ePub 版

roman windows. They say that there stood in olden times, by the spring and the lake, a temple of the Nymphs, from which the town took its name, and on the site of that Nymphaeum the church of St. Michael was built. In the year 1216 Ugolino Conti founded here the church of S. Maria del Mirteto—of the myrtle-grove.

"But the history of Ninfa is all very obscure. In the 12th century the Frangipani possessed this town. At the end of the 13th century the race of Gaetani got possession of Ninfa, and the descendants of that famous house retain it to this day. The archives of the family in Rome preserve many records which show how Pietro Gaetani, nephew of Boniface VIII., Lateran Count Palatine and Count of Caserta, gradually bought up the houses and possessions of Ninfa. I found there no deeds of the 15th century. But an old record of 22 Feb., 1349, is inscribed on the now ruined baronial castle. It runs thus: Actum Nimphe in scalis palatii Rocce Nimphe presente Nicolao Cillone Vicario Sculcule."— Gregorovius.

Evening closed in upon us at Ninfa; the low houses turned purple against the sunset, and the lake became like molten gold. We hurried away from the fever. It was too late to ascend the mountain way again with its unguarded precipices, but another path led us along the foot of the hills through the low-lying moorlands—parched and ugly at midday, but beautiful in the soft twilight, when each arum and thistle, thickly diamonded with dew, sparkled and glittered in the last gleams, and the figures of our party on their mules stood out dark against the soft after-glow. And then, as the bells of Cori were ringing the last strokes of the Ave Maria, which serves as the summons for the peasants of the Campagna to save themselves from the malaria in their high mountain homes, we wound up to the town through the ancient olive-groves, the most solemn thing in nature, and looked down through the gnarled stems over the vast marshes to the great Circean promontory engraven in black upon a flaming sky.

From Cori a mountain road, which is described as most ASCENT TO SEGN1. 241

.beautiful, leads through the Volscian forests to Segni. We took the railway thither from Ferentino. The station is at the bottom of the mountain called Monte Lepini, while the town is at the top, and we had the discomfort of finding that no omnibus met the train from the south, and having to wait until the great heat of the April day was over before we could walk up. However, we employed the time in sketching two fine old castles near the railway, one of them, Colleferro, now turned into farm-buildings, being especially picturesque, its front formed by deeply recessed arches. The ascent to Segni is most wild and rugged, and the road wound along the mountain edge without any parapet beyond a fringe of Judas bushes just bursting into bloom to be ready for the Good Friday close at hand, and with tremendous precipices below, rather alarming in a carriage. Segni was the ancient Signia, colonized by Tarquinius Superbus as a restraint upon the inhabitants of the Volscian and Hemican hills, and it is said that the name is derived from the number of standards which he saw raised by the inhabitants in his behalf against the people of Gabii. The town is mentioned in the " Captives" of Plautus, where the parasite and epicure Ergasilus swears in turn by Cora, Pra;neste, Signia, Phrysinone, and Alatrium, and explains, when asked by his host Hegio why he swears by foreign cities, that they are just as disagreeable as the dinner he is about to receive from him. Strabo and Pliny mention the peculiar wine of Signia, as well as several of the poets:

"Quos Cora, quos spumans immiti Signia musto,
Et quos pestifera Pomptini uligine campi."

Sil. Ital. viii. 380.
VOL. I. 16

"Potabis liquidum Signina morantia ventrem;
Ne nimium sistant, sit tua parca sitis."

Martial, xiii. Ep. 106..

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the popes sought safety in the strongest towns of the Campagna, Segni was frequently their residence. Eugenius III. fled hither from the Roman Senate, and built a papal palace, in 1145; and here Alexander III., Lucius III., and Innocent III. passed a considerable portion of their reigns in security. Segni was long a fief of the great family of Conti, to which so many of the popes belonged, and it disputes with Anagni the honour of having been the birthplace of Innocent III. In 1353 the head of the house of Conti was Podesta, and afterwards Vicar in the name of the Pope. After the Conti had died out, and Segni had passed into the hands of Mario Sforza, Sixtus V. created it a Duchy. On the 13th of August, 1557, the place was taken and almost totally destroyed by the Duke of Alba, and it is owing to this that so few gothic buildings remain. The town was rebuilt, and was given as a duchy by Urban VIII. to his nephew, Cardinal Antonio Barberini. A long lawsuit which followed between the Barberini and the Sforza, the former lords of Segni, was only decided at the end of the last century in honour of the Sforza-Cesarini, who are still Dukes of Segni.

The town is surrounded on all sides by steep rocks, except where a passeggiata bordered by trees, with splendid views of valley and mountains, leads to the one gate, the Porta Maggiore. This gate rests against the Cyclopean walls, and over it are the remains of the baronial castle of the Conti, in which, as in many other buildings here, the

[merged small][ocr errors]

curious style of construction may be observed, which is frequently spoken of in old documents about other places as "Signino opere," and which consists of alternate layers of bricks and the dark lime-stone of the country.

All those who visit Segni should turn at once to the right after entering the gate (there is a poor inn where a tolerable meal may be obtained), and make the circuit of the Pelasgic walls which give the place its chief interest. They are formed by masses of rock jammed into one another, and though of no great height, almost surround the existing town, and are among the most extensive in Italy. In some places they are most picturesque, especially where a tall cross crowns the huge pile of stones, and stands out against the vast expanse of distance, for you look across the great beyond these upon all the ranges of the Abruzzi, still, in April, covered with snow. The church of S. Pietro, built quite at the end of the fortifications, is another striking point.


From the Walls of Segni.

depths to billow upon billow of purple Hernican hills, and

"When I reached this spot where the cyclopean citadel of the Volscians stood in hoary antiquity on the lofty heights, the magnificence of the situation took me by surprise; it reminded me of the Acropolis of some Sicilian mountain town. Here, on a height overlooking all Latium, stood the citadel and temple of ancient Signia, of which but few vestiges remain, among them a large circular cistern near the Seminary. The townspeople have here one of their favourite promenades; they walk about there on the cyclopean walls of the highest plateaux of the mountain, as if round a great stone table, among the grey blocks of stone overgrown with moss and wild flowers. One can imagine nothing more original than this promenade in the cloud-region, amid this grand rock scenery. Among the promenaders I saw, as it was a Sunday, many a gaily decked young lady in silk attire parading up and down, while, immediately below, the mountain fell sheer away in a precipice, and Latium lay extended below. The eye reaches over a wide-spread picture of provinces with their innumerable mountains and cities, each of which is full of its own historical or mythical memories. For the panorama extends from Rome, visible in the plain, to Arpino, Cicero's paternal city, which stands out among the far blue mountains of the Neapolitan kingdom.

"The air up here is fresh, almost sharp. The brown grasses on the masses of rock, the wild roses, and the golden broom wave to and fro in it. The very spirit of antiquity and of the primaeval wilderness, of a great, mighty, pre-historic age, seems to brood on these storm-worn cyclopean stones.

"I scrambled further over the rocks, to reach the famous cyclopean walls. As in all the Latin cities, their long lines girdle the actual Arx or citadel, and sink away sheer down the precipice. The arrangement of their unhewn stones is as perfectly preserved as if the builder had been at work but yesterday : here and there they are pierced by a small door of Etruscan appearance. At the end of one great line of wall there still stands the great cyclopean gate, in use at the present day. It is built of massive, almost square blocks, in such a manner that the two side walls lean towards each other till the angle is cut off by the stone which forms the lintel.

"The hugeness of these grey walls, weather-stained by thousands of

« 上一頁繼續 »