Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire




Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

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(A.D. 887--899,) de Rebus gestis Caroli magni, l. v. 437--440, in the Historians of France, (tom. v. p. 180:)

Ad quæ marmoreas præstabat Roma columnas,

Quasdam præcipuas pulchra Ravenna dedit.

De tam longinquâ poterit regione vetustas

Illius ornatum, Francia, ferre tibi.

And I shall add from the Chronicle of Sigebert, (Historians of France, tom. v. p. 378,) extruxit etiam Aquisgrani basilicam plurimæ pulchritudinis, ad cujus structuram a Roma et Ravenna columnas et marmora devehi fecit.]

[Footnote 31: I cannot refuse to transcribe a long passage of Petrarch (Opp. p. 536, 537) in Epistolâ hortatoriâ ad Nicolaum Laurentium; it is so strong and full to the point: Nec pudor aut pietas continuit quominus impii spoliata Dei templa, occupatas arces, opes publicas, regiones urbis, atque honores magistratûum inter se divisos; (habeant?) quam unâ in re, turbulenti ac seditiosi homines et totius reliquæ vitæ consiliis et rationibus discordes, inhumani fderis stupendà societate convenirent, in pontes et mnia atque immeritos lapides desævirent. Denique post vi vel senio collapsa palatia, quæ quondam ingentes tenuerunt viri, post diruptos arcus triumphales, (unde majores horum forsitan corruerunt,) de ipsius vetustatis ac propriæ impietatis fragminibus vilem quæstum turpi mercimonio captare non puduit. Itaque nunc, heu dolor! heu scelus indignum! de vestris marmoreis columnis, de liminibus templorum, (ad quæ nuper ex orbe toto concursus devotissimus fiebat,) de imaginibus sepulchrorum sub quibus patrum vestrorum venerabilis civis (cinis?) erat, ut reliquas sileam, desidiosa Neapolis adornatur. Sic paullatim ruinæ ipsæ deficiunt. Yet King Robert was the friend of Petrarch.]

[Footnote 32: Yet Charlemagne washed and swam at Aix la Chapelle with a hundred of his courtiers, (Eginhart, c. 22, p. 108, 109,) and Muratori describes, as late as the year 814, the public baths which were built at Spoleto in Italy, (Annali, tom. vi. p. 416.)]

[Footnote 33: See the Annals of Italy, A.D. 988. For this and the preceding fact, Muratori himself is indebted to the Benedictine history of Père Mabillon.]

[Footnote 34: Vita di Sisto Quinto, da Gregorio Leti, tom. iii. p. 50.]

[Footnote *: From the quotations in Bunsen's Dissertation, it may be suspected that this slow but continual process of destruction was the most fatal. Ancient Rome eas considered a quarry from which the church, the castle of the baron, or even the hovel of the peasant, might be repaired. -- M.]

[Footnote 35: Porticus ædis Concordiæ, quam cum primum ad urbem accessi vidi fere integram opere marmoreo admodum specioso: Romani postmodum ad calcem ædem totam et porticûs partem disjectis columnis sunt demoliti,

  1. 12.) The temple of Concord was therefore not destroyed by a sedition in the xiiith century, as I have read in a MS. treatise del' Governo civile di Rome, lent me formerly at Rome, and ascribed (I believe falsely) to the celebrated Gravina. Poggius likewise affirms that the sepulchre of Cæcilia Metella was burnt for lime, (p. 19, 20.)]

[Footnote 36: Composed by Æneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius II., and published by Mabillon, from a MS. of the queen of Sweden, (Musæum Italicum, tom. i. p. 97.)

Oblectat me, Roma, tuas spectare ruinas:

Ex cujus lapsû gloria prisca patet.

Sed tuus hic populus muris defossa vetustis

Calcis in obsequium marmora dura coquit.

Impia tercentum si sic gens egerit annos

Nullum hinc indicium nobilitatis erit.

[Footnote 37: Vagabamur pariter in illâ urbe tam magnâ; quæ, cum propter spatium vacua videretur, populum habet immensum, (Opp p. 605 Epist. Familiares, ii. 14.)]

[Footnote 38: These states of the population of Rome at different periods are derived from an ingenious treatise of the physician Lancisi, de Romani Cli Qualitatibus, (p. 122.)]

  1. I have reserved for the last, the most potent and forcible cause of destruction, the domestic hostilities of the Romans themselves. Under the dominion of the Greek and French emperors, the peace of the city was disturbed by accidental, though frequent, seditions: it is from the decline of the latter, from the beginning of the tenth century, that we may date the licentiousness of private war, which violated with impunity the laws of the Code and the Gospel, without respecting the majesty of the absent sovereign, or the presence and person of the vicar of Christ. In a dark period of five hundred years, Rome was perpetually afflicted by the sanguinary quarrels of the nobles and the people, the Guelphs and Ghibelines, the Colonna and Ursini; and if much has escaped the knowledge, and much is unworthy of the notice, of history, I have exposed in the two preceding chapters the causes and effects of the public disorders. At such a time, when every quarrel was decided by the sword, and none could trust their lives or properties to the impotence of law, the powerful citizens were armed for safety, or offence, against the domestic enemies whom they feared or hated. Except Venice alone, the same dangers and designs were common to all the free republics of Italy; and the nobles usurped the prerogative of fortifying their houses, and erecting strong towers, ^39 that were capable of resisting a sudden attack. The cities were filled with these hostile edifices; and the example of Lucca, which contained three hundred towers; her law, which confined their height to the measure of fourscore feet, may be extended with suitable latitude to the more opulent and populous states. The first step of the senator Brancaleone in the establishment of peace and justice, was to demolish (as we have already seen) one hundred and forty of the towers of Rome; and, in the last days of anarchy and discord, as late as the reign of Martin the Fifth, forty-four still stood in one of the thirteen or fourteen regions of the city. To this mischievous purpose the remains of antiquity were most readily adapted: the temples and arches afforded a broad and solid basis for the new structures of brick and stone; and we can name the modern turrets that were raised on the triumphal monuments of Julius Cæsar, Titus, and the Antonines. ^40 With some slight alterations, a theatre, an amphitheatre, a mausoleum, was transformed into a strong and spacious citadel. I need not repeat, that the mole of Adrian has assumed the title and form of the castle of St. Angelo; ^41 the Septizonium of Severus was capable of standing against a royal army; ^42 the sepulchre of Metella has sunk under its outworks; ^43 ^* the theatres of Pompey and Marcellus were occupied by the Savelli and Ursini families; ^44 and the rough fortress has been gradually softened to the splendor and elegance of an Italian palace. Even the churches were encompassed with arms and bulwarks, and the military engines on the roof of St. Peter's were the terror of the Vatican and the scandal of the Christian world. Whatever is fortified will be attacked; and whatever is attacked may be destroyed. Could the Romans have wrested from the popes the castle of St. Angelo, they had resolved by a public decree to annihilate that monument of servitude. Every building of defence was exposed to a siege; and in every siege the arts and engines of destruction were laboriously employed. After the death of Nicholas the Fourth, Rome, without a sovereign or a senate, was abandoned six months to the fury of civil war. "The houses," says a cardinal and poet of the times, ^45 "were crushed by the weight and velocity of enormous stones; ^46 the walls were perforated by the strokes of the battering-ram; the towers were involved in fire and smoke; and the assailants were stimulated by rapine and revenge." The work was consummated by the tyranny of the laws; and the factions of Italy alternately exercised a blind and thoughtless vengeance on their adversaries, whose houses and castles they razed to the ground. ^47 In comparing the days of foreign, with the ages of domestic, hostility, we must pronounce, that the latter have been far more ruinous to the city; and our opinion is confirmed by the evidence of Petrarch. "Behold," says the laureate, "the relics of Rome, the image of her pristine greatness! neither time nor the Barbarian can boast the merit of this stupendous
destruction
it was perpetrated by her own citizens, by the most illustrious of her sons; and your ancestors (he writes to a noble Annabaldi) have done with the battering-ram what the Punic hero could not accomplish with the sword." ^48 The influence of the two last principles of decay must in some degree be multiplied by each other; since the houses and towers, which were subverted by civil war, required by a new and perpetual supply from the monuments of antiquity. ^*

[Footnote 39: All the facts that relate to the towers at Rome, and in other free cities of Italy, may be found in the laborious and entertaining compilation of Muratori, Antiquitates Italiæ Medii Ævi, dissertat. xxvi., (tom. ii. p. 493--496, of the Latin, tom. . p. 446, of the Italian work.)]

[Footnote 40: As for instance, templum Jani nunc dicitur, turris Centii Frangipanis; et sane Jano impositæ turris lateritiæ conspicua hodieque vestigia supersunt, (Montfaucon Diarium Italicum, p. 186.) The anonymous writer (p. 285) enumerates, arcus Titi, turris Cartularia; arcus Julii Cæsaris et Senatorum, turres de Bratis; arcus Antonini, turris de Cosectis, &c.]

[Footnote 41: Hadriani molem . . . . magna ex parte Romanorum injuria . . . . disturbavit; quod certe funditus evertissent, si eorum manibus pervia, absumptis grandibus saxis, reliqua moles exstisset, (Poggius de Varietate Fortunæ, p. 12.)]

[Footnote 42: Against the emperor Henry IV., (Muratori, Annali d' Italia, tom. ix. p. 147.)]

[Footnote 43: I must copy an important passage of Montfaucon: Turris ingens rotunda . . . . Cæciliæ Metellæ . . . . sepulchrum erat, cujus muri tam solidi, ut spatium perquam minimum intus vacuum supersit; et Torre di Bove dicitur, a boum capitibus muro inscriptis. Huic sequiori ævo, tempore intestinorum bellorum, ceu urbecula adjuncta fuit, cujus mnia et turres etiamnum visuntur; ita ut sepulchrum Metellæ quasi arx oppiduli fuerit. Ferventibus in urbe partibus, cum Ursini atque Columnenses mutuis cladibus perniciem inferrent civitati, in utriusve partis ditionem cederet magni momenti erat, (p. 142.)]

[Footnote *: This is inaccurately expressed. The sepulchre is still standing See Hobhouse, p. 204. -- M.]

[Footnote 44: See the testimonies of Donatus, Nardini, and Montfaucon. In the Savelli palace, the remains of the theatre of Marcellus are still great and conspicuous.]

[Footnote 45: James, cardinal of St. George, ad velum aureum, in his metrical life of Pope Celestin V., (Muratori, Script. Ital. tom. i. P.

  1. p. 621, l. i. c. l. ver. 132, &c.)

Hoc dixisse sat est, Romam caruisee Senatû

Mensibus exactis heu sex; belloque vocatum (vocatos)

In scelus, in socios fraternaque vulnera patres;

Tormentis jecisse viros immania saxa;

Perfodisse domus trabibus, fecisse ruinas

Ignibus; incensas turres, obscuraque fumo

Lumina vicino, quo sit spoliata supellex.

[Footnote 46: Muratori (Dissertazione sopra le Antiquità Italiane, tom.

  1. p. 427--431) finds that stone bullets of two or three hundred pounds' weight were not uncommon; and they are sometimes computed at xii. or xviii cantari of Genoa, each cantaro weighing 150 pounds.]

[Footnote 47: The vith law of the Visconti prohibits this common and mischievous practice; and strictly enjoins, that the houses of banished citizens should be preserved pro communi utilitate, (Gualvancus de la Flamma in Muratori, Script. Rerum Italicarum, tom. xii. p. 1041.)]

[Footnote 48: Petrarch thus addresses his friend, who, with shame and tears had shown him the mnia, laceræ specimen miserable Romæ, and declared his own intention of restoring them, (Carmina Latina, l. ii. epist. Paulo Annibalensi, xii. p. 97, 98.)

Nec te parva manet servatis fama ruinis

Quanta quod integræ fuit olim gloria Romæ

Reliquiæ testantur adhuc; quas longior ætas

Frangere non valuit; non vis aut ira cruenti Hostis,

ab egregiis franguntur civibus, heu! heu'

-------- Quod ille nequivit (Hannibal.)


Perficit hic aries. 11]

[Footnote *: Bunsen has shown that the hostile attacks of the emperor Henry the Fourth, but more particularly that of Robert Guiscard, who burned down whole districts, inflicted the worst damage on the ancient city Vol. i. p. 247. -- M.]


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Fall of Roman Empire
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