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cessation of the triumphal games of Aurelian, before it is again to be soaked with blood in honor of Apollo, whose magnificent temple is within a few days to be dedicated.
Never before I believe was there a city whose inhabitants so many and so powerful causes conspired to corrupt and morally destroy. Were I to give you a picture of the vices of Rome, it would be too dark and foul a one for your eye to read, but not darker nor fouler than you will suppose it must necessarily be, to agree with what I have already said. Where there is so little industry and so much pleasure, the vices will flourish and shoot up to their most gigantic growth. Not in the days of Nero were they more luxuriant than now. Aurelian, in the first year of his reign, laid upon them a severe but useful restraint, and they were checked for a time. But since he has himself departed from the simplicity and rigor of that early day, and actually or virtually repealed the laws which then were promulged for the reformation of the city in its manners, the people have also relapsed, and the ancient excesses are renewed.
This certainly is not a people who, in its whole mass, will be eager to receive the truths of a religion like this of Christianity. It will be repulsive to them. You are right in believing that among the greater part it will find no favor. But all are not such as I have described. There are others different in all respects, and who stand waiting the appearance of some principles of philosophy or religion which shall be powerful enough to redeem their country from idol. atry and moral death, as well as raise themselves from darkness to light. Some of this sort are to be found among the nobles and senators themselves, a few among the very dregs of the people, but most among those who, securing for themselves competence and independence by their own labor in some of the useful arts, and growing thoughiful and intelligent with their labor, understand in some degree, which others do not, what life is for and what they are for, and hail with joy truths which commend themselves to both their reason and affections. It is out of these, the very best blood of Rome, that our Christians are made. They are, in intelligence and virtue, the very bone and muscle of the capital, and of our two millions constitute no mean proportion -- large enough to rule and control the whole, should they ever choose to put forth their power. It is among these that the Christian preachers aim to spread their doctrines, and when they shall all, or in their greater part, be converted, as, judging of the future by the past and present, will happen in no long time, Rome will be safe and the empire safe. For it needs, I am persuaded for Rome to be as pure as she is great, to be eternal in her dominion, and then the civilizer and saviour of the whole world. O, glorious age !-- not remote — when truth shall wield the sceptre in Cæsar's seat, and subject nations of the earth no longer come up to Rome to behold and copy her vices, but to hear the law and be imbued with the doctrine of Christ, so bearing back to the remotest province precious seed, there to be planted, and spring up and bear fruit, filling the earth with beauty and fragrance.
These things, Fausta, in answer to the questions at the close of your letter, which betray just such an interest in the subject which engrosses me, as it gives me pleasure to witness.
I have before mentioued the completion of Aurelian's Temple of the Sun, and the proposed dedication. This august ceremony is appointed for to-morrow, and this evening we are bidden to the gardens of Sallust, where is to be all the rank and beauty of Rome.o that thou, Fausta, couldst be there !
I have been, I have seen, I have supped, I have returned ; and again seated at my table, beneath the protecting arm of my chosen divinity, I take my pen, and by a few magic flourishes and marks, cause you, a thousand leagues away, to see and hear what I have seen and heard — alas ! that I cannot cause you to sup as I did also. But this is beyond the power of the pen.
Accompanied by Portia and Julia, I was within the palace of the emperor early enough to enjoy the company of Aurelian and Livia, before the rest of the world was there. We were carried to the more private apartments of the empress, where it is her custom to receive those whose friendship she values most highly. They are in that part of the palace which has undergone no alterations since it was the residence of the great historian, but shines in all the lustre of a taste and an art that adorned a more accomplished age than our own. Especially, it seems to me, in the graceful disposition of the interiors of their palaces, and the combined richness and appropriateness of the art lavished upon them, did the genius of the days of Hadrian and Vespasian surpass our own.
Not that I defend all that that genius adopted and immortalized. It was not seldom licentious and gross in its conceptions, however unrivalled in the art and science by which they were made to glow upon the walls, or actually speak and move in marble or brass. In the favorite apartment of Livia, into which we were now admitted, perfect in its forms and proportions, the walls and ceilings are covered with the story of Leda, wrought with an effect of drawing and color, of which the present times afford no example. The well-known Greek, Polymnestes, was the artist. And this room, in all its embellishments, is chaste and cold, compared with others, whose subjects were furnished to the painter by the profligate master himself.
The room of Leda, as it is termed, is - but how beautiful it is I cannot tell. Words paint poorly to the eye. Believe it not less beautiful, nor less exquisitely adorned with all that woman loves most, hangings, carpets, and couches, than any in the palace of Gracchus or Zenobia. It was here we found Aurelian and Livia, and his niece Aurelia. The emperor
- habited in silken robes richly wrought with gold, the inseparable sword at his side, from which, at the
expense of whatever incongruity, he never parts advanced to the door to receive us, saying:
'I am happy that the mildness of this autumn day permits this pleasure, to see the mother of the Pisos beneath my roof. It is rare now-a-days that Rome sees her abroad.'
• Save to the palace of Aurelian,' replied my mother, ‘I now, as is well known, never move beyond the precincts of my own dwelling. Since the captivity and death of your former companion in
arms, my great husband, Cneius Piso, the widow's hearth has been my hall of state, these widow's weeds my only robes. But it must be more than private grief, and more than the storms of autumn or of winter, that would keep me back, when it is Aurelian who bids to the feast.'
We owe you many thanks,' replied the emperor. • Would that the loyalty of the parents were inherited by the children ;' casting toward me, as he saluted me at the same time, a look which seemed to say that he was partly serious, if partly in jest. After mutual inquiries and salutations, we were soon seated upon couches beneath a blaze of light which, from the centre of the apartment, darted its brightness, as it had been the sun itself, to every part of the room.
• It is no light sorrow to a mother's heart,' said Portia, to know that her two sons, and her only sons, are, one the open enemy of his country, the other — what shall I term you, Lucius ? - an innovator upon her ancient institutions; and while he believes and calls himself — sincerely, I doubt not the friend of his country, is in truth, as every good Roman would say not an enemy, my son, I cannot use that word, but as it were — - an unconscious injurer. Would that the conqueror of the world had power to conquer this boy's will !
* Aurelian, mother,' I replied, 'did he possess the power, would hesitate to use it in such a cause. But it is easy to see that it would demand infinitely more power to change one honest mind, than to subdue even the world by the sword.'
Aurelian for a brief moment looked as if he had received a personal affront.
How say you,' said he, ' demands it more power to change one mind than conquer a world ? Methinks it might be done with something less. My soldiers often maintain with violence a certain opinion; but I find it not difficult to cause them to let it go, and take mine in its place. The arguments I use never fail.'
That may be,' I replied, 'in matters of little moment. Even in these, however, is it not plain, Aurelian, that you cause them not to let go their opinion, but merely to suppress it, or affect to change it. Your power may compel them either to silence, or to an assertion of the very contrary of what they but just before had declared as their belief, but it cannot alter their minds. That is to be done by reason only, not by force.'
By reason first,' answered the emperor; but if that fail, then by force. The ignorant, and the presumptuous, and the mischievous, must be dealt with as we deal with children. If we argue with them, it is a favor. It is our right, as it is better, to command and compel.'
Only establish it that such and such are ignorant, and erroneous, and presumptuous, and I allow that it would be right to silence them. But that is the very difficulty in the case.
How are we to know that they who think differently from ourselves, are ignorant or erroneous ? Surely the fact of the difference is not satisfactory proof.
They,' rejoined Aurelian, “who depart from a certain standard in art, are said to err. The thing in this case is of no consequence
to any, therefore no punishment ensues. So there is a standard of religion in the state, and they who depart from it may be said to err. But as religion is essential to the state, they who err should be brought back, by whatever application of force, and compelled to conform to the standard.'
• In what sense,' said Portia, 'can common and ignorant people be regarded as fit judges of what constitutes or does not constitute a true religion? It is a subject level scarce to philosophers. If indeed the gods should vouchsafe to descend to earth and converse with men, and in that manner teach some new truth, then any one, possessed of eyes and ears, might receive it and retain it, without presumption. Nay, he could not but do so; but not otherwise.'
• Now have you stated,' said I,' that which constitutes the precise case of Christianity. They who received Christianity in the first instance, did it not by balancing against each other such refined arguments as philosophers use. They were simply judges of matters of fact - of what their eyes beheld and their ears heard. God did vouchsafe to descend to earth, and by his messenger converse with men, and teach new truth. All that men had then to do was this, to see whether the evidence was sufficient that it was a God speaking ; and that being made plain, to listen and record. And at this day, all that is to be done is, to inquire whether the record be true. If the record be a well-authenticated one of what the mouth of God spoke, it is then adopted as the code of religious truth. As for what the word contains it requires no acute intellect to judge concern
a child may understand it all.' * Truly,' replied Portia, “this agrees but ill with what I have heard and believed concerning Christianity. It has ever been set forth as a thing full of darkness and mystery, which it requires the most vigorous powers to penetrate and comprehend.
So has it been ever presented to me,' added the emperor. 'I have conceived it to be but some new form of Plato's dreams, neither more clear in itself, nor promising to be of more use to mankind. So, if I err not, the learned Porphyrius has stated it.'
A good fact,' here interposed Julia,' is worth more in this argument than the learning of the most learned. Is it not sufficient proof, Aurelian, that Christianity is somewhat sufficiently plain and easy, that women are able to receive it so readily? Take me as an unanswerable argument on the side of Piso.'
• The women of Palmyra,' replied the emperor, ' as I have good reason to know, are more than the men of other climes. She who reads Plato and the last essays of Plotinus, of a morning, seated idly beneath the shadow of some spreading beech, just as a Roman girl would the last child's story of Spurius about father Tiber and the Milvian Bridge, is not to be received in this question as but a woman, with a woman's powers of judgment. When the women of Rome receive this faith as easily as you do, then may it be held as an argument for its simplicity. But let us now break off the thread of this discourse, too severe for the occasion, and mingle with our other friends, who by this must be arrived.'
So with these words we left the apartment where we had been sitting, the emperor having upon one side Portia, and on the other
Livia, and moved toward the great central rooms of the palace, where guests are entertained, and the imperial banquets held.
The company was not numerous ; it was rather remarkable for its selectness. Among others not less distinguished, there were the venerable Tacitus, the consul Capitolinus, Marcellinus the senator, the prefect Varus, the priest Fronto, the generals Probus and Mucapor, and a few other of the military favorites of Aurelian.
Of the conversation at supper I remember little or nothing, only that it was free and light, each seeming to enjoy himself and the companion who reclined next to him. Aurelian, with a condescending grace which no one knows how better to assume than he, urged the wine upon his friends, as they appeared occasionally to forget it, offering frequently some new and unheard of kind, brought from Asia, Greece, or Africa, and which he would exalt to the skies for its 'flavor. More than once did he, as he is wont to do in his sportive mood, deceive us; for, calling upon us to fill our goblets with what he described as a liquor surpassing all of Italy, and which might serve for Hebe to pour out for the gods, and requiring us to drink it off in honor of Bacchus, Pan, or Ceres, we found upon lifting our cups to drain them that they had been charged with some colored and perfumed medicament more sour or bitter than the worst compound of the apothecary, or than massican overheated in the vats. These sallies, coming from the master of the world, were sure to be well received ; bis satellites, of whom not a few were near him, being ready to die with excess of laughter — the attendant slaves catching the jest, and enjoying it with noisy vociferation. I laughed with the rest, for it seems wise to propitiate, by any act not absolutely base, one whose ambitious and cruel nature, unless soothed and appeased by such offerings, is so prone to reveal itself in deeds of darkness.
When the feast was nearly ended, and the attending slaves were employed in loading it for the last time with fruits, olives, and confections, a troop of eunuchs, richly habited, entered the apartment to the sound of flutes and horns, bearing upon a platter of gold an immense bowl or vase of the same metal, filled to the brim with wine, which they placed in the centre of the table, and then, at the command of the emperor, with a ladle of the same precious material and ornamented with gems, served out the wine to the company, At first, as the glittering pageant advanced, astonishment kept us mute, and caused us involuntarily to rise from our couches to watch the ceremony of introducing it and fixing it in its appointed place: for never before in Rome had there been seen, I am sure, a golden vessel of such size, or wrought with art so marvellous. The language of wonder and pleasure was heard, on every side, from every mouth. Even Livia and Julia, who in Palmyra had been used to the goblets and wine cups of the eastern Demetrius, showed amazement not less than the others at a magnificence and a beauty that surpassed all experience and all conception. Just above where the bowl was placed, hung the principal light, by which the table and the apartment were illuminated, which, falling in floods upon the wrought or polished gold and the thickly strewed diamonds, caused it lo blaze with a splendor which the eyes could hardly bear, and, till accustomed to it by gazing, prevented us from minutely examin