THE COLOSSEUM AND THE FORUM
But as yet I wandered in the Forum safe from the realization of its ugliness when it was in its glory. I cannot say that even now it is picturesque, but it is paintable, and certainly it is pathetic. Stumps of columns, high and low, stand about in the places where they stood in their unbroken pride, and though it seems a hardship that they should not have been left lying in the kindly earth or on it instead of being pulled up and set on end, it must be owned that they are scarcely overworked in their present postures. More touching are those inarticulate heaps, cairns of sculptured fragments, piled here and there together and waiting the knowledge which is some time to assort them and translate them into some measure of coherent meaning. But it must always be remembered that when they were coherent they were only beautiful parts of a whole that was brutally unbeautiful. We have but to use the little common-sense which Heaven has vouchsafed some of us in order to realize that Rome, either republican or imperial, was a state for which we can have no genuine reverence, and that mostly the ruins of her past can stir in us no finer emotion than wonder. But necessarily, for the sake of knowledge, and of ascertaining just what quantity and quality of human interest the material records of Roman antiquity embody, archaeology must devote itself with all possible piety to their recovery. The removal, handful by handful, of the earth from the grave of the past which the whole Forum is, tomb upon tomb, is as dramatic a spectacle as anything one can well witness; for that soil is richer than any gold-mine in its potentiality of treasure, and it must be strictly scrutinized, almost by particles, lest some gem of art should be cast aside with the accumulated rubbish of centuries. Yet this drama, poignantly suggestive as it always must be, was the least incident of that morning in the Forum which it was my fortune to pass there with other better if not older tourists as guest of the Genius Loci. It was not quite a public event, though the Commend atore Boni is so well known to the higher journalism, and even to fiction (as the reader of Anatole France's La Pierre Blanche will not have forgotten), that nothing which he archseolog-ically does is without public interest, and this excursion in the domain of antiquity was expected to result in identifying the site of the Temple of Jupiter Stator. It was conjectured that the temple vowed to this specific Jupiter for his public spirit in stopping the flight of a highly demoralized Roman army would be found where we actually found it. Archaaology seems to proceed by hypothesis, like other sciences, and to enjoy a forecast of events before they are actually accomplished. I do not say that I was very vividly aware of the event in question; I could not go now and show where the temple stood, but when I read of it in a cablegram to the American newspapers I almost felt that I had dug it up with my own hands.
Of many other facts I was at the time vividly aware: of the charm of finding the archaeologist in an upper room of the mediaeval church which is turning itself into his study, of listening to his prefatory talk, so informal and so easy that one did not realize how learned it was, and then of following him down to the scene of his researches and hearing him speak wisely, poetically, humorously, even, of what he believed he had reason to expect to find. We stood with him by the Arch of Titus and saw how the sculptures had been broken from it in the fragments found at its base, and how the carved marbles had been burned for lime in the kiln built a few feet off, so that those who wanted the lime need not have the trouble of carrying the sculptures away before burning them. A handful of iridescent glass from a house-drain near by, where it had been thrown by the servants after breaking it, testified of the continuity of human nature in the domestics of all ages. A somewhat bewildering suggestion of the depth at which the different periods of Rome underlie one another spoke from the mouth of the imperial well or cistern which had been sunk on the top of a republican well or cistern at another corner of the arch. In a place not far off, looking like a potter's clay pit, were graves so old that they seem to have antedated the skill of man to spell any record of himself; and in the small building which seems the provisional repository of the archaeologist's finds we saw skeletons of the immemorial dead in the coffins of split trees still shutting them imperfectly in. Mostly the bones and bark were of the same indifferent interest, but the eternal pathos of human grief appealed from what mortal part remained of a little child, with beads on her tattered tunic and an ivory bracelet on her withered arm. History in the presence of such world-old atomies seemed an infant babbling of yesterday, in what it could say of the Rome of the Popes, the Rome of the Emperors, the Rome of the Republicans, the Rome of the Kings, the Rome of the Shepherds and Cowherds, through which a shaft sunk in the Forum would successively pierce in reaching those aboriginals whose sepulchres alone witnessed that they had ever lived.