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It was in one of the most lovely nights ever seen under an Italian sky, that the steamer in which we had embarked from Genoa came within sight of the coast of the Papal dominions. The moon had risen in her queen-like beauty, and as she rode high above us in the heavens, every wave of the Mediterranean seemed tinged with her radiance. Felucca, polacre, xebec, and other strange looking craft, were floating lazily on the sea, while our own vessel, as she glided through the blue waters, left a track of molten silver to mark her way. The cool fresh breeze which came sweeping over the sea was far more grateful than the heated air of the cabin, and we remained long on deck, seeing as we passed, on the one hand, Napoleon's miniature kingdom of Elba, and on the other, the long line of the main land, which owes submission to his Holiness, Gregory XVI.
At sunrise the next morning we entered the harbor of Civita Vecchia, the nearest approach which can be made by sea to the city of Rome. The remaining distance, fifty-two miles, must be travelled by land. Ostia, the ancient port, in which during the days of the republic her galleys rode, where Scipio Africanus embarked for Spain, and Claudius for Britain, is indeed but sixteen miles from the city, and was formerly much nearer, but the gradual accumulation of sand has entirely destroyed its harbor. After it was sacked by the Saracens in the fifth century, no attempt was made to restore it. The salt marshes which Livy mentions as exist
ing in the days of Ancus Martius, gradually encroached on the one side, and the sand was drifted over it from the sea on the other, until this city, which once contained eighty thousand inhabitants, now has only about fifty souls living in wretchedness among its ruins. We passed it in the steamer some months afterwards on our way up from Naples; but the site is only marked by the remains of a temple and theatre almost concealed by brambles, and a picturesque old fortress erected during the middle ages, with two solitary pine trees standing in front of it. And yet, this place was once a suburb of imperial Rome-from thence the old consuls went forth to victory, and there they landed to commence their triumphs as they entered the city.
Civita Vecchia, with its fortress erected from plans furnished by Michael Angelo, and its long ramparts, presents a striking view from the sea, which you find, on landing, the reality by no means justifies. It has, however, some traces of antiquity, for the massive stonework of its port was built under the direction of Trajan, (the younger Pliny describes it as the "Trajani Portus,") and here, as at Terracina, the bronze rings by which the Roman galleys were made fast to the quays still remain. The immense prisons lining the basin have a bright appearance which contrasts strangely with the gloomy object to which they are devoted. When we came on deck at dawn, the galley-slaves, in their parti-colored dresses, were just marching out to work, attended by a strong guard of soldiers. Their number is said to be nearly twelve hundred, and the clanking of their chains as they walked was the first sound which greeted us from the States of the Church.
The manner in which we were fleeced on all sides at this port of his Holiness, was a foretaste of what we were to expect in Italy. You first pay sundry pauls* for being rowed
* A paul or paulo, is about eleven cents.
"Why, wedded to the Lord, still yearns my heart
That from my eye the tear is fain to start?