The ancient Tiber and its island
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
And this is Rome ! the city of the Caesars, the home of the Popes, the once proud mistress of the world, the center of all that is most glorious, most remarkable in human history, all that is most en-during in art, all that is most memorable and inspiring in the lives of men. Rome ! The land which Scipio covered with imperishable renown and in which he is buried ; which gave birth to the Gracchi, and still " breathes, burns with Cicero."
Here we have another climate, another sky, another world whose historical perspective almost takes one's breath away.
We are in the very presence of the old city. There, beyond that embankment, scarcely fifty yards from us, is the yellow Tiber; and just above this nearest bridge is the historic Island, and looming up against the horizon some distance beyond and a little to the left of the Island, is the great dome of St. Peter's. Not only this part of Rome which we see so distinctly spread out before us, but all of Rome is over-shadowed from almost every point of view by that peerless dome. It is to Rome what Vesuvius is to Naples, only a greater wonder for the hand of man hung it there. " I will place the Pantheon upon the Basilica of Constantine ! " cried Michelangelo when he undertook the work of building St, Peter's, and right royally did he carry out this resolve. It was out there, too, below that dome, a little to the right, and hardly a mile and a half from us, that Michelangelo went in and out for eight years while painting one of his great masterpieces, The Last Judgment. Later on we must go to the Sistine Chapel and look at the picture. Further away, shouldering boldly against the sky, are the Tuscan Hills, and still farther away in that direction we know are Florence and Milan, and the great heart of Europe.
But all around us here is Rome. To the right and back of us are the " seven hills," though we cannot see them now. As we may find from our map, the Roman Forum with its historic surroundings is less than half a mile beyond the range of our vision, sharp to our right; then back of us is the Aventine Hill, while the Janiculum, an historic spot, but not one of the "seven hills," looms up in front of us on the left, extending from St. Peter's around beyond the limit of our vision.
It will reward us now if we observe more carefully and systematically this particular section of Rome before us, for every foot of this place is historic ground, though of course, where there are so many things to see, one can indicate only a few of the more prominent.
First we notice that there are but few people around, considering the fact that we are near the center of a large city. We can understand the reason, for by the shadows we note that it is not long past noon, and this is a time that people here in Italy stay in-doors. The deep, sharp shadows cast by the brilliant southern sun are so dense that they seem to be made of body and substance. If we should pass into them, when heated, from out the blinding glare and intensity of that almost tropical sunlight, we should probably be warned by the chill we experienced, that a possible fever might not be far distant.
Right in front of us, almost beneath our feet, lies the unique and artistic Temple of Matuta as it is now generally regarded, and, notwithstanding the fact that " time's effacing fingers " have been upon it for thousands of years, it still remains, architecturally, as delicate and exquisite as a conservatory flower in a marble vase. At one time this graceful structure was thought to be the Temple of Vesta, and by others the Aemilian Temple of Hercules, alluded to by Festus and mentioned in the tenth book of Livy. This temple is known to have existed in the time of Vespasian (69-79 A. D.), and probably dates from the days of Augustus. Together with the Regia, in the Roman Forum, it offers almost the only example of the use of solid blocks of marble in ancient Rome, the usual practice being, as in the case of the Pantheon, to face brick and stone walls with thin slabs of marble. In the early part of the nineteenth century it was discovered that this Augustan temple rested on a sub-structure of Republican days. A circle of remarkable white, marble, fluted Corinthian columns, much time-worn and some of them badly battered, although only one of them is missing, the one nearest the river, surrounds the enclosed interior, leaving a circular walk between it and the pillars. The circumference of its peristyle is one hundred and fifty-six feet, and the diameter of the cella or enclosed interior, twenty-six feet, and the height of these surrounding Corinthian colums, originally twenty in number, is thirty-two feet. Roman temples were built small because they were only intended for the use ana functions of the priesthood. Observe that this temple has a window, in which respect it differs from Greek temples, which had none. The tiled roof is modern, the original with the entablature has disappeared, yet so pleasing is the effect that artists would be loth to have the marble roof restored. When new and snowlike there could have been no structure prettier in all Rome. When it was first dedicated as a Christian church, it was called the Church of St. Stefano delle Caraozze ; it now bears the name of St. Maria del Sole, and it was its early use as a place of Christian worship that saved it from destruction.
Take a second glance at the temple. The first time I saw this temple I remember to have seen a fellow stretched out upon one of its steps sleeping in the sunshine, and of all the persons lingering about the structure he might be considered, in the light of modern ideals in vogue here, the noblest Roman of them all. If it were not for the iron railing set between the pillars in the front half of the temple, the circular walk would be a favorite resort for stragglers. We are reminded by this scene that time is of no account to these people, for it is the one thing of which they have abundant proof on every hand, and, considering how vast has been the amount be-stowed upon the city, they may be pardoned, perhaps, for believing that the supply is inexhaustible and that they can afford to give way to inertia now and then. Certainly one is struck by this fact, that here, at least, " nobody seems to have anything particular to do, or if he has, he is anxious to quit the doing of it whenever possible." " We are bright enough and gifted enough," said one of them, " but, if in addition to that, we Romans had the industry of the Germans, we should need another world in which to display our talents, this one would not be large enough for us."
The people living here in Rome today consider themselves the superiors of all other Italians, glorying in an ancestry of which, like some others, they have but little proof. " I am a Roman of six generations of Romans! " cried a cabman proudly when he was accused of having charged excess fare. The low-born foreigner dared not dispute that, and so, apologetically, dropped the matter.
Some repairs have recently been made on the temple, under the personal oversight of an official well versed in archaeology ; nothing is done to any ancient structure in Rome without some man of learning overseeing it. Take a look at that old fence and those paths on either side leading up the embankment. Surely you would not have expected to find anything quite so rustic right here beside an ancient classic temple. The monstrous and incongruous mingling of the sublime and the commonplace seems nowhere to have been reduced to such a fine art as here in Rome. At our feet, down on the left, right between the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, in whose tower we are standing, and the temple we have just been examining, is a stable, and frequently in front of it can be seen, almost hidden away in the deep shadows cast by the building, a number of carts tilted in Romanesque idleness.
Now for a longer look at the old Tiber, hardly more than a stone's throw from us! You would not conclude, possibly, just from looking at it, that the embankment on either side of the Tiber cost the Italian government thirty millions of dollars. It was built in 187o for the purpose of preventing the inundation of the lower part of the city in time of floods, for this classical river has done considerable damage in the last three thousand years. It has devastated the city one hundred and thirty-three times and the Ioss of property and of life has been appalling. Emperor after emperor tried to protect the city from its ravages, but all in vain. Ordinarily the depth of the river in the channel is twenty-six feet, but when it overflows its depth is greatly increased. In 1598, the greatest flood known in Rome, the Tiber rose sixty-two feet. In the most disastrous flood known in modern times the river rose fifty-six feet, and as recently as December, 1900, the river rose forty-five feet, overflowing the embankment, and notwithstanding the vast amount of skill and money put into the work, flooded a large part of the city off to our right; the water stood six feet deep in the Roman Forum, and the people rowed about in boats in the Pantheon, and in the beautiful church of S. Paulo fuori le Mura, both of which we are to see later. The arches of two bridges were swept away, and the King of Italy, who had just driven over the Ponte Quattro Capi (the old Pons Fabricius, the bridge seen directly over this temple below us), narrowly escaped being buried under a big landslide.
The Tiber is older than any work of man and, judging from the activity it has recently displayed, it has not suffered, as yet, from age. Amid all the changes that have swept over Rome during the long centuries, this river and the silent mountains yonder, buttressed so eternally against the sky, are probably the only things that remain practically unchanged. It was the yellow, sluggish Tiber when Cicero and Pompey looked upon it, though, at times, it was rushing enough, and it was in one of those mad, swirling moods when Julius Caesar swam its tawny flood. The Romans have a saying that it is " too large a stream to be harmless, and too small to be useful." From its source to the sea the river traverses a distance of two hundred and thirty-two miles. Far up in the Apennines it is a tiny rivulet, gay and rippling like any mountain brook.
Cast another glance at the river ; surely it looks insignificant enough now, but history tells of its fearful relentlessness. How many lives it has remorselessly engulfed, not only brave defenders of the city, but countless victims of imperial tyranny ! And what treasures of art and stores of untold wealth, spoils of vanquished nations, are buried beneath its billows that roll like molten gold in the bright Italian sunshine ! The French once offered to divert it from its channel that they might dig in its present bed for the riches that no doubt lie buried there ; but the Roman authorities, fearing an epidemic of fever as the result of such an enterprise, would not permit them to undertake the work.
The river winds so tortuously through the city that it seems to confront you everywhere. You catch sight of its waters, gleaming like a broad ribbon of yellow sand, from church tower and from balcony. Here and there the ruin of an old tower rises precipitously beside its water and frequently rows of steps are seen along the stone facing of the embankment leading down to the river. You can see one such flight of steps at the right-hand entrance of the Ponte Quattro Capi, the bridge we just referred to, over the roof of the temple of Matuta, which spans the arm of the Tiber to our right.
As we continue to study the landscape before us, we are impressed with the fact that one of its most curious and interesting objects is the Island of the Tiber. We might hardly realize that it was an island from this point if we had never moved around it, or if we had no map to help us. The time was, so the legend goes, when no island did exist here. The story is that when the Tarquins were expelled, in 509 B. C., they left fields of corn on the Campus Martius, the level stretch of land off to the right. The Romans thought the corn was polluted, that it would be sacrilegious to use it, and, accordingly, cut down the crop and threw it into the Tiber. Part of it accumulated here, obstructed the soil brought down by the river, and thus solid land was formed. On this island, as time went on, the Romans built three temples, namely to Veiovis, Faunus, and AEsculapius.
The temple of AEsculapius came to be built in this way. Nearly three hundred years B. C. a terrible epidemic devastated Rome. In the hope of stopping its ravages, messengers were sent to Greece who brought back here a statue of AEsculapius, the god of medicine. As the returning ship was sailing up the Tiber, a serpent, an emblem of AEsculapius, glided from it and landed upon that island. The Romans hailed the omen with delight, built a temple on the spot, and dedicated it to this god of healing. Every trace of the structure has long since vanished. Medicine as a science was of late development in Rome; the earlier physicians were usually Greeks, frequently slaves, and were not held in high esteem.
The sacred island stands out like a ship with the sharp point, the bow, pointed toward us. Originally, there were stone walls around the island which served for the purpose of an embankment. The walls were covered with marble and gave the island the appearance of a marble galley. All of this has long since disappeared except the stern, but judging from what is left of the imitation, we should say that it was well-nigh perfect. An obelisk, pieces of which are now in Naples, was erected to represent the main mast, and thus still further carry out the nautical idea.
" In the reign of Claudius, sick and aged slaves were exposed and left to die on this island, that emperor making a law that any slave thus exposed should gain his liberty if he recovered." In imperial times it was used as a prison, and what had once been a lovely garden, melodious with the songs of birds and musical with the murmur of rippling waters, became a stern and dreary place, dreaded by all the people ; and indeed very different is it even now from what it was in the days of its glory, when, as a marble galley with snowy sides, it rose from out the golden river bearing fig and olive and orange trees, amid whose rustling leaves and luscious fruits gleamed the domes of temples and the stony finger of the obelisk, while numerous fountains cooled the air as they poured forth their countless streams with all the flash and witchery of light.
Look carefully at that fine old brick tower that rises so majestically over the roofs of the houses crowding the sharp point of the island. That tower has great historic interest, as it is the remains of a castle built by the family of the Anicii to which belonged St. Gregory the Great. The castle was once occupied by the Countess Matilda, and to this place fled the two Popes, Victor III and Urban II, and there they lived protected by her.
Just back of the tower you can see the famous church and monastery of San Bartolomeo, built about the year 1000 by Emperor Otho III, in honor of S. Adalbert of Prague. He gave to the church what he claimed was the body of St. Bartholemew, hence its name. The church is erected on the site of the ancient Temple of AEsculapius.
Back of this church, on the site of the Temple of Faunus, is the church of S. Giovanni Colabita. The upper part of the church can be seen to the left of the tower. Beyond the church is a hospital under the charge of the brethren of S. Giovanni di Dio, who do all the work pertaining to this institution.
The bridges before us are especially worthy of attention. The spacious modern bridge nearest us is the Ponte Palatino, sometimes called the Ponte Rotto from a more ancient bridge that once stood a few feet above the present structure. The earliest bridge on that spot was the Pons AEmilius, begun in B. C. 181. and finished thirty-eight years later. There the body of the Emperor Heliogabalus was thrown into the river. That bridge was three times rebuilt, but two of its arches were finally carried away in the great inundation of 1598, and it was never again restored. Some of the existing remains of the ancient structure may be seen just north of the present bridge.
A little lower down the river and beyond the range of our vision on our left, as can be discerned by consulting the map, stood the Pons Sublicius, the oldest bridge in Rome. No iron was used in its construction and it was said to have been built by Ancus Martius. It was on that old bridge, that stood hardly more than three hundred yards from where we now are, that Horatius and his two companions " kept the bridge " against the Etruscan army of Lars Porsenna. Forsaken by his two companions, Horatius stood his ground alone until the Fathers had chopped down the bridge back of him; then, leaping into the raging waters, he gained the other shore.
Back darted Spurius Lartius,
But with a crash like thunder
Lay right athwart the stream :
The name Sublicius is derived from sublica, meaning a pile or stake, thus recalling the construction of the bridge, which probably was of timber on foundations of masonry, since these piers were seen in the Middle Ages. It was rebuilt several times, but was finally destroyed by floods and the remains of the structure were blown up in 1877 so as to remove the obstruction from the river.
Before we go on with the bridges let us take time to note that on the opposite bank of the Tiber, less than two hundred yards below us and too far away on our left for us to see, and almost completely covered with shrubs and ivy, are two gigantic Heads of Lions (see map), to which in ancient times chains, drawn across the river to prevent the vessels of an enemy from passing up to the city, were fastened. And there (just beneath the grass plot down to our left) the Cloaca Maxima, the great sewer of ancient Rome, empties into the Tiber. Agrippa cleaned it out and sailed up it in a boat. It belongs to the period of Regal Rome and was constructed by the Tarquins for the draining of the Roman Forum and the low ground about it. This grand work, you remember, is not only a marvel of scientific construction, but is the most ancient example of the use of the arch in Rome. It has withstood earthquakes, floods and the devastations of time for more than two thousand five hundred years, showing the marvelous solidity of its construction ; for the uncemented arch is, in every respect, as strong to-day, two thousand years after the birth of Christ, as it was six hundred years before he was born.
It is somewhat singular that of the hundreds of antique drains discovered, no signs of any connections with private houses lining the streets through which the drains passed have been found. All side drains emptying into the Cloaca Maxima belonged to streets or public buildings, never to private dwellings.
Now turning to the bridges again, just observe how particularly time-worn and battered, like the scarred features of some grim warrior, those bridges look that connect the Island of Tiber with the main-land.
The one to the left is the Ponte San Bartolomeo, which is a modern bridge in place of the ancient Pons Cestius which was said to have been built by Lucius Cestius, one of the six magistrates to whom Caesar entrusted the government when he left for Spain in B. C. 46, and the brother of Gaius Cestius, whose pyramidal tomb is near the Porta Paolo. This ancient bridge was rebuilt and dedicated in A. D. 370, as we read from an inscription on the inside of the parapet, and in 1886–89 it was altered completely, so that of the three arches only the middle one is ancient. We can distinguish the old and the new masonry by a little careful observation.
The Island of the Tiber must have been originally connected with the eastern bank of the river by a wooden bridge as early as B. C. 192, but in B. C. 62 Lucius Fabricius, a commissioner of roads, built that bridge which we have had occasion to notice several times - the one seen over the Temple of Matuta. A contractor was for forty years held responsible for the bridge he constructed and it was, there-fore, to his interest to build it well. This enables us to understand better why that bridge has stood the vicissitudes of more than two thousand years. It was standing there in the days of Brutus and Antony, and part of the original inscription is still visible. It is somewhat peculiar, as you see, in having two arches and the smaller one between them. Originally, there was a fourth arch, but this is now concealed by the modern embankment on the right. As the streets of ancient Rome were from ten to sixteen feet lower than the present ones, of course the bridges were somewhat lower as well. Horace speaks of this bridge as the favorite resort of those who wished to commit suicide. It received its present name Quattro Capi, four heads, because there are at the extremities of its parapet, a couple of Hermes pillars with four heads, which, in the olden days, adorned the parapet. Two are still in place. It is noticeable that the river no longer flows under the bridge, for since the building of the embankment the stream has sought the main channel.
The bridge we see beyond the Ponte San Bartolomeo, the third bridge on our left, is the Ponte Garibaldi, a modern structure, and the bridge we can faintly see beyond that is the Ponte Sisto, built in 1474 by Sixtus IV on the site of the Pons Aurelius, which was partially destroyed in the eighth century. That farthest bridge was the scene of many Christian martyrdoms. The bodies of Christians were there thrown into the river and usually drifted down to the Island of the Tiber, where they were recovered for burial by their faithful friends. It is an Italian superstition that you have no good luck if you cannot see a " white horse, an old woman and a priest " while crossing that bridge ; not a difficult requirement anywhere in Rome.
Looking on up the river now, across the line of bridges and to the left of St. Peter's, we see again that long hillside, standing out boldly against the sky, the northern half of the Janiculum Hill or Mons Aureus. It was called Janiculum from the tradition that Janus, the sun-god, had formerly founded a city on the spot, and the upper formation of the hill, being a yellow sand, gave it the name of Mons Aureus, the mountain of gold, still commemorated in the word Montorio, as in S. Pietro in Montorio. On that hill-side are a number of sites and buildings all crowded with historic memories. When Numa Pomilius, the second King of Rome died, he was buried there and the books of his laws and ordinances were buried in a tomb near him. It was over that same ridge, as the legend goes, that Tarquinius Priscus coming from Tarquinii, had his first view of the city over which he was to reign and it was there the eagle, afterwards the emblem of Roman power, replaced on his head the cap which it had snatched away when he set out on his journey.
It was there, also, though further to the left, that Lars Porsenna, King of Etruria, looked upon Rome and then turned back, terrified by the daring of Horatius and the heroism of Mucius, who burnt his hand to the wrist by holding it in the glowing coals ; and it was from the foot of that hill that the hostage, Cloelia, swam the Tiber in order to reach her home. There, too, coming down to the last days of the Republic, Octavius, the friend of Sulla, was murdered, and it was near the base of the hill, not far from the river, that Julius Caesar had his famous garden.
Just beyond the farthest bridge we see the beautiful Villa Farnesina (marked on the map Farnesina Palace), rising above a luxuriant orchard which ex-tends down to the river. The palace was built in 1509 for the celebrated Agostino Chigi, merchant and banker of Pope Julius II, who gave there a most elaborate entertainment to Pope Leo X and his court. Fish while still alive were brought from Spain and Constantinople, and cost fabulous prices, while the gold and silver plates and spoons were so abundant that they were thrown into the Tiber to prevent their being used again. That villa contains some of Raphael's most beautiful frescoes.
Nearer to us, but further up the hill (our map will make its location plain), is the magnificent Palazzo Corsini. Cardinal Corsini there entertained Michelangelo, who remained in the palace for more than a year. Erasmus also lived there and Queen Christina of Sweden died there in 1689.
Extending up the hill from the Palazzo Corsini are the Botanical Gardens, while crowning the summit, among those cypress trees which we can see, is the Villa Gabriella, and to the north toward St. Peter's is the Church of St. Onofrius, built in 1439, in honor of St. Onofrius, a monk of Thebes, " who retired into the desert and lived in a cave for sixty years without seeing a human face or uttering one word of his mother tongue except in prayer."
But what has made that place memorable is the fact that the great poet Tasso died there. He came to Rome in 1594 to be crowned by the Pope in the Capitol. As he arrived at the beginning of winter and the weather was inclement, it was decided to postpone the coronation until the following spring. Tasso was in feeble health and was taken to the monastery of St. Onofrius. Here he became seriously ill and in two weeks died. Just before his death he remarked : "I believe that the crown I looked for in the Capitol is to be changed for a better crown in heaven." The last words he uttered were, "In manus Tuas, Domine." The garden of the convent beside the church, a lovely spot, contains an oak which Tasso planted, and there, every twenty-fifth of April, a musical entertainment of the Accademia is held in memory of the poet and his bust is crowned with laurel leaves.
Now let the eyes cross the Ponte Sisto, the fourth bridge from where we are standing. The building just this side of where the bridge joins the east bank of the river is a hospital, and back of it to the northeast is the Spada Palace which contains the celebrated statue of Pompey, believed by some to be the very statue at the foot of which Caesar was killed. The dome to the right of the palace (shown on the map near the iron suspension bridge, one-half mile beyond), in this landscape of swarming domes, is the church of S. Giovanni de'Fiorentini, the hand-some national church of the Florentines.
The splendid Farnese Palace, the most magnificent of all the Roman palaces, of which Antonio da Sangallo and Michelangelo were the architects, is situated just beyond the Spada Palace.
It was constructed with material plundered from the Colosseum and from the Theatre of Marcellus, which accounts for the immense blocks of stone used, thereby giving the edifice an unrivaled appearance of solidity and grandeur. Its vast walls are all aglow with masterpieces of art. The Farnese gallery of sculpture was rifled of its greatest treasures by the kings of Naples, to whom the palace came by inheritance, and these are now in the Museum of Naples. That building was purchased in 1874 by the French government whose embassy to the Vatican is now established there. In the court-yard of the palace is an ancient sarcophagus from the tomb of Caecilia Metella on the Appian Way, which we shall visit later, and the noble fountains in front of the palace pour their crystal floods into granite basins taken from the Baths of Caracalla. All Rome was sacked and plundered for the building and adornment of the palace, and nothing was so grand or so beautiful or so sacred as to be exempt. If it were good enough and could be used, these were the only considerations that prevailed.
That dome rising so proudly over the Temple of Matuta belongs to the church of S. Carlo a Catinari.
The imposing white structure on the river bank is the Jewish synagogue.
Near the church of S. Carlo and a little to the left, as can be seen by consulting the general map of the city, are the principal remains of Pompey's Theater (see map of ancient Rome), numerous fragments of whose massive walls have been incorporated in the Palazzo Righetti and other buildings.
Pompey erected that theater, the first permanent theater in Rome, by a plausible bit of strategy worthy of more recent times. The Consul Scipio Nasica (B. C. 155) affirmed that a permanent theater would corrupt the people. The senate objected to a circus with seats, fearing, as Valerius Maximus states, "lest the manly practice of standing, a habit peculiar to the Roman people, might fall into disuse;" and even the Emperor Titus argued against such luxury on the ground that " whole dais might be spent by the people in sitting in idleness," a remark which shows how thoroughly he under-stood the Roman character. Pompey did not fly in the face of this prevalent opinion, he was too shrewd a politician for that, but he deliberately hoodwinked them instead, for he erected on the summit of his magnificent theater, in such a way that the seats of the audience room formed the steps, a temple to Venus Victrix, and invited the people to its dedication, telling them that beneath would be seats from which they could behold the unparalleled spectacles with which the temple was to be inaugurated. "Thus," complains Tertullian, "he secured a censurable profit under the veil of religion." In honor of the opening of this temple-crowned theater many animals were slaughtered, and, in the reign of Augustus in the fights that took place there five hundred lions and twenty elephants lost their lives. Subsequently, Nero caused the whole interior of the edifice, and everything pertaining to it, to be gilded in a single day; he also caused the whole structure to be covered with an awning studded with gold stars, beneath which he placed an image of himself as Apollo guiding the chariot of the Sun.
This theater could accommodate forty thousand people, but, like the many buildings and countless works of art set up by Pompey in that plain, only its ruins remain.
It will be interesting for us to note in the different sections of Rome we visit what has come down to us from each of the five great periods of the city's history. (A sketch of these periods is given in the " Story of Rome," found toward the end of this book.)
Going back to the time of the Kings, 753-509 B. C., we remember that according to the legend, Romulus and Remus were safely landed by the Tiber at this place at our feet. In those days, of course, all this territory before us was uninhabited. It was later during that period that this island was formed, so the legend says, by the corn crop left by the Tarquins. A little later the Cloaca Maxima (the great sewer) was constructed from the Forum to the river at this point. During the Republic (509 B. C. to 31 B. C.) the Temple of SEsculapius was reared on the island, the Bridge of Cestius was built, and also the Fabrician Bridge and the Theater of Pompey.
During the Empire, 31 B. C. to 476 A. D., the Theater of Marcellus and the AElian Bridge or Ponte S. Angelo were built, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, and the Circus Neronianus built by Caligula were constructed, the last on the site of St. Peter's. A look at the map of ancient Rome at the time of the Emperors will give you an idea of the location of these buildings.
During the Papacy, 476-1806, the city about St. Peter's on the west side of the Tiber, known as the " Leonine City," was settled and surrounded by a wall erected by Leo IV. Most of the churches and buildings we see before us date from this period, that of the Papacy.
Dean Stanley says that he learned from Arnold of Rugby when he visited a new place, always to see it from above. So pressing hilltop or tower into his service, he climbed up first. This is precisely what we have been doing, looking upon the northwestern part of Rome from above, from the bell tower of the Cosmedin church. We shall now press into service the Janiculum Hill, which has, up to this time, been off to our left, and look down on Rome toward the east.
Let us turn again to the general map of Rome. About five inches to the left or west of the Cosmedin church, where we have been standing, we find on the Janiculum Hill, the church, S. Pietro in Montorio. It was for this church, you remember, that Raphael painted his masterpiece, The Transfiguration, and here it was preserved down to 1797. Near the church are two circles enclosing the numbers 2 and 3. From this place four red lines branch out towards the right, or east. If we follow the upper one of these lines and the third one from it to the right-hand margin of the map, we find the figure 2 at the end of each. We shall stand next at the point from which these two lines start and look east over all that part of Rome lying between these lines. We shall evidently be looking right over the Island of the Tiber and beyond to the Forum and the Capitoline and Palatine hills.