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Albano, is the very picturesque mediaeval town of Marino, which has been identified, from inscriptions which have been found there, as occupying the site of Castrimonium, a town fortified by Sylla, and which continued to be a " municipium" to the time of Antoninus Pius. As, in the Middle Ages, Colonna was a principal fortress of the family of that name, so Marino was the stronghold of the great rival family of the Orsini, from whom, however, it was wrested in the 14th century by the Colonnas, who built the walls which still remain.
Beyond the town is the beautiful glen called Parco Colonna, once the "Lucus FerentinaV' which was the meeting-place of the Latin league after the destruction of Alba. A pleasant walk leads up the valley through the green wood fresh with rushing streams and carpeted with flowers, to a pool formed by several springs, with an old statue and remains of 17th-century grottoes. One of the small springs on the right is pointed out as the " Caput Aquae FerentinaV where Turnus Herdonius of Aricia, who had inveighed against the pride of Tarquinius Superbus and warned his countrymen against placing any trust in him, having been accused of plotting the death of the King and condemned by the great council of the Latins, was drowned in the shallow water, being held down by a hurdle, upon which stones were piled.*
• Livy, i. 50—53.
(An excursion should be made to Veii before the weather becomes too hot for enjoyment in walking about its steep ravines. A sunny day in February is the best time to choose.)
IT is a drive of about an hour and a half from Rome to Veii. At first we follow the Via Cassia, one of the three roads which led to Cisalpine Gaul, and which passed through the centre of Etruria: Cicero says—" Etruriam discriminat Cassia." It is now one of the pleasantest drives near the city, with its high upland views over the wide plains of the Campagna to the towns which sparkle in the sun under the rifted purple crags of the Sabina, or down bosky glades studded with old cork-trees, whose rich dark green forms a charming contrast to the burnt grass and poetic silvery thistles. Three miles from Rome, on a bank on the left of the road, is the fine sarcophagus adorned with griffins in low relief, which is popularly known as Nero's tomb, and is really that of Publius Vibius Marianus and his wife Reginia Maxima. Beyond this, on the right, is the castellated farm-house of Buon-Ricovero, picturesquely situated with pine trees upon a grassy knoll.
About 10 miles from Rome we reach the dismal posthouse of La Storta, where, in vetturino days, horses were changed for the last time before reaching the city. Just beyond this the by-road to Veii turns off on the right. As we wind along the hill-sides, we see below us the picturesque little mediaeval town of Isola Farnese.
"From La Storta it is a mile and a half to Isola by the carriage road; but the visitor, on horse or foot, may save half a mile by taking a pathway across the downs. When Isola Farnese comes into sight, let him halt awhile to admire the scene. A wide sweep of Campagna lies before him, in this part broken into ravines or narrow glens, which, by varying the lines of the landscape, redeem it from the monotony of a plain, and by patches of wood relieve it of its usual nakedness and sterility. On a steep cliff, about a mile distant, stands the village of Isola—a village in fact, but in appearance a large chateau, with a few out-houses around it. Behind it rises the long, swelling ground, which once bore the walls, temples, and palaces of Veii, but is now a bare down, partly fringed with wood, and without a single habitation on its surface. At a few miles distance rises the conical tufted hill of Musino, the supposed scene of ancient rites, the Eleusis, the Delphi, it may be, of Etruria. The eye is then caught by a tree-crested mound or tumulus, standing in the plain beyond the site of the city; then it stretches away to the triple paps of the Monticelli, and to Tivoli, gleaming from the dark slopes behind; and then it rises and scans the majestic chain of Apennines, bounding the horizon with their dark-grey masses, and rests with delight on La Leonessa and other well-known giants of the Sabine range, all capt with snow. Oh, the beauty of that range! From whatever part of the Campagna you view it, it presents those long, sweeping outlines, those grand, towering crests—not of Alpine abruptness, but consistently with the character of the land, preserving, even when soaring highest, tiie true Italian dignity and repose—the otium cum dignitate of Nature." —Dennis' Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria.
The fortress, which clings more than half-dismantled to the crumbling tufa-rock, was built by the barons of the Middle Ages, was constantly taken and retaken in the Orsini and Colonna feuds, and was eventually ruined by Caesar Borgia when he took it after a twelve days' siege.
ISO LA FARNESE. 133
Here we must leave our carriage and find and engage the
custode who opens the painted tomb. A deep lane between high banks of tufa overhung by bay and ilex, leads into the ravine, where a brook called Fosso de' due Fossi (from the two little torrents, Storta and Pino, of which it is formed) tumbles over a steep rock into the chasm near an old mill, and rushes away down the glen to join the Crimera. The craggy hill-side is covered with luxuriant foliage, and snowdrifted with laurestinus-bloom in spring; the ground is carpeted with violets and blue and white wood-anemonies. Beyond the mill, where we cross the brook upon steppingstones, a small gateway of mediaeval times, opening upon a green lawn overhanging the chasm, with the castle of Isola crowning the opposite cliff, forms a subject dear to artists, and many are the picnics which meet on the turfy slope under the shade of the old cork-trees.
From hence we may begin our explorations of the ancient city, and if we are to visit all its principal remains, it is no short or easy excursion which we are going to undertake. The ruins are widely scattered, and the labyrinthine ravines formed by the windings of the Crimera and the Fosso de' due Fossi, which almost surround the city and meet beneath it, are so bewildering, that a guide is necessary. At first it seems quite impossible that these woody valleys, which only echo now to the song of a thousand nightingales, can really have been Veii, the city which Dionysius underrates when he describes it as being as large as Athens,* which Eutropius (i. 20) writes of as "civitas antiquissima Italiae atque ditissima," which was a flourishing State at the time of the foundation of Rome, and which once possessed so many attractions that it became a question whether Rome itself should not be abandoned for its sake.
"The city of Veii was not inferior to Rome itself in buildings, and possessed a large and fruitful territory, partly mountainous, and partly in the plain. The air was pure and healthy, the country being free from the vicinity of marshes, which produce a heavy atmosphere, and without any river which might render the morning air too rigid. Nevertheless there was abundance of water, not artificially conducted, but rising from rlatural springs, and good to drink."—Dion. xii. frag. SI.
Gradually, as we push through the brushwood, traces of the old walls may be discovered here and there, and of the nine gates to which from local circumstances topographers have assigned the imaginary names of Porta de' Sette Pagi, Porta dell' Arce, Porta Campana, Porta Fidenate, Porta di Pietra Pertusa, Porta dell' Are Muzie, Porta Capenate, Porta del Columbario, and Porta Sutrina.
A long walk through the woods leads to the Porta Capenate, which might easily pass unobserved, so slight are its remains. But beneath it is the most interesting spot in the whole circuit of the city, the Ponte Socio, where the Crimera or Fosso di Formello, as it is called here, forces its way for 240 yards through a natural(?) tunnel over-grown witli luxuriant bay and ilex. It is necessary to climb down
* The circuit of Veii was 43 stadia, that of Athens only 35.