THE ROMAN FORUM

The direction of the Forum is nearly from north to south, trending a little from north-east to south-west. It is surprisingly small to have contained such a large number of buildings, and to have bulked so prominently in the eye of the world; its greatest length being only six hundred and seventy-one feet, and its greatest breadth about two hundred and two feet. Beginning at the north end, we see before us the vast mass of the ancient Capitol, the proudest symbol of the majesty of Rome, crowned with the great staring medieval structures of the Roman municipality, rising up into the campanile of Michael Angelo. Until of late years, this renowned building was completely buried beneath a huge mound of rubbish. Now that it has been removed, the venerable fabric stands out distinctly to view, and we behold the massive walls of the Treasury, the Record Office, and the Senate House. The lowest part, constructed of huge blocks of volcanic stones, was the Ærarium or Public Treasury, and is supposed to have been formed out of the original wall of the city of the Sabines, which surrounded the hill of Saturn, as the Capitoline Mount was originally called, long before Romulus laid the foundation of Rome. As the Roman army was paid in coppers, spacious cellars were required for storing the coin, and these were provided in the underground vaults of the Treasury, partially cut out of the volcanic rock of the Capitol, on which the building rests. Above the Treasury, on the second floor, we see the remains of the Doric portico of the Tabularium or Public Record Office, where the records of Rome, engraved upon bronze tablets, were kept. The place is now converted into an architectural museum, where all the most interesting sculptured fragments found in the Forum are preserved, and are exhibited by gaslight owing to the darkness. These buildings, it must be remembered, form the back of the Capitol fronting the Forum. Strictly speaking, they do not belong to the Forum, which should be traced only from their verge.

The view on the other side of the Capitol, where a gently-inclined staircase leads up from the streets to the piazza at the top, surrounded by the modern municipal buildings, raised upon the ancient substructures above described, is quite different. But the present aspect of the Capitol is quite disappointing to one who comes to it seeking for evidences of its former grandeur. There is no trace of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, to which the triumphal processions of the Roman armies led up, gorgeous with all the attractions of marble architecture, and the richest spoils of the world, the most splendid monument of human pride which the world then contained. Probably its remains were used up in the construction of the gloomy old church of the Ara Coeli, which is supposed by most archæologists to stand upon its site. The Capitol, it may be remarked, was precisely similar to the moot-hill, or open-air court, which existed in our own country in primitive times, and where justice was administered at regular intervals. The tradition of this original use of it still clings to the place as a shadow from the past. The hill has always been appropriated for political purposes. It has continued from the earliest days to be a centre of secular as opposed to ecclesiastical authority. The Popes ceded it to the magistracy, whose municipal buildings now cover it, and placed the church of Ara Coeli—the only one ever built on the Capitoline Hill—under their protection. The place of execution was chosen conveniently near to this moot-hill, or seat of justice; and the criminal, when condemned, was speedily executed, by being hurled over the rock, just outside of the eastern rampart, which surrounded the settlement. We can thus easily understand the association of the Tarpeian Rock with the Capitoline Hill. They were as closely correlated as the moot-hill and the Gallow hill in our own country. The primitive method of execution derived a sanctity from its antiquity, and was continued far on into the most civilised times of the empire.