UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
divide it into three naves. This impressive part of the building, however, is far
surpassed in majesty by the vast cella within. This is the part surmounted by the
great dome, which has been the pride and wonder of nineteen centuries. The
Pantheon, though it has suffered several restorations and alterations- though the
old gods have been expelled from their places to make room for the statues of
mediaeval saints-is still regarded as the best preserved monument of antiquity.
It was not only in the Imperial City, but throughout all the larger cities and
towns of the Empire that the grandeur of Roman architecture was exhibited. Nor
should the splendors of the great works of the architects of Rome be judged by
the single structures which they produced, but rather by groups of many so placed
in juxtaposition as to heighten the effect of all. The plan of the Roman cities
was especially favorable for the display of architectural grandeur. No town was
complete without a forum. This was generally placed in some of the lower areas so
that the edifices, which were grouped about it or crowned the neighboring
heights, looked down upon the open space with an aspect peculiarly majestic. Such
was the situation of the great Forum of Rome. It extended through a valley,
running in a south-easterly direction from the foot of the Capitoline Hill. From
this, the observer ascending, by the Via Sacra to the Capitol, had a view of the
noblest monuments of the city. On the left, at the foot of the Palatine was the
temple of Vesta; then came that of Castor and Pollux; then the Julian Basilica;
then the temple of Saturn; then that of Vespasian and Concord, and finally the
massive structures which crowned the Capitoline.
It was in the construction of this magnificent architecture that the ambition of
the Roman emperors, fed no longer with the conquest of a world which had been
already subdued, found opportunity for its unexpended energies. Even such coarse
and brutal sovereigns as Claudius, Nero, Domitian, and Caracalla engaged eagerly
in building, anxious, perhaps, thus to immortalize themselves with posterity.
Their example was followed by all the great and noble of Rome. Wealthy citizens
vied with each other in the embellishment of their private villas, and in
promoting the public improvement of the city. Rome became a mass of marble -
forums, theaters, temples, basilicas, aqueducts, and canals-for the like of which
for number and magnificence the world could furnish no parallel.
Such was the constitution of Roman political society at the time of which we
speak as to subject all private monuments and memorials to the severest
treatment. The emperors for the most part perished in some popular fury. The
local revolution which sent the dagger to the heart of the sovereign applied the
hammer and club with equal passion to all mementos of his reign. His statues were
broken to pieces, and every thing which served to recall his hated memory was
mercilessly destroyed. The private monuments of Rome thus perished by
destruction, while the public