THE PAINTED TOMB AT VEII

Rome after a season becomes oppressive. Your capacity of enjoyment is exhausted. The atmosphere of excitement in which you live, owing to the number, variety, and transcendent interest of the sights that have to be seen, wears out the nervous system, and you have an ardent desire for a little respite and change of scene. I remember that after the first month I had a deep longing to get away into the heart of an old wood, or into a lonely glen among the mountains, where I should see no trace of man's handiwork, and recover the tone of my spirit amid the wildness of nature. For this inevitable reaction of sight-seeing in the city, a remedy may be found by retiring for a day or two to some one or other of the numerous beautiful scenes in the neighbourhood. There is no city in the world more favourably situated for this purpose than Rome. Some of the most charming excursions may be made from it as a centre, starting in the morning and returning at night. Every tourist who stays but a fortnight in the city makes a point of seeing the idyllic waterfalls of Tivoli, the extensive ruins of Hadrian's Villa, the picturesque olive-clad slopes of Frascati and Tusculum, and the lovely environs of Albano on the edge of its richly-wooded lake. But there are spots that are less known at no greater distance, which yet do not yield in beauty or interest to these familiar resorts. Chief among these is Veii, whose very name has in it a far-off old-world sound. When the Campagna has quickened under the breath of the Italian spring into a tender greenness, and is starred with orchids and sweet-scented narcissuses, I know nothing more pleasant than a visit to this renowned spot.

Veii was the greatest city of the Etruscan confederacy. When Rome was in its infancy it was in the height of its grandeur. After a ten years' siege it was captured by Camillus; and so stately were its buildings, so beautiful was the scenery around it, and so strong its natural defences, that it was seriously proposed to abandon Rome and transfer the population to it, and thus save the rebuilding of the houses and temples that had been destroyed during the invasion of the Gauls. It was only by a small majority that this project was set aside. Veii never recovered from its overthrow. In vain the Romans attempted to make it one of their own cities by colonising it. Many families established themselves there, but they were afterwards recalled by a decree of the senate, which made it an offence punishable with death for any Roman to remain at Veii beyond a prescribed period. By degrees it dwindled away, until in the days of Propertius its site was converted into pastures; and the shepherd roamed over it with his flocks, unconscious that one of the most famous cities of Italy once stood on the spot. So long ago as the reign of the emperor Hadrian its very locality was forgotten, and its former existence regarded by many with incredulity as a myth of early times. It was left to the enlightened antiquarian skill of our own times, so fruitful in similar discoveries and resuscitations, to find out among the fastnesses of the wilderness around Rome its true position. And although all the difficult problems connected with its citadel and the circuit of its walls have not yet been solved, there can be no doubt that the city stood in the very place which modern archæologists have determined. This place is a little village called Isola Farnese, about eleven miles north-west of Rome. The way that leads to it branches off by a side path for about three miles from the old diligence road between Florence and Rome at La Storta—the last post station where horses were changed about eight miles from the city. It is situated amid ground so broken into heights and hollows that you see no indications of it until you come abruptly upon it, hid in a fold of the undulating Campagna. And the loneliness of the district and of all the paths leading to it is hardly relieved by the appearance of the village itself.