My visit to the Roman Forum when the Genius Loci verified to my ignorance and the intelligence of my companions the well-conjectured site of the Temple of Jupiter Stator was not the first nor yet the second visit I had paid the place. There had been intermediate mornings when I met two friends there, indefinitely more instructed, with whom I sauntered from point to point, preying upon their knowledge for my emotion concerning each. Information is an excellent thing - in others; and but for these friends I should not now be able to say that this mouldering heap of brickwork, rather than that, was Julius Caesar's house; or just where it was that Antony made his oration over the waxen effigy which served him for Caesar's body. They helped me realize how the business life and largely the social life of Rome centred in the Forum, but spared me so much detail that my fancy could play about among its vanished edifices without inconvenience from the clutter of shops and courts and monuments which were ultimately to hem it in and finally to stifle it. They knew their Forum so well that they could not only gratify any curiosity I had, but could supply me with curiosity when I had none. For the moment I was aware that this spot or that, though it looked so improbable, was the scene of deeds which will reverberate forever; they taught me to be tolerant of what I had too lightly supposed fables as serious traditions closely verging on facts. I learned to believe again that the wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, because she had her den no great way off on the Palatine, and that Romulus himself had really lived, since he had died and was buried in the Forum, where they showed me his tomb, or as much of it as I could imagine in the sullen little cellar so called. They also showed me the rostrum where the Roman orators addressed the mass-meetings of the republican times, and they showed me the lake, or the puddle left of it, into which Curtius (or one of three heroes of the name) leaped at an earlier day as a specific for the pestilence which the medical science of the period had failed to control. In our stroll about the place we were joined by one of the several cats living in the Forum, which offered us collectively its acquaintance, as if wishing to make us feel at home. It joined us and it quitted us from time to time, as the whim took it, but it did not abandon us wholly till we showed a disposition to believe in that lake of Curtius, so called after those three public-spirited heroes, the first being a foreigner. Then the cat, which had more than once stretched itself as if bored, turned from us in contempt and went and lay down in a sunny corner near the tomb of Romulus, and fell asleep.

It is quite possible that my reader does not know, as lately I did not, that the Roman Forum is but one of several forums connected with it by ways long centuries since buried fathoms deep and built upon many stories high. But I am now able to assure him that in the whole region between the Roman Forum and the Forum of Trajan, which were formerly opened into each other by the removal of a hill as tall as the top of Trajan's Column, you pass over other forums hidden beneath your feet or wheels. You cannot be stayed there, however, by the wonders which archaeology will yet reveal in them (for archaeology has its relentless eye upon every inch of the ground above them), but you will certainly pause at the Forum of Trajan, where archaeology, as it is in Commendatore Boni, has had its way already. In fact, until his work in the Roman Forum is finished, the Forum of Trajan must remain his greatest achievement, and the sculptured column of the great emperor must serve equally as the archaeologist's monument. I do not remember why in the old time I should have kept coming to look at that column and study the sculptured history of Trajan's campaigns, toiling around it to its top. I think one could then get close to its base, as now one cannot, what with the deepening of the Forum to its antique level and the enclosure of the whole space with an iron rail. The area below is free only to a large company of those cats which seem to have their dwelling among all the ruins and restorations of ancient Rome. People come to feed the Trajan cats with the fish sold near by for the purpose, and one morning, in pausing to view his column from the respectful distance I had to keep, I counted no less than thirteen of his cats in his forum. They were of every age and color, but much more respectable in appearance than the cats of the Pantheon, which have no such sunny expanse as that forum for their quarters, but only a very damp corner beside the temple, and seem to have suffered in their looks and health from the situation. It was afterward with dismay that I realized the fatal number of the Trajan cats coming to their breakfast that morning so unconscious of evil omen in the figure; but as there are probably no statistics of mortality among the cats of Rome, I shall never know whether any of the thirteen has rendered up one of their hundred and seventeen lives.

However, if I allowed myself to go on about the cats of Rome, either ancient or modern, there would be no end. For instance, in a statuary's shop in the Via Sistina there is a large yellow cat, which I one day saw dressing the hair of the statuary's boy. It performed this office with a very motherly anxiety, seated on the top of a high rotary table where ordinarily the statuary worked at his carving, and pausing from time to time, as it licked the boy's thick, black locks, to get the effect of its labors. On other days or at other hours it slept under the table-top, unvexed by the hammering that went on over its head. Even in Rome, where cats are so abundant, it was a notable cat.

If you visit the Roman Forum in the morning you are only too apt to be hurried home by remembrance of the lunch-hour. That, at any rate, was my case, but I was not so hungry that I would not pause on my way hotelward at what used to be the Temple of Vesta in my earlier time, but which, is now superseded by the more authentic temple in the Forum. I had long revered the first in its former quality, and I now paid it the tribute of unwilling renunciation. It is so nearly a perfect relic of ancient Rome and so much more impressive, in its all but unbroken peristyle, than the later but recumbent claimant to its identity that I am sure the owners of the little bronze or alabaster copies of it scattered over the world must share my pious reluctance. The custodian is still very proud of it, and would have lectured me upon it much longer than I let him; as it was, he kept me while he could cast a blazing copy of the Popolo Romano into the cavernous crypt under it, apparently to show me how deep it was. He may have had other reasons; but in any case I urge the traveller to allow him to do it, for it costs no additional fee, and it seems to do him so much good. If it is not very near lunch-time, let the traveller look well about him in the dusty little piazza there, for the Temple of Fortune, with its bruised but beautiful facade, is hard by, as much in the form that Servius Tullius gave it as could well be expected after all this time.

Perhaps the Circus of Marcellus is on the traveller's way home to lunch; but he will always be passing the segment of its arcaded wall, filled in with mediaeval masonry; and he need not stop, especially if he has his cab by the hour, for there is nothing more to be seen of the circus. A glimpse, through overhanging foliage, of the steps to the Campidoglio, with Castor and Pollux beside their horses at top, may be a fortunate accident of his course. If this happens it will help to rehabilitate for him the Rome of the paganism to which these divinities remained true through all temptations to Judaize during the unnumbered centuries of their sojourn, forgotten, in the Ghetto. It is hardly possible that his glimpse will include even the top of Marcus Aurelius's head where he sits his bronze charger - an extremely fat one - so majestically in the piazza beyond those brothers, as if conscious of being the most noble equestrian statue which has ridden down to us from antiquity.

A more purposed sight of all this will, of course, supply any defects of chance, though I myself always liked chance encounters with the monuments of the past. I had constantly cherished a remembrance of the nobly beautiful facade which is all that is left of the Temple of Neptune, and I meant deliberately to revisit it if I could find out where it was. A kind fortuity befriended me when one day, driving through the little piazza where it lurks behind the Piazza Co-lonna, I looked up, and there, in awe-striking procession, stood the mighty antique columns sustaining the entablature of mediaeval stucco with their fluted marble. I could not say why their poor, defaced, immortal grandeur should have always so affected me, for I do not know that my veneration was due it more than many other fragments of the past; but no arch or pillar of them all seems so impressive, so pathetic. To make the reader the greatest possible confidence, I will own that I passed five times through the Piazza Colonna to my tailor's in the next piazza (at Rome your tailor wishes you to try on till you have almost worn your new clothes out in the ordeal) before I realized that the Column of Marcus Aurelius was not the more famous Column of Trajan. There is, in fact, a strong family likeness between these columns, both being bandaged round from bottom to top with the tale of the imperial achievements and having a general effect in common; but there is no brother or cousin to the dignity of that melancholy yet vigorous ruin of the Temple of Neptune, or anything that resembles it in the whole of ancient Rome. It survives having been a custom-house and being a stock-exchange without apparent ignominy, while one feels an incongruity, to say the least, in the Column of Marcus Aurelius looking down on the sign of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. Whether this is worse than for the Palazzo di Venezia to confront the American Express Company where it is housed on the other side of the piazza I cannot say. What I can say is that I believe the Temple of Neptune would have been superior to either fate; though I may be mistaken.

Ruin, nearly everywhere in Rome, has to be very patient of the environment; and even the monuments of the past which are in comparatively good repair have not always the keeping that the past would probably have chosen for them. One that suffers as little as any, if not the very least, is the Pantheon, on whose glorious porch you are apt to come suddenly, either from a narrow street beside it or across its piazza, beyond the fountain fringed with post-card boys and their bargains. In spite of them, the sight of the temple does mightily lift the heart; and though you may have had, as I had, forty-odd years to believe in it, you must waver in doubt of its reality whenever you see it. It seems too great to be true, standing there in its immortal sublimity, the temple of all the gods by pagan creation, and all the saints by Christian consecration, and challenging your veneration equally as classic or catholic. It is worthy the honor ascribed to it in the very latest edition of Murray's Handbook as "the best-preserved monument of ancient Rome"; worthy the praise of the fastidious and difficult Hare as "the most perfect pagan building in the city"; worthy whatever higher laud my unconsulted Baedeker bestows upon it. But I speak of the outside; and let not the traveller grieve if he comes upon it at the noon hour, as I did last, and finds its vast bronze doors closing against him until three o'clock; there are many sadder things in life than not seeing the interior of the Pantheon. The gods are all gone, and the saints are gone or going, for the State has taken the Pantheon from the Church and is making it a national mausoleum. Victor Emmanuel the Great and Umberto the Kind already lie there; but otherwise the wide Cyclopean eye of the opening in the roof of the rotunda looks down upon a vacancy which even your own name, as written in the visitors' book, in the keeping of a solemn beadle, does not suffice to fill, and which the lingering side altars scarcely relieve.

I proved the fact by successive visits; but, after all my content with the outside of the Pantheon, I came to think that what you want in Rome is not the best-preserved monument, not the most perfect pagan building, but the most ruinous ruin you can get. I am not sure that you get this in the mouldering memorials of the past on the Palatine Hill, but you get something more nearly like it than anything I can think of at the moment. In that imperial and patrician and plutocratic residential quarter you see, if you are of the moderately moneyed middle class, what the pride of life must always come to when it has its way; and your consolation is full if you pause to reflect how some day Fifth Avenue and the two millionaire blocks eastward will be as the Palatine now is.

Riches and power are of the same make in every time, though they may wear different faces from age to age; and it will be well for the very wealthy members of our smart set to keep this fact in mind when they visit that huge sepulchre of human vainglory.

But I will not pretend that I did so myself that matchless April morning when I climbed over the ruins of the Palatine and found the sun rather sick-eningly hot there. That is to say, it was so in the open spaces which were respectively called the house of this emperor and that, the temple of this deity or that, whose divine honors half the Caesars shared; in the Stadium, beside the Lupercal, and the like. The Lupercal was really imaginable as the home of the patroness wolf of Rome, being a wild knot of hill fitly overgrown with brambles and bushes, and looking very probably the spot where Caesar would thrice have refused the crown that Antony offered him. But for the rest, one ruin might very well pass for another; a temple with a broken statue and the stumps of a few columns could very easily deceive any one but an archaeologist. Fortunately we had the charming companionship of one of the most amiable of archaeologists, who was none the less learned for being a woman; and she made even me dimly aware of identities which would else have been lost upon me. To be sure, I think that without help I should have known the Stadium when I came to it, because it seemed studied from that in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and, though it was indefinitely more dilapidated, was so obviously meant for the same sorts of games and races. I do not know but it was larger than the Cambridge Stadium, though I will not speak so confidently of its size as of that deathly cold in the vaults and subterranean passages by which we found our way to the burning upper air out of the foundations and basements of palaces and temples and libraries and theatres that had ceased to be.

One of the most comfortable of these galleries was that in which Caligula was justly done to death, or, if not Caligula, it was some other tyrant who deserved as little to live. But for our guide I should not have remembered his slaughter there, and how much satisfaction it had given me when I first read of it in Goldsmith's History of Rome; and really you must not acquaint yourself too early with such facts, for you forget them just when you could turn them to account. History is apt to forsake you in the scene of it and come lagging hack afterward; and you cannot hope always to have an archaeologist at your elbow to remind you of things you have forgotten or possibly have not known. Suetonius, Plutarch, De Quincey, Gibbon, these are no bad preparations for a visit to the Palatine, but it is better to have read them yesterday than the day before if you wish to draw suddenly upon them for associations with any specific spot. If I were to go again to the Palatine, I would take care to fortify myself with such structural facts from Hare's Walks in Rome, or from Murray, or even from Baedeker, as that it was the home of Augustus and Tiberius, Domitian and Nero and Caligula and Septimius Severus and Germanicus, and a very few of their next friends, and that it radically differed from the Forum in being exclusively private and personal to the residents, while that was inclusively public and common to the whole world. I strongly urge the reader to fortify himself on this point, for otherwise he will miss such significance as the place may possibly have for him. Let him not trust to his impressions from his general reading; there is nothing so treacherous; he may have general reading enough to sink a ship, but unless he has a cargo taken newly on board he will find himself tossing without ballast on those billowy slopes of the Palatine, where he will vainly try for definite anchorage.

The billowy effect of the Palatine, inconvenient to the explorer, is its greatest charm from afar, in whatever morning or evening light, or sun or rain, you get its soft, brownish, greenish, velvety masses. Distance on it is best, and distance in time as well as space. If you can believe the stucco reconstruction opposite the Forum gate, ruin has been even kinder to the Palatine than to the Forum, with which it was equally ugly when in repair, if taken in the altogether, however beautiful in detail. As you see it in that reproduction, it is a horror, and a very vulgar horror, such a horror as only unlimited wealth and uncontrolled power can produce. If you will think of individualism gone mad, and each successive personality crushing out and oversloughing some other, without that regard for proportion and propriety which only the sense of a superior collective right can inspire, you will imagine the Palatine. Mount Morris, at One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, if unscrupulously built upon by the multimillionaires thronging to New York and seeking to house themselves each more splendidly and spaciously than the other, would offer a suggestion in miniature of what the Palatine seems to have been like in its glory. But the ruined Mount Morris, even allowing for the natural growth of the landscape in two thousand years, could show no such prospect twenty centuries hence as we got that morning from a bit of wilding garden near the Convent of San Bonaventura, on the brow of the Palatine. Some snowy tops pillowed themselves on the utmost horizon, and across the Campagna the broken aqueducts stalked and fell down and stumbled to their legs again. The Baths of Caracalla bulked up in rugged, monstrous fragments, and then in the foreground, filling the whole eye, the Colosseum rose and stood, and all Rome sank round it. The Forum lay deep under us, vainly struggling with the broken syllables of its demolition to impart a sense of its past, and at our feet in that bit of garden where the roses were blooming and the plum-trees were blowing and the birds were singing, there stretched itself in the grass a fallen pillar wreathed with the folds of a marble serpent, the emblem of the oldest worship under the sun, as I was proud to remember without present help. It was the same immemorial, universal faith which the Mound Builders of our own West symbolized in the huge earthen serpents they shaped uncounted ages before the red savages came to wonder at them, and doubtless it had been welcomed by Rome in her large, loose, cynical toleration, together with cults which, like that of Isis and Osiris, were fads of yesterday beside it. Somehow it gave the humanest touch in the complex impression of the overhistoried scene. It made one feel very old, yet very young - old with the age and young with the youth of the world - and very much at home.