Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
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5.3.7

In the interior, the first city above Ostia is Rome; it is the only city built on the Tiber. It has been remarked above, that its position was fixed, not by choice, but necessity; to this must be added, that those who afterwards enlarged it, were not at liberty to select a better site, being prevented by what was already built. The first [kings] fortified the Capitol, the Palatium, and the Collis Quirinalis, which was so easy of access, that when Titus Tatius came to avenge the rape of the [Sabine] virgins, he took it on the first assault. Ancus Marcius, who added Mount Cælius and the Aventine Mount with the intermediate plain, separated as these places were both from each other and from what had been formerly fortified, was compelled to do this of necessity; since he did not consider it proper to leave outside his walls, heights so well protected by nature, to whomsoever might have a mind to fortify themselves upon them, while at the same time he was not capable of enclosing the whole as far as Mount Quirinus. Servius perceived this defect, and added the Esquiline and Viminal hills. As these were both of easy access from without, a deep trench was dug outside them and the earth thrown up on the inside, thus forming a terrace of 6 stadia in length along the inner side of the trench. This terrace he surmounted with a wall flanked with towers, and extending from the Colline [Note] to the Esquiline gate. Midway along the terrace is a third gate, named after the Viminal hill. Such is the Roman rampart, which seems to stand in need of other ramparts itself. But it seems to me that the first [founders] were of opinion, both in regard to themselves and their successors, that Romans had to depend not on fortifications, but on arms and their individual valour, both for safety and for wealth, and that walls were not a defence to men, but men were a defence to walls. At the period of its commencement, when the large and fertile districts surrounding the city belonged to others, and while it lay easily open to assault, there was nothing in its position which could be looked upon as favourable; but when by valour and labour these districts became its own, there succeeded a tide of prosperity surpass-

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ing the advantages of every other place. Thus, notwithstanding the prodigious increase of the city, there has been plenty of food, and also of wood and stone for ceaseless building, rendered necessary by the falling down of houses, and on account of conflagrations, and of the sales, which seem never to cease. These sales are a kind of voluntary falling down of houses, each owner knocking down and rebuilding one part or another, according to his individual taste. For these purposes the numerous quarries, the forests, and the rivers which convey the materials, offer wonderful facilities. Of these rivers, the first is the Teverone, [Note] which flows from Alba, a city of the Latins near to the country of the Marsi, and from thence through the plain below this [city], till it unites with the Tiber. After this come the Nera [Note] and the Timia, [Note] which passing through Ombrica fall into the Tiber, and the Chiana, [Note] which flows through Tyrrhenia and the territory of Clusiumn. [Note] Augustus Cæsar endeavoured to avert from the city damages of the kind alluded to, and instituted a company of freedmen, who should be ready to lend their assistance in cases of con- flagration; [Note] whilst, as a preventive against the falling of houses, he decreed that all new buildings should not be carried so high as formerly, and that those erected along the public ways should not exceed seventy feet in height. [Note] But these improvements must have ceased only for the facilities afforded by the quarries, the forests, and the ease of transport. 5.3.8

These advantages accrued to the city from the nature of the country; but the foresight of the Romans added others

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besides. The Grecian cities are thought to have flourished mainly on account of the felicitous choice made by their founders, in regard to the beauty and strength of their sites, their proximity to some port, and the fineness of the country. But the Roman prudence was more particularly employed on matters which had received but little attention from the Greeks, such as paving their roads, constructing aqueducts, and sewers, to convey the sewage of the city into the Tiber. In fact, they have paved the roads, cut through hills, and filled up valleys, so that the merchandise may be conveyed by carriage from the ports. The sewers, arched over with hewn stones, are large enough in some parts for waggons loaded with hay to pass through; while so plentiful is the supply of water from the aqueducts, that rivers may be said to flow through the city and the sewers, and almost every house is furnished with water-pipes and copious fountains. To effect which Marcus Agrippa directed his special attention; he likewise bestowed upon the city numerous ornaments. We may remark, that the ancients, occupied with greater and more necessary concerns, paid but little attention to the beautifying of Rome. But their successors, and especially those of our own day, without neglecting these things, have at the same time embellished the city with numerous and splendid objects. Pompey, divus Cæsar, and Augustus, with his children, friends, wife, and sister, have surpassed all others in their zeal and munificence in these decorations. The greater number of these may be seen in the Campus Martius, which to the beauties of nature adds those of art. The size of the plain is marvellous, permitting chariot-races and other feats of horsemanship without impediment, and multitudes to exercise themselves at ball, [Note] in the circus [Note] and the palœstra. The structures which surround it, the turf covered with herbage all the year round,

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the summits of the hills beyond the Tiber, extending from its banks with panoramic effect, present a spectacle which the eye abandons with regret. Near to this plain is another surrounded with columns, sacred groves, three theatres, an amphitheatre, and superb temples in close contiguity to each other; and so magnificent, that it would seem idle to describe the rest of the city after it. For this cause the Romans, esteeming it as the most sacred place, have there erected funeral monuments to the most illustrious persons of either sex. The most remarkable of these is that designated as the Mausoleum, [Note] which consists of a mound of earth raised upon a high founda- tion of white marble, situated near the river, and covered to the top with ever-green shrubs. Upon the summit is a bronze statue of Augustus Cæsar, and beneath the mound are the ashes [Note] of himself, his relatives, and friends. Behind is a large grove containing charming promenades. In the centre of the plain, [Note] is the spot where this prince was reduced to ashes; it is surrounded with a double enclosure, one of marble, the other of iron, and planted within with poplars. If from hence you proceed to visit the ancient forum, which is equally filled with basilicas, porticos, and temples, you will there behold the Capitol, the Palatium, with the noble works which adorn them, and the piazza of Livia, each successive place causing you speedily to forget what you have before seen. Such is Rome.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 5.3.5 Str. 5.3.8 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 5.3.10

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