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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/222

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the simplicity and nobility which Rome borrowed from Greece, but figures which in some particulars recall the old art of Asia, and in others already announce the art of the middle ages. The head is encircled with a diadem. The body and the limbs are entirely hidden by clinging draperies which are very long and very narrow. The materials which form this species of case are decorated from top to bottom with rich embroideries in the shape of medallions, flowers, animals, and even persons. There is no more deception; we are no longer in Rome; fictions so long preserved have finally disappeared; the empire has turned into an Oriental despotism.

"Between the two extremes of the series, how many degrees are there which furnish the very best commentaries of history? The heads of all the Cæsars, even those of Claudius, the accidental scholar, and of Caligula, the wicked and witty fool, are aristocratic. They show the nobility and the pride of race. You recognize in them the descendants of those grand patrician families which at first seemed to hold exclusively the right to give masters to the Romans. With Vespasian, scion of a middle-class family pushing its way into second-class public positions, the advent of a new order is evident. Vespasian has the round and smooth, double-chinned face of the chief clerk of a commercial or banking establishment. Trajan has the features of a soldier who has probably pushed his way to the front from the ranks. Hadrian, who turns his head to hear the better, whose bright eyes gleam even in the marble, whose half-opened mouth seems in the act of speech, shows the features of a learned and intelligent scholar. Marcus Aurelius, with his bristling hair and beard, would be taken for a Greek philosopher. In Caracalla's looks there is derangement. His eye betrays that murderous and fantastic frenzy which seized more than one emperor, especially of those who from early youth had been exposed to the temptations of absolute power.[1]

"Not to personages alone do pictured monuments give life.


  1. There is a bust of Julius Caesar in England of which a cast or a copy should be by the side of every expounder of the Commentaries. The presence of the bust would give new life to the narrative, for there is more life in the marble than in the writing. There are in the Louvre, placed side by side, three representations of Nero which tell the story of the man more graphically than the pages of Suetonius. The first represents the youth, whose thoughts are pure, hopes bright, and resolves noble. The second shows the conflict with evil and the beginning of the triumph of sin. The third is so monstrous in its brutality and lust that it must have been taken but a short time before the catastrophe which terminated the matricide's career. Historians may detail the circumstances of the fall of Rome, philosophers may investigate the causes which led to it, but that hideous face in the Louvre tells the whole story with a force so startling, so instantaneous, that history and philosophy seem weak and wanting.