網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

"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 corn-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! 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 aneient 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

DEA TH OF NERO. 171

himself with his own timidity. Fie! 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-footed 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; 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 borne milliare. Le malheureux, à peine vêtu, couvert d'un méchant manteau, monte sur un cheval miserable, 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! 'Quelle destinée,' dit-il; 'aller vivant sous terre!' Ses réflexions étaient comme un feu roulant de citations classiques, entremêlées des lourdes plaisanteries d'un bobèche aux abois. Il avait sur chaque circonstance une réminiscence littéraire, une froide antithèse: 'Celui qui autrefois était fier de sa suite nombreuse n'a plus maintenant que trois affranchis?' Par moments, le souvenir de ses victimes lui revenait mais n'aboutissait qu'à des figures de rhétorique, jamais à un acte moral de repentir. Le comédien survivait à tout. Sa situation n'était pour lui qu'un drame de plus, un drame qu'il avait répété. Se rappelant les rôles où il avait figuré des parricides, des princes réduits à 1 etat de mendiants, il remarquit que maintenant il jouait tout cela pour son compte, et chantonnait ce vers qu'un tragique avait mit dans la bouche d'Œdipe:

Ma femme, ma mère, mon père

Prononcent mon arrêt de mort. Incapable d'une pensée serieuse, il voulut qu'on creusât sa fosse à la taille de son corps, fit apporter des morceaux de marbre, de l'eau, du bois pour ses funérailles; tout cela, pleurant et disant: 'Quel artiste va mourir?'

"Le courrier de Phaon, cependant, apporte une dépêche ; Néron la lui arrache. Il lit que le sénat l'a déclaré ennemi public et l'a condamné à être puni 'selon la vieille coutume.'—' Quelle est cette coutume?' demande-t-il. On lui répond que la tête du patient tout nue est engagée dans une fourche, qu'alors on le frappe de verges jusqu'à ce que mort s'ensuive, puis que le corps est traîné par un croc et jeté dans le Tibre. Il frémit, prend deux poignards qu'il avait sur lui, en essaye la pointe, les resserre, disant que l'heure fatale n'était pas encore venu? Il engageait Sporus à commencer sa nénie funèbre, essayait de nouveau de se tuer, ne pouvait. Sa gaucherie, cette espèce de talent qu'il avait pour faire vibrer faux toutes les fibres de l'âme, ce rire à la fois bête et infernal, cette balourdise prétentieuse qui fait ressembler sa vie entière aux miaulements d'un sabbat grotesque, atteignaient au sublime de la fadeur. Il ne pouvait réussir à se tuer. 'N'y aura-t'il donc personne ici, demanda-t-iL pour me donner l'exemple?' Il redoublait de citations, se parlait en grec, faisait des bouts de vers. Tout-à-coup on entend le bruit du détachement de cavalerie qui vient pour le saisir vivant.

"' Le pas des lourds chevaux me frappe les oreilles,' dit-il. Epaphrodite alors pesa sur le poignard et le lui fit entrei dans la gorge. Le centurion arrive presque au même moment, veut arrêter le sang, cherche à faire croire qu'il vient le sauver. 'Trop tard !' dit le mourant, CASTEL GIUBELEO. 173

dont les yeux sortaient de la tete et gla9aient d'horreur. 'Voila ou en est la fidelite!' ajouta-t-il en expirant. Ce fut son meilleur trait comique. Neron laissant tomber une plainte melancholique sur la mechancete de son siecle, sur la disposition de la bonne foi et de la vertu ! . . . . Applaudissons. La drame est complet. Une seule fois, nature aux mille visages, tu as su trouver un acteur digne d'un pareil role. "—Ernest Renew, 'L' Antechrist!

[graphic]

Castel Giubeleo.

On the left of the road now rises an almost isolated hill, overlooking the valley of the Tiber, called Castel Giubeleo, from the farm-buildings upon it, which were erected by Boniface VIII. in the year of Jubilee. This hill is believed to have been the arx of ancient Fidenae. Towards the river it is very steep, but it is united by a kind of isthmus to the high table-land, where the rest of the city is supposed to have stood.

"Dionysius, who is generally an excellent antiquary, says that Fidenae was an Alban colony, founded at the same time with Nomentum and Crustumerium, the eldest of three emigrant brothers building Fidenae. But it is evident that the great mass of the original inhabitants were Etruscans, for it appears, from Livy (lib. i. 27), that only a portion of the inhabitants '(ut qui coloni additi Romanis essent) Latine sciebant.' The same author elsewhere relates, that when the Romans wanted a spy upon the Fidenates, they were obliged to employ a person who had been educated at Caere, and had learned the language and writing of Etruria: and in another place (lib. i. 15) he expressly says, 'Fidenates quoque Etrusci fuerunt.' The Fidenates were the constant allies of the Veientes, with whom they were probably connected by race.

"■ The city,' says Dionysius, 'was in its glory in the time of Romulus, by whom it was taken and colonized; the Fidenates having seized certain boats laden with corn by the Crustumerini for the use of the Romans, as they passed down the Tiber under the walls of Fidenae.' Livy (lib. iv. 22) calls Fidenae 'urbs alta et munita ;' and says, 'neque scalis capi poterat, neque in obsidione vis ulla erat.' "—Gell.

"Making the circuit of Castel Giubeleo, you are led round till you meet the road, where it issues from the hollow at the northern angle of the city. Besides the tombs which are found on both sides of the southern promontory of the city, there is a cave, running far into the rock, and branching off into several chambers and passages. Fidenae, like Veii, is said to have been taken by a mine; and this cave might be supposed to indicate the spot, being subsequently enlarged into its present form, had not Livy stated that the cuniculus was on the opposite side of Fidenae, where the cliffs were loftiest, and that it was carried into the Arx.

"The ruin of Fidenae is as complete as that of Antemnae. The hills on which it stood are now bare and desolate: the shepherd tends his flock on its slopes, or the plough furrows its bosom. Its walls have utterly disappeared; not one stone remains on another, and the broken pottery and the tombs around are the sole evidences of its existence. Yet, as Nibby observes, 'few ancient cities, of which few or no vestiges remain, have had the good fortune to have their sites so well determined as Fidenae.' Its distance of forty stadia, or five miles, from Rome, mentioned by Dionysius, and its position relative to Veii, to the Tiber, and to the confluence of the Anio with that stream, as set forth by Livy, leave not a doubt of its true site."—Dennis.

"When we climb the promontory of Castel Giubeleo, and look around, standing in the shelter of the old house, what a strange prospect opens before us! Once how full of life and conflict!—now, how entirely a prey to decay and solitude! At our feet the lordly Tiber winds, with many a sweeping curve, away to Rome, which bristles in the horizon with its domes and towers. It is hardly possible to imagine that two hundred thousand human beings are living and moving two leagues off. As we turn the eye northwards not a creature

« 上一頁繼續 »