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of augur, as the highest point of their ambition. We scarce need notice here, the strong attachment of the common people to their public games and festivals, and the vast num. bers of both sexes, who as priests and vestal virgins, or nuns, were connected with the temples and the sacred rites. The hills and the fountains were the favorite seats of these temples and shrines of the gods, and their former sites, on the heights of Anxur, the Alban Mount, at the fountain of Egeria, and numerous other places, are now occupied by chapels and convents, erected to the honor, and bearing the names, not indeed of the deified heroes and demigods of antiquity, but of their lineal successors in rank and reverence,the saints of the Catholic church. These heathen chapels were so numerous, even in the fields adjoining Rome, that the poet Ovid speaks as if there was danger of mistaking them for sheepfolds. He says, –
“Forgive the crime, if, midst the wintry train,
My flock I've sheltered in the rustic fane." We learn from history, that in the three hundred and eightieth year after the birth of Christ, when, for successive centuries, Christianity had been lessening the number of pagan worshippers, and for sixty years had been the established religion of the empire, there still remained in Rome alone, four hundred and twenty-four temples and chapels of idol worship. How nuinerous then must these same places have been, when Paganism saw the period of her brightest glory. And what vast numbers of persons were there, who derived their support from laboring in the erection of these temples, and from making or selling shrines, images, and statues, and the incense, and the numerous beasts, required for the frequent and costly sacrifices to the gods.
And now we ask, what was the influence, upon the character and morals of the people, of all this mighty and combined machinery of church and state? The reply is obvious. Like other systems of paganism, the religion of ancient Rome, in the days of its highest glory, had a direct and powerful effect in corrupting and degrading its votaries, by promoting and enforcing the practice of many gross and debasing crimes. And here, I need not shock your feelings, by describing those filthy and licentious rites, connected with the worship of some of the principal gods. Paul, when alluding to these things, said truly, that it is a shame so much as to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” Indeed, the histories of Jupiter and Juno, of Bacchus, Mercury, and Venus, taught little else than drunkenness and lewdness, and theft and fraud. And if such was the character of the gods themselves, what better could be expected of their worshippers. I have already spoken of the light which was thrown upon the deep and dark corruption of Roman manners and morals, by the discoveries recently made at Herculaneum and Pompeii. These, however, serve only to confirm the truth of what the works of early writers had before made but too obvious.
But here, turning from the Pantheon and the numerous Other splendid temples of the ancient faith, which, entire or in ruins, still greet the eye of the traveller, let us look for a moment at the Coliseum and those other gigantic structures, which were erected as places of public amusement. When speaking of these, how freshly does there rise to the mind the scene which presented itself when visiting the widespread ruins of the Palatine hill at Rome. It was the spot where the thatched cottage of Romulus, the founder of the city, was built, and this was succeeded by the structures of following sovereigns, each surpassing in splendor the one that preceded it, until the acme of magnificence was reached by the golden house of Nero. The entrance of this edifice was more than one hundred and twenty feet high; the galJeries were each a mile long, and the whole was covered with gold. The roofs of the dining-halls represented the firmament in motion, as well as in figure, and continually turned round, night and day, showering down all sorts of perfumes and sweet waters. The whole palace was profusely adorned with gold and precious stones, and enclosed spacious fields, and artificial lakes, woods, gardens, orchards, and whatever could exhibit beauty and grandeur. We strolled amid the damp and broken arches which now are all that remain of the palace of the Cæsars, until, rising above them, we threaded our way along lonely by-paths, enclosed by a rank growth of weeds and bushes, until we stood on the pavement of what was once the dining-hall of the palace. From thence, the Roman emperors used to give the signal for the games to commence in the Circus Maximus which lay directly below, and, from the windows, looked out upon the eager contests. The outlines of this vast Amphitheatre may still be traced by the eye, though a vineyard now occupies its former site. It was built by Tarquinius Priscus, and adorned and enlarged by Julius Cæsar and the successive emperors, until, in the time of Constantine, it held three hundred and eighty thousand spectators. What a tremendously exciting scene inust such a mighty mass of human beings have presented, when their hellish passions were aroused, to the highest pitch, by beholding the torrents of blood which Aowed from the wounds of those, whe, on the wide-spread arena below, engaged in savage and deadly combat with beasts of prey, or with their fellow-men. How, more horrid than the wailings of despair, must their shouts of terrific applause have fallen on the ear, and pierced the inmost soul of one, not dead to every thought of kindness and humanity. How does the heart sicken, and the cheek turn pale with horror, at the bare recital of these scenes of blood. There were the matrons of the city, and the Vestal virgins, too, robed in the garb of piety. Yes, woman,-sensitive and delicate woman,-- there sought for pleasure, and, with a vampyre's thirst for blood, feasted her eyes on these revolting horrors. Such were the morals of the Romans, in the days of their pride and glory. Such was the corruption, and the deep and hardened depravity, which marked all classes, from the slave who delved in the sewer, to the Emperor who sat upon the throne. Yet over all this depravity Christianity triumphed, thus giving convincing evidence of her origin from God.
The Coliseum of Rome, and the Pyramids of Egypt, are among the largest, noblest, and most durable structures of antiquity which are now to be met with on the face of the earth. The Coliseum, too, from the fact that we know so much of its history, is a place of higher and more definite moral interest than almost any other of the numerous relics of the olden time. It was commenced by the Emperor Vespasian, and completed by his son Titus, eighty years after the birth of Christ. It is built of large blocks of marble, of a brown, or dark yellow hue, is seventeen hundred feet in circumference, and thus covers a space five or six acres in extent. The outer walls, which rise to the height of one hundred and sixty feet, are divided into four stories, the three lower of which have each a row of arches, eighty in number, extending round the whole building, and are embellished with columns, ihe first story of Ionic, the second of Doric, and the third of the Corinthian order of architecture. The fourth story has Corinthian pilasters, and has nlso windows, instead of open arches. There were twenty staircases, and, of the eighty arches in the lower story, seventy-six were for the entrance of the people, two for the gladiators, and two for the Emperor and his suite. Five concentric tiers of seats, beginning at a slight elevation above the arena, where the contests took place, rose, on an ascending and retreating plain, one above the other, to the height of one hundred and sixty feet. Each story had a spacious, circular-covered corridor, or gallery, extending round the whole building, and from these there were side passages leading both to the staircases and the seats. The benches are supposed to have accommodated eighty-seven thousand spectators, and the gallery above them upwards of twenty thousand. Over all this immense structure, an awning was drawn, by means of cords, when it rained, or when the sun was oppressive. Recent excavations have discovered beneath the arena extensive vaults and passages, which are supposed to have been used as places of confinement for the wild beasts required in the combats, as also for carrying off the water with which the arena was flooded when sea fights were exhibited there. The lower seats, which were raised about fourteen feet above the arena, were occupied by the Emperor, the priests and Vestal virgins, the senators, and the higher classes of magistrates. From thence they could witness the combats, while they were made safe from the wild beasts by means of horizontal iron rollers, which turned in their sockets, as well as by strong nets, which, in the time of Nero, were knotted with amber, and afterwards, were made of golden cord or wire. Ditches filled with water also surrounded the arena, as a protection against elephants, and other large and powerful animals. I need not describe the numerous marble columns that adorned the Attic corridor which rose above the lofty walls, nor the statues of the heroes and the gods of antiquity, nor the rich profusion of wealth and splendor, which gave the interior of this vast structure an air of more than oriental magnificence. But the highest point of luxurious indulgence was reached, when, by means of concealed conduits, which were carried through all parts of the building, richly scented liquids were, as if by magic, scattered over the numerous spectators. Sometimes, the statues which were used for ornament seemed to sweat perfumes, through minute holes, with which the pipes that traversed them were pierced. To this the poet Lucan alludes, when he says,
“At once, by secret pipes and channels fed,
Rich tinctures gush from every antique head:
Such was the Coliseum, of which it has been truly said, that the expense of its building would have sufficed to erect á capital city, - a monument, surpassed in magnitude by the pyramids alone, and as far superior to them in skill, and varied contrivance of design, as to other buildings in its gigantic magnitude. At its consecration, the Emperor Titus exhibited gladiatorial shows during a hundred days, and the people were gratified by beholding, as some say, five thousand, and as others claim, nine thousand beasts of prey, and some thousands of gladiators perish on the bloody arena. When this scene had passed, the arena was filled with water, on whose surface numerous galleys floated, between which a sea fight took place. Among other incredible seats of the folly and extravagance of after times, we are told, that on occasion of one of these naval battles, a sovereign of Rome filled the arena with wine. Vopiscus says, that a thousand ostriches, a thousand stags, and a thousand boars, were thrown into the arena at once, by the Emperor Probus, and that he exhibited a splendid hunting-match, after the following manner. Large trees, torn up by the roots, were firmly connected by beams, and fixed upright; then earth was spread over the roots, so that the whole circus was planted to resemble a wood.
I have been thus minute in these details, because a general description has thus been given, of the plan on which the theatres, amphitheatres, and other places of public amusement throughout the Roman empire, were built, while at the same time, a dark and fearful, yet sure and certain, light has been cast upon the character and morals of the ancient Romans. Such, then, was this royal slaughter-house, erected and adorned at a vast expense. And for what? That a powerful and polished people, the masters of the world, might there behold the deadly combat between savage beasts and still more savage men, trained to the highest point of strength and skill in arms, and urged madly on by martial music and the loud applause of those who sent their hellish shouts to heaven, as their accursed thirst for blood and carnage was glutted to the full. There, at midnight, began to assemble those anxious to behold the sports of the coming day; and the throng