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Life in the Roman World of Nero and St. Paul by T. G. Tucker

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for one man to hold.

When we survey this vast aggregation of various provinces, with their
differences of race, language, religion, and habits; when we remember
that it was on the whole strictly, energetically, and legally
administered; it is hard--even allowing for a wise Senate and capable
ministers--to realise a man competent for the position.

Yet Augustus had been conspicuously successful, and Tiberius not less
so; Claudius, despite a certain weakness, cannot by any means be
called a failure; after Nero, Vespasian and Titus were capable enough;
while Trajan deserves nothing but admiration. On the other hand
Caligula, it is true, had had more than a touch of the madman in his
composition, and had believed himself to be omnipotent and on a level
with Jupiter. Nero had begun well, but had been led by vanity, vice,
and extravagance to an astounding pitch of folly and oppression.
Nevertheless it must be remarked, and it should be firmly emphasised,
that what is called the tyranny of Caligula and Nero is mainly--and in
Caligula's case almost solely--a tyranny affecting the Romans
themselves, affecting the lives and property of the Roman senators and
other prominent persons, and affecting the lives and honour of their
wives and daughters. The outcry against these two emperors comes from
the Romans, not from the subject peoples. At least in Caligula's case
the provinces were as peaceful and prosperous as at other times. It is
true that the madman once meant to insist on the Jews putting up his
own statue in the temple at Jerusalem, but this was because his vanity
was aggrieved by their unwillingness. Under Nero the case is much the
same. His tyranny for the most part took the shape of cruelty, insult,
and plunder in Rome itself. It was only when he was becoming
hopelessly in debt that he began to plunder the provinces as well as
Italy by demanding contributions of money, and in particular to seize
upon Greek works of art without paying for them. It is a mistake to
think of Nero as habitually and without scruple trampling under his
blood-stained foot the rights and privileges of the provinces, or
grinding from them the last penny, or harrying, slaying, and violating
throughout the empire.

There is nothing to show that, during the greater part of his reign,
the provinces at large felt any material difference between the rule
of Nero and the rule of Claudius, or that they rejoiced particularly
in his fall. In many quarters he was a favourite. In the latter half
of his reign he made himself a brute beast, and often a fool, in the
eyes of respectable Romans. But it was, as still more with Caligula,
rather in his immediate environment that his tyranny was felt to be
intolerable; that is to say, among the men and women who had the
misfortune to come in his way with sufficient attraction of purse or
beauty to awaken his cupidity. And these were the Romans themselves,
senators and knights, not the populace, and in but a small degree, if
at all, the provincials in Spain or Greece or Palestine.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--BUST OF SENECA. Archeologische Zeitung.]

Perhaps this is the time to look for a little while at this Nero,
whose name has deservedly passed into a byword for heartless
bestiality. In the year 64 he is 27 years of age, and has been seated
on the throne for ten years. Four years more are to elapse before he
perishes with the cry, "What an artist the world is losing!" In his
early years his vicious propensities, inherited from an abominable
father, had been kept in check partly by his preceptor, the
philosopher Seneca, and by Burrus, the commander of the Imperial
Guards, partly by his domineering and furious-tempered mother,
Agrippina, who seems to have so closely resembled the mother of Lord
Byron. But at this date he had got rid of both his tutors. Burrus was
dead, probably by poison, and Seneca was in forced retirement. The
emperor had also caused his own mother to be murdered. Poisoning,
strangling, drowning, or a command--explicit or implied--to depart
this life, were his ways of shaking off any incubus upon a free
indulgence of his will. His follies and vices had revealed themselves
from the first, and had gone to outrageous lengths, but now he is
entirely unhampered in exhibiting them.

[Illustration: Photo--Mansell & Co. FIG. 14--BUST OF AGRIPPINA, MOTHER

Educated slightly in philosophy, but better in music and letters, he
could speak, like others of his day, Greek as well as his native
Latin. His aim was to be an "artist," but if the want of balance which
too often goes with what is called the "artistic temperament" ever
manifested itself in its worst form, it was in Nero. Apart from his
passion for music and verse, he developed an early mania for
horse-racing, and when he was caught talking in school--where such
conversation was forbidden--about a charioteer who had fallen out of
his chariot and been dragged along the ground, he explained that he
was discussing the passage in Homer where Achilles drags the body of
Hector round the walls of Troy. In after life he carried both forms of
mania to amazing lengths. The highest form of music was then
represented by singing to the harp. Nero's ambition was no less than
to compete with the champion minstrels of the world. As he remarked,
"music is not music unless it is heard," and he decided to make public
appearances upon the stage like any professional. Whenever he did so,
a number of energetic youths, salaried for the purpose, were
distributed among the audience as _claqueurs_--the words actually used
for them being perhaps translatable as "boomers" or "rattlers." He
acted parts in plays--a proceeding which would correspond to an
appearance in opera--and made a peregrination through Greece and back
by way of Naples as an exponent of the art of singing to the harp.
While upon this tour, whenever he was performing in the theatre, the
doors were shut, and no one might leave the building for any reason
whatever. "Many," says the memoir-writer, "got so tired of listening
and praising that they jumped down from the wall, or pretended to be
dead, so as to get carried out." Naturally he always won the prize,
and, on his side, it should be remarked that he honestly believed he
had earned it. He practised assiduously, took hard physical training,
regulated his diet for the cultivation of his voice, which was not
naturally of the best, and probably became not at all a bad amateur.
His monstrous self-conceit did the rest. Besides singing to the harp,
he was prepared to perform upon the flute and the bagpipes, and to
give a dance afterwards. All this, of course, was undignified and
ridiculous, but it was scarcely tyranny. Doubtless there was
sufficient suffering among the audience, but that cruelty was hardly
deliberate. In the Roman noble, whose ideal of behaviour included
dignity and gravity, these public appearances perhaps often aroused
more indignation and scorn than did his sensual vices. The same
contempt was often evoked by other proceedings of a similar nature.
His insatiable fondness for horse-racing, or rather chariot-racing,
induced him to appear also as a charioteer. First he practised in his
extensive private park or gardens, which were situated across the
Tiber on the ground now approximately occupied by St. Peter's and the
Vatican. When he appeared at the Olympic games driving a team of ten
horses, he was thrown out of the car, and had to be lifted into it
again. Though he was eventually compelled to abandon the race, he was,
of course, crowned victor all the same. He dabbled also in painting
and modelling.

We must not dwell too long upon his eccentricities. One might describe
how in his earlier years he often put on mufti and roamed the streets
at night with a few choice Mohawks, broke into shops, and insulted
respectable citizens, throwing them into the drains if they resisted;
how, being unrecognized, he once received a sound thrashing from a
person of the senatorial order, and was thereafter attended on such
occasions by police following at a distance. One might describe his
dicing at L3 or L4 a pip, or his banquets, at one of which he paid as
much as L30,000 for roses from Alexandria. After the great
conflagration which swept over a large part of Rome in this very year
64 he began to build his enormous Golden House, in which stood a
colossal effigy of himself 120 feet high, and in which the circuit of
the colonnade made three Roman miles. Whether he deliberately set fire
to the city in order to make room for this stupendous palace is open
to doubt. It was naturally believed at the time, and, in order to
divert suspicion from himself, he turned it upon those persons for
whom the Roman populace had at that moment the greatest contempt,
because, as the historian puts it, of their pestilent superstition and
of a profound suspicion that they harboured a "hatred of the human
race." These were the new sect of the Christians, and with burning
Christians did Nero proceed to light up his gardens on one famous
night, as a means of placating the populace whom he had offended, but
who for the most part loved him for his misplaced generosity in the
matter of "bread and sports." The tolerant attitude of the Romans
towards foreign religions will be discussed in its own place; but the
cruelty of a Nero in the year 64 can hardly be put down as properly a
religious persecution in any way typical of the Roman government.

The sensual vices of Nero are indescribable, and that word must
suffice. His extravagances, whether in lavish presents or in personal
expenditure, soon rendered him bankrupt. He had no means of paying the
soldiers or meeting his own appetites. Then began, or increased, his
attacks on wealthy persons, his executions and banishments of senators
and other wealthy men, and his flimsy pretexts for all manner of
confiscation. The Senate he hated and the Senate hated him.
Nevertheless, so far as the empire itself was concerned, no systematic
or widespread oppression can have been perceptible. His officers and
the officers of the Senate were apparently all the time governing and
administering the law and the taxation throughout the empire in as
sound and steady a way as if an Augustus sat upon the throne.

If we wish to picture Nero to ourselves, here is his description: "He
was of a fairly good height; his skin was blotched, and his odour
unpleasant; his hair was inclined to be yellow; his face was more
handsome than attractive; his eyes were grayish-blue and
short-sighted; his neck was fat; he was protuberant below the waist;
his legs were very slender; his health was good."

Such was the man to whom St. Paul elected to have his case referred,
when at Caesarea he exercised his privilege as a Roman citizen and
appealed to the titular protector of the commons. "Thou hast appealed
unto Caesar, and unto Caesar shalt thou go." There is indeed no great
probability that the apostle was ever brought directly before this
precious emperor. We may perhaps draw from bur inner consciousness
elaborate and interesting pictures of the two men confronting each
other, but we must not forget that they will be pure imagination. The
appeal of a citizen did not imply such right to an interview, for the
Caesar in such minor cases commonly delegated his powers to other
judicial authorities at Rome. Paul's object was gained if his case was
safely removed from the local influences of Judaea and the weaker
policy of its governor, the "agent of Caesar," to the capital with its
broader-minded men and its superiority to small bribes and local

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--BUST OF NERO.]



We are now brought to the consideration of the methods by which this
huge empire was organised and governed.

And first let us observe that the Romans--strict disciplinarians and
great lawyers as they were--never sought to impose upon the subject
provinces any uniformity. They never sought, any more than Great
Britain has sought, to erect one code of law, one form of
administration, one standard of rights, one rate of taxation, one
religion, and to make it equally applicable to Spain and Britain,
Greece and Africa, Gaul and Asia Minor. There were, of course, common
to all the empire certain rules essential to civilisation, certain
natural laws and laws of all nations. Murder, violence, robbery,
deliberate sacrilege, and so forth were punishable everywhere, though
not necessarily by the same authority nor in the same manner.
Necessarily it was held everywhere that contracts must be fulfilled
and debts paid. Beyond the fact that Rome demanded peace and order and
the essentials of civilised life, and provided machinery to secure
those ends, she troubled little about differences of local procedure
and varieties of local law, so long as the Roman rule was duly
recognised and the Roman taxes duly paid. As with Great Britain, her
care was for results, not for machinery, or, as the great Roman
historian puts it, she "valued the reality of the empire, not the

Outside Italy there spread the provinces. These had been conquered or
peacefully annexed at various times. A number of small states had come
in by perpetual alliance. Some provinces, such as Gaul, had formerly
been divided among tribes and tribal chiefs. Some, such as Greece, had
consisted of highly civilised city-communities with small territories
and managing their own affairs, although they might all alike be
acknowledging the suzerainty of some powerful prince. Some, such as
Cappadocia, Syria, and Egypt, had been under their native kings.
Judaea was a peculiar example of a small theocratic state, in which
the chief power lay with the priests.

Rome was too wise to meddle more than she need with existing
conditions. She preferred as far as possible to accept the existing
machinery and to use it, with only necessary modifications, as her
instrument of administration. To the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, for
example, she conceded a large criminal jurisdiction over
ecclesiastical offenders, so long as that jurisdiction did not limit
the universal rights of a "Roman citizen."

When a province was conquered, all its territory became technically
the property of the Roman state. Some of it was kept as such, and
mines of gold, silver, lead, iron, and salt, or quarries of marble,
granite, and gravel, were commonly annexed as state property. If it
was expedient to allot some portion of the conquered land to a Roman
settlement--commonly a settlement of veteran soldiers called a
"colony"--that was done. Such a settlement meant the founding of a
town, to which was granted a certain environment of land. Those who
took part in its formation were "Roman citizens" and forfeited no
rights as such. As the native people came in from the surrounding
districts to reside in it, they also, it appears, somewhat easily
acquired similar privileges. Here the Roman law existed in its
entirety. A colony was almost exactly a little Rome in respect of its
system of officers and its legal procedure. Sometimes a town which had
not originally been so founded might be made a "colony" by receiving a
draft of Romans, and sometimes it was made such in sheer compliment.
In the Eastern half of the empire such settlements were comparatively
rare; they were but dots upon the map, as at Corinth, Philippi,
Antioch in Pisidia, or Caesarea. In the West they were much more
numerous. The south of France contained many; a number also existed in
southern Spain. So many indeed were planted in these parts that they
became, as has been already remarked, completely romanized. Farther
north Cologne still perpetuates its Roman name of Colonia.
Nevertheless in the West the bulk of the land of the provinces is far
from being taken up, in the year 64, by colonies.

Apart from the lands thus appropriated, what happens to the rest of
the conquered territory which is theoretically Roman property?
Generally it is handed back to its original inhabitants, on condition
that they pay rent for it, whether in money or in kind, or partly in
each. Egypt pays in kind when it sends to Rome the corn in the great
merchantmen; Africa pays in kind when it does the same; the Frisians
of Holland pay in kind when they supply a certain quantity of hides.
Before the days of the Emperor Augustus there had existed for the
empire in general the abominable system of tithes, which were farmed
by companies. But after him, and at our date, for the most part the
payment is by a fixed sum of money, which has been calculated upon the
basis of those tithes. In the imperial Record Office there is a
register of the area of land in a given province, and an assessment of
its producing value. The amount of the land-tax to be paid into the
Roman treasury is therefore fixed. Those who read in the New Testament
that Augustus Caesar sent forth an order that "all the world--that is,
the Roman world--should be taxed" need find no difficulty in
understanding what it means. "Taxed" is Old English for assessed, as
when we speak of "taxing a bill of costs." The Greek word means simply
that a register should be made. The order of Augustus was that a
census should be taken throughout the provinces; that a return should
be made of population, property, trades, and all that a reasonable
government requires to know; and that payments should be determined
thereby. All the world had been "taxed" in the modern sense long
before Augustus, and it has been taxed, unfortunately without much
promise of respite, ever since.

The chief revenues of Rome were derived from this land-tax; but, when
combined with other taxes, a large proportion of it was spent in the
administration of the province from which it was obtained. No error
could be greater than to suppose that Roman officers simply came and
carried off all this money as booty to Rome for the pampering of its
emperor and populace. Naturally the balance which accrued for the
feeding of Borne, for Roman enjoyment and Roman buildings was very
large; and doubtless this fact was bad for the morale of Rome itself
and requires considerable casuistry to defend it. But it would be a
monstrous misconception to imagine that all the "tribute paid to
Caesar" was absolutely drained, by an act of sheer oppression, clean
out of the province year by year. No country can be protected,
policed, and have its justice administered without taxes, and the
provincials were not paying more, and were often paying much less, as
well as paying it in a more just and rational way, than when they were
being taxed by their own kings, their own oligarchies, or their own
socialistic democracies. The Roman settlements--the colonies--unless
specially exempted, had to pay the land-tax as much as any other
community. The only land which was exempt from it was Italy, and Italy
paid sundry other taxes to make up for it, at least in part. But
though Italy was first and foremost in the imperial regard, the
emperor was by no means indifferent to the welfare of the provinces.
If an earthquake, a fire, or other great calamity befell a town, it
was by no means rare for the emperor to send a large sum of money in

Besides the land-tax there was also a tax on persons and personal
property. The tax on persons was not precisely a poll-tax, except in
places like Britain and Egypt, where it was difficult to make proper
estimates otherwise, but a tax on occupations and trades. This, if we
choose, may be put down as a crude form of income-tax, although it was
not actually assessed on income. In another sense it may be regarded
as a tax on a license, assuming that we demand a license for every
kind of occupation. Italy again was exempt from this taxation also.
Obviously a census, and a regularly revised census, was necessary to
carry out this system; and Rome required a whole army of agents, just
as a modern state would require one, for assessing and collecting
these dues.

The land-tax and the person-tax were the two chief sources of Roman
revenue. These were regular and direct. There were others, subject,
like our own taxes, to increase or decrease according to
circumstances, but for the most part kept at very much the same
standards under several consecutive emperors. For instance there were
customs duties, paid on the frontiers of the empire and also on those
of provinces or natural groups of provinces, not as part of any
protective system, since the empire is all one, but as a means of
raising money from commodities. In Italy there was a duty of 2-1/2 per
cent. Luxuries from India and Arabia via Red Sea ports were specially
taxed at 25 per cent. If you sold a slave, you would pay from 2 to 4
per cent on the purchase-money. Occasionally there was a tax on
bachelors. In Italy, but not elsewhere, 5 per cent legacy duty was
paid when the recipient was not a near relative, and when the legacy
was not under L1000.

Add to these revenues the rents of state pastures, state forests, and
state mines. Into the treasury came also unclaimed property and the
property of certain classes of condemned criminals.

So much for the nature of the taxation. In point of government, the
Romans were singularly liberal. When a province was conquered or
annexed, the Senate sent out a commission of ten persons, who
carefully considered the existing state of things, the laws and forms
of administration actually in vogue, and drew up a constitution for
the province, embodying as much of these as was possible or at all
commendable; as much, in fact, as was compatible with the Roman
connection. This constitution, when sanctioned by the Senate, was
binding, whatever governor might be appointed by Rome to the province.
Such a governor might interpret the law; he could not alter it.

But though a province was a unit in so far as it was under one
governor, the Romans were firm believers in strictly local
administration. Their policy in this, as in conquest, was "divide and
rule." It did not suit their ends to make any large part of the empire
conscious of a corporate existence. The unit of administration was,
therefore, a town and its district--a "community." In Gaul there were
about sixty such divisions, each roughly corresponding in size to a
modern French "department." Such a community had its own local council
and officials, who were ultimately responsible to the governor. So
long as they performed their municipal or communal functions correctly
and honestly they were not interfered with. The chief principle upon
which Rome insisted was that their local government should be
aristocratic, or rather that office should be based on wealth. The
governor, of course, stepped in when he felt it to be his duty. He was
required to suppress all secret societies or political unions. A
strike of the bakers in one city of Asia Minor was promptly put down
by the governor as interfering with social order and social needs.

The communities made their own by-laws, they collected the land-tax of
their own district and handed it over to the financial representative
of the Roman government. This was done by men of their own people,
often of a low class, known in the Gospels as the "publicans," who
were so commonly associated with sinners. St. Matthew had been one of
the minor agents for such collection in Galilee. Other taxes--those
which were indirect--might be collected by the great tax-farming
companies of Roman "knights," who offered a lump sum for them to the
government, and made what they could out of the bargain.

One incidental consequence of this systematic division into communes
was that there spread throughout the empire a strong municipal
patriotism, especially in the Greek world. This was followed by
liberal local expenditure on the part of rich provincials in
beautifying their centres with public buildings and works of art,
chiefly, no doubt, given for the sake of the local honours with which
they were repaid, but given nevertheless.

Most of the towns or communities throughout the empire were in the
position described. Some communities, however, such as Thessalonica,
though situated inside a province, were for some special service in
the past exempted from the interference of the governor, and were
allowed to exercise their own laws to the full, even upon Roman
citizens who might happen to reside there. These were called "free"
towns. In other cases the community, having come into voluntary
alliance with Rome at an earl; date and before conquest, was still
treated as an "allied" state, and was exempted from either
interference or taxation, so long as it supplied its quota of soldiers
when called upon. Such cities, however, were distinctly the exception,
and most of them in the end preferred to come directly within the
Roman sphere of administration. They often found their burdens smaller
and less capricious than when they taxed themselves through their own

* * * * *

The function of the governor was to see that the various local bodies
did their work, kept within their rights, and paid their taxes. He
also, either in person or by his deputies, administered justice
wherever the Roman laws were concerned. Where they were not concerned,
he necessarily acted as Gallio did with the Jewish charges against
Paul at Corinth; he dismissed the case as not demanding his
jurisdiction. Said Gallio: "If it were a question of a misdemeanour or
a crime, I should be called upon to bear with you; but if they are
questions of (mere) words and names and of your (Jewish) law, you must
see to it yourselves." When the Greeks who were standing by proceeded
to beat the chief of Paul's Jewish accusers, the governor shut his
eyes to the matter. This may have been a laxity, but it would almost
appear as if Gallio liked their behaviour.

For the purposes of justice a province was divided into "Assize
Districts," and the governor or his deputies went on circuit. In the
court he sat upon a platform in his official chair and with his
lictors in attendance. The official language of the court and of its
records was of course Latin, but in the Eastern half of the empire the
bench cannot always have pretended not to understand Greek. Since it
would not, however, understand Hebrew, the Jews would need to speak
through a representative who knew Latin, and this is apparently the
reason for the appearance of Tertullus against St. Paul at Caesarea. A
Roman citizen--that is, a person possessed of full Roman rights--if he
either denied the jurisdiction or was in danger of being condemned to
capital punishment, might, unless he had been caught red-handed in
certain heinous crimes, appeal to Caesar and claim to be sent to Rome.
Unless the governor had been expressly entrusted with exceptional
powers, or unless the case was so self-evident that he had nothing to
fear from refusing, he had no alternative but to send the appellant on
to the metropolis. Arrived there, the prisoner was taken to the
guardrooms or cells in the barracks of a special prefect who had
charge of such arrivals from abroad, and his case would in due course
be taken either by the emperor himself, if it was sufficiently
important, or by magistrates to whom the emperor delegated his powers
for the purpose.

Meanwhile, provincials other than full Roman citizens enjoyed no such
privilege. They could make no appeal. The governor was supreme judge,
and his verdict or sentence was carried out. In matters of doubt,
whether administrative or judicial, the governor might refer to the
emperor for direction or advice, and we have at a somewhat later date
a considerable collection of letters and their replies which passed in
this manner between Pliny and the Emperor Trajan.

* * * * *

A glance at the map will show some provinces named in heavy type and
some in italics. Those in _italics_ are the provinces to which the
Senate has the right to appoint the governors, in this case called
"proconsuls." Of course His Highness the Head of the State is
graciously pleased to approve the choice of the Senate; which means
that the Senate will not attempt any appointment which the emperor
would dislike. The revenues of these provinces go into a treasury
controlled by the Senate. Of those named in heavy type the emperor is
himself the governor or proconsul. Theoretically he is made governor
of all these simply because they contain, or may need, armies, and he
is the commander-in-chief of those armies. But since he is at Rome,
and in any case cannot be everywhere at once, he governs all such
provinces by means of his deputies, whom he appoints for himself. They
are his lieutenants, and are so called--to wit, "lieutenants of
Caesar" and "deputies of the commander." The revenues of these
imperial provinces are collected by an "agent" or "factor" of Caesar,
and go into a treasury controlled by the emperor. In any one of his
provinces the emperor would be its governor, and would exercise the
usual military and civil powers of a governor. His lieutenant to each
province simply acts in his place, receives the same powers, and is
the governor of that province exactly as the proconsul sent by the
Senate is governor in his. But whereas the governors in the senatorial
provinces wear the garb of peace, and are appointed, like other civil
officers, for one year only, the "deputies of Caesar," the
commander-in-chief, wear the military garb, and are kept in office
just so long as their superior thinks fit. It is as if in modern times
the governor of the one kind of province made his public appearances
in civilian dress, and the governor of the other kind in uniform.

The actual outcome of this system was that the provinces of the
emperor were on the whole better administered than those of the
Senate. In the latter, changes were too frequent, and a governor might
sometimes strain a point to enrich himself quickly. But it must on no
account be imagined that at this date a governor could with impunity
be extortionate or oppress the provincials, as he too often did in the
good old days of the republic. He was paid his salary, which might be
anything up to L10,000; his allowances and power of making
requisitions, such as of salt, wood, and hay when travelling, were
strictly defined by law; any pronounced extortion, oppression, or
dishonesty laid him open to impeachment; and such a charge was
tolerably certain to be brought. Among so many governors it was
inevitable that a number should have been impeached. We know of
twenty-seven instances, resulting in twenty condemnations and only
seven acquittals. The emperors at least looked sharply to their own
provinces; nor would they readily tolerate any gross irregularity in
those other provinces which were nominally controlled by the Senate.
On leaving his province every governor must make out duplicate copies
of his accounts, one to be left in the province, one to be forwarded
to Rome.

In the _Acts of the Apostles_ we have mention of two governors of
senatorial provinces--in other words, two "proconsuls"--Gallio in
Achaia (or Greece), and Sergius Paulus in Cyprus. It is instructive to
compare the lenient and common sense attitude of these trained Roman
aristocrats with that of the turbulent local mobs who dealt with St.
Paul in Asia Minor, Judaea, or Greece. Of the minor governors of
smaller provinces--styled "agents" or "factors" of Caesar--we meet
with Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus.

It remains only to remark that, while the Senate's treasury, which
received the revenues from the senatorial provinces, paid the expenses
of their management and also of the administration of Italy, the
emperor's treasury, which received the revenues from the other
provinces, provided for their administration, for the pay of the army,
for the corn and water of Rome, for public buildings, for the great
military roads, and for the imperial post. Nevertheless the emperor
could handle all this latter money exactly as he chose, and it is upon
this chest that Nero was drawing for all his lavish prodigalities and
his undeserved and wasteful bounties. Yet even Nero was scarcely so
bad as Caligula, who managed to spend L22,000,000 in less than one



In the year 64 the capital of the Roman Empire was, it is true, a
large and splendid city and an "epitome of the world," but it had not
yet reached either its zenith of splendour or its maximum, of size.
Many of the largest and most sumptuous structures of which we possess
the records, and in most cases the ruins, were not yet built or even
contemplated. There was no Colosseum; there were no Baths of Trajan,
Caracalla, or Diocletian. The Column of Trajan, still soaring in the
Foro Traiano, and of Marcus Aurelius, now so conspicuous in the Piazza
Colonna, are of a later date. So also are the three great triumphal
arches which are still standing--those of Titus, Severus, and
Constantine. The Mausoleum of Hadrian, now stripped of its outward
magnificence of marble and sculpture, and known as the Castle of Sant'
Angelo, was not built for two generations. On the Palatine Hill the
palaces of the Caesars were wide and lofty, but not more than half so
spacious and imposing as they became by the end of the following

Down in the Forum there stood no Basilica of Constantine; the place of
several later temples and shrines was occupied by edifices of less
dignity; many columns and statues, and much ornament of gilt or
marble, were still to come. Beside and beyond the two embellished
public places which had been added to the public comfort and
convenience by Julius Caesar and Augustus, and which were known
respectively as the Julian and the Augustan Forum, lay only the houses
of citizens or streets of shops. Up from the Forum towards the later
Arch of Titus and the Colosseum, the "Upper Sacred Way" ran as but a
narrow road between buildings for the most part of ordinary character,
principally shops catering for luxury. It was later by two centuries
and a half that this street was converted into a broad avenue forming
a worthy approach to the "hub of the universe."

In the ruins which lie on the Palatine Hill, or along the valley of
the Forum below, or up the Sacred Slope towards the Colosseum, or
across where the streets wind round from the "Roman" Forum through the
Forum of Trajan to the Corso, the modern visitor to the Eternal City
does not behold simply the remnants of the temples, halls, squares,
and arches which actually existed in the days of Nero. We must not say
of these places that St. Paul trod the very paving-stones or gazed on
the very walls which we now find in their worn and broken state. In a
few cases it may be so; in most it is certainly otherwise. Either the
building was not there, or what we now behold is part of a
reconstruction or an enlargement. Fire, flood, earthquake and the wear
and tear of time called for many a rebuilding or restoration. In the
very year upon which we have fixed, there swept over all this part of
the city perhaps the most disastrous fire that it ever experienced.
Another only a little less destructive occurred in A.D. 283, and when
we say that the remains of the glory of ancient Rome are still visible
in the excavated Forum, we must recognise that the glory which they
represent is the glory of the place as restored after that year.

This does not mean that the general plan and appearance were markedly
different under Nero, nor that there was any lack of magnificence; it
is only meant by way of caution against a frequent misconception.



If there was no Arch of Severus in the Forum, there was an Arch of
Augustus, near the Temple of Castor, surmounted by his statue in the
four-horsed chariot of the conqueror, and there was an Arch of
Tiberius near the temple of Saturn. If to the north there was as yet
no bridge or "castle" of Sant' Angelo to celebrate the dead Hadrian,
there was, on the near side of the Tiber, not far from the modern
Piazza del Popolo, a splendid Mausoleum of the deified Augustus and
his family. In the chief Forum the Temples of Vesta, of Julius Caesar,
of Castor, Saturn, and Concord existed under Nero in the same spots
and in much the same style as they did through all the remainder of
Roman history. Above them towered the Capitoline Hill, with its
resplendent Temple of Jupiter on the one summit and its great shrine
of Juno on the other. Beyond, in the "Field of Mars"--the site of the
densest part of modern Rome--was an almost continuous cluster of
public buildings and resorts, of theatres, temples--including the
first form of that incomparable edifice, the Pantheon, the only
building of ancient Rome which still remains practically whole--of
baths, porticoes, and enclosed promenades.


Away in the opposite direction stretched the Appian Way, and in the
year 64 the beautiful tomb of Caecilia Metella, which is so familiar
in picture, stood as perhaps the noblest among the multitude of
patrician tombs. The Apostle Paul certainly passed close by it on his
way from Puteoli. The aqueduct, of which so many arches still meet the
eye as you cross the Campagna, was the work of Nero's predecessor,
Claudius, and it still bears his name--the Aqua Claudia. Where now you
go out of the gate to St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls there stood--more
free and visible than now--that pyramid of Cestius, close to whose
shadow lie the graves of the English Shelley and Keats. There was no
gate at this spot in the days of Nero, for the great wall, of which so
many portions--more or less restored--are still conspicuous, had no
existence till a much later date, when the empire was already
tottering to its fall, and when Aurelian was driven to recognise that
the heart of the empire, after remaining secure for centuries, must at
last look to be assailed. There was, it is true, an inner wall of
ancient date (to be seen upon the plan) which had enclosed the "Seven
Hills" before Rome was mistress of more than her own small
environment. But the city had long ago overflowed this boundary, and
the newer quarters lay as open to the country as do our own modern

How far the suburbs stretched, or precisely how far Rome proper
extended, in the days of Nero, is no easy matter to decide. We shall
in all probability be near the mark if we accept the line of the later
wall of Aurelian as practically the limit of what might be included in
the "Metropolitan Area." The total circumference of the whole city
would be about twelve English miles, a circuit which fell somewhat
short of that of Alexandria and probably of Antioch, although in
actual importance these cities took but the second and third rank

Some parts within this line were thickly inhabited, in some the houses
must have been but sparse. Particularly along the upper slopes of the
hills--of the Pincian, Quirinal, Esquiline, Caelian, and
Aventine--were the spacious houses and gardens of the wealthy. The
Palatine was almost, though not completely, monopolised by the
emperors' palaces and sundry temples. The Campus Martius was mostly a
region of public buildings and grounds for promenade and exercise,
although some of the finest shops stood very close to where they stand
to-day, in that Flaminian Way which is now called the Corso of
Humbert. On one side below the Palatine Hill, space was taken up by
the vast Circus or racing-ground; on the other lay the public places
known as the Fora. It was left for the poorer inhabitants to crowd
themselves into the valleys of the town, either between the Forum and
the spurs of the several hills which trend towards the centre--up
under Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, or Caelian--to the left behind the
buildings as you now go from the bottom of the Forum to the Colosseum;
or between the Forum and the Tiber in the low-lying ground called the
Velabrum and there-abouts; or else across the river in that
"Transtiberine" region which still bears the name of Trastevere.

If, therefore, it is asked what may have been the Population of
Neronian Rome, it need cause no surprise if the number should appear
comparatively small to one who is accustomed to our huge modern towns.
Rome had never been a seat of manufactures. Its wealth and luxury came
almost wholly from its empire, and it was emphatically a city for the
rich and ruling classes. In Nero's day it was still growing, and even
in its fullest times it is doubtful if the population ever exceeded or
even reached a million and a quarter. Perhaps for the year 64 we may
most safely put it down at about 750,000.

* * * * *

Now suppose yourself to be standing at F in the recognised centre of
Roman life, the "Roman Forum." Here, before we begin our rapid
exploration of the city, it is well to clear our minds of one false
notion which too commonly prevails. Think of any modern town you
please, and remember that, whatever may be the accumulation of
architectural magnificence around any given spot, the people of that
town treat it all with familiarity and without any waste of sentiment.
They will set up their shops or stalls wherever they are allowed; they
will carry on their traffic and their amusements; they will saunter
and sit on steps and misbehave without feeling oppressed by any
appreciable awe of their surroundings. So was it, and even more so, in
ancient Rome. The fact that there were shrines or public buildings on
all sides did not prevent the Romans from loitering and loafing in the
Forum, from sitting on the steps of a temple or a basilica, or leaning
against its columns or statues, or playing at a sort of draughts or of
backgammon on its marble platforms--the lines to put the "men" upon
are here and there still visible upon the pavements--or even
scratching a name or a drawing on a pillar. In certain parts the Forum
was alive with the bustle of financial business and, doubtless under
certain limitations, with the traffic of the pedlar. Curiosities were
exhibited, the crier shouted his advertisements, and, in short, the
place was almost as freely used for the vulgar purposes of ordinary
life as for the dignified gatherings and ceremonies which to our minds
appear so much more appropriate to it. Though we are not yet dealing
with the social life of Rome, whether indoor or outdoor, it seems
advisable to make this observation before proceeding.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--THE ROSTRA: BACK VIEW. (Probable
restoration for A.D. 64.)]

Let us now stand at F and look about us toward the Capitol, noting
only the chief features of the scene. The reader would do well to
consider the plan along with the frontispiece to this book. We are
upon an open space paved with marble slabs, round which stand sundry
honorary statues and various minor monuments into which we need not
now enquire. Facing us, toward the far end, is a platform about 80
feet long and 11 feet in height, with marble facing. A trellis-work
rail, or pierced screen, runs along it at either side, and also
extends along the front for one-third of the distance from either end.
The one-third in the middle of the front is open. This platform is
approached by a flight of steps at the back, while in the sheer face
are set as ornaments rows of bronze "beaks" or "rams" cut from ships
captured in war. From these "beaks" the platform obtains its name--the
Rostra. It is the platform for harangues delivered to the Roman
people--the Roman citizens who are politely assumed to be the body
politic--and the open space on the front is the position for the
orator. It is from this stand that important announcements are made to
the people at large. An emperor or his nominee may speak from it; a
magistrate may deliver some pronouncement; a political exhortation may
be uttered; in the case of a public funeral, or even of the private
obsequies in some eminent family, an oration over the deceased may be
spoken with that finished and animated elocution which the Romans so
zealously cultivated, and which the Italians still affect with no
little success. It is not indeed the same platform as was used by
Cicero and the orators of the republic: this stood elsewhere, and
doubtless the substance of public speaking had declined deplorably
since that day. Nevertheless many a torrent of rich and sonorous Latin
must have streamed over the Forum from that noble standing-place, and
it must still have been worth while for a Roman to develop both his
speaking voice and his oratorical art. Still further back, to the
right behind the Rostra, there stands the Temple of Concord, where the
Senate in older times gathered on more than one occasion to listen to
Cicero, and where the emperors have formed practically a gallery of
works of art; to the left is the Temple of Saturn, long used as the
Roman Treasury, of which eight pillars still remain as perhaps the
most conspicuous feature among the existing ruins. Another object in
the background to the left, at the rear of the Rostra, will be a stone
pillar coated with gilded bronze, upon which the first emperor,
Augustus, inscribed the names of the great roads leading out from Rome
into the length and breadth of the empire, with a list of the chief
towns to which those roads would take you, and their distances. The
name of this pillar is the "Golden Milestone." Behind these objects,
running along the high face of the Capitoline Hill, are visible the
arcades of the Record Office, of which the greater portion still
exists, though stripped of its architectural graces and built over and
about in more modern times, in the state represented in FIG. 18. Still
higher on the summit to the left, with its gilded tiles glistening in
the sun--at least they were gilded within the next few years--rises
the most sacred structure of all, the building most closely identified
in the Roman mind with the eternity of the empire. This is the
splendid temple of Jove, Supreme and Most Benign. Of this edifice
nothing considerable except its platform now remains, its site being
occupied by an object of which the existence would have been
inconceivable to the ancient Roman--to wit, the German Embassy. On the
other summit, a fortified citadel to your right stands the temple of
the consort of Jupiter. In this shrine she was known as Juno Moneta,
and since, attached to her temple in this citadel, was the office of
the Roman coinage, her name Moneta has become familiar to modern
mouths in the form of "the Mint." If you seek the place of this temple
now, you must look for it under the Church of Santa Maria in Ara

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--RUINS OF FORUM.]

[Illustration: Photo, Anderson. (Record Office in background with
modern building above.)]

Next, instead of looking up at the hill, glance to your left, and you
will see running along that side of the Forum, beside the Sacred Way,
a spacious public building known as the Basilica of Julius, that is to
say, of Julius Caesar. It is an edifice of a type familiar in cities
of the Roman world. You mount the steps from the Sacred Way and find
yourself under an outer two-storied arcade suitable for lounging or
promenading while discussing business or gossip with your friends.
Passing from this inwards you are in a building which consists of a
covered colonnade, or nave, about 270 feet in length, with a row of
pillars on either hand. On each side is a gallery, or upper floor,
from which spectators may look down upon the interior, or, from the
outer side, upon the open Forum. At the far end is a recess with a
raised tribunal, shut off, if necessary, by railings. In other
basilicas there may be an apse at this point, similarly enclosed. This
serves as a court of justice, round which the curious may stand, or
upon which listening spectators may gaze from the ends of the
galleries above. Meanwhile up and down the open space of the nave all
kinds of verbal business may be transacted by appointment, exactly as
such business used to be carried on in old St. Paul's Cathedral in
London or in churches elsewhere. In what may be called the inner
side-aisle are situated offices of various kinds, including those of
sundry public corporations, boards, or commissions. The whole of this
great hall is paved with coloured marbles; its pillars are coated with
marble; its ceiling is adorned with painting and gilt; it is
embellished with statues; and it is lighted from above by a
clerestory. Though the question has been debated, it is almost certain
that it was mainly from buildings like this, or from rooms similarly
constructed in palatial houses, that the early Church developed its
basilicas--with their nave, aisles, and clerestory, and with their
railed apse at the end, where was placed the chair of the bishop on
its dais. Across the Forum on the opposite side, to your right, lies
another structure of the same kind, in artistic respects more
excellent. In this, the Basilica Aemilia, the chief business was that
of the bankers and money-changers, although it served various other
purposes according to convenience.

If you could see round the farther end of this basilica to the right,
you would perceive the beginning of one of the busiest streets in
Rome--the Argiletum--chiefly known to fame as a favourite quarter of
the booksellers, who fasten on their door-posts, or on the pillars
which support a balcony or upper floor, the lists of the newest or
most popular publications to be bought within. And where that street
enters the Forum, though standing back a little from your line of
vision--perhaps you can catch sight of the top of it over the corner
of the Basilica--is the temple-like Senate-House with its offices.
Here is the meeting-place of the six hundred who nominally govern
jointly with the emperor. If you visit Rome to-day you will find the
greater part of the actual chamber, though miserably despoiled,
bearing the name of the church of S. Adriano.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--N.E. OF FORUM, A.D. 64. (Complementary to

From left: in background, Record Office, with Temple of Concord and
Rostra below; on summit, Temple of Juno and Citadel; below, Prison,
with shrine of Janus in front. To right: Basilica Aemilia, with gable
of Senate-House beyond. (Largely after Tognetti.)]

The little building, half arch, half shrine, which you observe
standing free where the roads converge upon the Forum, is the famous
sanctuary of Janus, of which the doors are never shut unless there is
complete peace throughout the Roman world. So long as Rome is anywhere
engaged in a great or little war, the open doors of Janus tell the
fact to a people which might otherwise be unconscious of so slight or
remote a circumstance.

* * * * *

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--TEMPLE OF FORTUNA AUGUSTA. (Pompeii.)]

We need not describe in detail the temple of Castor, or rather of the
"Twin Brethren," which stands immediately to your left, or that of the
deified Julius Caesar, which is just behind you, on the spot where the
body of the great dictator was burned. It is perhaps more interesting
to note the ordinary--though not by any means the only--form of the
Roman temple in general. Those who have seen the so-called Maison
Carree at Nimes will possess a fair notion of the commonest or most
typical shape and arrangement. For the most part we have a rather
lofty platform, mounted from one end by steps, which are flanked by
walls or balustrades, often bearing at their extremities equestrian
statues or other appropriate figures. Upon the platform stands the
temple proper, consisting of a chamber containing the statue of the
god. Where more than one deity are combined in the same temple--as in
that of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, where the supreme deity has
Juno and Minerva to left and right of him--there may either be as many
separate chambers or as many chapel-like bays as there are deities.
The altar for sacrifice stands outside opposite the entrance, being
placed either upon the top of the main platform or more commonly on a
minor platform of its own in the middle of the steps. In most cases
the chamber stands back behind a row, in some instances two rows, of
columns, which support the characteristic entablature seen in the
illustrations. In the case of the more grandiose temples a series of
columns may run all round the building, carrying an extension of the
roof, under which is thus formed a covered colonnade. More commonly
the sides and back of the chamber have only what are known as
"engaged" columns, as it were half-embedded in the wall. The roof is
gabled and tiled, with ornaments along the eaves. The front has an
embellished entablature, with its triangle of masonry called the
"pediment," consisting of a cornice overhanging a sunken surface
decorated with a sculptured group. Over each angle, right, left, and
summit, is a base of stone supporting some conspicuous ornament, such
as a statue, an eagle, or a figure in a chariot. In the middle of the
front of the building, behind the columns of the portico, are double
doors, commonly made of decorated bronze, with an open grating of the
same metal above them. The whole is outwardly of marble, either all
white or with colour in the pillars, but the core of at least the
platform is commonly made of the immensely strong Roman concrete, or
else of blocks of the less beautiful and costly kinds of stone.

In point of architectural style the Romans of this date--who in
artistic matters were but imitators of the Greeks and far less certain
in taste than their masters--affected the Corinthian, as being the
most florid. Even this they could not leave in its native purity, but
for the most part converted it into Graeco-Roman or composite
varieties. A prime fault of the Roman taste was then, as it has always
been, a love of gorgeousness, of excessive and obtrusive ornament. In
almost any Roman church of to-day we find the walls and pillars stuck
about with figures, slabs, and so-called decorations to such an extent
that the finer lines and proportions are often ruined, The ancient
Roman likewise was commonly under the impression that the more
decoration you added, the more magnificent was the building. There
were doubtless many buildings in simpler and purer taste, probably
executed by Greek artists under the authority of some Roman who
happened to possess a finer judgment or less self-assertiveness.
Nevertheless the fault of over-elaboration is distinctly Roman.


We must not omit to say that, besides temples of this typical
rectangular form, there were others of a round shape, encircled by
columns, like that graceful structure at Tivoli commonly, though
mistakenly, known as the temple of the Sibyl, and that small building
which still exists in an impoverished condition near the Tiber, and
which used to bear the erroneous title of the temple of Vesta. Others
again were simply round and domed, like the true temple of Vesta in
the Forum, or the superb and impressive Pantheon in the Campus
Martius. So far as the bare round was broken in these cases, it was
either by a pillared portico, as with the Pantheon, or by engaged
columns and ornament, as with the true temple of Vesta.

The mention of the temple of Vesta reminds us that it is time to face
about, and, passing behind the temple of Julius, to look in the
opposite direction, from V. Before us lies this circular shrine, a
form gradually developed from the primitive round hut which once
served as house to the prehistoric ancestors of the Roman stock. As it
was the duty of the maiden daughters of that ancient tribe to keep
alight the fire upon the domestic hearth, so through all the history
of Rome it was the duty of certain chosen virgins to keep perpetually
burning the hearth-fire of the city. The roof of the temple is open in
the middle, and you may perhaps see the smoke issuing from it. But if
you are a male, you may not enter. No man, except the chief Pontifex,
may set foot inside the shrine of the virgin goddess, who is attended
by virgin priestesses. Close behind the temple stands the house of
these Vestals. They are in a large measure the ancient prototype of
the modern nun, and their house is the prototype of the convent. Six
nobly-born young women, sworn to chastity, and dressed in a ritual
garb, live in an edifice of much magnificence under the rule of one
who is the chief Vestal, a sort of Mother Superior. Many pedestals of
the statues of such chief priestesses still remain, and we can clearly
trace the arrangement of their abode, with its open court--once
containing a garden and cool cisterns of pure water--its separate room
for each Vestal, its baths, and its resources of considerable comfort
and even luxury.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--VESTAL VIRGIN]

If, as you face this way, you look up to your right, you will perceive
the Palatine Hill rising steeply above you, with its summit crowned by
the lofty palaces and gardens constructed by the Caesars. At the side
and corner which look down upon the Forum stands the part built by
Caligula, the epileptic who thought himself no less than a god, and
who in consequence not only turned the temple of Castor into a lower
vestibule to his own house, but also built a bridge across the valley
over the temple of Augustus and the Basilica of Julius to the
Capitoline Hill, so that he might visit and converse with Jupiter, his
only compeer. From the top of the Basilica he occasionally threw money
into the Forum to be scrambled for by people who crushed each other to
death in the process. It would require too much space if we climbed
the sloping road which leads on to the Palatine and examined the
various structures upon that hill. As we now see it in its ruins it is
perhaps the most mysteriously impressive place in the world. But many
alterations and enlargements of the palaces were made after the date
of Nero, and we cannot now be sure of the precise aspect of the
hill-top in his day. Suffice it that, overlooking the Forum,
overlooking the Velabrum Valley which leads from the Forum to the
Tiber, and overlooking the middle of the valley where the vast Circus
or race-ground separated the imperial hill from the Aventine, there
were portions of the huge imperial abodes, rising in several stories
gleaming with marble, and enjoying the purest air and the widest views
obtainable within the city. Nero himself, it is true, was not content
with such mere human housing. After the great fire of this year 64, he
proceeded to make for himself what he called "a home fit for a man,"
and so built--though he never finished--that famous or infamous
"Golden House," which ran from the Palatine all across the upper
Sacred Way and the hollow now occupied by the Colosseum far on to the
opposite hills--a house of countless chambers, with three miles of
colonnade, enclosed gardens large enough to be called a park, and a
statue of himself 120 feet in height. The epigram went that the people
of Rome must migrate, inasmuch as what had once been a city was now
but a private house. This, however, had not yet occurred, and we have
rather to think of palaces and gardens rich indeed, but by no means
occupying the whole of the Palatine Hill alone. There were, of course,
numerous buildings more or less connected with the imperial
establishment, among them being quarters for the officers and soldiers
of the guard. There were also a number of temples, one of which, the
magnificent shrine of Apollo, the god of light and learning, stood in
a court marvellously enriched with sculptured masterpieces, while
connected with it were libraries filled with Greek and Latin books and
adorned with the busts and medallion-portraits or statues of great

If we proceeded now to walk up the Sacred Way, along the narrow street
edged by jewellers' and other shops, we should meet as yet with no
Arch of Titus, nor in descending beyond should we see any Colosseum,
but only a block of ordinary dwellings, to be swept away later in this
year by the fire which made room here for the ornamental waters of
Nero's Golden House. Turning to the right along the valley between the
Palatine and Caelian Hills, we should not have to pass under any Arch
of Constantine; but, after glancing up to the left at the great
unfinished temple of Claudius and going under the Claudian aqueduct
which carries water to the Palatine, we should proceed between private
houses and gardens till we reached a famous gate in the ancient wall
and found ourselves on that noted Appian Way, which would take us to
Capua and thence over the Apennines to Brindisi and the East. Just
outside the gate we should find the livery-stables, with their
vehicles and horses or mules waiting to be hired for the stage which
would carry us as far as the slope on the southern edge of the Alban

But we will not proceed in this direction. From our stand at V in
front of the temple of Vesta we will turn back, walk over the Forum to
the right of the Rostra, between the sanctuary of Janus and the front
of the Senate-House. Thence we will cross an enclosed forum, or public
place, erected by Julius Caesar, with its temple of "Venus the Mother"
in the middle, and so enter the Forum of Augustus. This is worth a
pause. As you pass to-day up the narrow Via Bonella and perceive near
the Pantani Arch a few imposing columns and a patch of rather
depressing bare wall, it requires much effort to realise that here was
once a noble space enclosed by marble-covered walls 100 feet in
height, and that those walls contained in a series of niches a gallery
of statues of all the military heroes and patriots of Roman history
from Aeneas downwards. Meanwhile the few columns at your side are the
sole survivors of the number which surrounded the splendid temple of
Mars the Avenger, the shrine which was identified in imperial times
with the military power of Rome, and which received the standards
captured from the enemy, just as captured flags are to be seen in many
a modern church.

Leaving this Forum, we will not bear to the right to find ourselves
amid the dense population of the Subura and its neighbourhood, but we
will turn to the left and pass between the Capitoline and Quirinal
Hills, which then met more steeply and closely than they did fifty
years later, when Trajan had cut away the rising ground and levelled
an open space which must have been an incalculable advantage to the
convenience of the city. It is perhaps well to observe here that the
piling up of fallen ruins and the deliberate levellings and gradings,
both in ancient and modern times, have greatly altered the appearance
of the often-mentioned hills of Rome, especially of the Quirinal,
Viminal, and Esquiline.

AUGUSTUS. (After Ripostelli.)]

Emerging from this too narrow passage-way and proceeding a short
distance, we enter that straight Flaminian Road which has been
replaced by the modern Corso beginning at the Piazza Venezia. For the
first part of its course it was also known as "Broadway." We are now
in that more open part of Rome which lies outside the ancient wall,
and which is commonly spoken of loosely as the Campus Martius. Here
again, it is impossible to inspect all the various sights visible in
the year 64. A few examples must suffice. As you walk along this
straight thorough-fare--the commencement of the road which would
eventually carry you to the North of Italy--you will find but few
buildings of any note on your right. Lying to your left is a long and
wide cloistered space which contains not only certain public offices
and a pillared promenade, but also the richest shops in Rome, where
are sold gold and silver work, objects of art, tapestries, and fine
fabrics from Alexandria, Syria, and farther East. The place is, in
fact, mainly a huge bazaar. Up the Flaminian Way beyond this enclosure
we go under a triumphal arch erected by the late Emperor Claudius to
record his conquest of Britain, where he subdued "eleven kings"
without Roman loss. Keeping straight on we pass, this time on our
right, another large enclosure surrounded by arcades, where is now the
east side of the Piazza Colonna. In and about this locality are
carried on not only promenades and saunterings but also various
athletic exercises, including feats of horsemanship. Farther on still,
and you will see to your left the Mausoleum of Augustus, rising some
220 feet into the air. Its base, coated with sculptured marble,
contains one grand sepulchral chamber for Augustus himself, and
fourteen smaller chambers for members of his family. Above this base
towers a conical mound of earth planted with evergreen trees, and on
the summit is a colossal statue of the first emperor. Close by is a
paved space, where the bodies of the Caesars are cremated before their
ashes are placed in the Mausoleum. From this spot a ready faith saw
their immortal part carried up to heaven by the eagle, messenger of

Turning back and passing across the Campus we arrive at the public
baths erected by Nero, and then at the Pantheon. This building, though
shorn of many of its decorative splendours both within and without,
still stands structurally intact, at least as it was restored and
enlarged two generations later than our date. It is scarcely possible
to say how far its shape was altered at its restoration under Hadrian,
but we may provisionally treat the edifice as already belonging to our
period. It is still, after all these centuries, an entirely noble
pile, and forms a fit receptacle for the tomb, not only of Victor
Emanuel, but of Raphael. Its form is that of a rotunda, with walls of
concrete 20 feet in thickness and with a dome of concrete cast in a
solid mass. The middle of the dome is open to the sky, and by that
means the building is lighted in a manner most perfectly suited to it.
Could we behold it fully restored and at its best, we should see above
its portico, which is supported by huge marble pillars each made of a
single stone, large bronze reliefs of gods and giants. To one side of
the doors would be a colossal statue of Augustus; on the other a
colossal statue of the builder Agrippa, the son-in-law of that
emperor. Inside there is a series of niches for colossal effigies of
Mars, Venus, and other deities connected with the Julian family. The
marble pillars dividing the niches have capitals of fine bronze, and
the coffered ceiling of the dome, now bare and colourless, shines with
gilt on blue, like the sky lit up with stars. The doors, which have
mysteriously remained entire, are also of noble bronze; the roof
consists of tiles of bronze thinly plated with gold. The gold has
naturally vanished, after passing into Saracen hands; of the bronze
nearly half a million pounds weight has been stripped from the
building, some to make cannon for the defence of the Castle of St.
Angelo, some to form the twisted columns which now support the giant
baldacchino under St. Peter's dome.

At a short distance behind this magnificent temple Agrippa--who was in
charge of the aqueducts and water-supply--had also built the first
great public baths. It would probably be incorrect to found any
detailed description of them upon what we know of the stupendous
structures of Caracalla and Diocletian, which were perhaps the most
amazing exhibitions of public luxury ever seen in the world. Of these
we know how huge and splendid were the halls, with their coloured
marbles, their mosaic floors, their colossal masterpieces of statuary,
their elaborate arrangements of baths--cold, tepid, hot and
dry-sweating--their conversation-rooms and reading-rooms. But we
cannot pretend to say how far the Agrippan and Neronian baths of the
year 64 corresponded in magnificence to these. We shall be safer in
simply assuming that, since the baths of Pompeii were in full swing in
the year in question, Home must have possessed establishments of a
similar kind but on a larger and more sumptuous scale.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--EXTERIOR OP THEATRE OF MARCELLUS. (Present

Leaving without further mention the various temples of Minerva, Isis,
Serapis, and other deities which might be found about the Campus
Martius, we note an undistinguished stone amphitheatre, the only
resort of the kind as yet possessed by the metropolis. In this were
exhibited the sanguinary combats of gladiators with each other, and
the fights with wild beasts performed by trained professionals or by
criminals selling their lives as dearly as possible. Of these "sports"
we have to treat in a later chapter. Coming nearer to the Tiber, while
returning towards the city proper, we pass in succession the three
great theatres, lofty semicircular constructions of stone and concrete
faced with marble, one computed to hold 40,000 spectators, but
probably accommodating not more than 25,000, and the others some
20,000 and 12,000 respectively. In these matters we must allow both
for Roman exaggeration and Roman close-packing. The theatres rise in
three stories, of which the outward sides consist of open arcades
adorned with pillars in varied styles, while round their bases are
shops for the sale of sweetmeats, beverages, perfumes, and other
articles which the theatre-goer or the loitering public may require.
What a theatrical Performance was like is a matter belonging to the
question of spectacles and amusements. At the back of the largest
theatre--that of Pompey--lies a large square surrounded by colonnades
of a hundred pillars, where sycamores form avenues and fountains play,
while statues of finished workmanship stand where they produce the
best effect. Particularly grateful to the Roman lounger were the seats
in the large semi-circular bays, so placed as to offer full protection
from too hot a sun or too cold a wind.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.--THEATRE OF MARCELLUS. (Restored.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--CIRCUS MAXIMUS (restored); Imperial Palaces
on Palatine to left.]

By the time that we have passed the last theatre of the three we have
arrived at the river end of the low valley leading into the Forum
between the Capitoline Hill and the Palatine, a place which had once
been a cattle-market but had now become an open place surrounded by
dwellings of the humbler sort. It still, however, bore the name of
"Cattle-Market." If from this point we followed the river bank, we
should come to the wharves, to which the smaller ships bring up the
Tiber the freights of grain transhipped from the larger vessels from
Alexandria or Carthage, or of marble from the quarries of Numidia,
Greece, and Phrygia, or of granite and porphyry from Upper Egypt. All
along this bank are the offices and storehouses of such cargoes, and
here too is performed much of the shaping of those blocks which Rome
is using in such astonishing profusion. Along the river by the stone
embankment the ships are moored, with their cables passed through huge
stone corbels or sculptured lions' mouths. No busier part of Rome
could be found than this, but we have no time to proceed further in
this direction.

In front of us rises the Aventine Hill, another quarter of the
wealthy, but otherwise chiefly distinguished by its temples of Juno
the Queen and of Diana. Turning our eyes from the Aventine to the left
we see lying in the valley between Aventine and Palatine--where now
are the Jewish Cemetery and the grimy Gasworks--the vast Circus
Maximus or Hippodrome. This structure, devoted chiefly to
chariot-racing, is some 700 yards in length and 135 in width, and will
at a pinch hold nearly a quarter of a million spectators. In all
probability it would seat 150,000. It consists, as the illustration
will show, of long tiers of seats sweeping down the sides and round
the curved end of an oblong space. As with the theatres, its outside
view presents three tiers of marble arches, and through the lowest
tier are numerous staircases leading to the various sections of the
seats within. Those seats themselves are laid upon large vaults of
concrete; the lower rows are of marble, the upper ones are as yet of
wood. How the chariot-races were run, and what is meant by the "sports
of the circus," will naturally require a separate narration.

Coming back from the entrance of this mammoth place of amusement and
turning up the Velabrum Valley, we pass by a temple of Augustus, to
which is attached a public library, and issue by the temple of Castor
into the Forum to our first standing-point at F.



After this rapid walk through the more interesting parts of the
capital, we may consider one or two connected topics of natural

Amid all this splendour and spaciousness of public buildings, what is
the aspect of the ordinary streets? In this respect Rome was by no
means fortunate. As in Old London, Old Paris, or Old New York, the
streets had for the most part grown up as chance circumstances would
have it. There were very few thoroughfares laid out straight from the
first like the Flaminian or "Broad" Road. Alexandria and Antioch were
the creations of monarchs who began with a clear field and a
consistent scheme. Their straight, broad streets might well be the
envy of the capital. The Romans, then as now, possessed the
engineering genius, but they could not well undo the work of a
struggling past, which had necessitated the crowding of population,
within the defences of a wall. They knew how to supply the city
abundantly with water, and how to drain it with sewers of great
capacity and strength. The chief of such sewers--the Cloaca
Maxima--which passed underneath the Forum to the Tiber and was laid
down more than twenty-five centuries ago, is still in working order.
But no republican or imperial government ever took it in hand to
Hansmannise the city, even after one of those devastating
conflagrations which might seem to have cleared the way. It is true
that all traffic of vehicles, except for special processions, for
Vestal Virgins, and a few other cases--was forbidden for ten hours in
the day. All through the morning and afternoon there were no wheels in
the Roman streets, unless some public building imperatively demanded
its load of stones or timber, or unless the few privileged persons
were proceeding in their carriages to some festival. Nevertheless the
rich men and women in their litters or sedan-chairs, attended by their
servants or their clients; the porters carrying their heavy loads; the
itinerant hucksters; and the ordinary man on errand or other business
bent, made up crowds which were often difficult to pass through.

Another consequence of the old compression within narrow walls was
that, as population increased, the houses grew more lofty. How high
the Romans built, or were allowed to build, in republican times we
cannot tell. The tendency was certainly to build higher and higher,
and sky-scrapers would perhaps have become the rule if the ancient
Roman had understood the use of materials both sufficiently light and
sufficiently strong, or if he had been forced to establish his work on
secure foundations. In point of fact there had been, and there
continued to be, too much of jerry-building. Houses sometimes
collapsed, and many were unsubstantially shored up. A flood or an
earthquake was apt to find them out, and there was frequent peril in
the streets. The majority of the abodes of people of humble means were
not like those in smaller towns, such as Pompeii, still less like
those in the country. They were "tenement houses," large blocks let
out in rooms and flats, and it was natural that landlords should make
haste to run them up and to increase the number of their stories. When
Augustus became emperor he enacted what may be called a Metropolitan
Building Act, which insisted on firmer foundations and limited the
height to 70 feet. That act was apparently still in force in the age
of Nero, and we may take it that along the more frequented streets the
houses commonly ran to a height of four or five stories. They looked
the taller because of the narrowness of the street itself. While it is
perhaps, though not necessarily, an exaggeration for the
epigrammatist--who lived "up three pair of stairs, and high ones"--to
say that he could touch his opposite neighbour with his hand, it is at
least an indication of the truth. Some of the narrower lanes between
blocks cannot have been more than a few feet across.

Nor does it appear that the occupants' of rooms opening on the streets
were very particular as to what they threw out in the way of rubbish
or dirty water. It is true that there were aediles, or officers to
look after the order of the streets and public places, but their
efforts seem to have been mainly directed to preventing conspicuous
obstruction. Practices which we should regard as heinous were treated
lightly or disregarded. To make matters worse, the shopkeepers, who
occupied the lower fronts of most of such houses, took the greatest
liberties in encroaching upon the roadway when exhibiting their wares,
and it was not till twenty years later than our date that the Emperor
Domitian ordered them to keep within their own thresholds.

Apart from the question of the freedom of traffic, it can be readily
imagined that, with all the wooden counters, doors, and shutters down
below, and with the disproportionate quantity of woodwork in the
beams, floors, and even walls above, fires were of the commonest
occurrence, and, with streets so high and narrow, the conflagration of
a whole quarter of the town was speedy and complete. Augustus had
divided the metropolitan area into fourteen regions, and had
distributed over these a force of 7000 watchmen to keep the peace and
to deal with fires at night; but it was not to be expected, if a fire
occurred in a lofty block, that this body, assisted or hampered by the
neighbours, could do much with the buckets, siphons, and wet blankets
which formed the extinguishing apparatus of the time.

Another serious danger, or, when not danger, at least discomfort, came
from the trick which the Tiber has always had of flooding the lower
parts of the city. Somewhat later than our date the river restrained
by strong stone embankments, which one had to descend by steps in
order to reach the river at the ferries or other boats; but this must
have been but inadequately achieved in the early period of the empire,
and a severe flood might bring the houses in the Velabrum, for
example, tumbling about the ears of their inhabitants.

* * * * *

On the whole the streets of Neronian Rome were neither very
comfortable nor very safe to walk in. At night there was no lighting,
except when, at some great festival, illuminations might be made by
order of the emperor for a whole night or perhaps a series of nights.
In ordinary times torches and lanterns must be provided by yourself,
and even the 7000 watchmen scarcely gave you a full feeling of
security. The precise arrangements made for scavenging are unknown,
but presumably it was done by the public slaves under the supervision
of the aediles. It is, however, easy to discover from contemporary
complaints that the streets were often annoyingly wet and slimy.

One thing the ordinary Roman appears never to have minded, any more
than it is minded at the present day. This was noise. There are
studious men enough in ancient literature who complain that sleep or
study is impossible in Rome. They exclaim upon the bawling of the
hawkers, the canting songs of the beggars, the banging of hammers, the
sing-song of schoolboys learning to read in the open-air verandahs or
balconies which often served as schools, and the shouting in the
baths. All night long there was the rattle of carts and the creaking
of heavy waggons. But the average Roman cared, and still cares, very
little for quiet or sleep, and no emperor attempted to check the
annoyance. Perhaps he could devise no check. Perhaps he himself, being
on the Palatine, and his counsellors, being in their own comparatively
secluded houses on the hills, scarcely realised the full enormity of
the nocturnal roar of Rome. In any case the fact of the noise is
unquestionable. It was then very much as it is now if one tries to
sleep in rooms in the Corso or the Via Babuino. The saying that "God
made the country and man made the town" is met with in a Roman writer
of the age of Augustus, and the noise is one factor in the difference.

The ancient Romans, we have said, were masters of practical
engineering, and a chief glory of the city was its abundant supply of
water. Apart from the Tiber and the natural springs, there were in the
year 64 at least eight aqueducts bringing drinkable water into the
city. It was the emperor's concern to see to this matter, as he did to
the corn-supply, but in practice he appointed what he might call his
Minister of Water-supply, and gave him liberal means to provide a
large staff of engineers, surveyors, masons, pipelayers, inspectors,
and custodians. It is a common error to imagine that the Romans were
ignorant of the simple hydraulic law that water will find its own
level, and to suppose that their aqueducts were built in consequence
of that ignorance. In point of fact they knew the law as well as we
do. Their earlier aqueducts were conduits almost wholly underground;
their later were all on arches. When they wished to carry water to a
height within the city, up a watertower to a distributing cistern, or
to the top storey of a building, they did so by pipes, just as we
should; but when they brought water from forty miles away they
preferred to bring it in channels lined with impermeable cement and
carried upon arches, which wound across the country according to the
levels in order to avoid the excessive pressure of too steep a
gradient. The reasons for their choice are simple enough. Their chief
difficulty was in making pipes of iron of sufficient capacity. On the
other hand, it was easy to construct a cemented channel in masonry of
any size you desired. In the next place the water about Rome rapidly
lays a calcareous deposit, and it is much easier to clear this from a
readily accessible channel than from pipes buried in the ground. The
pipes which the Romans commonly made were of lead, bronze, or wood.
None of these could be made and cleared cheaply enough to serve for
the volume of water required for household use, the baths, and the
public fountains of Rome. Meanwhile slave labour was inexpensive, and
the cost of building an aqueduct of any length was of little account
to the Roman.

When the water reached the city it was conducted into settling and
distributing reservoirs and its flow regulated. Thence it was carried
by pipes, mostly of lead, wherever it was required. When Agrippa was
minister of water-supply he constructed in the city 700 public pools
or basins and 500 fountains, drawing their supply from 130 collecting
heads or reservoirs. And it is to the credit of Agrippa and of Rome
that all these pools, fountains, and reservoirs were made pleasant to
the eye with suitable adornment. There is mention of 400 marble
columns and 300 statues, but these are to be regarded as only chief
among the embellishments.

The streets of Rome were commonly paved with blocks of lava quarried
in the neighbourhood from the abundant deposits which had formed in a
not very remote volcanic period.

The materials employed for substantial building were various; in the
older days red and black tufa--a stone so soft as to require
protection by a layer of stucco; later the dark-brown peperino, the
golden-creamy travertine, marble white and coloured, and concrete. The
modern visitor to Rome who regards the ruins but superficially would
naturally imagine that many of the edifices were mainly constructed of
brick. In reality there was no building so composed. The flat
triangular bricks, or rather tiles, which are so much in evidence, are
but inserted in the face of concrete to cover the nakedness of that
material. Concrete alone might serve for cores and substructures, but
those parts of the building which showed were required to present a
more pleasing surface. At the date of Nero this might be achieved by a
fronting of marble slabs and blocks, but more commonly it was obtained
by means of the triangular red or yellow tiles above mentioned. In
buildings of slightly earlier date the exterior often presented a
"diamond pattern" or network arrangement of square pieces of stone
inserted in the concrete while it was still soft. The huge vaults and
arches affected by the Romans made concrete a particularly convenient
material, and nothing could better illustrate its strength than the
tenacity with which it has endured the strain in the unsupported
portions of the vaults of the Basilica of Constantine. Any of the more
imposing buildings which were not mainly of concrete were composed of
blocks of stone, held to each other by clamps soldered in with lead.
Few, if any, such buildings were made entirely of marble. In the case
of those composes of the other varieties of stone already named, the
surface was commonly coated either with stucco or with marble facings
attached by hook-like clamps fixed into the main structure Externally
the appearance of Rome--so far as its public buildings are
concerned-was that of a city of marble. The present having been for
centuries torn away, either to be used elsewhere, or more often to be
burned down for lime.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.--BUILDING MATERIALS. (From Middleton.)]



We have taken a general survey of the city of Rome, its open places,
streets, and public buildings. We may now look at the houses in which
the Romans lived, and at the furniture to be expected inside them.

Mention has already been made of the large and lofty tenement houses
or blocks, often mere human rookeries, which were let out in lodgings
to those who did not possess sufficient means to occupy a separate
domicile of their own. These buildings, which were naturally to be
found in the busier streets and more thickly inhabited quarters, were
not, however, the habitations most typical of the romanized world.
They were created by the special circumstances of the city, and might
recur in other towns wherever the conditions were similar. The cramped
island part of Tyre, for example, possessed houses even loftier than
those of Rome. Where there was sufficient room--that is to say, where
there was no large population crowded into a space limited by nature
or by walls of defence--the ordinary house was of a very different
character. It was built on a different plan and seldom ran to more
than two stories, if so high. We shall shortly proceed to describe
such a house; but it is first desirable to say something more of the
tenement "block" in the metropolis. It is to be regretted that no such
building has actually come down to us; we are therefore compelled to
form our notions of one from the scattered references and hints of
literature. Nevertheless if these are read in the light of customs
still observable in Rome itself and in other parts of Italy, the
picture becomes fairly definite.

A block--or "island," as it was called--might be a building of four or
five stories, surrounded by four of the narrow streets, lanes, or
alleys which formed a network in the city. Whether managed by the
landlord, by his agent, or by a tenant who sub-let at a profit, it was
divided into lodgings, which might consist either of a single room or
of a suite. Some such rooms and flats were "ordinary," others were
described (as they are still in the advertisements of modern Rome) as
"suitable for a gentleman," or, to use the exact language of the day,
"suitable for a knight." Access to the respective quarters of the
house was to be gained, not solely through a main door, but by
separate stairs leading up directly from the streets and lanes. It
would appear that each tenant had his own key, corresponding, though
hardly in convenience of size, to our latch-key. Whereas it will be
found that the ordinary private house of one storey was for the most
part lighted by openings in the roof and by wide courts, this
arrangement could manifestly be applied only partially to the tall
tenement buildings. There might, it is true, exist in the middle
interior of such a block an open space or "well," with galleries
running round it at each floor, so that the inner rooms could obtain
light from that quarter. It is also to be assumed that stairs ran up
to these galleries, so that the inward rooms or flats were made
accessible in this way. Mainly, however, the light came from windows
opening on the street. If we glanced up at these from below we should
find them narrower than ours at the present day--since we have
discovered how to produce large and entirely diaphanous sheets of
glass--but probably not narrower than those of a century ago. They
were either mere openings with shutters, or, in the better houses,
were glazed with transparent material. In the brighter part of the
year they contained their boxes of flowering or other plants, and were
often provided with a shade-awning not unlike those so familiar in

The roof of such a building was either gabled and covered with tiles
or, though perhaps less often, it was flat. The flat roof sometimes
formed a terrace, on which the plants of a "roof-garden" might be
found growing either in earthenware tubs or in earth spread over a
layer of impermeable cement. The lowest floor, level with the street,
commonly consisted of shops, which were open at full length in the
day, but were shuttered and barred at night. As with the shops which
are now built into the sides of large hotels and the like, they had no
communication with the interior of the building. Regularly, however,
they possessed a short staircase at the back or side leading to an
upper room or _entresol_, where, in the poorer instances, the
shopkeeper might actually reside. To the aristocratic Roman, with his
contempt of petty trade, "born in the shop-loft" was a contemptuous
phrase for a "son of nobody."

Meanwhile the more representative houses of the strictly Roman part of
the Roman world--that is to say, the dwellings of Romans or of
imitators of Romans, wherever they might be settled, as distinct from
the Greek and Oriental houses or from the various kinds of primitive
huts to be found among the Western provincials--were of three chief
kinds. These were the town house, the country seat, and the country
homestead. There was, of course, nothing to prevent a wealthy Roman
from building his town house exactly like a country seat, or vice
versa, if he had so chosen, but from considerations of purpose, apart
from those of local space and view, it would have been altogether
irrational to take either course. The conditions of his life in town
and country differed even more widely than they do with us. The
average Roman, moreover, was a lover of variety in respect of his
habitation. We find in a somewhat later epigrammatist that one grandee
keeps up four town houses in Rome itself, and moves capriciously
from one to the other, so that you never know where you will find
him. At different seasons or in different moods he might prefer
this or that situation or aspect. As for country seats of various
degrees of magnificence, a man might--like many modern nobles or
royalties--possess three, four, a dozen, or twenty. He might, for
example, own one or more on the Italian Lakes, one in Tuscany, one on
the Sabine or Alban Hills, one on the coast within a half-day's run of
Rome, one on the Bay of Naples, one down in the heel of Italy, and so
on. Pliny the Younger, who was born in the reign of Nero, was not a
particularly rich man, yet he owned several country seats on Lake Como
alone, besides others nearer to Rome on north and south, at the
seaside, or on the hills.

We may begin with a town house, and our simplest procedure is to take
a plan exhibiting those parts which were most usual for an
establishment of even moderate pretensions. Let it be understood that
it is but the symmetrical outline of a general scheme which was in
practice submitted to indefinite enlargement or modification. In the
house of Livia, the mother of Augustus, on the Palatine Hill at Rome,
and in various houses at Pompeii--such as those of the Vettii, of
"Sallust," of the "Faun," or of "The Tragic Poet"--there will be found
much diversity in the number and arrangement of the rooms, halls, and
courts. Nevertheless the main principle of division, the general
conception of the portions requisite for their several purposes, was
practically the same. Some of the differences and enlargements may be
illustrated after we have considered our first simple outline. Before
we undertake this, however, it may be well to warn any one who may
have visited or be about to visit Pompeii, that he must exclude from
his thoughts all those small premises of a room or two which face so
many of the streets. These were mostly shops, with which we are not
now dealing. He must also exclude all the public edifices. This done,
he must remember that we now possess only portions of the walls
without the roofs, and that in such circumstances apartments always
appear to be much smaller than they are by actual measurement, or than
they appear when they contain their furniture and appointments
properly disposed. Finally, he must not take a Pompeian house, even
the most spacious, as a fair example of either the size or splendour
of the great houses in the metropolis. Pompeii was but a small place,
with a population of no great wealth or standing, and its houses would
have cut but a provincial figure among those of the same date on the
Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, or Quirinal Hills. Nevertheless they are
extremely useful to us in reconstructing the type. It is that type and
not the exception which we now consider.

A town house might either be detached or it might stand in a street,
like one of the tenement-blocks, with shops let into the less
important parts of the outer wall of the ground floor. Much would
naturally depend upon the means and dignity of the owner. In any case
the interior portions would belong to the private residence. As a rule
the exterior of the ordinary house was little regarded. No
architecture was wasted upon it; decoration and other magnificence
belonged to the interior. Provided a house possessed a more or less
imposing doorway its exterior walls might be left either to shops or
to a dull monochrome of stucco, pierced here and there, if necessary,
at 9 or 10 feet from the ground by barred slits, which cannot be
called windows, for the admittance of light. The general principle of
a Roman house, as of a Greek, was that of rooms surrounding spaces
lighted from within. Privacy from the outer world was not indeed so
scrupulously sought by the Romans as by the Athenians--principally
because of the more free position occupied by the Roman
women--nevertheless it was secured by the absence of ground-floor
windows opening on any thoroughfare.


Before the actual door there was commonly an open recess or space a
little backward from the street, in which callers could wait until the
door was opened. This was the "vestibule," and in the case of the
larger houses of the nobles it was often adorned with honorary
statues, on horseback or otherwise, while above the door might be seen
the insignia of triumphs won by the family, a decoration in some
measure corresponding to the modern hatchment, except that it was
permanently fixed. This regularly remained as a mark of the house even
when it changed owners. It was in such a vestibule of his Golden House
that Nero erected his own colossal statue, destined afterwards to give
its name to the Colosseum. Over the larger vestibules there might be a
partial roof, but generally, and perhaps always at this date, they
were without cover.

Facing you in the middle of the vestibule are double or folding doors,
more or less ornate with bronze, ivory, and other work, and generally
bearing a large ring or handle to serve either as a knocker or to pull
the door to. Above them is a bronze grating or fretwork for further
adornment and to admit light and air. Some householders, more
superstitious or conventional than the rest, affected an inscription,
such as "Let no evil enter here," and over some humbler entrance you
might find a cage containing a parrot or magpie, which had been
trained to say "Good luck to you" in Greek. At either side of the
door, or of the actual entrance to the vestibule, is a column or
pilaster, either made of timber and cased with other woods of a more
beautiful and costly kind, or consisting of coloured marble with an
ornate capital. These "doorposts" were wreathed with laurel or other
foliage on festal occasions, such as when the occupant had won some
distinguished honour in the field, in the courts, or at the elections,
or when a marriage took place from within. At funerals small cypress
trees or branches would be placed in and about the vestibule. At one
side of it you might sometimes find a smaller door, to be used for the
ordinary going in and out when it was unnecessary or inconvenient for
the larger doors to be opened.

[Illustration: FIG. 30.--ENTRANCE TO HOUSE OF PANSA. (Pompeii.)]

The doors themselves turn, not upon hinges of the modern kind, but
upon pivots, which move, often too noisily, in sockets let into the
threshold and lintel. The fastenings consisted of locks--often highly
ingenious--of a bar laid across from wall to wall, of bolts shot
across or upward and downward, and sometimes of a prop leaning against
the inside of the door and entering a cavity in the floor of the
passage. The floor of the entrance passage itself might be paved with
marble tiles, or made simply of a polished cement with or without
patterns worked in it; or it might consist of small cubes of stone,
white and black or more variously coloured, frequently worked into
figures, and now and then accompanied by an inscription just within
the threshold, such as "Greeting" or "Beware the Dog." In one Pompeian
house the floor bears the well-known mosaic likeness of a dog held
upon its chain. At the side of the passage there is often a smaller
room for the janitor. When there is none, he must be supposed to have
used a movable seat.

Passing through the passage, you find yourself in a rectangular hall,
upon which was lavished the chief display in the way of loftiness and
decoration. In the middle of the ceiling is an open space, square or
oblong, to which the tiles of the gabled roof converge from above, and
in the middle of the floor beneath is a corresponding basin, edged and
paved with coloured or plain marble. The basin is of no great depth,
and contains the water which has been poured into it from the
ornamental pipe-mouths of bronze or terra-cotta projecting, like
gargoyles, from the edge of the opening above. Sometimes the basin
contained a fountain. There is of course an outlet pipe for the
surplus water, but some of that overflow often ran into a covered
cistern, over which you would find a small circular well-mouth,
ornamented with sculptured reliefs. The opening in the ceiling may be
formed simply by the space between the four cross-beams, or it may be
supported by a pillar--of marble or of brick cased with marble--at
each corner, or it may rest upon a greater number of such pillars. It
is this opening which lets in the light and air to the hall, and it
should always be remembered that the Italian house had more occasion
to seek coolness and freshness than warmth. On a day of glaring
sunshine and heat it was always possible to spread under the opening
an awning or curtain of purple or other colour, of which the reflected
hues meanwhile lent a richness to the space below. If we take one of
the finer houses, we shall see, in glancing at the ceiling which
covers the rest of the hall, that it is divided into sunken panels or
coffers, which are adorned with reliefs in stucco and are painted, or
else are decorated with copper, gold or ivory. The height may be
whatever the owner wishes, but perhaps 25 feet would be a modest
average estimate. The floor in such a house will generally consist of
slabs of marble or of marble tiles arranged in patterns. In houses of
less show it may be made of the same materials as those described for
the entrance passage. To right and left are various chambers, shut off
by lofty doors or by portieres or both. To these light is admitted
their doors and the gratings over them, from the high window-slits
already mentioned in the outer wall, or sometimes, when there is no
upper storey, from sky-lights. And here let it be observed that the
notion that the Romans of this date used very little glass is
altogether erroneous, as the discoveries at Pompeii and elsewhere
sufficiently prove.

[Illustration: FIG. 31.--Interior of Roman House. (Looking from
Reception-hall to Peristyle.)]

The walls of the hall are in the better instances either coated with
panels of tinted marble, or parcelled out in bright bands or oblongs
of paint, or decorated with pictures of mythological, architectural,
and other subjects worked in bright colours upon darkened stucco. To
our own taste these colours--red, yellow, bluish-green, and others--as
seen at Pompeii, are often excessively crude and badly harmonised. But
while it is true that the ancients appear to have been actually
somewhat deficient in colour-sense, it must be borne in mind that many
of the Pompeian houses were decorated by journeymen rather than by
artists, and, above all, full allowance must be made for the
comparatively subdued light in which most of the paintings would be
seen. The hall might also contain statuary placed against the walls or
against the supporting pillars, where these existed. At the farther
end from the entrance you will perceive to right and left two large
recesses or bays, generally with pilasters on either side. These
"wings" were utilised for a variety of purposes. One of them might
occasionally serve for a smaller dining-room, or it might hold presses
and cupboards. In noble houses one of them would contain certain
family possessions of which the occupants were especially proud. These
were the effigies of distinguished ancestors, which served as a
family-tree represented in a highly objective form. At our chosen date
there would be a series of portrait busts or else of portrait
medallions, in relief or painted, while in special receptacles,
labelled underneath with name and rank, were kept life-like wax masks
of the line of distinguished persons, which could be brought out and
carried in procession at the funeral of a member of the family. Though
there was no "College of Heralds" in antiquity, it was commonly quite
possible for a wealthy parvenu to get a pedigree invented for him. It
is true that by use and wont the "right of effigies" was confined to
those families which had held the higher offices of state, but there
was no specific law on the subject, and the Roman _nouveau riche_
could act exactly like his modern representative in securing his
"portraits of ancestors."

[Illustration: FIG. 32.--HOUSE OF CORNELIUS RUFUS. (Pompeii.)]

Having thus glanced to right and left, to the ceiling and the floor,
we now look at the end of the hall facing us. The middle section of
this is open, and is framed by a couple of high pillars or pilasters
and a cornice, which together formed perhaps the most distinguishing
feature of this part of the house. Between the pillars is an apartment
which may or may not be raised a step or two above the level of the
hall. This, unlike the hall itself, is of the nature of a
sitting-room, reception-room, or "parlour" (in the old sense of that
word), and contains appropriate furniture. In it the master receives a
guest, interviews his clients, makes up his accounts, and transacts
such other private business as may fall to his lot. At the back it may
be entirely closed, or it may contain a large window, through which we
can catch a vista of the colonnaded and planted court beyond. The
floor may here consist of a large carpet-like mosaic, such as that
famous piece, taken from the House of the Faun at Pompeii and now in
the Naples Museum, which represents a battle between Alexander and the
Persians. To one side of the entrance to this "parlour" there will
often stand on a pedestal the bust of the owner, as "Genius of the
home." On the other side there is a passage serving as the means of
access to the second or inner division of the house.


On making our way through this passage we find ourselves in a space
still more open than the hall. It is commonly an unroofed,
quadrangular court surrounded by a roofed colonnade, and thence known
as the "peristyle." Or the colonnade may extend only round three
sides, the back being free to the garden. In the uncovered space lying
between the rows of pillars there are ornamental shrubs and flowers,
marble tables, a cistern of water containing goldfish, a fountain, and
marble basins into which fresh water is spouted from bronze or marble
statuettes, from figures of animals, or from masks. Under the
colonnade are marble floors or other more or less rich pavements,
decorated walls, and such works of art as the owner most affects.

[Illustration: FIG. 34.--PERISTYLE IN HOUSE OF THE VETTII. (Present

When it seems desirable for shade and coolness, coloured curtains or
awnings may be suspended between the columns, so that one can sit or
walk with comfort under the cloistered portion. At the sides are
apartments for different purposes. At the far end, or elsewhere, there
is regularly the largest dining-room, often with mosaic floor and
generally with pictured walls. Whereabouts in the house the family or
an invited party should dine would depend partly on the number to be
present, partly on the season of the year, and partly on some passing
inclination. A house of any pretensions would possess several rooms
used, or capable of being used, for this purpose. Some dining-rooms
had what we should call French windows on three sides, permitting the
diners to enjoy the view of the garden or the shrubbery outside.

Other large and airy apartments or saloons off the peristyle were used
for social conversation, or as drawing-rooms. Farther back still,
approached by another passage or door, there was often to be found a
garden, containing an arbour or a terrace covered with a trailing
vine, of the kind known in modern Italy as a _pergola_. In suitable
weather _al fresco_ meals were often taken here, and occasionally
there were fixed couches and tables of masonry always ready for that

Coming back from the garden into the court, we might explore other
passages, leading to the kitchen or to the bathrooms of hot, warm, and
cold water. These offices would be respectively situated wherever
circumstances made them most convenient. In the kitchen the part
corresponding to our "range" consisted of a flat structure of masonry,
on which the fire was lighted. The cooking pots were placed either
upon ridges of masonry running across the fire or upon three legged
stands of iron. The accompanying illustrations will sufficiently show
what is meant. The bedrooms, little better than cells, of the slaves,
and also the storerooms, were variously distributed. Underground
cellars were apparently exceptional, although examples may be seen at


[Illustration: FIG. 36.--KITCHEN HEARTHS (Drawing).]

Somewhere in one of the bays of the hall, at the back of the peristyle
court, or elsewhere, would be found a small shrine for the worship of
the domestic gods. This was variously constructed. Sometimes it was a
niche or recess containing paintings or little effigies and with an
altar or altar-shelf beneath, sometimes a miniature temple erected
against the wall. There was apparently no special place to which,
rather than any other, it was to be assigned. To the nature and
meaning of the household gods we may refer again when dealing with the
general subject of religion.


In the homes of persons of culture there would also be included a
library and, perhaps less regularly, a picture-gallery. The library,
which sometimes comprised thousands of rolls, would be a room not only
surrounded by large pigeon-holes or open cupboards containing the
round boxes for the parchment rolls, but also traversed by lower
partitions provided on either side with similar shelves. About the
room, over or by the shelves, stand portrait busts or medallions of
great authors, both Greek and Roman, the "blind" Homer being
represented in traditional form, but the majority, from Aeschylus and
Thucydides down to Virgil and Livy, being authentic and excellent
likenesses. In the picture-gallery would be found paintings either
done upon the stucco walls in a frame-like setting or upon panels of
wood attached to the walls, very much as we hang our modern pictures.

[Illustration: FIG. 38.--HOUSEHOLD SHRINE.]

It was scarcely ever the case that a second storey--where one existed
at all--extended over the whole house. If upper rooms were used, they
were placed over those parts where they would interfere least with the
light, the comfort, and the appearance of the ground-floor
arrangements. The stairs leading to them were variously disposed and
as little as possible in evidence. In such upper apartments there was
naturally not the same risk from the curious or the burglar as in the
case of the lower, and windows of perhaps 4 by 2-1/2 feet were
therefore freely employed. In some instances, though we cannot tell
how frequently, the second storey projected on strong beams over the
street, as in the example at Pompeii known as the "House of the
Hanging Balcony."

It remains to make brief observations upon one or two matters
interesting to any practical householder. These are the questions of
water-supply, drainage, warming, and roofing.

In respect of water there was no difficulty. It was brought in the
ordinary way, from those reservoirs which formed the ends of the
aqueducts or conduits, by means of pipes, mostly made of lead, though
sometimes of bronze. These were conducted to the points where they
were required, and there the flow was manipulated by means of taps and
plugs. In order to make a water-pipe, a sheet of lead or bronze was
rolled into a cylinder, the joining of the two edges taking the shape
of a raised ridge, which was soldered. One end of a section was
squeezed or narrowed so that it might be inserted into the widened end
of the next. Lead pipes of no inconsiderable size, stamped with the
name of the owner, are to be seen preserved in the Palatine House of
Livia, and a number of smaller ones remain at Pompeii. For drainage
there the sewers, and also pipes to carry the less offensive overflow
of water into the street channels, which in their turn led into
underground drains.


[Illustration: FIG. 39.--PORTABLE BRAZIERS.]

For the warming of a house the Romans not only portable braziers with
charcoal for fuel, but in the larger establishments there existed a
system of "central" heating, by which hot air was conducted from a
furnace in the basement through flues running beneath the floor and up
through the walls, where its effect might be regulated by adjustable
openings or registers. The only fixed fire-place in a town house was
in the kitchen. From this the smoke was carried off by a flue,
constituting to all intents and purposes a chimney. The belief that
the Romans were unacquainted with such things as chimneys has been
proved to be untrue.


The roofing, when constructed, as it most frequently was, in a gabled
form, consisted of terra-cotta tiles arranged on a regular system.
First came the flat layers, each higher row overlapping the lower. The
descending edges of a row of these flat plates, as they lay side by
side, were turned up into a kind of flange of about 2-1/4 inches in
height, so that at the points of contact a ridge was formed down the
roof. Over this line was laid a series of other tiles shaped into a
half-cylinder, the lower end of each tile overlapping the next. By
this means the rain was prevented from penetrating the crevice between
the flanges. At the bottom, above the eaves, the line of semicircular
tiles ended in a flower-like or mask-like ornament, which broke the
monotony of the horizontal edge of the roof.

After this description of what may be considered a representative
Roman house, it is necessary to repeat that it is but typical. Many
were considerably smaller, containing, for example, no peristyle. Many
on the contrary were far more spacious and sumptuous, possessing more
than one hall and more than one peristyle, and varying the nature as
well as the number and position of those portions of the house. In
exceptional cases the hall had no opening in the ceiling and therefore
no basin below, but was covered with a simple gabled roof which shed
the rain-water into the street. In exceptional cases also there was no
"parlour" of the kind described a little while ago. The situation of
the house, enlargements made after the main part was built, the
joining of two houses into one, or other causes, often modified the
rectangular and symmetrical appearance presented in the plan hitherto
given. Such modifications are, however, better illustrated by a
comparison of the plans of two well-known Pompeian houses than by any
amount of verbal description. The first is that of Pansa, which forms
the main portion of a whole block, smaller dwellings and shops
unconnected with the Pansa establishment being built round and into it
at various points. The arrangements of this house closely approach the
normal or simple type described in this chapter. The second is the
famous house of the Vettii, which departs somewhat freely from the
customary disposition of apartments.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.--HOUSE OF PANSA AT POMPEII.]

The parts within the dark lines belong to the one house; the rest are
other houses and shops built into the block.

1. Vestibule 11. Rooms
2. Passage 12. Dining-Room
3. Hall 13. Winter Dining-Room
4. Rooms 14. Saloon (Drawing-Room)
5. Wings 15. Kitchen
6. Dining-Room 16. Carriage Room
7. Parlour 17. Boudoir
8. Passage 18. Portico
9. Library? 19. Saleroom
10. Peristyle 20. Passage to Side Door

[Illustration: FIG. 32.--HOUSE OF CORNELIUS RUFUS. (Pompeii.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 42.--HOUSE OF THE VETTII AT POMPEII. A second
storey extended over the corners and front parts included under the
nine small crosses.]

[Illustration: FIG. 43--SPECIMEN OF PAINTED ROOM.]

It would be tempting to indulge in rhetoric and to dwell upon the
magnificence of some of the more luxurious houses of the wealthy
Romans; to describe their ostentation of rich marbles in pillar, wall,
or floor--the white marbles of Carrara, Paros, and Hymettus; the
Phrygian marble or "pavonazzetto" its streakings of crimson or violet;
the orange-golden glow of the Numidian stone of "giallo antico"; the
Carystian marble or "cipollino" with its onion-like layers of white
and pale-green; the serpentine variety from Laconia, and the porphyry
from Egypt. We might descant upon the lavish wall-paintings,
representing landscapes real and imaginary, scenes from mythology and
semi-history, floating figures, genre pictures, and pictures of still
life; or upon the mosaics in floor and wall depicting similar subjects
and often serving to the occupants not so much in the place of
pictorial art as in the place of wall-papers and of Brussels or
Kidderminster carpets. We might speak of the profuse collections of
statuary, of the gilding on ceiling and cornices, of the colours shed
by the rich curtains and awnings of purple and crimson, of the
grateful sound of water plashing in the fountains and basins or
babbling over a series of steps like a broken cascade in miniature.
But perhaps too much of such description might only encourage still
further the erroneous notion that the Roman houses were all of this
nature, and that even the average Roman lived in the midst of an
abundance of such domestic luxury and art. It requires but a little
sober thought to realise that such homes were, as they have always
been, the exception. It would be as reasonable to judge of an average
London house by the most opulent specimens in Park Lane, or of an
American house by the richest at Newport, as to judge of the abodes of
Romans in the time of Nero by the examples which appeal so strongly to
the novelist or the romancing historian. Suffice it that beside the
modest and frugal homes, the tenement flat, and the hovel, there were
houses distinguished by immense luxury; and, since Romans have at all
times sought the ostentatious and grandiose, perhaps such dwellings
were larger and more pretentious in proportion to wealth than they are
in most civilised countries at the present day. Seneca, who made
himself extremely comfortable in the days of Nero, exclaims upon the
rage for costly decoration. Says he of the bathing of the plutocrat:
"He seems to himself poor and mean, unless the walls shine with great
costly slabs, unless marbles of Alexandria are picked out with reliefs
of Numidian stone, unless the whole ceiling is elaborately worked with
all the variety of a painting, unless Thasian stone encloses the
swimming baths, unless the water is poured out from silver taps."
These, indeed, are comparatively humble. "What of the baths of the
freedmen? a mass of statues! What a multitude of pillars supporting
nothing, but put there only for ornament! What an amount of water
running over steps with a purling noise--and all for show!"

[Illustration: FIG. 44.--SPECIMEN OF WALL-PAINTING. (Pompeii.)]



Throughout the romanized parts of the empire--in other words, wherever
Romans settled, in Italy, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and also wherever the
richer natives imitated the Roman fashions--the house in any city or
considerable town was built as nearly as possible after the type

In the country the poor naturally had their much simpler cottages and
cabins of a room or two, commonly thatched or shingled, knowing
nothing of hall and court and all these arrangements of art and
luxury. In the case of the more well-to-do country people of

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