صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

spectator, the elegant forum of Trajan, the ample theatres of Marcellus and Pompey, the temple of Neptune, the wide circumference of the Circus Maximus, the capitol rearing its majestic head above the Tarpeian rock; the imperial palace, from the portico of which the emperor could overlook the whole city. Above these and other stately edifices, arose a lofty pillar of white marble, exhibiting, in the most lively images of sculpture, the Dacian victories of Trajan, whose colossal figure crowned the summit.

*

The extent, the variety, and the grandeur of these buildings, proved that this city was the residence of the masters of the world; as the ingenuity, the productions, the arts, and the riches of all countries, conspired to aggrandize and embellish it. Twenty thousand select troops watched day and night over the security of this populous and spacious city.

To this seat of supreme power, ambassadors were sent from the most remote regions, to lay the diadems of kings at the feet of the emperor. Their armies travelled over straight and spacious roads, which intersected the empire in every direction, and which were so solid and durable, as to remain, in many places, unimpaired by the ravages of time, after the lapse of seventeen centuries.

The imperial eagle stretched her wings over the fairest portions of the ancient world.

The empire was extended more than 2000 miles in breadth, from the wall of Antoninus in Britain, and the northern limits of Dacia, to mount Atlas in the west of Africa; and reached in length more than 3000 miles, from the western ocean to the Euphrates. It was supposed to contain above 1,600,000 square miles, for the most part, of fertile and well cultivated land. It included spain, Portugal, Gaul, and Britain ; Italy, Germany, Hungary, Transylvania, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, the provinces of Asia Minor, Pontus, Bythinia, Cilicia, Syria, Phœnicia, and Palestine; Egypt, Mauritania, and Dacia.

The population of the empire was equal to its extent; as it was reported to contain not less than one hundred and twenty millions of subjects; a number far greater than was ever, either before or after that period, united under one European government.

If we consider the modern world with reference to the Roman empire, even the dominions of the great Mogul, or the more extensive territories of the grand Signior, far as they are spread in Europe, Asia, and Africa, sink in comparison with it.

Russia, in point of comparative population

[ocr errors]

is a desert; and China, with its myriads of inhabitants, in respect of energy, is a nation of effeminate slaves.

Such is the exalted prospect of the metropolis of the extensive and formidable sovereignty of ancient Rome, in the meridian of her glory. A survey so remarkable for the variety and splendour of its objects, is the most distinguished which history has presented to the contemplation of man. It will appear the more extraordinary, if we contrast the empire, so extensive and flourishing under Trajan, with its parent state, consisting of a small colony of shepherds and adventurers, originally planted by Romulus upon the banks of the Tiber, and forming one of forty-seven independent Cantons, which altogether occupied a space of only fifty miles.

Is there in any history such a display of worldly grandeur, or of a splendour so dazzling, as that which imperial Rome, in the plenitude of her power, presents to our view? But alas! all this is but the glitter of fictitious, not of real glory! If we examine the materials of which it is composed, they are but tinsel, in comparison of the unfading lustre, and the true dignity reflected on those who have consulted the happiness of mankind, by endeavouring to meliorate and improve the condition of human nature.

The observations of Morell on Grecian history, are not less applicable to that of Rome: " It is melancholy to observe how large a space in the history of mankind is filled with the distressing details of war. The records of states and empires, contain little more than the sad recitals of those struggles for pre-eminence and power in which they were at different periods engaged, and the consequent miseries in which they involved themselves and others. Seldom has the historical guide of the young the satisfaction of pointing out a national benefactor, upon whom came the blessing of thousands that were ready to perish; or a public benefit which diffused happiness and peace. Can any one that has learned of Him who was meek and lowly in heart, approve the conduct of proud oppressors, who revenged private injuries by public desolations, and all the wide wasting calamities of war? Yet objects like these must necessarily engage the attention of the traveller, who explores the entangled mazes, or penetrates the dreary wastes of ancient history. It is well if, turning with abhorrent feelings from such antichristian scenes, he learns from them to estimate more high' the benevolent precepts, and the pacifie tendency of the Gospel of Christ."

[ocr errors]

It is a just observation of Bigland": "London draws a great part of its wealth from commerce; but Rome acquired the whole of her's from rapine, and from violence. London is an emporium of commerce. Rome was, in plain language, a den of robbers, the residence of the plunderers of the world."

In the age of Pericles, when Athens exhibited magnificent edifices, and exquisite productions of sculpture, the more useful arts of ship building and navigation were but little understood. Not till the expedition of Alexander the great, was the sphere of navigation much extended. The progress which the Romans made in maritime knowledge was still more inconsiderable. Their military education, and the spirit of their laws concurred to estrange them from commereial and naval affairs. They abandoned mechanical arts and navigation to slaves, and to citizens of the lowest class. It was not till they acquired a taste for the luxuries of the East, that trade with India, through Egypt, was pushed with vigour.

It is remarkable that the discoveries of the ancients were made chiefly by land. Those of

Author of the celebrated Letters on the Study and Use of ent and Modern History.

TOL. II.

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »