Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

bold fellow,” exclaimed the Emperor, his brow flushing in his anger a deeper hue; “ but I have need of such. Do thy duty, on thy allegiance, and see that thou soon bring these culprits to justice. Is it not enough that universal rumour condemns them? They are pestilent seditionmongers, and enemies of the gods and of the State."

“I, too, am a worshipper of the gods," continued the intrepid soldier, “and will fail not to keep my allegiance to your Imperial Majesty, to the State, and to those higher powers,” and he walked backward out of the Imperial presence. As he rejoined his secretary a cloud sat on his brow. He was moody and taciturn, and evidently little pleased with his newly-imposed duties. But the confirmed habit of unquestioning obedience inherent in a Roman soldier led to an almost mechanical acceptance of his uncongenial task. Emerging from the outer court he proceeded to his own house, in the populous region of the Aventine Hill, now a deserted waste, covered with kitchen gardens and vineyards. In the meantime we turn to another part of the great Imperial palace.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

USING the time-honoured privilege of ubi

quity accorded to imaginative writers, we beg to conduct our readers to a part of the stately palace of Diocletian, where, if they had really been found in their own proper persons, it would have been at the peril of their lives. After fifteen long centuries have passed, we may explore without let or hindrance the most private apartments of the once all-potent nasters of the world. We may roam through their unroofed banquet-chambers. We may gaze upon the frescoes, carvings, and mosaics which met their eyes. We may behold the evidence of their luxury and profligacy. We may thread the secret corridors and galleries connecting the chambers of the palacu—all now open to the light of day. We may even penetrate to the boudoirs and tiiing rooms of the proud dames of antiquity. We may even examine at our will the secrets of the toilet—the rouge pots and vases for cosmetics and unguents, the silver mirrors, fibulæ or brooches, armlets and jewels, and can thus reconstruct much of that old Roman life which has vanished forever from the face of the earth.*

By the light of modern exploration and discovery, therefore, we may enter the private apartments of ladies of the Imperial household, and in imagination re-furnish these now desolate and ruinous chambers with all the luxury and magnificence of their former prime. A room of coulmodious size is paved with tesselated marble slabs, adorned with borders and designs of brilliant mosaic. The walls are also marble, save where an elegant fresco on a stucco groundflowers or fruit or graceful landscape t-greet the

* On the Palatine Hill may still be seen, in the palace of the Flavii, the frescoed private apartments and banquet-chambers of the emperors—in the walls are even the lead water-pipes, stamped with the maker's name; and the innumerable ancient relics in the museums of Rome and Naples give such an insight as nothing else can impart of the life and character of the palmy days of the empire.

+ On the banquet-room mentioned in the last note are some remarkable frescoes, among other objects being glass vases through whose transparent sides are seen

eye. A small fountain throws up its silver spray, imparting a grateful coolness to the air. Windows, void of glass, but mantled and screened by climbing plants and rare exotics, look out into a garden where snowy marble statues are relieved against the dark green of the cypress and ilex. Around the room are busts and effigies of the Imperial household or of historical characters. There is, however, a conspicuous absence of the niythological figures, whose exquisite execution does not atone for their sensuous conception, which, rescued from the debris of ancient civilization, crowd all the Art-galleries of Europe. That this is not the result of accident but of design is seen by an occasional empty pedestal or niche. Distributed at intervals are couches and tables of costly woods, inlaid with ivory, and bronze and silver candelabra, lamps and other household objects of ornament or use. Sitting in an ivory chair amid all this elegance and luxury was a lady in the very flower of her youth, of queenly dignity and majestic beauty. She wore a snowy stola, or robe of finest linen, with purple border, flowing in ample folds to her sandaled feet. Over this was negligently thrown a saffroncoloured veil of thinnest tissue. She held in her hand a burnished silver mirror, at which she exquisitely painted fruits-as fresh, apparently, after eighteen centuries as if executed within a lew months.

66

glancei carelessly from time to time, while a comely slave with dark lustrous eyes and finelyformed features carefully brushed and Iraided her long and rippling hair. This queenly presence was the young

and lovely Empress Valeria, the daughter of Diocletian and Prisca, and wife of the co-Emperor, Galerius Caesar. The object of envy of all the women of Rome, she lived to become within a few short years the object of tl.eir profoundest commiseration. Of her even the unsympathetic Gibbon remarks that “hier melancholy adventures might furnish a very singular subject for tragedy."

Nay, now, Callirhoë," said the Empress, with a weary smile, “that will do! Put up my hair and bind it with this fillet,” and she lield out a gold-embroidered ribband. “ Thou knowest 1 care not for the elaborate coiffure that is now so fashionable.”

“ Your Majesty needs it not,” said the slave, speaking Greek with a low sweet voice, and with au Attic purity of accent. “As one of your own poets has said, you appear when uuadorned, adorned the most.'”

“Flatterer," said the Empress, tapping her gaily and almost caressingly with a plumy fan of ostrich feathers which she held lightly in one land, " you are trying to spoil me."

« PredošláPokračovať »