman youths obtained the wives[3] by force, which were refused to their entreaties. 5. The next addition was the Coelian hill,[4] on which a Tuscan colony settled; from these three colonies the three tribes of Ram'nes, Ti'ties, and Lu'ceres were formed. 6. The Ram'nes, or Ram'nenses, derived their name from Rom'ulus; the Tities, or Titien'ses, from Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines; and the Lu'ceres, from Lu'cumo, the Tuscan title of a general or leader.[5] From this it appears that the three tribes[6] were really three distinct nations, differing in their origin, and dwelling apart.

7. The city was enlarged by Tullus Hostilius,[7] after the destruction of Alba, and the Viminal hill included within the walls; Ancus Martius added mount Aventine, and the Esquiline and Capitoline[8] being enclosed in the next reign, completed the number of the seven hills on which the ancient city stood.

8. The hill called Jani'culum, on the north bank of the Tiber, was fortified as an outwork by Ancus Martius, and joined to the city by the bridge; he also dug a trench round the newly erected buildings, for their greater security, and called it the ditch of the Quirites. 9. The public works erected by the kings were of stupendous magnitude, but the private buildings were wretched, the streets narrow, and the houses mean. It was not until after the burning of the city by the Gauls that the city was laid out on a better plan; after the Punic wars wealth flowed in abundantly, and private persons began to erect magnificent mansions. From the period of the conquest of Asia until the reign of Augustus, the city daily augmented its splendour, but so much was added by that emperor, that he boasted that "he found Rome a city of brick, and left it a city of marble."

10. The circumference of the city has been variously estimated, some writers including in their computation a part of the suburbs; according to Pliny it was near twenty miles round the walls. In consequence of this great extent the city had more than thirty gates, of which the most remarkable were the Carmental, the Esquiline, the Triumphal, the Naval, and those called Tergem'ina and Cape'na.

11. The division of the city into four tribes continued until the reign of Augustus; a new arrangement was made by the emperor, who divided Rome into fourteen wards, or regions.[9] The magnificent public and private buildings in a city so extensive and wealthy were very numerous, and a bare catalogue of them would fill a volume;[10] our attention must be confined to those which possessed some historical importance.

12. The most celebrated and conspicuous buildings were in the eighth division of the city, which contained the Capitol and its temples, the Senate House, and the Forum. The Capitoline-hill was anciently called Saturnius, from the ancient city of Satur'nia, of which it was the citadel; it was afterwards called the Tarpeian mount, and finally received the name of Capitoline from a human head[11] being found on its summit when the foundations of the temple of Jupiter were laid. It had two summits; that on the south retained the name Tarpeian;[12] the northern was properly the Capitol. 13. On this part of the hill Romulus first established his asylum, in a sacred grove, dedicated to some unknown divinity; and erected a fort or citadel[13] on the Tarpeian summit. The celebrated temple of Jupiter Capitoli'nus, erected on this hill, was begun by the elder Tarquin, and finished by Tarquin the Proud. It was burned down in the civil wars between Ma'rius and Syl'la, but restored by the latter, who adorned it with pillars taken from the temple of Jupiter at Olympia. It was rebuilt after similar accidents by Vespa'sian and Domitian, and on each occasion with additional splendour. The rich ornaments and gifts presented to this temple by different princes and generals amounted to a scarcely credible sum. The gold and jewels given by Augustus alone are said to have exceeded in value four thousand pounds sterling. A nail was annually driven into the wall of the temple to mark the course of time; besides this chronological record, it contained the Sibylline books, and other oracles supposed to be pregnant with the fate of the city. There were several other temples on this hill, of which the most remarkable was that of Jupiter Feretrius, erected by Romulus, where the spolia opima were deposited.

14. The Forum, or place of public assembly, was situated between the Palatine and Capitoline hills. It was surrounded with temples, basilicks,[14] and public offices, and adorned with innumerable statues.[15] On one side of this space were the elevated seats from which the Roman magistrates and orators addressed the people; they were called Rostra, because they were ornamented with the beaks of some galleys taken from the city of Antium. In the centre of the forum was a place called the Curtian Lake, either from a Sabine general called Curtius, said to have been smothered in the marsh which was once there; or from[16] the Roman knight who plunged into a gulf that opened suddenly on the spot. The celebrated temple of Ja'nus, built entirely of bronze, stood in the Forum; it is supposed to have been erected by Numa. The gates of this temple were opened in time of war, and shut during peace. So continuous we're the wars of the Romans, that the gates were only closed three times during the space of eight centuries. In the vicinity stood the temple of Concord, where the senate frequently assembled, and the temple of Vesta, where the palla'dium was said to be deposited.

15. Above the rostra was the Senate-house, said to have been first erected by Tullus Hostilius; and near the Comitium, or place of meeting for the patrician Curi.[17] This area was at first uncovered, but a roof was erected at the close of the second Pu'nic war.

16. The Cam'pus Mar'tius, or field of Mars, was originally the estate of Tarquin the Proud, and was, with his other property, confiscated after the expulsion of that monarch. It was a large space, where armies were mustered, general assemblies of the people held, and the young nobility trained in martial exercises. In the later ages, it was surrounded by several magnificent structures, and porticos were erected, under which the citizens might take their accustomed exercise in rainy weather. These improvements were principally made by Marcus Agrippa, in the reign of Augustus. 17. He erected in the neighbourhood, the Panthe'on, or temple of all the gods, one of the most splendid buildings in ancient Rome. It is of a circular form, and its roof is in the form of a cupola or dome; it is used at present as a Christian church. Near the Panthe'on were the baths and gardens which Agrippa, at his death, bequeathed to the Roman people.

18. The theatres and circi for the exhibition of public spectacles were very numerous. The first theatre was erected by Pompey the Great; but the Circus Maximus, where gladiatorial combats were displayed, was erected by Tarquinus Priscus; this enormous building was frequently enlarged, and in the age of Pliny could accommodate two hundred thousand spectators. A still more remarkable edifice was the amphitheatre erected by Vespasian, called, from its enormous size, the Colosse'um.

19. Public baths were early erected for the use of the people, and in the later ages were among the most remarkable displays of Roman luxury and splendour. Lofty arches, stately pillars, vaulted ceilings, seats of solid silver, costly marbles inlaid with precious stones, were exhibited in these buildings with the most lavish profusion.

20. The aqueducts for supplying the city with water, were still more worthy of admiration; they were supported by arches, many of them a hundred feet high, and carried over mountains and morasses that might have appeared insuperable. The first aqueduct was erected by Ap'pius Clo'dius, the censor, four hundred years after the foundation of the city; but under the emperors there were not less than twenty of these useful structures, and such was the supply of water, that rivers seemed to flow through the streets and sewers. Even now, though only three of the aqueducts remain, such are their dimensions that no city in Europe has a greater abundance of wholesome water than Rome.

21. The Cloa'c, or common sewers, attracted the wonder of the ancients themselves; the largest was completed by Tarquin the Proud. The innermost vault of this astonishing structure forms a semicircle eighteen Roman palms wide, and as many high: this is inclosed in a second vault, and that again in a third, all formed of hewn blocks of pepenno, fixed together without cement. So extensive were these channels, that in the reign of Augustus the city was subterraneously navigable.

22. The public roads were little inferior to the aqueducts and Cloa'c in utility and costliness; the chief was the Appian road from Rome to Brundu'sium; it extended three hundred and fifty miles, and was paved with huge squares through its entire length. After the lapse of nineteen centuries many parts of it are still as perfect as when it was first made.

23. The Appian road passed through the following towns; Ari'cia, Fo'rum Ap'pii, An'xur or Terraci'na, Fun'di, Mintur'n, Sinue'ssa, Cap'ua, Can'dium, Beneven'tum, Equotu'ticum, Herdo'nia, Canu'sium, Ba'rium, and Brundu'sium. Between Fo'rum Ap'pii and Terraci'na lie the celebrated Pomptine marshes, formed by the overflowing of some small streams. In the flourishing ages of Roman history these pestilential marshes did not exist, or were confined to a very limited space; but from the decline of the Roman empire, the waters gradually encroached, until the successful exertions made by the Pontiffs in modern times to arrest their baleful progress. Before the drainage of Pope Sixtus, the marshes covered at least thirteen thousand acres of ground, which in the earlier ages was the most fruitful portion of the Italian soil.


Questions for Examination.

1. When was Rome founded?

2. What ceremonies were used in determining the pomcerium?

3. How was the comitium consecrated?

4. What was the first addition made to Rome?

5. What was the next addition?

6. Into what tribes were the Romans divided?

7. What were the hills added in later times to Rome?

8. Had the Romans any buildings north of the Tiber?

9. When did Rome become a magnificent city?

10. What was the extent of the city?

11. How was the city divided?

12. Which was the most remarkable of the seven hills?

13. What buildings were on the Capitoline hill?

14. What description is given of the forum?

15. Where was the senate-house and comitium?

16. What use was made of the Campus Martius?

17. What was the Pantheon?

18. Were the theatres and circii remarkable?

19. Had the Romans public baths?

20. How was the city supplied with water?

21. Were the cloac remarkable for their size?

22. Which was the chief Italian road?

23. What were the most remarkable places on the Appian road?



[1] Hence a gate was called _porta_, from _porta're_, to carry. The reason of this part of the ceremony was, that the plough being deemed holy, it was unlawful that any thing unclean should pollute the place which it had touched; but it was obviously necessary that things clean and unclean should pass through the gates of the city. It is remarkable that all the ceremonies here mentioned were imitated from the Tuscans.

[2] This, though apparently a mere conjecture, has been so fully proved by Niebuhr, (vol. i. p. 251,) that it may safely be assumed as an historical fact.

[3] See Chapter II. of the following history.

[4] All authors are agreed that the Coelian hill was named from Coeles Viben'na, a Tuscan chief; but there is a great variety in the date assigned to his settlement at Rome. Some make him cotemporary with Rom'ulus, others with the elder Tarquin, or Servius Tullius. In this uncertainty all that can be satisfactorily determined is, that at some early period a Tuscan colony settled in Rome.

[5] Others say that they were named so in honour of Lu'ceres, king of Ardea, according to which theory the third would have been a Pelasgo-Tyrrhenian colony.

[6] We shall hereafter have occasion to remark, that the Lu'ceres were subject to the other tribes.

[7] See History, Chapter IV.

[8] The Pincian and Vatican hills were added at a much later period and these, with Janiculum, made the number ten.

[9] They were named as follow:

1. Porta Cape'na 2. Coelimon'tium 3. I'sis and Sera'pis 4. Via Sa'cra 5. Esquili'na 6. Acta Se'mita 7. Vita Lata 8. Forum Roma'num 9. Circus Flamin'ius 10. Pala'tium 11. Circus Max'imus 12. Pici'na Pub'lica 13. Aventinus 14. Transtiberi'na.

The divisions made by Servius were named: the Suburan, which comprised chiefly the Coelian mount; the Colline, which included the Viminal and Quirinal hills; the Esquiline and Palatine, which evidently coincided with the hills of the same name.

[10] Among the public buildings of ancient Rome, when in her zenith, are numbered 420 temples, five regular theatres, two amphitheatres, and seven circusses of vast extent; sixteen public baths, fourteen aqueducts, from which a prodigious number of fountains were constantly supplied; innumerable palaces and public halls, stately columns, splendid porticos, and lofty obelisks.

[11] From _caput_, "a head."

[12] State criminals were punished by being precipitated from the Tarpeian rock; the soil has been since so much raised by the accumulation of ruins, that a fall from it is no longer dangerous.

[13] In the reign of Numa, the Quirinal hill was deemed the citadel of Rome; an additional confirmation of Niebuhr's theory, that Quirium was a Sabine town, which, being early absorbed in Rome, was mistaken by subsequent, writers for Cu'res.

[14] Basilicks were spacious halls for the administration of justice.

[15] It is called _Templum_ by Livy; but the word templum with the Romans does not mean an edifice, but a consecrated inclosure. From its position, we may conjecture that the forum was originally a place of meeting common to the inhabitants of the Sabine town on the Quirinal, and the Latin town on the Palatine hill.

[16] See Chap. XII. Sect. V. of the following History.

[17] See the following chapter.

Oliver Goldsmith