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ANTEMN/E AND FIDEN/E.
(This is a pleasant afternoon's drive. Pedestrians may vary the way by going first to the Acqua Acetosa (see Walks in Rome, ii. 420), and turning to the right across the hill of Antemnae to the Ponte Salara.)
LEAVING the Porta Salara, by which Alaric entered Rome (August 24, 410), the Via Salara runs between the walls of half-deserted villas till it reaches the brow of the hill above the Anio. Here, on the left, about two miles from the city, is the green hill-side, which was once the site of the "Turrigerae Antemnae "* of Virgil, one of the most ancient cities of Italy.
"Antemnaque prisco Crustumio prior."
SUius Ital. viii. 367.
"Not a tree—not a shrub on its turf-grown surface—not a house—not a ruin—not one stone upon another, to tell you the site had been inhabited. Yet here once stood Antemnae, the city of many towers. Not a trace remains above-ground. Even the broken pottery, that infallible indicator of bygone civilization, which marks the site and determines the limits of habitation on many a now desolate spot of classic ground, is here so overgrown with herbage that the eye of an antiquary would alone detect it. It is a site strong by nature, and well adapted for a city, as cities then were; for it is scarcely larger than the Palatine Hill, which, though at first it embraced the whole of Rome, was afterwards too small for a single palace. It has a peculiar interest as the site of one of the three cities of Sabina, whose daughters, ravished
by the followers of Romulus, became the mothers of the Roman race." •—Dennis.
"It would seem that the high point nearest the road was the citadel; and the descent of two roads, now scarcely perceptible, one toward Fidenae and the bridge, and the other toward Rome, marks the site of a gate. On the other side of the knoll of the citadel is a cave, with signs of artificial cutting in the rock, being a sepulchre under the walls. There was evidently a gate also in the hollow which runs from the platform of the city to the junction of the Aniene and the Tiber, where there is now a little islet. Probably there was another gate toward the meadows, on the side of the Acqua Acetosa, and another opposite; and from these two gates, which the nature of the soil points out, one road must have run up a valley, tending in the direction of the original Palatium of Rome; and the other must have passed by a ferry toward Veii, up the valley near the present Torre di Quinto. It is not uninteresting to observe how a city, destroyed at a period previous to what is now called that of authentic history, should, without even one stone remaining, preserve indications of its former existence. From the height of Antemnae, is a fine view of the field of battle between the Romans and the Fidenates, whence Tullus Hostilius despatched M. Horatius to destroy the city of Alba Longa. The isthmus, where the two roads from Palatium and Veii met, unites with the city a higher eminence, which may have been another citadel. The beauty of the situation is such, that it is impossible it should not have been selected as the site of a villa in the flourishing times of Rome.
"The spot is frequently adverted to in the early periods of history. Servius, Varro, and Festus, agree that Antemnae was so called, 'quasi ante amnem posita.' "—Gell.
Just below the site of Antemnae the Via Salara crossed the Anio by a fine old bridge built by Narses in the sixth century upon the site of the famous Ponte Salara, where Manlius fought with the Gaul. The bridge was blown up during the panic caused by the approach of Garibaldi and the insurgents in 1867 (see Walks in Rome, ii. 19), and the ruins, which were of the greatest interest, were destroyed by the Government in 1874. Beyond the ugly modern bridge
* The other two were Csecina and Crustumium.
is a great mediaeval tower, Torre Salara, built upon a Roman tomb, which is itself used as an Osteria.
The road now runs for several miles through a plain called the Prato Rotondo, the scene of the battle which led to the destruction of Alba.
When the combat between the Horatii and Curiatii was agreed upon, "the compact had been, that the nation whose champions should be victorious, was to command the obedience and service of the other: and the Albans fulfilled it. When Fidenae, however, having driven out or overpowered the Roman colonists, was defending itself with the help of the Veientines against Tullus and the Romans, in the battle that ensued, the Romans stood against the Veientines: on the right, over igainst the Tidenates, were the Albans under their dictator Mettius Fuffetius. Faithless, and yet irresolute, he drew them off from the conflict to the hills. The Etruscans, seeing that he did not keep his engagement, and suspecting that he meant to attack their flank, gave way, and fled along his line ; when the twofold traitor fell upon them in their disorder, in the hope of cloaking his treachery. The Roman King feigned himself deceived. On the following day the two armies were summoned to receive their praises and rewards. The Albans came without their arms, were surrounded by the Roman troops, and heard the sentence of the inexorable King; that, as their dictator had broken his faith both to Rome and to the Etruscans, he should in like manner be torn in pieces by horses driven in opposite directions, while, as for themselves and their city, they should be removed to Rome, and Alba should be destroyed."—Niebuhr, i. 349.
"On the same field was fought many a bloody fight between the Romans and Etruscans. Here, in the year of Rome 317, the Fidenates, with their allies of Veii and Kalerii, were again defeated, and Lars Tolumnius, chief of the Veientines, was slain. And a few years later, Mamilius ^Emilius and Cornelius Cossus, the heroes of the former fight, routed the same foes in the same plain, and captured the city of Fidenoe. Here, too, Annibal seems to have pitched his camp when he marched from Capua to surprise the City."—Dennis.
A low range of hills now skirts the road on the right, and a few crumbling bits of wall near some old bay-trees are pointed out as fragments of the Villa of Phaon, the freedman of Nero, where the emperor died.
"The Hundred Days of Nero were drawing rapidly to a close. He was no longer safe in the city. . . He would have thrown himself into the Tiber, but his courage failed him. He must have time, he said, and repose to collect his spirits for suicide, and his freedman Phaon at last offered him his villa in the suburbs, four miles from the city. In undress and bare-footed, throwing a rough cloak over his shoulders, and a kerchief across his face, he glided through the doors, mounted a horse, and, attended by Sporus and three others, passed the city gates with the dawn of the summer morning. The Nomentane road led him beneath the wall of the praetorians, whom he might hear uttering curses against him, and pledging vows to Galba; and the early travellers from the country asked him as they met, What news of Nero? or remarked to one another, These men are pursuing the tyrant. Thunder and lightning, and a shock of earthquake, added horror to the moment. Nero's horse started at a dead body on the road-side, the kerchief fell from his face, and a praetorian passing by recognized and saluted him. At the fourth milestone the party quitted the highway, alighted from their horses, and scrambled on foot through a com-brake, laying their own cloaks to tread on, to the rear of the promised villa. Phaon now desired Nero to crouch in a sand-pit hard by, while he contrived to open the drain from the bath-room, and so admit him unperceived ; but he vowed he would not go alive, as he said, under-ground, and remained trembling beneath the wall. Taking water in his hand from a puddle, This, he said, is the famous drink of Nero. At last a hole was made, through which he crept on all fours into a narrow chamber of the house, and there threw himself on a pallet. The coarse bread that was offered him he could not eat, but swallowed a little tepid water. Still he lingered, his companions urging him to seek refuge, without delay, from the insults about to be heaped on him. He ordered them to dig a grave, and himself lay down to give the measure; he desired them to collect bits of marble to decorate his sepulchre, and prepare water to cleanse and wood to burn his corpse, sighing meanwhile, and muttering, What an artist to perish I Presently a slave of Phaon's brought papers from Rome, which Nero snatched from him, and read that the senate had proclaimed him an enemy, and decreed his death, in the ancient fashion. He asked what that was? and was informed that the culprit was stripped, his head placed in a fork, and his body smitten with a stick till death. Terrified at this announcement, he took two daggers from his bosom, tried their edge one after the other, and again laid them down, alleging that the moment was not yet arrived. Then he called on Sporus to commence his funeral lamentations; then he implored some of the party to set him the example; once and again he reproached
DE A TH OF NERO.
himself with his own timidity. FUI Nero, fie! he muttered in Greek, Courage, man! come, rouse thee! Suddenly was heard the trampling of horsemen, sent to seize the culprit alive. Then at last, with a verse of Homer hastily ejaculated, Sound of swift-fooled steeds strikes on my ears, he placed a weapon to his breast, and the slave Epaphroditus drove it home. The blow was scarcely struck, when the centurion rushed in, and thrusting his cloak against the wound, pretended he was come to help him. The dying wretch could only murmur, Too late, and, Is this your fidelity? and expired with a horrid stare on his countenance. He had adjured his attendants to burn his body, and not let the foe bear off his head j and this was now allowed him: the corpse was consumed with haste and imperfectly, but at least without mutilation."—Merivale's Hist, of Romans under the Empire, vii. 45.
"Neron vit que tout était perdu. Son esprit faux ne lui suggérait que des idées grotesques: se revêtir d'habits de deuil, aller haranguer le peuple en cet accoutrement, employer toute sa puissance scénique pour exciter la compassion, et obtenir ainsi le pardon du passé, ou, faute de mieux, la préfecture de l'Egypte. Il écrivit son discours; on lui fit remarquer qu'avant d'arriver au forum, il serait mis en pièces. Il se coucha: se réveillant au milieu de la nuit, il se trouva sans gardes; on pillait déjà sa chambre. Il sort, frappe à diverses portes, personne ne répond. Il rentre, veut mourir, demande le mirmillon Spiculus, brillant tueur, une des célébrités de l'amphithéâtre. Tout le monde s'écarte. Il sort de nouveau, erre seul dans les rues, va pour se jeter dans le Tibre, revient sur ses pas. Le monde semblait faire le vide autour de lui. Phaon, son affranchi, lui offrit alors pour asile sa villa située entre la voie Salaria et la voie Nomentane, vers la quatrième bome milliare. Le malheureux, à peine vetu, couvert d'un méchant manteau, monté sur un cheval misérable, le visage enveloppé pour n'être pas reconnu, partit accompagné de trois ou quatre de ses affranchis, parmi lesquels étaient Phaon, Sporus, Epaphrodite, son secrétaire. Il ne faisait pas encore jour; en sortant par la porte Colline, il entendit au camp des prétoriens, près duquel il passait, les cris des soldats qui le maudissaient et proclamaient Galba. Un écart de son cheval, amené par la puanteur d'un cadavre jeté sur le chemin, le fit reconnaître. Il put cependant atteindre la villa de Phaon, en se glissant à plat ventre sous les broussailles et en se cachant derrière les roseaux.
'' Son esprit drolatique, son argot de gamin ne l'abandonnèrent pas. On voulut le blottir dans un trou à Pouzzolane comme on en voit beaucoup en ces parages. Ce fut pour lui l'occasion d'un mot à effet!