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Nero's Golden House.
his lyre, while Rome was burning by his command!
To speak of Nero leads to the recollection of his adjoining palace, or as it is commonly termed his "Golden House." This we also explored if walking o'er heaps of rubbish which hardly indicate a vestige of an habitation can be so called, and whose only object now worth observing is the extent of the ancient Circus Maximus, which adjoined the palace, and from the windows of which its royal master could give the signal for the games.
Suetonius gives an almost incredible account of this imperial residence, built at the cost of the public treasures.
Its Three Porticoes were adorned with columns, each portico being one mile long. In the Vestibule of the palace was a colossal statue of the Emperor, 120 feet high, cast in bronze.
Its rooms were adorned with ivory pannels for the ceilings, while the walls were incrusted with gold, marbles, mother of pearl, and studded with precious stones. The Banquetting Room represented in figure and design, the Heavenly Sphere; and as in its imitative motion it perpetually revolved night and day, it at the same time scattered perfumes, and flowers. The palace gardens, forests, and parks were proportionately large, as well as stocked with creatures ferocious, and tame; on the banks of its lakes were villas, with other edifices;
while the waters of the sea, and of sulphureous springs, equally were brought to flow within this "Domus Aurea."
According to Suetonius all the admiration that Nero expressed when he took possession of this wonderful palace was by saying-That now he could lodge like a Man.
His other acts of profusion were on a par. When he fished, his nets were of gold, and silk twist. He never wore any thing twice, and the mere charge of his wardrobe when he took a journey, employed a thousand servants. Vespasian built the Coliseum, and the Baths of Titus, from the materials of a part of this house.
La Via del Corso.
CORSO OF ROME, AND FASHIONABLE PROMENADES-TOP OF ST. PETER'S, AND SUBTERRANEAN GALLERIES, AND TOMBS -PALAZZO SCIARA-D" CORSINI-BORGHESE-FARNESEFARNESINA-VILLA BORGHESE, AND THEIR RESPECTIVE CHEFS D'ŒUVRE OF PAINTING AND SCULPTURE-DAPHNE -ROMAN CIVILITY-THE PANTHEON-ANCIENT AND MODERN APPROPRIATION-ANTONINE AND TRAJAN COLUMNSTRAJAN FORUM-CLOACA MAXIMA—MAUSOLEUM OF ADRIAN, OR CASTLE OF ST. ANGELO.
SUNDAY.-The Via del Corso, or Bond St of Rome, has to day, as usual on Sundays, been strung from one end to the other with a double row of equipages. The fashion is thus-the English Protestant Chapel in the morning: Vespers in La Capella del Coro at St. Peter's at three o'clock, where there is both chaunting and the organ, sometimes very impressive; then all the world of fashion promenade the spacious, and splendid nave of the church, jostling the devotees who are dispersed in various groups upon their knees, or are collected round the shrine of the Saint: finally the fair signore, and their cavalieri mount their carriages, and away to the Corso till dinner.
As a promenade, St. Peter's, if it be not derogating from its dignity so to appropriate it, is nevertheless matchless. Ever warm, pleasant, and
Top of St. Peter's.
equable in its temperature, owing in some measure to the thickness of its walls, no ranks of fashion can be sufficiently numerous to crowd, or incommode its aisles; and, if conversation should flag, or the mind seek some other object of adoration than a fair face, only to look around, above or below, is to view at every point the most varied, and stupendous beauties.
We have lately mounted to the top of the Cathedral, even into the Ball, and have also descended to the subterranean below. It is only by mounting, and by walking round the two inner galleries of the great dome that a more just, and perfect idea can be formed of the amazing altitude, with the wonderful proportions, and dimensions of the whole building; by going still higher, curiosity, and science may be both gratified; every part is kept in the utmost order and perfection, while a certain number of workmen are always retained for this purpose. In the inner galleries you are struck with the freshness, and thorough preservation of the upper gildings, paintings, and mosaics: on the outside every arch, and window, is numbered, and every dome, and chapel, is named with reference to the plan below, while on the roof you walk, or range through streets of columns, and cupolas, never seen by the eye beneath.
The Ball, or golden apple, as it seems from below, will hold about sixteen people; on the roof
412 Subterranean Galleries of St. Peter's.
of the church, are a range of workshops, unseen beneath, being masked by the majestic dome, and eighteen surrounding cupolas; the ascent to this elevation is by staircases practised between the outer and inner walls, and the slope so gradual and easy that you might ride up with safety on a mule.
This examination of the structure of the building externally, is perhaps as gratifying and scientific, or at least as striking, as the admiration of its beauties internally, in detail.
To the subterranean galleries I was guided by a priest, and by torch-light. Here repose the mortal remains of many illustrious pontiffs and martyrs; of the Emperor Otho II, and of Charlotte, Queen of Jerusalem, together with ancient sacred pictures and bassi-rilievi. A miraculous image of the Virgin was also shown to us, affirmed to have effected prodigies per le donne partorienti. The present cathedral having been erected on the site of the old one built by Constantine, the original pavement is here kept; and in one chapel more sacred than all, and more adorned, are said to be the bodies of St. Peter, and St. Paul: their heads, I have mentioned, are at St. John's Lateran. Further, in these dormitories of the dead are recorded the birth, death, &c. &c. of the issue of James II, who were self-styled James III, Charles III, and Henry IX, alias Cardinal York.