BLTC Press Titles

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Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Characters of Theophrastus


History of the Roman republic

by Jules Michelet


From the summit of the Apennines, whose long chain, extending from Lombardy to Sicily, forms, as it were, the dorsal spine of Italy, descend .towards the west two deep and rapid rivers—the Tiber, and the Anio—Tevere, Teverone; they unite in order then to fall together into the sea. In a remote antiquity, the lands situate to the north of the Tiber and the south of the Anio were occupied by two civilized nations—the Tusci and the Osci, or Ausonii. Between the two rivers and the two nations, the barbarian and warlike country of the Sabines stretched in the form of a lance-head towards the sea. It was toward the point of this delta, that, seven or eight hundred years before our era, Rome arose, the great Italian city, who, unfolding her bosom to the various races by which she was surrounded, subjected Italy by Latium, and by Italy the world.

This country is now depopulated; of the thirty-five tribes, the majority are scarce represented by a half ruined villa.1 Although Rome is still a great city, the desert commences within its very walls. The foxes who hide themselves all day in the ruins of the Palatine hill, go at night to drink in the Velabrum.2 The flocks of goats, the great oxen, the half-wild horses you meet there, in the very midst of the noise and luxury of a modern capital, recal to you the solitude which surrounds the city. If you pass the gates, direct your steps towards one of the

1 Bonstetten, Voyage sur le theatre ties six derniers livres de VEneide. 'Id. ib. 13.

blue summits which crown this melancholy landscape, and follow, across the Pontine marshes, the indestructible Appian way, you will find tombs, aqueducts, perhaps even some deserted farm, with its monumental arches; but no cultivation, no movement, no life; at distances, a flock, guarded by a ferocious dog, which flies upon the passersby like a wolf, or a buffalo, raising its black head above the marshes, while, in the east, flocks of rooks stoop from the mountains with hoarse croakings. If you turn towards Ostia or Adea, you will probably see a few miserable creatures in rags, hideously meagre, and trembling with ague. In the beginning of the present century, a traveller found in Ostia no other population than three old women who were taking care of the town during the summer. His young guide, a boy of fifteen, who shared his provisions, said to him, his eye glittering with fever: "And I also know what meat is; I tasted it once."1

Amidst this misery and desolation, the country preserves a singularly imposing and grand character. Those lakes upon mountains, in a frame, as it were, of beautiful beeches and superb oaks; that Nemi, the mirror of the Tauric Diana, speculum Diana; that Albano, the antique seat of the religions of Latium; those heights, which, command the plain on every side, form a crown worthy of Rome. It is from Monte Musino, the ara mutim of the Etruscans2—it is from its dark and gloomy grove that you should contemplate the Poussin landscape. In days of storm, more especially when the heavy sirocco weighs down upon the plain, and the dust rises in whirling eddies, then does the capital of the world appear in all her sombre majesty.

When you have passed the Piazza del Popolo, and the Egyptian obelisk which adorns it, you will proceed down the long and mournful Strada del Corso, which yet is the most animated street in Rome. Follow it to the Capitol; mount the Senators' palace between the statue of Marcus Aurelius and the trophies of Marius, and you find yourself in the very asylum of Romulus, intermontium. This elevated spot separates the town of the living from the town of the dead. In the first, which covers the ancient Campus Martius, you distinguish the columns of Trajan and Antoninus, the Pantheon, and the most daring edifice of the modern world, Saint Peter's.

1 Bonstetten, Voyage sur le theatre des six dcrnicrs litres de I Encide. ! See, respecting this mountain, Sir W. Gell's Topography of the Environs of Rome.

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