« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
AUTHORS differ very much in opinion with respect to the number of inhabitants which Rome contained at the period when it was most populous. Some accounts make them seven millions, and others a still greater number. These seem all to be incredible exaggerations. It is not probable, that what is properly called the city of Rome, ever extended beyond the wall built by Belisarius, after he had defeated the Goths. This wall has been frequently re paired since, and is still standing; it is about thirteen or fourteen miles in circuit, which is nearly the size that Rome was of, according to Pliny, in the days of Vespasian. Those who assert, that the number of inhabitants in ancient Rome, when it was most populous, could not exceed a million, exclusive of slaves, are thought moderate in their calculation; but when we consider that the circumference of thirteen or fourteen miles is not equal to that of either Paris or London; that the Campus Martius, which is the best-built part of modern Rome, was a field, without a house upon it, anciently; and that the rising ground, where St. Peter's church and the Vatican stand, was no part of old Rome; it will be difficult to conceive that ever Rome could boast a million of inhabitants. For my own part, if the wall of Belisarius is admitted as the boundary of the ancient city, I cannot imagine it to have, at any time, contained above five or six hundred thousand, without supposing the masters of the world to have been the worst lodged people in it.
But if, in the computations above mentioned, the suburbs are included; if those who lived without the walls are considered as inhabitants; in that case there will be room enough for any number, the limits of the suburbs not being ascertained.
The buildings immediately without the walls of Rome, which were connectedly continued so as to merit the name
of suburbs, were certainly of vast extent; and with those of the town itself, must have contained a prodigious number of people. By a calculation made by Mr. Byres, the Circus Maximus was of sufficient size to accommodate three hundred and eighty thousand spectators; and we are told by the Latin poets, that it was usually full. Now if allowance is made for the superannuated, the sick, and infirm; also for children, and those employed in their private business, and for slaves, who were not permitted to remain in the Circus during the games; Mr. Byrės imagines that such a number as three hundred and eighty thousand spectators could not be supplied by a city and suburbs the number of whose inhabitants were much under three millions.
Whatever may have been the extent of the suburbs of Rome, it is probable they were only formed of ordinary houses, and inhabited by people of inferior rank. There are no remains of palaces, or magnificent buildings of any kind, to be now seen near the walls, or indeed over the whole Campania; yet it is asserted by some authors, that this wide surface was peopled, at one period, like a continued village; and we are told of strangers, who, viewing this immense plain covered with houses, imagined they had already entered Rome, when they were thirty miles from the walls of that city.
Some of the seven hills on which Rome was built, appear now but gentle swellings, owing to the intervals be tween them being greatly raised by the rubbish of ruined houses. Some have hardly houses of any kind upon them, being entirely laid out in gardens and vineyards. It is genarally thought, that two-thirds of the surface within the walls are in this situation, or covered with ruins; and, by the information I have the greatest reliance on, the number of the inhabitants at present is about one hundred and seventy thousand, which, though greatly inferior to what Rome contained in the days of its ancient power, is more than it has been, for the most part, able to boast since the fall of the empire. There is good authority for believing
that this city, at particular periods since that time, some of them not very remote, has been reduced to between thirty and forty thousand inhabitants. The numbers have gradually increased during the whole of this century. As it was much less expensive to purchase new ground for building upon, than to clear any ruins which, by time, had acquired the consistence of rock, great part of the modern city is built on what was the ancient Campus Martius.
Some of the principal streets are of considerable length, and perfectly straight. That called the Corso, is the most frequented. It runs from the Porto del Popolo, along the side of the Campus Martius, next to the ancient city. Here the nobility display their equipages during the carnival, and take the air in the evenings in fine weather. It is indeed the great scene of Roman magnificence and amusement.
The shops on each side, are three or four feet higher than the street; and there is a path for the conveniency of foot passengers, on a level with the shops. The palaces, of which there are several in this street, range in a line with the houses, having no court before them, as the hotels in Paris have; and not being shut up from the sight of the citizens by high gloomy walls, as Devonshire and Burlington houses in London are. Such dismal barricades are more suitable to the unsocial character of a proud baron, in the days of aristocratic tyranny, than to the hospitable benevolent disposition of their present proprietor.
The Corso, I have said, commences at the fine area immediately within the Porto del Popolo. This is the gate by which we entered Rome; it is built in a noble style of elegant simplicity, from the design of Michael Angelo, executed by Bernini.
The Strada Felice, in the higher part of the city, is about a mile and a half in length from the Trinità del Monte, to the church of St. John Lateran, on the Pincean hill. This street runs in a straight line, but the view is interrupted by a fine church called St. Maria Mag
giore. The Strada Felice is crossed by another straight street, called the Strada di Porta Pia, terminated at one end by that gate; and at the other by four collossal statues in white marble, of two horses led by two men ; supposed by some to be representations of Alexander taming Bucephalus; and according to others, of Castor and Pollux. They are placed before the pope's palace, on the Quirinal hill, and have a noble effect.
It would be more difficult to convey an idea of the smaller and less regular streets. I shall therefore only observe, in general, that Rome at present exhibits a strange mixture of magnificent and interesting, common and beggarly objects; the former consists of palaces, churches, foun tains, and above all, the remains of antiquity. The latter comprehend all the rest of the city. The church of St. Peter's, in the opinion of many, surpasses, in size and magnificence, the finest monuments of ancient architec ture. The Grecian and Roman temples 'were more dis tinguished for the elegance of their form, than their magnitude. The Pantheon, which was erected to all the gods, is the most entire antique temple in Rome. It is said, that Michael Angelo, to confirm the triumph of modern over ancient architecture, made the dome of St. Peter's of the same diameter with the Pantheon; raising the im mense fabric upon four pilasters; whereas the whole circle of the rotunda rests upon the ground. This great artist, perhaps, was delighted with the idea of being thought as superior to the ancient achitects, as he was conscious of being inferior to some of the sculptors of antiquity.
All who have seen St. Paul's in London may, by an enlargement of its dimensions, form some idea of the external appearance of St. Peter's. But the resemblance fails entirely on comparing them within; St. Peter's being lined, in many parts, with the most precious and beautiful marble, adorned with valuable pictures, and all the powers of sculpture.
The approach to St. Peter's church excels that of St. Paul's in a still greater proportion, than the former sur
passes the latter either in size, or in the richness and beau ty of the internal ornaments. A magnificent portico advances on each side from the front, by which means a square court is formed immediately before the steps which lead into the church. The two porticoes form two sides of the square, the third is closed by the front of the church, and the fourth is open. A colonnade, four columns deep, commences at the extremities of the porticoes; and embracing, in an oval direction, a space far wider than the square, forms the most magnificent area that perhaps ever was seen before any building. This oval colonnade is crowned with a balustrade, ornamented by a great number of statues; and consists of above three hundred large pillars, forming three separate walks, which lead to the advanced portico, and from that into the church, In the middle of the immense area, stands an Egyptian o belisk of granite; and to the right and left of this, two very beautiful fountains refresh the atmosphere with streams of clear water. The delighted eye glancing over these splendid objects, would rest with complete satisfaction on the stupendous fabric to which they serve as em, bellishments, if the façade of this celebrated church had ⚫been equal in beauty and elegance to the rest of the building. But this is by no means the case, and every impar, tial judge must acknowledge, that the front of St. Peter's is, in those particulars, inferior to that of our St. Paul's.
The length of St. Peter's, taken on the outside, is exactly seven hundred and thirty feet; the breadth five hundred and twenty; and the height, from the pavement to the top of the cross, which crowns the cupola, four hundred and fifty. The grand portico before the entrance, is two hundred and sixteen feet in length, and forty in breadth.
It is usual to desire strangers, on their first entering this church, to guess at the size of the objects, which, on account of the distance, always seem less than they are in reality. The statues of the angels, in particular, which support the founts of holy water, when viewed from the