THE ROMAN FORUM

Between the Roman Forum and the valley beneath Edinburgh Castle we can trace a striking resemblance, not only in their volcanic origin and the connection between their geological history and their analogous civil history, but also in the fact that they were both filled with small lakes. Between the ridges of the old and new town of Edinburgh, where the railway runs through Princes Street Gardens, there was in the memory of many now living a considerable collection of water called the North Loch. In like manner, in the hollow of the Roman Forum there was originally a small lake, a relic of the numerous lakes of the Campagna, which remained after the last elevation of the land, and which existed pretty far on into the human period. It was fed by three streams flowing from the Palatine, the Capitoline, and the Esquiline Hills, which now run underground and meet at this point.

Let us picture to ourselves the appearance of this lake embosomed in the hollow of its hills in the far-off pastoral times, when the mountains and the high table-lands of Italy were the chosen territory of those tribes whose property consisted chiefly in their flocks. The hills of Rome, whose elevation was far more conspicuous in ancient times than it is now, presented a precipitous front of dark volcanic rock to the lake. Their slopes were covered with grass and with natural copse-wood, intermixed with tall ilex trees, or umbrella pines; while on their summits were little villages surrounded with Cyclopean walls perched there not only for security, but also for the healthier air, just as we see at the present day all over Italy. On the summit of the Capitoline and Esquiline Hills were Sabine settlements, whose origin is lost in the mists of antiquity. To the green wooded slopes of the Palatine, according to a beautiful tradition, sixty years before the destruction of Troy, came Evander and his Arcadians from Greece, and settled there with their flocks and herds, and led a quiet idyllic life. According to another tradition, Æneas, after the destruction of Troy, came to this spot, and marrying the daughter of a neighbouring king, became the ancestor of the twins Romulus and Remus, the popular founders of Rome, whose romantic exposure and nourishment by a she-wolf are known to every schoolboy. Romulus, after slaying his brother, built a stronghold on the Palatine, which he opened as an asylum for outlaws and runaway slaves, who supported themselves chiefly by plunder. The community of this robber-city consisting almost entirely of males, they provided themselves with wives by the famous stratagem known as the "Rape of the Sabine women." Seizing the daughters of their neighbours, the Sabines of the Capitoline and Esquiline Hills, on a festive occasion, they carried them away with them to their fortress. A number of sanguinary fights took place in consequence of this rape around the swampy margin of the lake. In the last of these engagements the combatants were separated by the Sabine women suddenly rushing in with their children between their fathers and brothers and the men who had become their husbands. A mutual reconciliation then ensued, and the two communities contracted a firm and close alliance. The Palatine, Capitoline, and Esquiline villages became henceforth one city, to which from time to time by conquest new accessions were made, until at last all the different settlements on the seven hills of Rome were brought under one rule, and surrounded by a common wall of defence. Mommsen, Niebuhr, Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and other critics, have made sad havoc with these romantic stories of the origin of Rome. But although much of the fabulous undoubtedly mingles with them—for the early history of Rome was not written till it had become a powerful state, and then the historian had no records of days long past save what were embodied in popular tradition and poetry—there has recently been a reaction in favour of them, and they must ever be interesting on account of their own intrinsic charm, the element of truth which they contain, and the indelible associations of schoolboy life.