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"Whence Cora's sentinels o'erlook
Raphael made a sketch of it, which is still extant. As we sat to draw here, the children, who were vainly locked out by the Sacristan, and climbed after us over the wall, got pieces of stone for blocks, and sticks for pencils, and imitated every line we made.
Halfway up the hill is the beautiful old convent of Santa Oliva, whose shrine is in the crypt at Anagni. She was a holy maiden of Cori, to whom the Virgin appeared in 1521. Her cloister, with a double row of arches, is most picturesque, and it contains an old well. The body of the church has a ceiling whose intention is the same as that of the Sistine, representing scenes of Old and New Testament story. In the apse is the Coronation of the Virgin, evidently by a pupil of Pinturicchio; the donor kneels beneath. The aisle of the church, a labyrinth of columns of different sizes and designs, is shown as the Temple of Jupiter. The temples of Cori are all attributed to Sylla. Outside the gate of the town, on theNorba side, is the beautiful bridge called Pontealla Catena, built of huge masses of tufa, spanning the deep ravine of the Pichionni, and overhung by quaint old houses.
Norba and Norma are five long miles from Cori, and can be reached only on foot or on muleback without making' an immense detour. A very steep and intensely stony way leads up the hill-side from near the Ponte alia Catena. The olive-gardens beside it are fringed with wild blue iris—gigli the Italians call them, and the gigli, which are the arms of Florence, are represented as iris. The path emerges on the steep of the mountain, and clambers along, with precipices above and below, amid the wildest NORBA. 231
scenery. All around are grey rocks, with short grass between, on which the flocks of goats pasture, whose shepherds, clad in goatskins, are the only human beings we meet here. Hawks swoop overhead. It is a vast view over what looks like a boundless plain, for all the undulations and sinuosities of the country are lost to us at this great height. The village which glitters midway between us and the sea is Cisterna, " the Three Taverns" of St. Paul. At length Sermoneta comes in sight on the top of a precipice, and then Norma. Then the ancient Norba, now often called Civita la Penna d'Oro, one of the earliest of the Roman colonies, rises on the right. It has been an utter ruin ever since the time of Sylla, when it was betrayed into the hands of his general, Lepidus, and the garrison put themselves and the inhabitants to the sword. It must have been a tremendous fortress, for the walls are seven thousand feet in circuit, and the blocks of which they are built, and on which time has failed to make any impression, are often ten feet in length. The gates may be traced, and an inner series of walls surrounding the citadel. A square enclosure sunk in the earth is surrounded by Cyclopean walls: its object is unknown. Our guide said that when the Deluge occurred it would have failed to make any impression upon Norba—a very ancient city at that time—so strong was it; but here the rain which fell was made of lead, and the inhabitants, who were giants, were all destroyed, and every house, and all the temples of the ancient religion of that time, and only the walls remained, for they were so strong that not even a leaden deluge could affect them. Hither Ricchi mentions that as late as the beginning of the last century people were wont to use magical arts in the search for hidden treasure. Norma and Norba belonged to the Gaetani from 1282 to 1618, when they were sold to Cardinal Scipio Borghese.
"From the citadel, the panorama of the Maritima is especially magnificent. One can distinctly trace the whole boundary line of the sea, from Antium (Porto d'Anzio) to the Cape of Circe near Terracina, and still farther off one can distinguish Ostia, Pratica, and Ardea, and many towers rising like solitary obelisks on the sea-shore. These watch towers were built in the ninth century, when the Saracens began to invade the coasts of Italy; and even in the present time the whole of Italy and all the Italian islands are encircled by these picturesque towers. ... A tower gleams on the sea-shore with the dark woods reaching down close to it : it is the celebrated castle of Astura. A mile farther on is another tower, Foceverde, so called from the river, flowing from the marshy wooded wilderness into the sea. Farther on is another tower by a great lake, the surface of which shines like molten gold, while round it extends a thick green wood. There a ghostly stillness surrounds the traveller, he stands by the lake as if in a strange world; and he looks at the osprey circling above ; or at the fisherman, pale with fever, floating on his frail raft; or at the half-naked leech-seeker, who passes his life there. These are the Tower and Lake of Fogliano, in ancient times Clostra Romana, where Lucullus had a villa. The Nymphaeus, that charming stream which we see rushing through the green ring of Ninfa, flows into the lake of Fogliano; we can trace its course thither, through the whole of the Pontine marsh-land. Farther on, by its side, the Lago de' Monaci is visible, then the Lago di Crapolace; finally the great lake of Paola, with its tower; and not far from this rises the Cape of Circe, almost like an island.
'' Whoever has not traversed the Pontine marshes by the Via Appia as far as Terracina, has the most erroneous idea of their nature, if he only thinks of horrible morasses. There are indeed plenty of marshes and lakes, but they lie hidden in forests and bushes, where the hedge-hog, the stag, the wild boar, the buffalo, and the half wild bull are roaming. In May and June the Pontine land is a sea of flowers, which cover the ground as far as the eye can reach. In summer it is a Tartarus, where pale fever stalks, and torments the poor shepherds and farm-labourers, who have to earn their bread here.
"The nearer to the sea, the more forest, and from Norba we see it distinctly stretching to the Cape of Circe. From the mouth of the Tiber the forests of Ostia, of Ardea, of Nettuno, Cistema, and Terracina succeed one another. In the middle of these woods or on their borders lie single farms, principally devoted to breeding cattle, but also to agriculNORMA. 233
ture; such are Conca, Campo Morto, Campo Leone, Tor' del Felce, and others. Where the forest leaves off in the interior stretch endless meadows, then a firm arable land, and we see distinctly the Appian Way, renewed by Pius VI., traversing the Maritima. Near it is Cisterna, the largest place in the marshes, close to which the Three Taverns stood formerly, and farther on is For' Appio, the ancient Forum Appium.
"No century has been able to drain the Pontine marshes. Julius Caesar formed a plan for it, but he died before putting it into execution. The Roman Emperors, so extravagant in buildings of every kind, did nothing for it; and it is therefore strange enough, that under a barbarian king, inheritor or conqueror of Rome, the great Theodoric, the ruined Appian Way was first restored, and a part of the marshes as far as Terracina drained. The original record of this noble deed of a Goth, may be read at the present day inscribed on two tablets in Terracina. In papal times Sixtus V., a man of practical Roman spirit, was the first to undertake again the draining of the marshes, and more than two centuries later he was followed by Pius VI. This pope restored the Appian Way, dug the great canal alongside, had other canals made, changed part of the marsh into arable land, and thus gained a lasting credit in this part of the Maritima."—Gregorimius.
A man in scarlet cap and with long curly hair guided us through the high beans which occupied the platform of the ancient city, to the "Grotte di Norba." It is a ruin of later Roman brickwork, covering the entrance to long caves and cellars, but is always shown to strangers as the place where the spirit of Junius Brutus is held imprisoned, waiting for the final judgment, and whence his howls are heard at night mingling with the thunder-storms.
Leaving the citadel, and descending slightly on the other side, we soon reacli the edge of the precipice towards the marshes, and here, through a jagged rift in the mountain-side, we look upon Norma, perched like an eagle's nest upon the top of tremendous precipices of bare rock.
"Immediately beneath us is a ring as of green ivy walls encircling many wonderful mounds, which all seem formed of flowers and ivy. Grey towers rise out of this, rains all overhung with green, and in the midst of the strange circle we may see a silver spring gushing forth and glowing through the Pontine marshes, ending in a sparkling lake far away by the sea-shore. We ask in astonishment what this curious garlanded circle is with its many green hillocks, and are told it is Ninfa Ninfa, the Pompeii of the middle ages."—Grcgorovins.