THE MARBLES OF ANCIENT ROME

Marble-hunting is one of the regular pursuits of the visitor in Rome. The ground in almost every part of the ancient city is strewn with fragments of historical monuments. The largest and most valuable pieces have long since been removed by builders and sculptors, to fashion some Papal palace, or to adorn some pretentious church; and at the present day, in almost every stone-mason's shed, blocks of marble belonging to ancient edifices may be seen in process of conversion into articles of modern furniture. Many bits of the rarest kinds, however, still remain, which not unfrequently bear traces of the richest carving. For ages such spots have been quarries to visitors from all parts of the world, who wished to bring home some memorial of their sojourn in the Eternal City, and the supply is still far from being exhausted. That so much material should have survived the wholesale conversion, during the middle ages, of columns and statues into lime, in kilns erected where the temples and palaces were most crowded, and the vast exportation of objects of antiquity to other countries, is a striking proof of the prodigious quantity of marble that must have existed in ancient Rome. Now, however, such relics are more carefully preserved; and as the places where they are found in greatest quantity have been taken under the charge of the Government, and soldiers are constantly on the watch, it is not so easy as it used to be to abstract a fragment that has taken one's fancy.

Marble fragments are so eagerly sought after because they make most suitable and convenient souvenirs. Their own beauty and rarity, apart from all historical associations, are a great attraction. Many of them will form, when cut and polished by the lapidary, pretty tazzas and paper-weights, and even the smallest bits can be put together in a mosaic pattern, so as to make extremely beautiful table-tops. Whole rows of lapidary shops in the English quarter of the city, especially in the Via Babuino and the Via Sistina, are maintained by this curious traffic. In the Forum and Colosseum great quantities of marble and alabaster used to be found; but these localities have been so much ransacked that they now afford very scanty gleanings. The Baths of Caracalla and Titus, the recent excavations on the Esquiline, the ruins of the palaces of the Cæsars on the Palatine, and the open space marked out for new squares and streets between Sta. Maria Maggiore and St. John Lateran, are the best situations within the walls of the city. Outside the supply is almost as large as ever. All over the vast Campagna the foot of the wayfarer strikes against some precious or beautiful relic; and along the Appian and Latin Ways broken pieces of different kinds may be found in such profusion that such spots look like the rubbish-heap around a marble quarry. In the vast grounds over which the imposing ruins of Hadrian's Villa spread, heaps of fragments of marble flooring or casing may be seen in almost every neglected corner, from which it is easy to obtain some lovely bit of giallo antico or pavonazzetto or green porphyry. Beside the ancient quay of Rome, leading to the ruins of the Emporium or Custom-house—at a spot called in modern phrase "La Marmorata," because marble vessels still discharge their cargoes there—immense quantities of marble, alabaster, and porphyry are piled up, that were unshipped untold ages ago for Roman use; and a vineyard a short way off, on the slope of the Aventine, is much frequented by collectors on account of the richness of its finds.