No spot on earth has a grander name or a more imposing history than the Roman Forum. Its origin takes us far back to geological ages—to a period modern indeed in the inarticulate annals of the earth, but compared with which even those great periods which mark the rise and fall of empires are but as the running of the sands in an hour-glass. It opens up a wonderful chapter in the earth's stony book. Everywhere on the site and in the neighbourhood of Rome striking indications of ancient volcanoes abound. The whole region is as certainly of igneous origin, and was the centre of as violent fiery action, as the vicinity of Naples. The volcanic energy of Italy seems to have begun first in this district, and when exhausted there, to have passed gradually to the south, where Vesuvius, Etna, and Stromboli witness to the great furnace that is still burning fiercely under the beautiful land. No spectacle could have been more sublime than that which the Roman Campagna presented at this period, when no less than ten volcanoes were in full or intermittent action, and poured their clouds of smoke and flame into the lurid sky all around the horizon. Up to the foot of the mountains the sea covered the vast plain; and the action of these waves of fire and steaming floods forms a natural epic of the grandest order. Prodigious quantities of ashes and cinders were discharged from the craters; and these, deposited and hardened by long pressure under water, formed the reddish-brown earthy rock called tufa, of which the seven hills of Rome are composed.

When the sea retired, or rather when the land rose suddenly or gradually, and the volcanoes became extinct, the streams which descended from the mountains and watered the recovered land spread themselves out in numerous fresh-water lakes, which stood an hundred and fifty feet higher than the present bed of the Tiber. In these lakes were formed two kinds of fresh-water strata—the first composed of sand and marl; and the second, where mineral springs gushed forth through the volcanic rock, of travertine—a peculiar reddish-brown or yellow calcareous rock, of which St. Peter's and many of the buildings of modern Rome are composed. We find lacustrine marls on the sides of the Esquiline Hill where it slopes down into the Forum, and fresh-water bivalve and univalve shells in the ground under the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol; while on the face of the Aventine Hill, overhanging the Tiber at a height of ninety feet, is a cliff of travertine, which is half a mile long. The lakes which formed these deposits must have covered their sites for many ages. At last, by some new change of level, the lakes retired, and the Tiber scooped out for itself its present channel to the sea.

When man came upon the scene we have no definite information; but numerous flints and stone-weapons have been found among the black pumice breccias of the Campagna mixed with remains of the primitive bison, the elephant, and the rhinoceros. Human eyes must therefore have gazed upon the volcanoes of the Roman plain. Human beings, occupying the outposts of the Sabine Hills, must have seen that plain broken up by the sea into a complicated archipelago, and beheld in the very act of formation that wonderful region destined long ages afterwards to be the scene of some of the greatest events in human history. The Alban Hills, whose present quiet beauty, adorned with white gem-like towns, and softened with the purple hues of heaven, strikes every visitor with admiration, were active volcanoes pouring streams of lava down into the plain even after the foundation of the Eternal City. Livy mentions that under the third king of Rome, a shower of stones, accompanied by a loud noise, was thrown up from the Alban Mount—a prodigy which gave rise to a nine days' festival annually celebrated long after by the people of Latium. The remarkable funereal urns found buried under a bed of volcanic matter between Marino and Castel Gandolfo on the Alban Hills are an incontrovertible proof that showers of volcanic ashes must have been ejected from the neighbouring volcano when the country was inhabited by human beings; nay, when the inhabitants were far advanced in civilisation, for among the objects contained in the funereal urns were implements of writing. At the close of the skirmish between the Romans and Etruscans, near Albano, in which Aruns, the son of Lars Porsenna, was slain, whose tomb may still be seen on the spot, a noise like that which Livy mentions was heard among the surrounding hills.

But the most extraordinary of all the volcanic phenomena within the historical period was the sudden rising on two memorable occasions of the waters of the Alban Lake, which now lie deep down within the basin of an extinct crater. The first swallowed up the royal palace of Alba, and was so sudden and violent that neither the king nor any of his household had time to escape. The other occurred during the romantic siege of the Etruscan city of Veii, near Rome, by Camillus, four hundred years before Christ. The waters on that occasion rose two hundred and forty feet in the crater almost to the very edge, and threatened to overflow and inundate the surrounding country, when they were withdrawn by a subterranean canal cut in the rock, and poured into the Tiber by a connecting stream. This emissary, which may still be seen, was constructed owing to a hint given by an Etruscan soothsayer, that the city of Veii would not be captured till the Alban Lake was emptied into the sea. The deep winding cavern on the face of the Aventine Hill, said to have been inhabited by the monstrous giant Cacus, the son of Vulcan, who vomited fire, and was the terror of the surrounding inhabitants, was evidently of volcanic origin; and the local tradition from which Virgil concocted his fable was undoubtedly derived from a vivid recollection of the active operations of a volcano. When Evander, as described in the eighth Æneid, conducted his distinguished guest to the top of the Tarpeian Rock, in after ages so famous as the place of public execution, and composed of very hard lava, he assured him that an awful terror possessed the place, and that some unknown god had his abode there. The shepherds said it was Jupiter, and that they had often seen him kindling his lightnings and hurling his thunderbolts from thence. Evander then pointed to the ruined cities of Saturnia and Janiculum, on either side of the Tiber, whose destruction had been caused by the wrath of the god. There can be no doubt that this fable clothed with supernatural colouring some volcanic phenomena which had taken place on this spot during the human period. Even as late as three hundred and ninety years after the foundation of Rome, a chasm opened in the Forum, and emitted flames and pestilential vapours. An oracle declared that this chasm would not close until what constituted the glory of Rome should be cast into it. Marcus Curtius asked if anything in Rome was more precious than arms and valour; and arraying himself in his armour, and mounting on a horse splendidly equipped, he leapt in the presence of the Roman people into the abyss, when it instantly closed for ever. We thus see that the geology of the Roman plain throws no inconsiderable light upon the early history and traditions of the Eternal City, and brings within the cycle of natural phenomena what were long supposed to be purely fabulous incidents, the inventions of a poetic imagination. I have dwelt upon these geological incidents so fully, because nowhere does one realise the striking contrast between the shortness of man's existence on earth, as in places like the Roman plain, where the traces of cosmical energy have been greatest and most enduring.

The volcanic origin of the Roman Forum suggests the curious idea of the intimate connection of some of the greatest events of history with volcanic centres. Where the strife of nature has been fiercest, there by a strange coincidence the storm of human passion has been greatest. The geological history of a region is most frequently typical of its human history. We can predicate of a scene where the cosmical disturbance has been great,—where fire and flood have contended for the mastery, leaving the effects of their strife in deepening valleys and ascending hills,—that there man has had a strangely varied and eventful career. The strongholds and citadels of the earth, where the great battles of freedom and civilisation have been fought, were all untold ages previously the centres of violent plutonic disturbances. Edinburgh Castle, enthroned on its trap-rock, once the centre of a volcano, is associated with the most stirring and important events in the history of Scotland; Stirling Castle rises on its trap-rock erupted by volcanic action above a vast plain, across which a hundred battles have swept; Dumbarton Castle, crowning its trappean promontory, has represented in its civil history the protracted periods of earthquake and eruption concerned in the formation of its site; while standing in solitude amid the stormy waters of the Firth of Forth, the Bass Rock, once a scene of fiery confusion, of roaring waves and heaving earthquakes, has formed alternately the prison where religious liberty has been strangled, and the fortress where patriotism has taken its last stand against the forces of the invader. Palestine, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Scotland, the countries that have had the most remarkable history, and have done most to advance the human race, are distinguished above other countries for their geological convulsions and revolutions. The Roman Forum is thus but one specimen among numerous others of a law of Providence which has associated the strife of nature with the strife of man, and caused the ravages of the most terrible elements to prepare the way for the highest development of the human race.

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.

When a joint city was thus compacted and called Rome—possibly its old Pelasgic appellation—the first effort of the confederated settlements was to drain the geological lake in the centre of the city into the Tiber, a quarter of a mile distant. This they did by means of the celebrated Cloaca Maxima, a part of which may be seen open at the present day under the pavement of the Roman Forum, near the Temple of Castor and Pollux. This common sewer of Rome is one of its oldest and greatest relics. It was built by the first Tarquin, the fifth king of Rome, a century and a half after the foundation of the city; and although two thousand five hundred years have passed away since the architect formed without cement its massive archway of huge volcanic stones found on the spot, and during all the time it has been subjected to the shock of numerous earthquakes, inundations of the Tiber, and the crash of falling ruins, it still serves its original purpose as effectually as ever, and promises to stand for as many ages in the future as it has stood in the past. It is commonly said that we owe the invention of the arch to the Romans; and this work of undoubted Etruscan architecture is usually considered as among the very first applications of the principle. But the arched drains and doorways discovered by Layard at Nineveh prove that the Assyrians employed the arch centuries before Rome was founded. It had however only a subordinate place and a very limited application in the ancient architecture of the East; and it was left to the Romans to give it due prominence in crossing wide spaces, to make it "the bow of promise," the bridge over which they passed to the dominion of the world. The Cloaca Maxima is a tunnel roofed with two concentric rings of enormous stones, the innermost having an interior diameter of nearly fourteen feet, the height being about twelve feet. So capacious was it that Strabo mentions that a waggon loaded with hay might find room in it; and it is recorded that the Consul Agrippa passed through it in a boat. The mouth of the Cloaca opens into the Tiber, near the little round temple of Hercules in the Forum Boarium; but it is often invisible owing to the flooding of the river; and even when the Tiber is low, so much has its bed been silted up that only about three feet below the keystone of the sewer can be seen. Subsequently all the sewers of Rome were connected with it; and at the present day the nose gives infallible proof that it carries off a very large portion of the pollution of the modern city.

By the Cloaca Maxima, the valley between the Capitoline and Palatine Hills was for the first time made dry land; all indeed, except a small swamp which remained in one corner of it to a later age, and which the great sewer was not deep enough to drain entirely. Reeds grew around its margin, and boats were employed to cross it, as Ovid tells us. The name Velabrum—from an Etruscan root, signifying water, occurring in some other Italian names such as Velletri, Velino—still given to this locality, where a church stood in the middle ages called S. Silvestro in Lacu, commemorates the existence of the primeval lake; while the legend of the casting ashore of Romulus and Remus on the slope of the Palatine points to the gradual desiccation of the spot. On the level ground, recovered in this way from the waters, was formed the Roman Forum; the word Forum meaning simply an open space, surrounded by buildings and porticoes, which served the purpose of a market-place, a court of justice, or an exchange; for the Romans transacted more of their public and private business out of doors than the severe climate of our northern latitudes will permit us to do. On this common ground representatives of the separate communities located on the different hills of Rome, and comprehended and confederated within the walls of Servius Tullius, met together for the settlement of affairs that concerned them all. As Rome grew in importance, so did this central representative part of it grow with it, until at last, in the time of the Cæsars, it became the heart of the mighty empire, where its pulse beat loudest. There the fate of the world was discussed. There Cicero spoke, and Cæsar ruled, and Horace meditated. If the Temple of Jerusalem was the shrine of religion, the Forum of Rome was the shrine of law; and from thence has emanated that unrivalled system of jurisprudence which has formed the model of every nation since. Being thus the centre of the political power of the empire, the Roman Forum became also the focus of its architectural and civic splendour. It was crowded with marble temples, state buildings, and courts of law to such an extent that we wonder how there was room for them all within such a narrow area. Monuments of great men, statues of Greek sculpture, colonnades, and porticoes, rich with the spoils of subject kingdoms, adorned its sides. The whole region was resplendent with all the pomp and luxury of paganism in its proudest hour; the word "ambition," which came ultimately to signify all strivings for eminence, resolving itself into the elementary meaning of a walk round the Roman Forum, canvassing for votes at municipal elections.

Thus the Forum continued until the decay of the empire, when hordes of invaders buried its magnificence in ruins. At the beginning of the seventh century it must have been open and comparatively free fromdébris, as is proved by the fact that the column of Phocas, erected, at that time, stood on the original pavement. Virgil says, in his account of the romantic interview of Evander with Æneas on the spot which was to be afterwards Rome—then a quiet pastoral scene, green with grass, and covered with bushes—that they saw herds of cattle wandering over the Forum, and browsing on the rich pasture around the shores of its blue lake. Strange, the law of circularity, after the lapse of two thousand years, brought round the same state of things in that storied spot. During the middle ages the Roman Forum was known only as the Campo Vaccino, the field of cattle. It was a forlorn waste, with a few ruins scattered over it, and two formal rows of poplar-trees running down the middle of it, and wild-eyed buffaloes and mouse-coloured oxen from the Campagna wandering over the solitude, and cropping the grass and green weeds that grew in the very heart of old Rome. When Gibbon conceived the idea of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, listening to the vespers of the Franciscan friars in the dim church of Ara Coeli in the neighbourhood, the Forum was an unsightly piece of ground, covered with rubbish-heaps, with only a pillar or two emerging from the general filth. When Byron stood beside the "nameless column with the buried base," commemorated in Childe Harold, he little dreamt what a rich collection of the relics of imperial times lay under his feet, as completely buried by the wrecks of ages as Pompeii and Herculaneum under the ashes and lava of Vesuvius. From fifteen to twenty feet of soil had accumulated over them.

The work of excavation was begun seventy-five years ago by the Duchess of Devonshire, who spent the last years of her life in Rome, and formed the centre of its brilliant society. Napoleon III., the late Emperor of the French, carried on the task thus auspiciously commenced, for the purpose of shedding light upon the parts of Roman history connected with Julius Cæsar, the hero of his book. In spite of much opposition from the Papal Government, the work of exhumation was continued in fits and starts after the French emperor had given it up; and ever since the Italian Government have taken the matter in hand, gangs of labourers under the directorship of the accomplished Signor Rosa have been more or less continually employed, with the result that almost the whole area has been laid bare from the Capitol to the Arch of Titus. The British Archæological Society of Rome has given valuable aid according to the funds in its possession, and the contributions sent from this country for the purpose. When first commenced, the changes caused by these excavations were regarded with no favourable eye by either the artists or the people of Rome. The trees were cut down, the mantle of verdure that for centuries had covered the spot—Nature's appropriate pall for the decay of art—was ruthlessly torn up, and great unsightly holes and heaps of débris utterly destroyed the picturesque beauty of the scene. But the loss to romance was a gain to knowledge; and now that the greatest part of the Forum has been cleared down to the ancient pavement, we are able to form a much more vivid and accurate conception of what the place must have been in the days of the empire, and are in a position to identify buildings which previously had been a theme for endless and violent disputes. It is a very interesting and suggestive coincidence that the Forum of Rome should have been thus disentombed at the very time that Italy rose from its grave of ages, and under a free and enlightened government, having its centre once more in the Eternal City, proved that it had inherited no small share of the spirit of the heroic past.

Let us go over in brief detail the various objects of interest that may now be seen in the centre of Roman greatness. Numerous sources of information exist which enable us to identify these monuments, and to form some idea of what they were in their prime. Among these may be mentioned coins and medals of the emperors, with representations upon them of buildings and sculptures in the Forum; a marble stone found at Ancyra, now Angouri in Phrygia, on which is a long inscription regarding the acts and achievements of Augustus, which is of the greatest value in determining the topography of the city; the bas-reliefs on the Arch of Constantine, and on the marble screens of Trajan, recently excavated in the Forum itself, giving a view of its north-western and south-eastern ends; and the remains of the antique marble plan of Rome, now preserved in the Capitoline Museum, originally affixed to the wall of the superb Temple of Rome, and discovered in fragments in 1867 in the garden of the monastery of SS. Cosma e Damiano. We also get most valuable help in the work of identification from the Itineraries of the middle ages—especially from that of the celebrated pilgrim from Einsiedlen, Zwingli's town in Switzerland—who visited Rome in the eighth century, and left his manuscript to his own abbey, where it may still be seen. A vast apparatus of learning has been accumulated from the works of ancient classic authors by the great scholars who have written on the historical localities and buildings of the Forum, from Donati to Becker. Nibby, Canina, Ampère, Bunsen, Plattner, and Uhrlich, in their magnificent works have supplied a mine of wealth from which most subsequent writers on the Forum have enriched their descriptions.

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.

So densely crowded were the historical buildings and remarkable sites in that part of the Forum which lay immediately behind the Capitol, that it is almost impossible now to identify their position or remains. This spot forms the great battle-ground of the antiquaries, whose conclusions in many instances are mere guess-work. Below the medieval tower of the Capitol is a wide space paved with fragments of coloured marbles, and with indications of the ground-plan of a building. This is supposed to mark the site of the Temple of Concord, erected by the great general Camillus, after the expulsion of the Gauls, to perpetuate the concord between the plebeians and patricians on the vexed question of the election of consuls. It was placed beside the old meeting-place of the privileged families. From the charred state of some of its sculptures discovered on the spot, it is supposed to have been destroyed by fire. It was restored and enlarged a hundred and twenty years before Christ by the Consul Opimius immediately after the murder of Caius Gracchus. To the classical student it is specially interesting as the place where Cicero convoked the senate after the discovery of the Catiline conspiracy, for the purpose of fixing the punishment due to one of the greatest of crimes. Among the senators present on that memorable occasion were men of the highest political and philosophical renown, including Cæsar, Cato, and Cicero. They came to the conclusion that there was no such thing as retribution beyond the grave, no future state of consciousness, no immortality of the soul; consequently death was considered too mild a punishment for the impious treason of the conspirators; and a penalty, which should keep alive instead of extinguishing suffering, was advocated. We learn from this extraordinary argument, as Merivale well says, how utter was the religious scepticism among the brightest intellects of Rome only thirty-seven years before the coming of Christ. The very name of the temple itself, dedicated not to a divine being as in a more pious age, but to a mere political abstraction, a mere symbol of a compact effected between two discordant parties in the state, indicated how greatly the Romans had declined from their primitive faith.

But the most conspicuous of the ancient remains in this quarter, and the first to attract the notice of every visitor, is the Ionic portico of eight columns, called at first the Temple of Jupiter, and then of Vespasian, but now definitely determined to be the Temple of Saturn, for it is closely connected with the Ærarium, and the Ærarium is said by several ancient authors to have led into the podium of the temple by a doorway in its wall still visible. This temple is supposed to be of very early origin, and to have marked the site of an ancient Sabine altar to the oldest of the gods of Italy long before the arrival of the Romans. It was nearly entire so late as the fifteenth century; but its cella was ruthlessly destroyed shortly afterwards, and its marble ornaments used for making lime. The present group of pillars was so clumsily restored by the French at the beginning of this century that they are seen to differ from each other in diameter, and the frieze is composed of fragments that do not harmonise.

But the most remarkable monument of antiquity in this part is the marble triumphal Arch of Septimius Severus, which stands in front of the ruins of the Temple of Concord. It invaded the site of the republican Græcostasis, where foreign ambassadors waited for an audience of the senate, and occupied part of the area of the Comitium, whose original character was thereby destroyed; for it was erected at a time when men ceased to care for the venerable associations connected with the early history of their city. One gazes upon this monument of Roman power and pride with deep respect, for it has stood nearly seventeen centuries; and though rusty and sorely battered, and its sculptures much mutilated, it is still one of the most solid and perfect relics of imperial times. It was raised to commemorate the wars of Septimius Severus in Parthia and Arabia; and represents among its carvings the goddess Rome receiving the homage of the Eastern nations. It exhibits on its panels many scenes connected with his campaigns, the memory of which no humane man would have liked to perpetuate. On the upper part of the Arch is a large inscription in honour of the emperor and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. The name of Geta, however, was afterwards erased by his brother when he had murdered him, and other words substituted. Marks of the erasure may still be seen perfectly distinct after all these centuries, and vividly recall the terrible associations of the incident. The dislike which Caracalla and Geta had for each other was so virulent that their father took them both with him to Britain, in order that they might forget their mutual animosity while engaged in active warfare. Septimius Severus died during this campaign at York, and his sons returned to Rome to work out soon after the domestic tragedy of which this Arch reminds us. On the top of the Arch there was originally a bronze group of a chariot and four horses, with the emperor and his sons driving it. But this was removed at an early date; and in the middle ages the summit of the Arch supported the campanile of the church of St. Sergius and Bacchus that was built up against its sides. A little to the left, the road passing under the Arch joins the Clivus Capitolinus which wound through the Forum, and led up to the great Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. The pavement of this ancient road, which still exists, is formed of broad hexagonal slabs of lava, and is as smooth and as finely jointed at this day as when the triumphal processions of the victorious Roman generals used to pass over it.

At the western corner of the Arch of Severus are the scanty remains of a tall conical pyramid, about fifteen feet in diameter, which is identified as the Umbilicus Romæ, placed in the exact centre of old Rome. Not far from it stood the Milliarium Aureum, or Golden Milestone, on which were inscribed all the distances of roads without the walls. The Roman roads throughout the empire terminated at this point. With this central milestone was connected that admirable system of roads which the Romans constructed in our distant island; and it is a remarkable circumstance that the principal railway lines in England are identical with the general direction of the old Roman roads. The Antonine Way is now the Great Western Railway, and the Roman Watling Street, which ran diagonally across the country from Chester in the north-west to Dover in the south-east, is now replaced by the Dover, London, Birmingham, Grand Junction, Chester, and Crewe Railways. The reason of this union of ancient and modern lines of communication is obvious. The Romans formed their roads for the purpose of transporting their armies from place to place, and at certain distances along the roads a series of military stations were established. In course of time these stations became villages, towns, and cities such as Chester, Leicester, Lancaster, Manchester. Thus, strange as it may appear, the Milliarium Aureum of the Roman Forum has had much to do with the origin of our most ancient and important towns, and with the formation of the great lines of railway that now carry on the enormous traffic between them.

The exposed vaults immediately behind the Arch of Severus, bounding the Forum in this direction, are richly draped with the long, delicate fronds of the maidenhair fern. Shaded from the sun, it grows here in the crevices of the old walls in greater luxuriance and profusion than elsewhere in the city. There is something almost pathetic in this association of the frailest of Nature's productions with the ruins of the most enduring of man's works. Strength that is crumbling to dust and ashes, and tender beauty that ever clings to the skirts of time, as she steps over the sepulchres of power, have here in their combination a deep significance. The growth of the soft fern on the mouldering old stones seems like the sad, sweet smile of Nature over a decay with which she sympathises, but which she cannot share. The same feeling took possession of me when, wandering over the ruins of the Palaces of the Cæsars on a sunny February afternoon, I saw above the hoary masses of stone the rose-tinted bloom of almond-trees. Out of the gray relics of man's highest hour of pride, the leafless almond-rod blossomed as of old in the holy place of the Hebrew Tabernacle; and its miracle of colour and tenderness was like the crimson glow that lingers at sunset upon Alpine heights, telling of a glory that had long vanished from the spot.

Beneath these fern-draped vaults is the oldest prison in the world. The celebrated Mamertine Prison takes us back to the very foundation of the city. It was regarded in the time of the Cæsars as one of the most ancient relics of Rome, and was invested with peculiar interest because of its venerable associations. It consists of a series of vaults excavated out of the solid tufa rock, where it slopes down from the Capitoline Hill into the Forum, each lined with massive blocks of red volcanic stone. For a long time these vaults have been used as cellars under a row of tall squalid-looking houses built over them between the Via di Marforio and the Vicolo del Ghettarello; and the sense of smell gives convincing proof that where prisoners of state used to be confined, provisions of wine, cheese, and oil have been stored. The prison has recently passed into the possession of the British and American Archæological Society of Rome, which pays a certain rent to the Italian Government for its use. By this society it is illuminated and shown every Monday afternoon during the season. One of the members conducts the party through the upper and lower prisons, and explains everything of interest connected with them. Dr. Parker, whose labours have done so much to elucidate this part of ancient Rome, was the guide on the occasion of my visit; and as the party was unusually small, we had a better opportunity of seeing what was to be seen, and hearing the guide's observations.

The uppermost vault is still below the level of the surrounding soil, and the entrance to it is by the church of San Giuseppe di Falegnami, the patron of the Roman joiners, built over it. Beneath is a subterranean chapel, forming a sort of crypt to the upper church, called San Pietro in Carcere, containing a curious ancient crucifix, an object of great veneration, and hung round with blazing lamps and rusty daggers, pistols, and other deadly instruments, the votive offerings of bandits and assassins who sought at this shrine of the chief of the apostles to make their peace with heaven. Descending from the chapel by a flight of steps we come through a modern door, opened through the wall for the convenience of the pilgrims who annually visit the sacred spot in crowds, to the ancient vestibule, or grand chamber of the prison, commonly called the Prison of St. Peter from the church tradition which asserts that the great apostle was confined here by order of Nero before his martyrdom. The pillar to which he was bound is still pointed out in the cell; and Dr. Parker, lifting up its cover, showed us a well in the pavement of the floor, which is said to have sprung up miraculously to furnish water for the baptism of the jailors Processus and Martinianus whom he had converted, though, unfortunately for this tradition, the fountain is described by Plutarch as existing in the time of Jugurtha's imprisonment. Indeed there is every reason to believe that this chamber was originally a well-house or a subterranean cistern for collecting water at the foot of the Capitol, from which circumstance it derived its name of Tullianum, from tullius, the old Etruscan word for spring, and not from Servius Tullius, who was erroneously supposed to have built it. The whole chamber in primitive times was filled with water, and the hole in the roof was used for drawing it out. Dr. Parker gave us a little of the water in a goblet, but, notwithstanding its sacred reputation, it tasted very much like ordinary water, being very cool and fresh, with a slight medicinal taste. He also pointed our attention to a rugged hollow in the wall of the staircase, and told us that this was the print of St. Peter's head in the hard stone, said to have been produced as he stumbled and fell against it, coming down the stair a chained prisoner. It requires no small amount of devotional credulity to recognise the likeness or to believe the story.

But there is no need for having recourse to such ecclesiastical legends in order to produce a solemn impression in this chamber. Its classical associations are sufficient of themselves to powerfully affect the imagination. There is no reason to doubt the common belief that this is the identical cell in which the famous Jugurtha was starved to death. The romantic history of this African king is familiar to all readers of Sallust, who gives a masterly account of the Jugurthine war. When finally defeated, after having long defied the Roman army, his person was taken possession of by treachery and carried in chains to Rome, where he adorned the triumphal procession of his conqueror Marius, and was finally cast into this cell, perishing there of cold and hunger. What a terrible ending to the career of a fierce, free soldier, who had spent his life on horseback in the boundless sultry deserts of Western Africa! The temperature of the place is exceedingly damp and chill. Jugurtha himself, when stripped of his clothes by the executioners, and let down into it from the hole in the roof, exclaimed with grim humour, "By Hercules, how cold your bath is!" A more hideous and heart-breaking dungeon it is impossible to imagine. Not a ray of light can penetrate the profound darkness of this living tomb. Sallust spoke of the appearance of it in his day, from the filth, the gloom, and the smell, as simply terrific. The height of the vault is about sixteen feet, its length thirty feet, and its breadth twenty-two feet. It is cased with huge masses of volcanic stone, arranged in courses, converging towards the roof, not on the principle of the arch, but extending horizontally to a centre, as we see in some of the Etruscan tombs. This peculiar style of construction proves the very high antiquity of the chamber.

This cell played the same part in Roman history which the Tower of London has done in our own. Here, by the orders of Cicero, were strangled Lentulus, Cethegus, and one or two more of the accomplices of Catiline, in his famous conspiracy. Here was murdered, under circumstances of great baseness, Vercingetorix, the young and gallant chief of the Gauls, whose bravery called forth the highest qualities of Julius Cæsar's military genius, and who, when success abandoned his arms, boldly gave himself up as an offering to appease the anger of the Romans. Here perished Sejanus, the minister and son-in-law of Tiberius, who was detected in a conspiracy against the emperor, and richly deserved his fate on account of his cruelty and treachery. Here also was put to death Simon Bar-Gioras, the governor of the revolted Jews during the last dreadful siege of Jerusalem, who was taken prisoner, and after gracing the triumph of the emperor Titus at Rome, shared the fate which usually happened to captives after such an exhibition.

From the Tullianum or Prison of St. Peter, we were led through a tortuous subterranean passage of Etruscan character, a hundred yards long, cut out of the rock. It was so low that we had to stoop all the way, and in some places almost to creep, and so narrow that a very stout person would have some difficulty in forcing himself through. The floor was here and there wet with the overflowing of neighbouring drains, which exhaled a noisome smell; and we had to pick our steps carefully through thick greasy mud, which on the slopes was very slippery and disagreeable. We followed each other in Indian file, stooping low, each with a wax taper burning dimly in the damp atmosphere, and presenting a most picturesque appearance. This passage was discovered only a few years ago. Numerous passages of a similar nature are said to penetrate the volcanic rock on which the Capitol stands, in every direction, like the galleries of an ant's nest. Some of these have been exposed, and others walled up. They connect the Prison with the Cloaca, and doubtless furnished means by which the bodies of criminals who had been executed might be secretly disposed of. The passage in question brought us to four other chambers, each darker and more dismal than the other, and partially filled with heaps of rubbish and masses of stone that had fallen from their roofs and sides. At the top of each vault there was a man-hole for letting a prisoner down with cords into it. A visit to these six vaults of the Mamertine Prison gives one an idea that can never be forgotten of the cruelty and tyranny which underlay all the gorgeous despotism of Rome, alike in the kingly, republican, and imperial periods. Some of the remains may still be seen of the Scalæ Gemoniæ, the "steps of sighs," down which the bodies of those who were executed were thrown, to be exposed to the insults of the populace. The only circumstance that relieves the intolerable gloom of the associations of the Prison is, that Nævius is said to have written two of his plays while he was confined in it for his attacks on the aristocracy; a circumstance which links it to the Tower of London, which has also its literary reminiscences. After having been immured so long in such disagreeable physical darkness—appropriate emblem of the deeds of horror committed in it—we were truly glad to catch at last a faint glimmer of daylight shimmering into the uppermost passage, and to emerge into the open sunshine, from beneath a house at the farther end of the Vicolo del Ghettarello.

A modern carriage-road used to pass along this way, leading up to the Piazza del Campidoglio in front of the Capitol, and cutting the Forum into two parts, concealing a considerable portion of it. This obstruction has now been swept away, and the Forum is fully exposed from end to end. Below this old road we observe the "nameless column" of Childe Harold, which long stood with its base buried, and was taken for the ruins of a temple. When excavated in 1813 it was found to stand on an isolated pedestal, with an inscription recording that it was erected by the exarch Smaragdus to the emperor Phocas; and the mode in which the offering was made was worthy of the infamous subject and the venal dedicator. Nothing can be clearer from the style of the monument than that it was stolen from the Temple of Vespasian adjoining; for it is an exact fellow of the three graceful Corinthian pillars still standing in front of the Ærarium. It was near this pillar, a few years after it was raised, that Gregory the Great, before he became Pope, saw the young Saxon captives exposed to be sold as slaves, and was so struck with their innocent looks and hopeless fate that he asked about their nationality and religion. Being told that they were Angli, he said, "Non Angli, sed Angeli." The impression made upon him led to a mission for converting the natives of Britain, which set out from Rome under St. Augustine in 596. Thus does the column of the infamous usurper Phocas link itself on the historic page with the conversion of Britain to Christianity.

Beside the Pillar of Phocas are two large marble screens or parapets, with magnificent bas-reliefs sculptured on both sides. They were discovered about sixteen years ago in situ, and are among the most interesting and important objects that have been brought to light by the recent excavations in the Forum. Their peculiar form has given rise to much controversy; some antiquarians regarding them as an avenue along which voters went up to the poll at the popular elections of consuls, designed either to preserve the voters from the pressure of the mob, or to prevent any but properly qualified persons from getting admission; while others believe that the passage between the double screen led to an altar. This latter opinion seems the more plausible one, for the sculptures on one side represent the suovetaurilia—a bull, a ram, and a boar, adorned with ribbons and vittæ, walking in file, which were usually sacrificed for the purification of Rome at the Lustrum, as the census taken every five years was called. The other sculptures on the marble screens consist of a number of human figures in greater or less relief; one of them being supposed to commemorate the provision made by Trajan for the children of poor or deceased citizens in the orphanage which he was the first to found in Rome; and the other, the burning of the deeds which contained the evidence of the public debt of the Roman citizens, which the emperor generously cancelled. But the chief significance of the sculptures lies in their background of architectural and other objects indicating the locality of the scenes represented. They place before us a view of the Forum as it appeared in the time of Trajan, and enable us to identify the various objects which then crowded it, and to fix their relative position. The topographical importance of these reliefs has been well discussed by Signor Brizio and Professor Henzen in the Proceedings of the Roman Archæological Institute; and also in a paper read by Mr. Nichols before the Society of Antiquaries in London in 1875. By translating into perspective their somewhat conventional representations of temples, basilicas, and arches, Mr. Nichols has given us in his monograph on the subject two very effective pictorial restorations of the Forum as it was in the days of Trajan. Both the screens exhibit, very distinctly sculptured, a fig-tree and a statue on a pedestal, which are interesting from their classical associations. The tree is not the famous Ruminal fig-tree originally of the Palatine and then of the Comitium, but, as Pliny tells us, a self-sown tree which grew in the mid Forum on the site of the Lake of Curtius, which in Ovid's time, as we learn from himself, was a dry space of natural ground marked off by a low fence, and including an altar. This fig-tree, along with a vine and an olive, which grew associated with it, was much prized on account of the shade which it afforded. The figure under the fig-tree, carrying a vine stem on its left shoulder, and uplifting its right arm, has been recognised as that of Marsyas, whose statue was often put in market-places as an emblem of plenty and indulgence. Martial, Horace, Seneca, and Pliny all alluded to this statue in the Forum, which stood near the edge of the Lake of Curtius, and was crowned with garlands by Julia, the daughter of Augustus, during her disgraceful assignations beside it with her lovers at night.

On the east side of the Forum the excavations have been stopped in the meantime, as the modern level of the ground is occupied by valuable houses, and two very interesting old churches, Santa Martina and Sta. Adriano. Under the part not yet exhumed lie the remains of the earliest of all the Basilicas, the Basilica of Porcia, built by the elder Cato in the immediate vicinity of the Curia, and also those of the famous Basilica Æmilia, which probably extended along the greater part of the east side of the Forum. Some of the most important monuments of ancient Rome, known to us only by the writings of classic authors, doubtless lie buried in this locality. Under the church of Sta. Adriano, the famous Curia Hostilia or Senate House, attributed to Tullus Hostilius, stood. The original building was destroyed by fire at the funeral of Clodius, through the carelessness of the populace, who insisted upon burning his body within it; but it was replaced by the Curia Julia, which was rebuilt by Augustus, who added to it an important structure, called in the Ancyran inscription Chalcidicum, for the convenience of the senators. Around it stood the statues of men who had rendered important services to the state; and not far off was an altar and statue of Victory, which formed the last rallying-ground of expiring paganism against the dominating Christianity of the empire. In the year 382 the Christian party had removed this altar and statue; and when their restoration was demanded by Symmachus, the request was refused by Ambrose, as opposed to the conscience of the Christian senators; and this decision being ratified by the votes of the assembly, the doom of paganism, as the national religion, was in consequence sealed. The Curia Julia ceased to serve its original purpose at the death of Caligula, when the consuls convoked the senate in the Capitol instead, to mark their aversion to the rule of the Cæsars; and the building was probably burnt down and finally rebuilt in the time of Diocletian. One of the most curious uses to which it was put, was to mark the Suprema tempestas, which closed the hours of legal business, by means of its shadow projected on the pavement; a primitive mode of reckoning time which existed before the first Punic war, and was afterwards superseded by a sun-dial and a clepsydra or water-clock erected in the Forum.

Near the Curia under the present roadway must lie the site of the Comitium, or meeting-place of the Roman burgesses. This was far the most important spot in the Forum in the days of the Republic. It was not a covered building, but a templum or a consecrated space open to the air. In its area grew a fig-tree, in commemoration of the sacred tree which sheltered Romulus and Remus in their infancy; and we read of drops of blood and milk falling upon it as omens from the sky. One of the stones on its pavement, from its extraordinary blackness, was called the tombstone of Romulus, and a number of statues adorned its sides, including the three Sibyls, which gave the name of "In Tria Fata" down to medieval times to this part of the Forum. From its rostra, or stone platform, addresses were delivered by political agitators to open-air assemblies of the people. The Comitium reminds us very strikingly of the municipal origin of the Roman empire. In primitive times that mode of government was admirably adapted to the necessities of the city; but when Rome became mistress of the world it was found unfitted to discharge imperial functions. The establishment of the monarchical form of Government overthrew the Comitium, and with it the very life of the Roman city.

In front of the church of S. Adriano—said to be no other than the actual Curia of Diocletian, though greatly altered and partly rebuilt by Pope Honorius I. in the year 630—are some fragments of the Basilica Æmilia. This court was erected on the site of the Basilica Fulvia, and superseded by a more splendid building called the Basilica Pauli, which was the Bourse or Exchange of ancient Rome. The building of this last Basilica was interrupted for a long time by the disorders consequent on the assassination of Cæsar. When finished, it was considered to be one of the most magnificent buildings in the world; and was especially admired on account of its beautiful columns of Phrygian marble. These were afterwards removed to decorate the church of St. Paul outside the gate, where some of them that survived the burning of the old edifice may be seen behind the high altar of the new. Between the Curia and the Basilica Æmilia is supposed to have stood the celebrated Temple of Janus, built according to Livy by Numa Pompilius, the closing or opening of which was the signal of peace or war. It was probably at first one of the ancient gates in a line of fortifications uniting the Capitol with the Palatine; and afterwards comprised, besides a passage-way through which a great part of the traffic of Rome passed, a diminutive bronze temple containing a bronze statue of the venerable deity of the Sabines, whose one face looked to the east, and the other to the west. The bronze gates of the temple were closed by Augustus for the third time after the battle of Actium, and finally shut when Christianity became the religion of the empire. Procopius saw the temple still standing in the sixth century; and he tells us that, during the siege of the city by the Goths, when it was defended by Belisarius, some of the adherents of the old pagan superstition made a secret attempt to open the shrine and set the god at liberty.

One gazes at the wall of earth and rubbish, fifteen feet deep, marking the present limit of the excavations in this direction, with a profound longing that the obstruction could be removed at once, and the rich antiquarian treasures lying hid underneath brought to light. Few things in Rome appealed more powerfully to my curiosity than this huge bank of débris, behind and beneath which imagination was free to picture all kinds of possibilities. On the part that has been uncovered, we see a row of brick bases on which had stood monuments of gilt bronze to some of the distinguished men of Rome; the remains of a line of shops of the third century demolished during the excavations; the pedestal of what is said by some to have been Domitian's and by others Constantine's gigantic equestrian statue; and farther down, rude heaps of masonry, belonging to the substructures of the Rostra and Temple of Julius Cæsar. Part of the curved wall of the Rostra may still be seen built of large blocks of travertine; and in front is a fixed platform, where a large number of people could stand and listen to the speaker. This Rostra is specially interesting because it was constructed in the year of Cæsar's death, and was intended to mark the design of the great triumvir to destroy the memory of the old oligarchy by separating the rostra or "hustings" from their former connection with the senate and comitia, and make them entirely popular institutions. The front of it was afterwards adorned by Augustus with the beaks of ships taken at Actium. The small Heroön or Temple of Cæsar behind the Rostra was erected on the spot where the body of Cæsar was burned before the house which he had so long inhabited, and in a part of the Forum especially associated with his greatest political triumphs. It superseded an altar and lofty column of Numidian marble, at which the people had previously offered sacrifices to the memory of their idol, the first mortal in Rome raised to the rank of the gods; an honour justified, they imagined, not only by his great deeds, but also by his alleged descent from Venus Anadyomene.

Running down the middle of the Forum is a rough, ancient causeway, with its blocks of lava still in their original position, but so disjointed that it is no easy task walking over them. On the other side is the raised platform of the Basilica Julia of Augustus, extending from north to south, the whole length of the Forum, with steps leading up to it from the paved street. This stupendous law court, the grandest in Rome where Trajan sat to administer justice, and from whose roof Caligula day after day lavishly threw down money to the people, has, by its own identity being established beyond dispute, more than any other discovery helped to determine the topography of the Roman Forum. It was begun by Julius Cæsar on the site of the older Basilica Sempronia, which had previously partially replaced the Veteres Tabernæ or shops of early times required for the trades carried on in a market-place, and also the schools for children where Appius Claudius had first seen Virginia reading. Having been partially destroyed by fire, Augustus afterwards completed and greatly enlarged the building. It was used as the place of meeting of the Centumviri, a court which we learn from the younger Pliny, who himself practised before it, had a hundred and eight judges sitting in four separate tribunals, within sight and hearing of one another, like the old courts in Westminster Hall. The Basilica is not yet entirely excavated, a large part of its breadth being still under modern buildings. It consisted of a series of plain, massive arches built of travertine. The pavement is wonderfully perfect, being composed of a mosaic pattern of valuable marbles, doubtless saved from destruction or removal to build some church or palace by the fortunate circumstance that the ruins of the Basilica covered and concealed them at an early period. On this pavement and on the steps leading up to it are incised numerous squares and circles which are supposed to have been tabulæ lusoriæ, or gaming-tables. A few have inscriptions near them alluding to their use. Cicero mentions the dice-players of the Forum with reprobation; and the fact that such sports should have intruded into the courts of justice shows that the Romans had lost at this time their early veneration for the law. The rows of brick arches seen on the platform are mere modern restorations, placed there by Cavaliere Rosa to indicate the supposed original plan of the building. At the south end of it an opening in the pavement shows a part of the Cloaca Maxima, with the sewerage passing through it underneath.

The ancient street between the Basilica Julia and the Temple of Castor and Pollux, is undoubtedly the famous Vicus Tuscus, so called after the Etruscan soldiers who belonged to the army of Porsenna, and, being defeated at Ariccia, took refuge in this part of Rome. This street, so often mentioned by classic writers, led to the Circus Maximus, and is now identified with the Via dei Fienili; the point of departure from the Forum being marked by a statue of Vertumnus, the Etruscan god, the ruined pedestal of which, in all likelihood, is that which has lately been unveiled on the steps at the north-east corner of the Basilica Julia. It was considered almost as sacred as the Via Sacra itself, being the route taken by the great procession of the Circensian games, in which the statues of the gods were carried in cars from the Capitol through the Forum to the circus. In front of the Basilica Julia, and on the opposite side of the way, so numerous were the statues which Julius Cæsar contrived to crowd together, that the Emperor Constantine, during his famous visit to Rome, is said to have been almost stupefied with amazement. Some such feeling is produced in our own minds when we reflect that the bewildering array of sculptures in the Roman galleries, admired by a concourse of pilgrims from every country, are but chance discoveries, unnoticed by history, and of no account in their own time. What must have been the feast of splendour of which these are but the crumbs!

Perhaps the most beautiful of the ruins of the Forum are the three marble columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux near the Basilica Julia. They are the only prominent objects on the south-west side of the Forum, and at once arrest the eye by their matchless symmetry and grace. Time has dealt very hardly with them, battering their shapely columns and rich Corinthian capitals, and discolouring their pure white Pentelic marble. But it has not succeeded in destroying their wonderful beauty; and the russet hues with which they have been stained by the long lapse of the ages have rather added to them the charm of antique picturesqueness. They rest upon a huge mound of broken masonry, in the interstices of which Nature has sown her seeds of minute life, which spread over it a tender pall of bright vegetation. The three columns are bound together by iron rods, and still further kept in position by the fragments of architrave and cornice supported by them. They are forty-eight feet in height and nearly five feet in diameter, while their flutings are nine inches across. Around the basement a large quantity of broken columns, capitals, and pedestals has been disinterred, some of which have acquired an historic renown on account of the purposes which they have served in the fine arts. Michael Angelo converted one huge fragment into the pedestal of the celebrated bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which he transferred from its original site in front of the Arch of Septimius Severus, where it had stood for thirteen or fourteen centuries, to the front of the Capitol; while out of another fragment Raphael carved the well-known statue of Jonah sitting on a whale, to be seen in the Chigi Chapel of Sta. Maria del Popolo, the only piece of sculpture executed by the immortal painter. The Italian Government has entirely excavated the ruins, and thus set at rest the numerous controversies among antiquaries regarding its true name.

The temple of Castor and Pollux probably dates as far back as the year 487 before Christ, when the dictator Postumius vowed to build a monument in commemoration of his victory at the great battle of Lake Regillus, with which the mythical history of Rome closes. It recalls the well-known romantic legend of the mysterious interference of the Dioscuri in that memorable struggle which Macaulay has woven into one of the most spirited of his Lays. The temple is supposed to have been erected on the spot where the divine Twins announced the victory to the people in the Forum at the close of the day. About twenty feet from the eastern corner of the temple are slight remains of a shallow oval basin, which has been identified as the lake or fountain of Juturna, the wife of Janus, the Sabine war-god, where the Dioscuri washed their armour and horses from the blood and dust of the fray. It was probably at first a natural spring gushing out of the tufa rock of the Palatine Hill, but being dried up, it became in later times a lacus or basin artificially supplied with water. For long ages afterwards the anniversary of the great battle was celebrated every year on the fifteenth of July by a splendid pageant worthy of the greatness of the empire. The Roman knights, clothed in purple robes, and crowned with olive wreaths, and bearing their trophies, first offered sacrifice in the shrine of Castor and Pollux, and then formed a procession, in which five thousand persons sometimes took part, which filed in front of the temple and marched through the city.

The original building having stood for nearly five hundred years, it began to exhibit signs of decay, and accordingly it was rebuilt upon the old foundations by Augustus, and dedicated by Tiberius. The podium or mass of rubble masonry therefore which we see beneath the three columns at the present day belongs to the time of the kings, while the columns themselves belong to the imperial period. Caligula used the temple as a vestibule to his palace on the Palatine Hill immediately behind. On the brow of that hill, separated only by the pavement of the modern street, projects a labyrinth of vaults, arches, and broken walls, a mighty maze of desolation without a plan, so interspersed with verdure and foliage that "it looks as much a landscape as a ruin." This is supposed to be the palace of Caligula; and its remains abundantly attest the extraordinary magnificence of this imperial domain, which contained all that was rich and rare from the golden East, from beyond the snowy Alps, and from Greece, the home of art. The substructions of this mighty ruin are truly astonishing; they are so vast, so massive, so enduring, that they seem as if built by giants. Concealed by modern houses built up against the foot of the palace, some of the remains of the famous bridge which Caligula threw obliquely over the Forum can be made out; two of the tall brick piers are visible above the houses, and in the gable of the outer house the spring of one of the arches can be distinctly seen. The bridge was constructed by Caligula for the purpose of connecting his palace with the Capitol, on the summit of which stood the magnificent Temple of Jupiter, so that, as he said himself, he might be able to converse conveniently with his colleague, the greatest of the gods! It is probable that it served more than one purpose; that it was used both as an aqueduct and a road for horses and chariots from the Palatine to the Capitol. Be this as it may, it must have been a stupendous structure, nearly a quarter of a mile long, and about a hundred feet high, striding over the whole diagonal of the Forum, with a double or triple tier of arches, like the remains of the Claudian aqueduct that spans the Campagna.

The immediate vicinity of the Temple of Castor and Pollux is full of interest to the classical student. To the right of it are the remains of the Regia or Royal Palace, the official residence of the early kings of Rome, and afterwards, during the whole period of the Republic, of the Pontifex Maximus, as the real head of the State as well as the Church. Numa Pompilius resided here in the hope that, by occupying neutral ground, he might conciliate the Latins of the Palatine and the Sabines of the Capitoline Hills. It was also the home of Julius Cæsar during the greater part of his life, where Calpurnia, his wife, dreamed that the pediment of the house had fallen down, and the sacred weapons in the Sacrarium were stirred by a supernatural power; an omen that was but too truly fulfilled when Cæsar went forth to the Forum on the fatal Ides of March, and was carried back a bloody corpse from the Curia of Pompey. It ceased to become the residence of the Pontifex when Augustus bought the house of Hortensius on the Palatine, and elected to dwell there instead; and was therefore given over to the Vestal Virgins to increase their scanty accommodation. The Atrium Vestæ, or convent of the Vestal Virgins, adjoined the Regia, and behind it, along the lower slope of the Palatine, stretched the sacred grove of Vesta, which seems to have been used as a place of privileged interment for the sisterhood, as a number of gravestones with the names of vestal virgins upon them were found in digging the foundations of the church of Sta. Maria Liberatrice in the seventeenth century. The residence of the Pontifex Maximus and of the Vestal Virgins, who were regarded as the highest and holiest personages in the State, gave an air of great respectability to this neighbourhood, and it became in consequence the fashionable quarter of Rome. Close beside the house of the Vestal Virgins was the far-famed Temple of Vesta, in which they ministered, whose podium or basement, which is a mere circular mound of rough masonry, may be seen on the spot.

The worship of Vesta, the goddess of the household fire, was one of the most primitive forms of religion. It doubtless arose from the great difficulty in prehistoric times of producing fire by rubbing two sticks against one another. Such a flame once procured would be carefully guarded against extinction in some central spot by the unmarried women of the household, who had nothing else to do. And from this central fire all the household fires of the settlement would be obtained. A relic of this prehistoric custom existed in the rule that if the sacred vestal fire was ever allowed to go out it could only be kindled anew by the primitive process of friction. The worship of Vesta survived an old world of exhausted craters and extinct volcanoes, with which was buried a world of lost nations. The Pelasgians brought to Italy the stone of the domestic hearth, the foundation of the family, and the tombstone, the boundary of the fields divided after the death of the head of the family, the foundation of property; and upon this double base arose the great distinctive edifice of the Roman Law, the special gift of Rome to the civilisation of the world. Rhea Sylvia, mother of Romulus, was a Vestal Virgin of Alba, which shows that the worship of Vesta existed in this region long before the foundation of Rome. The origin of the first temple and of the institutions of Vestal Virgins for its service was attributed to Numa Pompilius. The first building, as Ovid tells us, was constructed with wattled walls and a thatched roof like the primitive huts of the inhabitants. It was little more than a covered fireplace. It was the public hearth of the new city, round which were gathered all the private ones. On it burned continually the sacred fire, the symbol of the life of the state, which was believed to have been brought from Troy, and the continuance of which was connected by superstition with the fortunes of Rome. In the secret penetralia of the temple, where no man was allowed to enter, was kept with scrupulous care, for its preservation was equally bound up with the safety of the empire, the Palladium, or image of Pallas, saved from the destruction of Troy, and which was supposed to have originally fallen from heaven. The circular form and the domed roof of the temple were survivals of the prehistoric huts of the Aborigines, which were invariably round, as the traces of their foundations show. With the exception of the Palladium, which remained invisible during all the ages to ordinary mortal eyes until the destructive fire in the Forum, in the reign of Commodus, compelled the Vestal Virgins to expose it in removing it for safety to the imperial court, there was in primitive times no statue or material representation of the goddess except the sacred fire in the mysterious shrine of the temple. Indeed the Romans, as Plutarch tells us, raised no statue to the gods until the year of Rome 170. In this respect the religion of the Romans, whose divinities had no participation in the life and passions of men, and had nothing to do with the human form, differed widely from the religion of the Greeks, which, inspired by the sentiment of the beautiful in man and nature, gave birth to art.

The Temple of Vesta, as might have been expected, shared in all the wonderful changes of Roman history. It was abandoned when the Gauls entered Rome, and the Vestal Virgins took the sacred fire and the Palladium to Cære in Etruria for safety. It was destroyed two hundred and forty-one years before Christ, when L. Metellus, the Pontifex Maximus at the time, saved the Palladium with the loss of his eyesight, and consequently of his priesthood, for which a statue was erected to him in the Capitol. It was consumed in the great fire of Nero, and rebuilt by Vespasian, on some of whose coins it is represented. It was finally burnt down in the fire of Commodus, which destroyed at the same time many important buildings in the Forum. The worship of Vesta was prohibited by Gratianus in the year 382 of our era, and the public maintenance of the Vestal Virgins abandoned, in spite of the protestations of Symmachus and the forlorn hope of the pagan party. Great as was the reverence paid to the shrine of Vesta, not being a temple in the proper sense of the term, as it was not consecrated by augury, it had not the right of sanctuary. Mucius Scævola, the unfortunate Pontifex Maximus, was murdered beside the altar by order of Marius, and his blood sprinkled the image of the goddess; and Piso Licinianus, the adopted son of Galba, after the assassination of that emperor beside the Curtian Lake in the Forum, was dragged out from the innermost shrine of the temple, to which he had fled for refuge, and barbarously massacred at the door. But it is impossible to dwell upon all the remarkable events with which this haunted shrine of Rome's earliest and most beautiful worship is associated. Certainly no greater object of interest has been exhumed among all the antiquities of the Eternal City than the little round mass of shapeless masonry which has been identified beyond all reasonable doubt as the basement of the world-renowned temple, the household hearth of old Rome.

Opposite the Temple of Vesta, at the north-east corner of the Forum, where it ends, is the magnificent façade of the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, the most perfect of all the Roman temples. There are six splendid Corinthian columns in front and two at the sides, each composed of a single block of green ripple-marked Cipollino marble, about forty-six feet in height and five feet in diameter, with bases and capitals of marble, originally white, but now rusty and discoloured by age; all beautifully proportioned and carved in the finest style of ancient art. These columns were buried to half their height in medieval times; and houses were built up against and between them, the marks of whose roofs are still visible in indentations near their summits. These houses were removed, and the ground excavated down to the bases of the columns in the sixteenth century by Palladio, revealing a grand flight of marble steps, twenty-one in number, leading up to the temple from the street. The excavations at that time were made for the purpose of finding marbles and building materials for the Church of St. Peter's. Two sides of the cella of the temple still remain, formed by large massive blocks of peperino, probably taken from the second wall of Rome, which must have passed very near to the east end of this temple; for the ancient Roman architects were as unscrupulous in appropriating the relics of former ages as their successors. The roughness of these walls was hidden by an outer casing of marble, ornamented with pilasters, of which only the small capitals now remain. Both the cella and the portico still retain a large portion of their magnificent marble entablature; and the frieze and cornice are richly covered with carvings of vases and candelabra, guarded by griffins, exquisite in design and execution. The marble slabs that covered the whole outside of the temple had been burnt for lime in a kiln that stood in front of the portico in the sixteenth century, and in this lime-kiln were found fragments of statues, bas-reliefs, and inscriptions, which were about to be destroyed in that barbarous fashion.

The temple was originally begun by Antoninus Pius to the memory of his unworthy wife Faustina in the year 142 of our era, but being unfinished at his death, it was dedicated by the senate to both their names. We see it represented in all its magnificence on some of the coins of this emperor. In the year 1430 Pope Martin V. built over its remains a church called S. Lorenzo in Miranda, whose singular ugliness was in striking contrast to the grandeur of the venerable ruin which embraced it. The floor of this church was ten feet above the original level of the temple, and its roof was carried twenty feet above its cornice. It contained several tombs of the Roman apothecaries, to whose Corporation it belonged. No one will regret that it has been removed; the excavations in front of it having reduced the level of the ground far below its doorway, and thus cut off the approach. It is strange to think of the two different kinds of worship carried on at such widely separated intervals within this remarkable building, first a pagan temple and then a Christian church—worship so different in name and yet so like in reality; for the divine honours paid to a mortal emperor and his wife were transferred in after ages to frail mortals such as Saint Laurence and the Virgin Mary. We are reminded by the inscription above the portico of the temple, "Divo Antonino et Divæ Faustina," that the government of the Cæsars had become an earthly omnipotence in the estimation of the Romans and the subject nations. They looked alone to Cæsar for all their good, and from him they feared their chiefest evil. He had become to them their providence or their fate. The adoration offered to him was not a mere act of homage or sign of fealty, but was most truly and in the highest sense a worship as to a divine being.

The view in this part of the Forum, looking down from the Antonine Temple, is most striking and suggestive. It reveals some of the grandest objects of ancient Rome. Immediately beyond is the hoary old church of SS. Cosma e Damiano, with mosaics of the sixth century on its tribune, built out of three ancient temples, as Dr. Parker has clearly proved—the round Temple of Romulus Maxentius, the Temple of Venus, and the Temple of Rome. The south wall of this last-mentioned temple, built of huge square blocks of tufa, to which the marble plan of Rome was fastened by metal hooks, may still be seen in the church; and it is interesting as being the last pagan temple which remained in use in Rome. Here was the last struggle of paganism with the unbelief which itself inspired. The gods of the Pantheon had lost all significance. The worship of abstract qualities, such as Concord and Victory, or of the personification of a local providence in the city of Rome itself, could not satisfy the longing of the human soul. As religion decayed the worship of the gods was superseded by the worship of the emperor. Their statues were decapitated and the head of the emperor was placed upon them. On the statue of Olympic Jove appeared the bust of the contemptible Caligula; and this incongruous adaptation represented the change of the popular faith from its former heavenly idealisations to the most grovelling fetish worship of the time. This deification of the emperors avenged its terrible blasphemy by the sublime wickedness of those who were so raised above humanity. Here, in this last pagan temple of Rome, converted into one of the earliest Christian churches, we see the darkness and despair of the heathen world preparing for that joyful morning light of Christianity which has transferred the faith of mankind to foundations which can never more be shaken. Immediately beyond in the background are the huge gloomy arches of the Basilica of Constantine, fretted with coffers, suspended in mid-air for upwards of sixteen centuries, in defiance of the laws of gravity and the ravages of time and of human destroyers, taken as a model for churches by Roman architects, though built originally for a law court. In front is the Arch of Titus, with its well-known sculptures of the spoils from the Temple of Jerusalem, spanning the highest point of the Via Sacra. And closing up the view is the grandest ruin in the world, the stupendous broken circle of the Colosseum, rising tier above tier into the blue sky, burnt deep brown by the suns of ages, holding the spectator breathless with wonder, and thrilling the mind with the awful associations connected with it.

The Forum lies like an open sepulchre in the heart of old Rome. All is death there; the death of nature and the death of a race whose long history has done more to shape the destiny of the world than any other. The soil beneath our feet is formed by the ashes of an extinct fire, and by the dust of a vanished empire. Everywhere the ruins of time and of man are mingled with the relics of an older creation; and the sculptured marbles of the temples and law courts, where Cæsar worshipped and Cicero pled, lie scattered amid the tufa-blocks, the cinders of the long quiescent volcanoes of the Campagna. Nature and man have both accomplished their work in this spot; and the relics they have left behind are only the exuviæ of the chrysalis out of which the butterfly has emerged, or the empty wave-worn shells left high and dry upon an ancient coast-line. It is a remarkable circumstance that the way in which the Forum originated was the very way in which it was destroyed. The cradle of Roman greatness became its tomb. The Forum originated in the volcanic fires of earth; it passed away in the incendiary fires of man. In the month of May 1084 the Norman leader, Robert Guiscard, came with his troops to rescue Gregory VII. from the German army which besieged Rome. Then broke out—whether by accident or design is not known—the terrible conflagration which extended from the Capitol to the Coelian Hill, but raged with the greatest intensity in the Forum. In that catastrophe classical Rome passed away, and from the ashes of the fire arose the Phoenix of modern Rome. The greatest of physical empires was wrecked on this spot, and out of the wreck was constructed the greatest spiritual empire the world has ever known. For the Roman Pontificate, to use the famous saying of Hobbes, was but the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.