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THE CAPPUCCINI CONVENT. 65
and their masses of entangled and tall foliage, whose autumnal tints were mixed with the wet verdure of a thousand evergreens, were penetrated with it as with rain. I cannot call it colour, it was conflagration. Purple, and crimson, and scarlet, like the curtains of God's tabernacle, the rejoicing trees sank into the valley in showers of light, every separate leaf quivering with burning and buoyant life; each, as it turned to reflect or transmit the sunbeam, first a torch, and then an emerald. Far up into the recesses of the valley, the green vistas arched like the hollows of mighty waves of some crystalline sea, with the arbutus flowers dashed along their flanks for foam, and silver flakes of orange spray tossed into the air around them, breaking over the gray walls of rock into a thousand separate stars, fading and kindling alternately as the weak wind lifted and let them fall. Every glade of grass burned like the golden floor of heaven, opening in sudden gleams as the foliage broke and closed above it, as sheet-lightning opens in a cloud at sunset; the motionless masses of dark rock—dark though flushed with scarlet lichen—casting their quiet shadows across its restless radiance, the fountain underneath them filling its marble hollow with blue mist and fitful sound; and over all—the multitudinous bars of amber and rose, the sacred clouds that have no darkness, and only exist to illumine, were seen in fathomless intervals between the solemn and orbed repose of the stone pines, passing to lose themselves in the last, white, blinding lustre of the measureless line where the Campagna melted into the blaze of the sea."—Raskin's Modern Painters.
The most delightful lanes fringed with cyclamen and forget-me-not, lead under the arch at the back of the Chigi palace and skirt the walls of the wood to the Convent of the Cappueani, from whose lovely ilex groves there are glorious views in every direction. The convent occupies the site of part of the villa of Domitian, whither Juvenal describes the saturnine emperor as summoning the imperial council from Rome in the winter of A.d. 84.
"Anxiously they asked each other, What news? What the purport of their unexpected summons? What foes of Rome had broken the prince's slumbers,-—the Chatti or the Sicambri, the Britons or the Dacians? While they were yet waiting for admission, the menials of the palace entered, bearing aloft a huge turbot, a present to the emperor, which they had the mortification of seeing introduced into his presence, Vol. 1. 5
while the doors were still shut against themselves. A humble fisherman had found the monster stranded on the beach, beneath the fane of Venus at Ancona, and had hurried to receive a reward for so rare an offering to the imperial table. When at last the councillors were admitted, the question reserved for their deliberations was no other than this, whether the big fish should be cut in pieces, or served up whole on some enormous platter, constructed in its honour. The cabinet was no doubt sensibly persuaded that the question allowed at least of no delay, and with due expressions of surprise and admiration voted the dish, and set the potter's wheel in motion."—Merivale's Romans under the Empire.
"Surgitur, et misso proceres exire jubentur
Sat. iv. 145.
This palace of Domitian is frequently alluded to in the poets:—
"Hoc tibi Palladiae seu collibus uteris Albae,
Martial, v. Ep. I.
"Sed quis ab excelsis Trojanae collibus Albae,
Statins, Silv. v. 2.
One of the best subjects for a picture is the view from under the great ilex-trees in front of the convent gate towards Albano and the sea. A door in the wall on the right of the lane which leads down towards Albano, admits one to the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre, now used as folds for goats, who crowd the rugged recesses of its caverned masonry, and group themselves picturesquely on its old walls. This was the scene of some of the worst cruelties of Domitian. The other Roman remains in Albano are insignificant, the ruins of the Prtztorian Camp near the Church of S. Paolo, and some fragments of Roman omaLAKE OF ALBANO. 67
mentation built into the Church of Sta. Maria della Rotonda being the chief of them.
Turning the rocky corner beyond the Cappuccini we come at once upon one of the loveliest scenes in this land of beauty, and look down upon
"—the still glassy lake that sleeps
At the other end of the lake stands, on the hill-side, Castel Gandolfo, embossed against the delicate hues of the distant Campagna. Beneath us, buried in verdure, is the famous Emissarium; on the opposite shore was the site of Alba Longa; and on the right, beyond the convent of Palazzuola, rise Rocca di Papa, and the Alban Mount. The lake itself, which occupies the crater of an extinct volcano, is 6 miles in circuit, 25 miles long, and if miles wide. Concerning its origin, a legend was related to one of the translators of Niebuhr's History, by a peasant boy, who guided him to Frescati, as follows :—
"' Where the lake now lies, there once stood a great city. Here, when Jesus Christ came into Italy, He begged alms. None took compassion on Him but an old woman, who gave Him two handfuls of meal. He bade her leave the city: she obeyed: the city instantly sank; and the lake rose in its place.' To set the truth of the story beyond dispute, the narrator added, Sta scritto nei libri."—Niebuhr's Hist. of Rome.
"The lakes of Alba and Nemi, like others in the neighbourhood of Rome, are of a peculiar character. In their elevation, lying nestled as it were high up in the bosom of the mountains, they resemble what in Cumberland and Westmoreland are called tarns; but our tarns, like ordinary lakes, have their visible feeders and outlets, their head which receives the streams from the mountain-sides, and their foot by which they discharge themselves, generally in a larger stream, into the valley below. The lakes of Alba and Nemi lie each at the bottom of a perfect basin, and the unbroken rim of this basin allows them no visible outlet.
• Macaulays Lays,
Again, it sometimes happens that lakes so situated have their outlet under-ground, and that the stream which drains them appears again to the day after a certain distance, having made its way through the basin of the lake by a tunnel provided for it by nature. This is the case particularly where the prevailing rock is the mountain or metalliferous limestone of Derbyshire, which is full of caverns and fissures; and an instance of it may be seen in the small lake or tarn of Malham in Yorkshire, and another on a much larger scale in the lake of Copais in Bceotia. But the volcanic rocks, in which the lake of Alba lies, do not afford such natural tunnels, or at least they are exceedingly small, and unequal to the discharge of any large quantity of water; so that if any unusual cause swells the lake, it can find no adequate outlet, and rises necessarily to a higher level. The Roman tradition reported that such a rise took place in the year 357; it was caused probably by some volcanic agency, and increased to such a height, that the water at last ran over the basin of the hills at its lowest point, and poured down into the Campagna. Traces of such an outlet are said to be still visible; and it is asserted that there are marks of artificial cutting through the rock, as it to enlarge and deepen the passage. This would suppose the ordinary level of the lake in remote times to have been about two hundred feet higher than it is at present; and if this were so, the actual tunnel was intended not to remedy a new evil, but to alter the old state of the lake for the better, by reducing it for the time to come to a lower level. Possibly the discharge over the edge of the basin became suddenly greater, and so suggested the idea of diverting the water altogether by a different channel. But the whole story of the tunnel, as we have it, is so purely a part of the poetical account of the fall of Veii, that no part of
it can be relied on as historical Admitting that it was
wholly worked through the tufa, which is easily wrought, still the labour and expense of such a tunnel must have been considerable; and in the midst of an important war, how could either money or hands have been spared for such a purpose? Again, was the work exclusively a Roman one, or performed by the Romans jointly with the Latins, as an object of common concern to the whole confederacy? The Alban lake can scarcely have been within the domain of Rome; nor can we conceive that the Romans could have been entitled to divert its waters at their pleasure without the consent of the neighbouring cities. But if it were a common work; if the Latins entered heartily into the struggle of Rome with Veii, regarding it as a struggle between their race and that of the Etruscans; if the overflow of the waters of their national lake, the lake which bathed the foot of the Alban mountain, where their national temple stood, and their national solemnities were held, excited THE EMISSARWM. 69
an interest in every people of the Latin name, then we may understand how their joint labour and joint contributions may have accomplished the work even in the midst of war; and the Romans, as they disguised on every occasion the true nature of their connexion with the Latins, would not fail to represent it as exclusively their own."—Arnold's Hist. of Rome, vol. I. ch. xxiii.
Following the beautiful avenue of ilexes, known as the
Galleria di Sopra, as far as the Convent of S. Francesco, we
shall find a little path winding down through thickets of
cistus and genista to the water's edge, where we may see the
remains of the famous Emissarium, constructed B.C. 394.
The extreme beauty of the spot is worthy of the romantic
story of its origin.
"For seven years and more the Romans had been besieging Veii. Now the summer was far advanced, and all the springs and rivers were very low; when on a sudden the waters of the Lake of Alba began to rise; and they rose above its banks, and covered the fields and the houses by the water-side; and still they rose higher and higher, till they reached the top of the hills which surrounded the lake as with a wall, and they overflowed where the hills were lowest; and behold the water of the lake poured down in a mighty torrent into the plain beyond. When the Romans found that the sacrifices which they offered to the gods and powers of the place were of no avail, and their prophets knew not what counsel to give them, and the lake still continued to overflow the hills and to pour into the plain below, then they sent over the sea to Delphi, to ask counsel of the oracle of Apollo, which was famous in every land.
"So the messengers were sent to Delphi. And, meanwhile, the report of the overflowing of the lake was much talked of; so that the people of Veii heard of it. Now there was an old Veientian, who was skilled in the secrets of the Fates, and it chanced that he was talking from the walls with a Roman centurion whom he had known before in the days of peace; and the Roman spoke of the ruin that was coming upon Veii, and was sorry for the old man his friend ; but the old man laughed and said: 'Ah! ye think to take Veii; but ye shall not take it till the waters of the Lake of Alba are all spent, and flow out into the sea no more.' When the Roman heard this he was much moved by it, for he knew that the old man was a prophet; and the next day he came again to talk with the old man, and he enticed him to