The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
By Edward Gibbon
          In the last  days of Pope Eugenius the Fourth, (A) two of his
          servants, the learned  Poggius (1) and a friend, ascended the
          Capitoline  hill; reposed  themselves  among  the  ruins  of
          columns and temples;  and  viewed  from that commanding spot
          the wide and  various  prospect  of desolation. (2) The place
          and the object  gave  ample  scope  for  moralizing  on  the
          vicissitudes of fortune,  which  spares  neither man nor the
          proudest of his  works, which buries empires and cities in a
          common grave; and  it  was agreed, that in proportion to her
          former greatness, the  fall  of  Rome was the more awful and
          deplorable.  "Her primeval  state,  such as she might appear
          in a remote  age,  when  Evander entertained the stranger of
          Troy, (3) has  been  delineated  by the fancy of Virgil. This
          Tarpeian rock was then a savage and solitary thicket: in the
          time of the  poet, it was crowned with the golden roofs of a
          temple;  the  temple   is  overthrown,  the  gold  has  been
          pillaged,  the  wheel   of   fortune  has  accomplished  her
          revolution, and the  sacred  ground is again disfigured with
          thorns and brambles.   The  hill of the Capitol, on which we
          sit, was formerly  the head of the Roman empire, the citadel
          of the earth,  the  terror  of  kings;  illustrated  by  the
          footsteps of so  many triumphs, enriched with the spoils and
          tributes of so  many  nations.  This spectacle of the world,
          how is it  fallen!  how  changed!  how  defaced! The path of
          victory is obliterated  by  vines,  and  the  benches of the
          senators are concealed by a dunghill.  Cast your eyes on the
          Palatine hill, and  seek  among  the  shapeless and enormous
          fragments the marble  theatre,  the  obelisks,  the colossal
          statues, the porticos  of  Nero's  palace:  survey the other
          hills of the  city,  the vacant space is interrupted only by
          ruins and gardens.   The  forum  of  the Roman people, where
          they  assembled  to   enact   their  laws  and  elect  their
          magistrates,  is  now   enclosed   for  the  cultivation  of
          pot-herbs, or thrown  open  for  the  reception of swine and
          buffaloes.   The public  and  private  edifices,  that  were
          founded for eternity, lie prostrate, naked, and broken, like
          the limbs of  a  mighty  giant;  and  the  ruin  is the more
          visible, from the  stupendous  relics that have survived the
          injuries of time and fortune." (4)
          These relics are  minutely  described by Poggius, one of the
          first who raised  his  eyes from the monuments of legendary,
          to those of  classic,  superstition. (5) 1. Besides a bridge,
          an arch, a  sepulchre,  and the pyramid of Cestius, he could
          discern, of the age of the republic, a double row of vaults,
          in the salt-office of the Capitol, which were inscribed with
          the name and munificence of Catulus.  2. Eleven temples were
          visible  in some  degree,  from  the  perfect  form  of  the
          Pantheon, to the  three  arches  and  a marble column of the
          temple of Peace,  which  Vespasian  erected  after the civil
          wars and the  Jewish  triumph.  3.  Of  the number, which he
          rashly defines, of seven thermae, or public baths, none were
          sufficiently entire to represent the use and distribution of
          the several parts:  but  those  of  Diocletian and Antoninus
          Caracalla still retained  the  titles  of  the founders, and
          astonished the curious  spectator,  who,  in observing their
          solidity and extent,  the  variety  of marbles, the size and
          multitude of the  columns,  compared  the  labor and expense
          with the use  and  importance.  Of the baths of Constantine,
          of Alexander, of  Domitian, or rather of Titus, some vestige
          might yet be  found.  4.  The  triumphal  arches  of  Titus,
          Severus, and Constantine,  were  entire,  both the structure
          and the inscriptions;  a  falling  fragment was honored with
          the name of  Trajan;  and  two  arches,  then extant, in the
          Flaminian way, have  been  ascribed  to  the baser memory of
          Faustina and Gallienus.  (B)  5.  After  the  wonder  of  the
          Coliseum, Poggius might  have  overlooked small amphitheatre
          of brick, most  probably for the use of the praetorian camp:
          the theatres of  Marcellus  and  Pompey  were  occupied in a
          great measure by  public  and  private buildings; and in the
          Circus, Agonalis and Maximus, little more than the situation
          and the form  could  be  investigated.   6.  The  columns of
          Trajan and Antonine  were  still  erect;  but  the  Egyptian
          obelisks were broken or buried. A people of gods and heroes,
          the workmanship of art, was reduced to one equestrian figure
          of gilt brass, and to five marble statues, of which the most
          conspicuous were the  two  horses of Phidias and Praxiteles.
          7. The two  mausoleums or sepulchres of Augustus and Hadrian
          could not totally  be  lost: but the former was only visible
          as a mound  of  earth;  and  the  latter,  the castle of St.
          Angelo, had acquired  the  name  and  appearance of a modern
          fortress.  With the  addition  of some separate and nameless
          columns, such were  the remains of the ancient city; for the
          marks of a  more  recent  structure might be detected in the
          walls, which formed  a  circumference of ten miles, included
          three hundred and  seventy-nine turrets, and opened into the
          country by thirteen gates.
          This melancholy picture  was  drawn above nine hundred years
          after the fall of the Western empire, and even of the Gothic
          kingdom of Italy.  A long period of distress and anarchy, in
          which empire, and  arts,  and  riches  had migrated from the
          banks of the  Tyber,  was incapable of restoring or adorning
          the city; and, as all that is human must retrograde if it do
          not advance, every  successive  age  must  have hastened the
          ruin of the  works  of antiquity. To measure the progress of
          decay, and to  ascertain,  at  each  aera, the state of each
          edifice, would be  an  endless  and  a  useless labor; and I
          shall  content myself  with  two  observations,  which  will
          introduce  a short  inquiry  into  the  general  causes  and
          effects.  1. Two hundred years before the eloquent complaint
          of Poggius, an  anonymous  writer  composed a description of
          Rome. (6) His  ignorance  may  repeat  the same objects under
          strange and fabulous  names.  Yet this barbarous topographer
          had eyes and  ears; he could observe the visible remains; he
          could  listen  to  the  tradition  of  the  people;  and  he
          distinctly enumerates seven  theatres,  eleven baths, twelve
          arches, and eighteen  palaces, of which many had disappeared
          before the time  of  Poggius.  It  is  apparent,  that  many
          stately monuments of  antiquity survived till a late period,
          (7)  and  that  the  principles  of  destruction  acted  with
          vigorous  and  increasing   energy  in  the  thirteenth  and
          fourteenth  centuries.   2.  The  same  reflection  must  be
          applied to the  three  last  ages; and we should vainly seek
          the  Septizonium of  Severus;  (8)  which  is  celebrated  by
          Petrarch and the  antiquarians  of  the  sixteenth  century.
          While the Roman edifices were still entire, the first blows,
          however weighty and impetuous, were resisted by the solidity
          of the mass  and the harmony of the parts; but the slightest
          touch would precipitate the fragments of arches and columns,
          that already nodded to their fall.

          After a diligent  inquiry,  I  can  discern  four  principal
          causes of the  ruin of Rome, which continued to operate in a
          period of more  than  a  thousand  years. I.The injuries of
          time and nature.II.The hostile attacks of the Barbarians
          and Christians. III. The use and abuse of the materials.
          And,IV. The domestic quarrels of the Romans.

          These general observations  may be separately applied to the
          amphitheatre of Titus,  which  has  obtained the name of the
          COLISEUM, (49) either  from  its  magnitude,  or  from Nero's
          colossal statue; an  edifice,  had  it been left to time and
          nature,  which  might   perhaps   have  claimed  an  eternal
          duration.  The curious  antiquaries,  who  have computed the
          numbers and seats,  are  disposed to believe, that above the
          upper row of  stone steps the amphitheatre was encircled and
          elevated with several stages of wooden galleries, which were
          repeatedly consumed by  fire,  and restored by the emperors.
          Whatever was precious,  or portable, or profane, the statues
          of gods and  heroes,  and  the costly ornaments of sculpture
          which were cast  in  brass,  or  overspread  with  leaves of
          silver and gold,  became  the  first  prey  of  conquest  or
          fanaticism,  of  the   avarice  of  the  Barbarians  or  the
          Christians.  In the massy stones of the Coliseum, many holes
          are  discerned;  and   the  two  most  probable  conjectures
          represent the various  accidents of its decay.  These stones
          were connected by  solid links of brass or iron, nor had the
          eye of rapine  overlooked the value of the baser metals; (50)
          the vacant space  was  converted  into a fair or market; the
          artisans of the Coliseum are mentioned in an ancient survey;
          and the chasms  were  perforated  or enlarged to receive the
          poles that supported  the  shops  or  tents  of the mechanic
          trades.  (51) Reduced  to  its  naked  majesty,  the  Flavian
          amphitheatre was contemplated with awe and admiration by the
          pilgrims of the North; and their rude enthusiasm broke forth
          in a sublime proverbial expression, which is recorded in the
          eighth century, in  the fragments of the venerable Bede: "As
          long as the  Coliseum  stands,  Rome  shall  stand; when the
          Coliseum falls, Rome  will  fall; when Rome falls, the world
          will fall." (52)  In  the  modern  system of war, a situation
          commanded by three hills would not be chosen for a fortress;
          but the strength  of  the  walls and arches could resist the
          engines of assault;  a  numerous garrison might be lodged in
          the enclosure; and  while  one  faction occupied the Vatican
          and the Capitol, the other was intrenched in the Lateran and
          the Coliseum. (53)
          The  abolition  at   Rome  of  the  ancient  games  must  be
          understood with some  latitude;  and the carnival sports, of
          the  Testacean mount  and  the  Circus  Agonalis,  (54)  were
          regulated by the law (55) or custom of the city.  The senator
          presided with dignity and pomp to adjudge and distribute the
          prizes, the gold ring, or the pallium, (56) as it was styled,
          of cloth or silk.  A tribute on the Jews supplied the annual
          expense; (57) and  the  races,  on  foot, on horseback, or in
          chariots,  were  ennobled   by  a  tilt  and  tournament  of
          seventy-two of the  Roman  youth.   In the year one thousand
          three  hundred  and  thirty-two,  a  bull-feast,  after  the
          fashion of the  Moors  and  Spaniards, was celebrated in the
          Coliseum itself; and  the  living  manners  are painted in a
          diary of the  times.  (58)  A convenient order of benches was
          restored; and a  general  proclamation, as far as Rimini and
          Ravenna, invited the  nobles  to  exercise  their  skill and
          courage in this  perilous  adventure.  The Roman ladies were
          marshalled  in  three   squadrons,   and   seated  in  three
          balconies, which, on  this day, the third of September, were
          lined with scarlet  cloth. The fair Jacova di Rovere led the
          matrons from beyond  the  Tyber, a pure and native race, who
          still represent the features and character of antiquity. The
          remainder of the  city  was  divided  as  usual  between the
          Colonna and Ursini:  the  two  factions  were  proud  of the
          number and beauty  of  their  female  bands:  the  charms of
          Savella Ursini are  mentioned  with  praise; and the Colonna
          regretted the absence  of  the  youngest of their house, who
          had sprained her  ankle  in the garden of Nero's tower.  The
          lots of the  champions  were drawn by an old and respectable
          citizen; and they  descended  into  the arena,  or  pit, to
          encounter the wild  bulls, on foot as it should seem, with a
          single spear.  Amidst  the  crowd, our annalist has selected
          the names, colors,  and  devices,  of  twenty  of  the  most
          conspicuous knights.  Several  of  the  names  are  the most
          illustrious of Rome and the ecclesiastical state: Malatesta,
          Polenta, della Valle,  Cafarello,  Savelli, Capoccio, Conti,
          Annibaldi, Altieri, Corsi:  the colors were adapted to their
          taste and situation;  the  devices are expressive of hope or
          despair, and breathe  the  spirit of gallantry and arms.  "I
          am alone, like  the youngest of the Horatii," the confidence
          of an intrepid  stranger:  "I  live disconsolate," a weeping
          widower: "I burn  under  the  ashes,"  a  discreet lover: "I
          adore Lavinia, or  Lucretia," the ambiguous declaration of a
          modern passion: "My  faith is as pure," the motto of a white
          livery: "Who is stronger than myself?" of a lion's hide: "If
          am drowned in  blood,  what  a  pleasant death!" the wish of
          ferocious courage.  The  pride  or  prudence  of  the Ursini
          restrained them from  the field, which was occupied by three
          of their hereditary  rivals,  whose inscriptions denoted the
          lofty greatness of  the  Colonna  name:  "Though  sad,  I am
          strong:" "Strong as  I  am  great:"  "If I fall," addressing
          himself to the  spectators, "you fall with me;" - intimating
          (says the contemporary writer) that while the other families
          were the subjects  of  the  Vatican,  they  alone  were  the
          supporters of the  Capitol.  The combats of the amphitheatre
          were  dangerous and  bloody.   Every  champion  successively
          encountered a wild  bull; and the victory may be ascribed to
          the quadrupeds, since  no  more than eleven were left on the
          field, with the  loss of nine wounded and eighteen killed on
          the side of  their adversaries. Some of the noblest families
          might mourn, but  the  pomp of the funerals, in the churches
          of St. John  Lateran  and  St.  Maria  Maggiore,  afforded a
          second holiday to  the people.  Doubtless it was not in such
          conflicts that the  blood  of  the  Romans  should have been
          shed; yet, in  blaming  their  rashness, we are compelled to
          applaud  their gallantry;  and  the  noble  volunteers,  who
          display their magnificence,  and risk their lives, under the
          balconies of the  fair, excite a more generous sympathy than
          the  thousands  of   captives   and   malefactors  who  were
          reluctantly dragged to the scene of slaughter. (59)
          This use of the amphitheatre was a rare, perhaps a singular,
          festival: the demand  for  the  materials  was  a  daily and
          continual want which  the  citizens  could  gratify  without
          restraint  or  remorse.    In   the  fourteenth  century,  a
          scandalous act of  concord  secured  to  both  factions  the
          privilege of extracting  stones  from  the  free  and common
          quarry of the  Coliseum;  (60)  and Poggius laments, that the
          greater part of  these  stones had been burnt to lime by the
          folly of the Romans. (61) To check this abuse, and to prevent
          the nocturnal crimes  that  might be perpetrated in the vast
          and gloomy recess,  Eugenius the Fourth surrounded it with a
          wall; and, by a charter long extant, granted both the ground
          and edifice to  the  monks of an adjacent convent. (62) After
          his death, the  wall  was  overthrown  in  a  tumult  of the
          people;  and  had  they  themselves  respected  the  noblest
          monument of their  fathers,  they  might  have justified the
          resolve  that  it   should  never  be  degraded  to  private
          property. The inside  was  damaged: but in the middle of the
          sixteenth  century, an  aera  of  taste  and  learning,  the
          exterior  circumference of  one  thousand  six  hundred  and
          twelve  feet  was  still  entire  and  inviolate;  a  triple
          elevation of fourscore  arches,  which rose to the height of
          one hundred and  eight  feet.   Of  the  present  ruin,  the
          nephews of Paul  the  Third are the guilty agents; and every
          traveller  who  views  the  Farnese  palace  may  curse  the
          sacrilege and luxury of these upstart princes. (63) A similar
          reproach is applied  to the Barberini; and the repetition of
          injury might be  dreaded from every reign, till the Coliseum
          was placed under  the  safeguard  of  religion  by  the most
          liberal  of  the  pontiffs,  Benedict  the  Fourteenth,  who
          consecrated a spot  which  persecution and fable had stained
          with the blood  of  so many Christian martyrs. (64)
          When Petrarch first  gratified his eyes with a view of those
          monuments, whose scattered fragments so far surpass the most
          eloquent  descriptions, he  was  astonished  at  the  supine
          indifference  (65) of  the  Romans  themselves;  (66)  he  was
          humbled rather than  elated  by  the discovery, that, except
          his friend Rienzi, and one of the Colonna, a stranger of the
          Rhone was more  conversant  with  these antiquities than the
          nobles and natives  of the metropolis. (67) The ignorance and
          credulity of the Romans are elaborately displayed in the old
          survey of the city which was composed about the beginning of
          the  thirteenth  century;   and,  without  dwelling  on  the
          manifold errors of name and place, the legend of the Capitol
          (68) may provoke  a  smile  of contempt and indignation. "The
          Capitol," says the  anonymous  writer, "is so named as being
          the head of  the  world;  where  the  consuls  and  senators
          formerly resided for  the  government  of  the  city and the
          globe.  The strong  and  lofty walls were covered with glass
          and gold, and  crowned  with  a roof of the richest and most
          curious carving. Below  the  citadel stood a palace, of gold
          for the greatest  part,  decorated with precious stones, and
          whose value might  be  esteemed  at  one  third of the world
          itself.  The statues  of  all the provinces were arranged in
          order, each with  a  small bell suspended from its neck; and
          such was the  contrivance  of  art  magic,  (69)  that if the
          province rebelled against  Rome,  the statue turned round to
          that quarter of  the  heavens, the bell rang, the prophet of
          the  Capitol  repeated  the  prodigy,  and  the  senate  was
          admonished of the  impending  danger."  A second example, of
          less importance, though  of  equal  absurdity,  may be drawn
          from the two  marble  horses,  led  by two naked youths, who
          have since been transported from the baths of Constantine to
          the Quirinal hill.   The groundless application of the names
          of Phidias and  Praxiteles may perhaps be excused; but these
          Grecian sculptors should  not  have  been removed above four
          hundred years from  the age of Pericles to that of Tiberius;
          they should not  have been transferred into two philosophers
          or magicians, whose  nakedness  was  the  symbol of truth or
          knowledge, who revealed  to  the  emperor  his  most  secret
          actions;  and,  after  refusing  all  pecuniary  recompense,
          solicited the honor  of  leaving  this  eternal  monument of
          themselves. (70) Thus awake to the power of magic, the Romans
          were insensible to  the  beauties  of art: no more than five
          statues were visible  to  the  eyes  of  Poggius; and of the
          multitudes which chance  or  design  had  buried  under  the
          ruins, the resurrection was fortunately delayed till a safer
          and more enlightened  age. (71) The Nile which now adorns the
          Vatican, had been  explored  by  some  laborers in digging a
          vineyard near the  temple,  or  convent, of the Minerva; but
          the impatient proprietor,  who  was tormented by some visits
          of curiosity, restored the unprofitable marble to its former
          grave. (72) The  discovery of a statue of Pompey, ten feet in
          length, was the  occasion  of  a lawsuit.  It had been found
          under a partition  wall: the equitable judge had pronounced,
          that the head  should  be separated from the body to satisfy
          the claims of  the contiguous owners; and the sentence would
          have been executed,  if  the intercession of a cardinal, and
          the liberality of  a  pope,  had  not rescued the Roman hero
          from the hands of his barbarous countrymen. (73)
          But the clouds  of  barbarism  were gradually dispelled; and
          the  peaceful  authority   of   Martin  the  Fifth  and  his
          successors restored the ornaments of the city as well as the
          order of the  ecclesiastical  state.   The  improvements  of
          Rome,  since  the  fifteenth  century,  have  not  been  the
          spontaneous produce of  freedom and industry.  The first and
          most  natural  root  of  a  great  city  is  the  labor  and
          populousness of the  adjacent  country,  which  supplies the
          materials of subsistence,  of  manufactures,  and of foreign
          trade.  But the  greater  part  of  the  Campagna of Rome is
          reduced to a  dreary  and desolate wilderness: the overgrown
          estates of the  princes and the clergy are cultivated by the
          lazy hands of  indigent and hopeless vassals; and the scanty
          harvests are confined  or  exported  for  the  benefit  of a
          monopoly.  A second  and more artificial cause of the growth
          of a metropolis  is  the residence of a monarch, the expense
          of  a  luxurious   court,  and  the  tributes  of  dependent
          provinces.  Those provinces  and  tributes  had been lost in
          the fall of the empire; and if some streams of the silver of
          Peru and the  gold  of  Brazil  have  been  attracted by the
          Vatican, the revenues  of the cardinals, the fees of office,
          the oblations of  pilgrims  and  clients, and the remnant of
          ecclesiastical taxes, afford  a  poor and precarious supply,
          which maintains, however,  the  idleness  of  the  court and
          city.  The population  of Rome, far below the measure of the
          great capitals of  Europe,  does  not exceed one hundred and
          seventy thousand inhabitants;  (74)  and  within the spacious
          enclosure of the  walls,  the  largest  portion of the seven
          hills is overspread  with  vineyards  and ruins.  The beauty
          and splendor of  the  modern  city  may  be  ascribed to the
          abuses of the  government, to the influence of superstition.
          Each reign (the  exceptions are rare) has been marked by the
          rapid elevation of  a  new  family, enriched by the childish
          pontiff at the  expense  of  the  church  and  country.  The
          palaces of these  fortunate  nephews  are  the  most  costly
          monuments of elegance  and  servitude:  the  perfect arts of
          architecture, sculpture, and painting, have been prostituted
          in  their service;  and  their  galleries  and  gardens  are
          decorated with the  most  precious works of antiquity, which
          taste  or  vanity   has   prompted  them  to  collect.   The
          ecclesiastical revenues were  more  decently employed by the
          popes themselves in the pomp of the Catholic worship; but it
          is  superfluous to  enumerate  their  pious  foundations  of
          altars, chapels, and  churches, since these lesser stars are
          eclipsed by the  sun  of  the  Vatican,  by  the dome of St.
          Peter,  the most  glorious  structure  that  ever  has  been
          applied to the  use  of  religion.   The  fame of Julius the
          Second, Leo the  Tenth, and Sixtus the Fifth, is accompanied
          by the superior  merit  of  Bramante and Fontana, of Raphael
          and Michael Angelo;  and the same munificence which had been
          displayed in palaces  and  temples  was  directed with equal
          zeal  to  revive   and  emulate  the  labors  of  antiquity.
          Prostrate obelisks were  raised from the ground, and erected
          in the most  conspicuous  places; of the eleven aqueducts of
          the Caesars and consuls, three were restored; the artificial
          rivers were conducted  over  a long series of old, or of new
          arches,  to  discharge   into   marble  basins  a  flood  of
          salubrious  and  refreshing   waters:   and  the  spectator,
          impatient to ascend the steps of St. Peter's, is detained by
          a column of  Egyptian granite, which rises between two lofty
          and perpetual fountains,  to  the  height of one hundred and
          twenty feet. The  map,  the  description,  the  monuments of
          ancient Rome, have  been  elucidated by the diligence of the
          antiquarian  and the  student:  (75)  and  the  footsteps  of
          heroes, the relics,  not of superstition, but of empire, are
          devoutly visited by  a new race of pilgrims from the remote,
          and once savage countries of the North.
          Of these pilgrims,  and  of every reader, the attention will
          be excited by a History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
          Empire; the greatest,  perhaps,  and most awful scene in the
          history of mankind.   The  various  causes  and  progressive
          effects  are  connected   with   many  of  the  events  most
          interesting  in human  annals:  the  artful  policy  of  the
          Caesars, who long  maintained  the  name and image of a free
          republic; the disorders  of  military  despotism;  the rise,
          establishment, and sects  of Christianity; the foundation of
          Constantinople; the division  of  the monarchy; the invasion
          and settlements of  the  Barbarians  of Germany and Scythia;
          the  institutions  of  the  civil  law;  the  character  and
          religion of Mahomet;  the temporal sovereignty of the popes;
          the  restoration  and   decay   of  the  Western  empire  of
          Charlemagne; the crusades  of  the  Latins  in the East: the
          conquests of the  Saracens  and Turks; the ruin of the Greek
          empire; the state and revolutions of Rome in the middle age.
          The historian may  applaud the importance and variety of his
          subject; but while he is conscious of his own imperfections,
          he must often  accuse  the  deficiency of his materials.  It
          was among the  ruins  of  the Capitol that I first conceived
          the idea of  a  work  which  has  amused  and exercised near
          twenty years of my life, and which, however inadequate to my
          own wishes, I  finally delivered to the curiosity and candor
          of the public.
          LAUSANNE, June 27 1787

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