IN the gallery of the Vatican may be seen a statue which for more than three centuries and a half has been considered one of the most precious products of the ancient chisel. The greatest artists have made it an object of study, archæologists and historians of sculpture have written of it with enthusiasm, critics of every nation have come to view it, and all have united in regarding it as one of the noblest works of those master spirits of the past, whose feelings, struggling irresistibly for expression, found utterance in the enduring language of marble and bronze. It is of colossal proportions, and represents a man at the zenith of his strength. Although everything about the figure indicates a state of the most profound and peaceful repose, the broad and massive shoulders, the expanded and powerful chest, the strongly developed limbs, the muscles lying in huge masses beneath the integument, all speak of that period of life when, for sturdy vigor, toughness of fibre, and ability for powerful achievement, the forces of the body have reached the highest point. But the work has been abused and injured to the last degree short of entire destruction. The head is wanting, the arms have been broken off at the shoulders and the legs at the knees, and these precious fragments have never been found. Only the grand torso remains to indicate to modern eyes what the full beauty of the perfect statue must have been. A reposing Herakles we call it, — a deified Herakles many of the highest authorities prefer to say ; but beyond this general understanding of its character the mutilation renders it impossible to go.
We may look upon this figure as an epitome and brief chronicle of the vicissitudes through which ancient art has passed. In its battered and disfigured form is wrapped up the history of ages of change and desolation. In gazing upon it we seem to see unfolded, as in a most vivid panorama, the events of more than twenty centuries, — events which have shaken the structure of society to its centre, and have moulded the plastic substance of human institutions from ancient to modern ideals. In this wonderful alembic, as in the magic cauldron of Medea, have been mingled elements of the most dissimilar nature. Among them, cast in by the hand of that greatest of sorceresses, whose influence is felt in the insatiable cravings of mankind for power, progress, and change, were the precious products of Greek and Roman art. That they were in part consumed need cause us no surprise. From the entire mass the Æson of humanity has come forth restored to youthful strength, and like the youth of that old heroic age has entered once more upon the career of dauntless and magnammous achievement.
The external changes through which art has passed form one of the most interesting and striking episodes in the transition from ancient to modern society. Here, as in so many other departments of history, it is revolution rather than evolution which meets the eye of the investigator. Of statues of the classic era there is not one, perhaps, which stands to-day upon its ancient base. Carried from city to city and from land to land; transported across seas ; set up this year in Athens, the next in Antium, Tibur, or Rome ; removed from temples to porticoes, from porticoes to theatres, from theatres to imperial villas, palaces, or baths, they were at last thrown from their pedestals to lie shattered and forgotten, till the dust of centuries gradually covered them from sight.
Art in antiquity flowed in two distinct channels, the religions and the secular. Originating in an attempt to represent to the eye the divinities men had been taught to adore, it passed by a natural transition to those half-fabulous ancestors who, springing from the union of gods and mortals, were scarcely more human than divine. But the æsthetic impulse was too strong to stop here. Once awakened, it sought similar expression for the entire range of feelings and ideals, whether patriotic, domestic, social, or superstitions, and also extended over a considerable realm in which beauty seemed to be cultivated merely for its own sake. This twofold aspect of art should be constantly kept in mind. It bears an important relation to the subject under consideration.
It might naturally be supposed that those works which were connected with the worship of the gods would by the sacredness of their character be protected from violence. Such to a great degree was the case. In the nobler periods of Grecian history, indeed, the principle was never di-regarded by the different states in their dealings with each other. This was due to the fact that, whatever hostilities might exist between them, they all possessed the same gods in common. The Zeus. Here, and Athene of Athens were the Zeus, Here, and Athene of Thebes, Argos, and Sparta, and an insult offered to these deities in the conquest of one city was sure to be visited upon the heads of the offenders in their own land. The statues of the gods, therefore, were never considered a proper object of plunder. So strong was the feeling in this regard that when the destruction of a town was decided upon it was customary to carry them away to a place of safety, after tirst addressing them with prayers and supplications to avert their wrath for what would ordinarily be an act of sacrilege. Demetrios Poliorketes, in the siege of Rhodes, even abstained from attacking the city on the most favorable side, for fear of injuring the works of Protogenes, whose studio was situated there. An instance of nobler regard for art it would be difficult to find.
In conflicts between nations of different religions beliefs, however, such restraints were little felt. Accordingly in the Persian wars multitudes of statues were plundered or destroyed, both in Greece itself and in the Ionic cities of Asia Minor. In the latter, indeed, there was not a temple, except that of the Ephesian Artemis, which Xerxes did not sack and demolish.
The second social war, which broke out in 220 B. C., presents a new phase of Hellenic feeling toward art. Statues carved by the hands of Greeks now began to be destroyed by the degenerate offspring to whom their name, but not their finer mstincts, had descended. The war was carried on between two states which, neither in art nor in literature, had ever won a place in the bright firmament of Grecian genius. On the one side were the Ætolians, a race of contemptible freebooters, who lived chiefly by depredations committed against their neighbors; on the other, the Achæans, a people brave and hardy, but lacking those high mental and spiritual qualities which had won immortality for the Athenians. With the former were allied the Lacedæmouians, with the latter Philip V. of Macedon. The Ætolians, taking possession of Dion in Macedonia, leveled a portion of it to the ground, burned the porticoes of the temple, destroyed the votive offerings and all the statues of the kings. The sacredness of its oracle did not preserve the ancient Dodona from a similar fate. Its colonnades were set on fire, many of its consecrated gifts were consumed, and the fane itself was razed to its foundations. The Ætolians also laid waste the temple of the Itonic Pallas, of Poseidon at Tænarum and Mantinea, of Artemis at Lnsi, and of Here at Argos. The other army was not slow in retaliating. Marching into Thermon on two different occasions, Philip vented his rage upon the offerings, burned the porticoes of the temple, and tore down the ruins, He spared the statues of the gods, however, and those which bore inscriptions consecrating them to any deity. All others, not less than two thousand in number, were mutilated and overthrown. At Nikephorion he demolished the temples and images of the gods alike. At Pergamos not only were the sacred edilices and altars prostrated, but even the stones were broken into pieces, that the buildings might never again be erected.
The Athenians, also, were destined to suffer from the malicious violence of Philip. Having quitted his alliance for that of the Romans in the war which broke out between him and the latter nation in 200 B. C., they found their territory invaded by the Macedonian monarch, who plundered the temples and ravaged the gardens, the tombs of the Attic heroes, the Academy, and other buildings in the suburbs. In a second incursion he broke in pieces a large number of statues, and demolished the shrines which he had previously desecrated, here also, as at Pergamos, reducing the stones to fragments, that the edilices might not he rebuilt. The Athenians, enraged at this wantonuess, passed an ordinance that the statues of Philip and all members of his family should be destroyed, and the places containing inscriptions in his honor regarded us unholy and infamous.
For more than two hundred years works of art seem to have suffered little beyond the losses and breakages occasioned by transporting them from place to place, and by the wear and tear to which fragile marbles would naturally be exposed in public thoroughfares, baths, theatres, circuses, and marketplaces. But darker days were coming. The night which settled over the Roman world during the ghastly period of imperial crime was not less disastrous to art than to humanity. Scarcely twentyfive years had elapsed after the death of Augustus when Caligula ordered the statues of eminent Romans, which had been removed by that emperor from the overcrowded Capitol to the Campus Martius, to be thrown down and broken to pieces. Subsequently he struck the heads from the finest images of the gods, and replaced them with his own repulsive features. He even wished to convert the Olympian Zeus of Pheidias into a likeness of himself, but, failing to remove it from Greece, did not carry out his intention. After his death his statues were destroyed by order of the Senate, and it is probable that many antique works, then regarded merely as imperial portraits, were demolished with the rest. Claudius cut out the head from two paintings of Alexander the Great, and substituted that of Augustus instead. Nero, who personally took part in the public games of Greece and aspired to be the most skillful charioteer of his day, threw down the figures of former victors at Olympia, and according to Suetonius east some of them into the sewers. His reign, however, witnessed a still more serious disaster to art in the great conflagration at Rome in 64 A. D. Of the fourteen sections of the city only four escaped injury. In this fire numberless statues must have perished, the tract burned over being that in which many of the finest works were collected. In the conflicts that took place in the time of Vitellius, Sabinus, the brother of Vespasian, shut himself up in the Capitol and protected himself with a barricade of statues. Being besieged by the imperial party, he defended himself by breaking in pieces the ancient marbles and hurling them down on the heads of his assailants. At length Vitellius ordered the Capitol to be set on fire, and burned in it Sabinus and his followers. Among the works thus consumed was Lysippos’ bronze figure of a dog licking its wounds, which stood in the cella of Juno, and was considered such a miracle of art that the custodians were responsible for it with their lives. Domitian, like Caligula, made himself so odious to all classes that after his assassination the Senate ordered his likenesses to be utterly destroyed. Those of bronze were therefore melted and sold, and those of marble were reduced to fragments, only one — or according to some authorities three — remaining. The torso of one, all battered, cut, and hacked, was discovered near Frascati in 1758, showing the violence with which the sentence against him had been executed. His wife, Domitia, seems to have been treated with similar indignity. Other portraits of the emperor, however, were subsequently made. It was no uncommon thing to treat in this way the effigies of eminent persons who had forfeited the good-will of the people. The Athenians in a single year erected three hundred and sixty statues, mostly equestrian, to Demetrios Phalereus, but on the loss of his popularity destroyed them all in a single day. The same fate befell those of Marius Gratidianus, which had been set up in all the public places of Rome. Commodus converted the colossus of Nero into a likeness of himself, and according to an improbable story by later chronographers even placed his head upon that of Rhodes, which was reputed to have been set up by Vespasian or Hadrian after lying prostrate for three hundred years. The inhuman Maximin not only stripped the temples of their gold and silver offerings, but melted alike the statues of gods, heroes, and emperors, coining them into money to satisfy his own avarice and the greed of his soldiers. At length, in the fourth century, it became the common practice, whenever a tyrant was overthrown, for the victor to strike off the heads of all his statues and substitute his own, leaving the other portions of the figure untouched.
The reign of Constantine, however, marks a new era in the mutilations, of ancient art. The conversion of the emperor to Christianity resulted in an immense development of the power of the clergy, who for the most part saw in the representations of ancient deities only the symbols of an abominable idolatry. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Augustine had written with severity against both painting and seulpture. The influence of the councils, beginning with that of Illiberis about the year 300 A. D., was especially bitter against the latter. So long as the statues, or, as they were regarded, the idols, of the gods remained, they would be worshiped; and so long as they were worshiped, men would go thronging to perdition. To those who cherished such a belief, the path of duty could not be doubtful : destroy the idols, and save the souls of men. But this was impossible without the imperial authority, and although Constantine, in making Christianity the religion of the state, had issued an edict exhorting his subjects to embrace the new faith, he was too experienced a man of affairs to alienate the affections of a large portion of his subjects by striking wantonly at the things which they held sacred. But Christianity was all the while growing, not only through the power of the gospel on the hearts of men, but also through accessions from that portion of the population whose conscience would not allow them to be at variance with the party for the time being in the ascendency. At length, in the latter part of his reign, the natural development of events and the increasing influence of the church won from the emperor a mandate that the snare of idolatry should be removed from before the feet of men. Agents were accordingly sent out through the cities and rural districts of the realm, who, armed with royal authority, commanded the priests to bring forth the images of the gods from their inmost shrines. Such as were of silver or gold were thrown into the crucible to be reconverted into bullion. Those of gold and ivory were stripped of their precious materials, but the useless and unsightly kernel was left as a grim admonition to the deluded worshipers of the worthlessness of these manufactured gods. Such as were of bronze were carried away entire to adorn the streets, forums, and palaces of the imperial city. Among these were the Sminthian and the Delphic Apollo, the Delphic tripod, the Muses from Mount Helikon, and the celebrated Pan which Pausanias the Spartan and the states of Greece dedicated at the close of the Persian war. In certain cases the temples were reconsecrated as churches under the patronage of some saint. In others they were stripped of their doors and roofs, and allowed to fall gradually into ruin. The shrine of Venus on Mount Labanus, however, and that of Asklepios at Ægæ, in Cilicia, were wholly destroyed, with the statues they contained. Near the Forum Tauri in Constantinople stood a temple built by Severus, adorned with marble, ivory, bronze, and silver statues of all the deities, which were known as the gods of Severus. These were appropriated by Constantine, who caused the marble to be chiseled over into subjects of a less objectionable character. Eusebius relates with pious satisfaction that, on beholding their fanes everywhere laid waste, many of the people embraced the true faith, while others, though by no means convinced of its superiority, openly derided the old, when they saw inside the images they had held so sacred dirty rags and straw which had been crammed into them, or the bones and skulls of human beings that had been used by soothsayers in their divinations.
It must be confessed that in his relation to Christianity Constantine displayed in a remarkable manner that farseeing sagacity which contributed so largely to his wonderful success. Standing on the border of two great eras, he was the first to see the resistless inner power of the new religion, and to convert it into a mighty engine for the accomplishment of his will. His eye it was which, in a purely secular sense, discerned the truth that by the cross he was to conquer, and his τουτω νικησϵις was but the projection upon the heavens of that great fact which his comprehensive mind had already grasped. Nominally accepting the principles of Christian belief, it was only just before his death that he discovered his need of baptism, and availed himself of its hallowed efficacy in time to save his soul and secure an unquestioned place among the heroes of the faith. Professedly the champion of the gospel, he was not less the fosterer of pagan philosophy, and under his patronage the schools of Athens were once more thronged with pupils from all parts of the empire. Acknowledging as true the God who was revealed in the teachings of the Nazarene, he was not insensible to the deities of ancient art, and, while adorning his capital with the more enduring works of marble and bronze, contrived to satisfy the church by the destruction of such figures of silver and gold as could most readily be converted into coin to enrich the imperial treasury. Despite the statement of the old historians and biographers, we are compelled to regard his iconoclastic measures as far more limited than many are accustomed to believe. They probably did not extend beyond Greece in the West and the coasts of Asia Minor in the East, and certainly did not reach Africa, Gaul, or even Italy. Much less can they be supposed to have been carried out in the more distant provinces of the empire. His sons, Constans and Constantius, found it necessary, after his death, to pass severe enactments against sacrifices to idols, yet for over fifty years more than four hundred temples and shrines remained in the city of Rome alone, in which the heathen worship still prevailed, and the lives of victims were offered up on the altars of the ancient faith. Image-worship, indeed, was the most natural expression of the religious feeling of the times, In this respect the Christians were not much in advance of their pagan brethren, and the great Constantine, who had broken statues and denounced idolatry in his life, died to have lamps burned before his own effigy and to be addressed in prayers by his devout subjects, in whose estimation he had become scarcely less a deity than Herakles and Theseus had been to the Greeks.
Other emperors continued the policy which Constantine had begun. About the year 375 Gratian overthrew many statues of the gods, and in 383 great numbers were demolished in Greece, under Valentinian II., among them, according to some accounts, being the Olympian Zeus of Pheidias. Probably, however, it was the statue in the Olympieion at Athens which was really destroyed, as this and the renowned work of Pheidias are sometimes confounded by historians. But it was in the reign of Theodosius the Great that the general spoliation of works of art in the West began. This emperor, whose zeal for orthodox Christianity found scope for activity in measures against both pagans and Arians, and whose abhorrence of the latter heresy led him to erect in the forum at Constantinople a statue of its great champion so near the ground that it could be maltreated and defiled with every sort of filth by the passersby, at length issued an order that the temples should be closed and offerings abolished throughout the Roman world. Though this was no more than Constans and Constantius had previously done, the strength of the ecclesiastical party was now able to give to the command an effectiveness which before it had not possessed. The monks and clergy, calling upon the faithful of their flocks, accordingly proceeded to carry the decree into execution in their own fashion ; breaking in pieces the statues, shutting up or demolishing the temples, and burning the libraries connected with them. These violent outbreaks were at first directed against the seats of obscene or mystic worship, as temples of Venus and Bacchus, Mithras caverns, and the like, but eventually extended to other shrines as well. The conversion of temples into churches in some instances saved them, but their precious contents were doomed. Rufinus, in his continuation of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, has graphically described the destruction of the great statue of Jupiter Scrapis at Alexandria. The attendants of the temple had announced that the god himself would protect this venerable fane. In 391 A. D., however, the mob, led on by Archbishop Theophilus, stormed and took the edifice. Then it was that the priests made known the dreadful will of the deity. If sacrilegious hands Were lifted against the statue, the heavens would full, the earth would yawn asunder, and all nature would sink back into the primeval chaos. The Christians, imbued with the superstition of the age, he-itated, and the devout worshipers of Serapis waited in awe-struck silence. At length one of the soldiers, bolder than the rest, seized an axe and dealt the image a blow upon the cheek. A great shout — apparently of horror on the one side and of nervous uncertainty on the other — burst from the lips of the assembled multitude; but when neither the heavens fell nor the earth showed signs of opening, the courage of the Christians was restored. A cloud of dust arose from the interior of the statue, as blow succeeded blow, until at length the ill-fated god lay prostrate on the pavement, of the temple. Ropes were then placed around it and it was broken in pieces. The members were carried in triumph through the streets, while the great torso was burned in the presence of the assembled people in the forum. The sacred utensils and those mystic symbols of procreation with which the student of ancient religions is familiar were raised aloft and borne amid jeers and mockery through the market-place, and no indignity was omitted which could degrade the god or humiliate his worshipers. The populace, enraged beyond endurance by these needless insults, at length made an attack upon the Christians, who, in the struggle which followed, came off far from victorious. But the emperor was on their side, and the issue could not be doubtful. Armed with his authority, they went throughout the city, tearing down the busts of the god which were attached to the walls of houses, or set up in the vestibules and windows or above the doors, and replacing them with the sign of the cross. From Alexandria the movement spread throughout Egypt, till in every city, village, and fortified place, in every rural spot, along every river and stream, and even in the deserts, the altars were broken and demolished, and the land which had been consecrated to demons was restored to cultivation. Similar scenes were enacted elsewhere. Martin of Tours pursued the same destructive course in France, and for at least eight years fanatical outbreaks in various localities were of frequent occurrence. While it would be wrong to attribute these extreme measures to any direct command of the emperor, it is nevertheless true that, by giving loose rein to the ecclesiastical party, and deciding in their favor when conflicts arose between them and his pagan subjects, as in the attack on the temple of Dionysos at Alexandria, Theodosius threw his authority directly upon their side.
It is probable, however, that this work of destruction was confined chiefly to places remote from the two capitals of the empire, as cities in Gaul, Asia, Africa, and Spain. At Rome it seems to have been limited to the private mutilation of statues by over-zealous individuals, or to the pillaging carried on by the eunuchs of the imperial court, who were in the habit of decorating their palaces with marbles plundered from the temples. To prevent these abuses an officer was appointed, called the Centurion of Beautiful Objects,— Centurio Nitentium Rerum, — whose duty it was to have the city patrolled nightly by his soldiers, in order that its treasures of art might not be molested. At length, in 399 A. D., Honorius issued a decree which, though again prohibiting sacrifices, forbade the further destruction of temples or sculpture ; but, so far as numberless works were concerned, the order came too late. Nine years afterwards, by a complete change of policy, he commanded the statues to be removed, not only from the temples, but from all the palaces and public buildings. The testimony of subsequent historians, as well as of modern excavations, compels us to believe that this decree was not fully carried out. Three years after his death, Theodosius the Younger ordered the demolition of all the temples of Illyria.
The autumn of the year in which Honorius issued his last-mentioned decree saw the Roman capital invested by the army of Alaric, and subjected to the unspeakable horrors of famine and disease. The terms of capitulation exacted by the Gothic king are well known. They included thirty thousand pounds of silver and five thousand of gold. To obtain this sum the precious metal was stripped from the images of the gods and thrown, with many statues of solid gold and silver, into the crucible. Among the works which were destroyed in this way was a celebrated figure of the goddess Virtus, but the quality which she represented had long since fled from the degenerate countrymen of Cæsar and Seipio.
In 455 A. D., the Vandal Genseric, having avenged the murder of Valentinian, stripped the bronze tiles from the roof oE the Capitol, collected all the imperial treasure, and, placing his plunder with a large number of bronze statues on board a ship, sent the whole to Africa to adorn the city of Carthage, which he had made the capital of his kingdom. But a severe storm arose, and the vessel was lost before reaching the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Two years later an earthquake overthrew many large buildings at Rome, burying a considerable number of statues in their fall.
When the Goths, under Vitiges, besieged Rome in 537, the Mole of Hadrian, now the Castle of St. Angelo, was converted into a fortress, in which the soldiers of Belisarius defended themselves with great valor. Being hard pressed by the enemy, they broke up the statues with which the structure was adorned, and hurled them down on the heads of their assailants. Among the works that met this fate were no doubt the celebrated Barberini Faun and the statue of Septimius Severus, both of which were found lying in the ditch surrounding the castle, when it was cleared out by Urban VIII., eleven centuries later. The same use had been made of the statues of ancient Byzantium, when it was invested by the troops of the same Severus, in 196. Rome also suffered severely in the war between Henry IV. and Gregory VII. Two thirds of the city were then burned, the conflagration being the greatest that had visited it from the time of Nero. As the quarters traversed by the fire were chiefly those around the Coliseum, the Forum, and the Capitol, there is every reason to believe that, with the ancient buildings, many valuable works of sculpture must also have perished.
It has been the custom to describe the conquest of Rome by the Northern nations as especially disastrous to art, and historians have found opportunity for many brilliant passages in portraying the destruction of ancient marbles at their hands. To a limited degree, no doubt, this is true, and we may with safety picture to ourselves scenes in the sack of the city in which the reckless soldier would lift his battle-axe to dash in pieces some precious statue that the modern world would gladly purchase at almost its weight in gold; but such occurrences are to be regarded as acts of individual wantonness rather than as part of any regular system of devastation. It was plunder, not destruction, that the conquerors sought, and such plunder as could most easily be transported by an army on the march. Works of gold and silver, and to some extent of bronze, must therefore have suffered most at their hands, since these could be immediately coined into money, or the metal disposed of anywhere at a ready sale. With the exception of the aqueducts, which were frequently cut to intercept the supply of water when the city was besieged, the buildings and the public works were for the most part left uninjured, and were standing long after they are commonly supposed to have been destroyed. Art was equally fortunate. Procopius, at the middle of the sixth century, cites as ocular proof of the magnificence of Rome after the expulsion of the Goths its immense quantity of antique sculpture, which included masterpieces by Pheidias, Lysippos, and Myron, the famous bronze cow of the latter being yet in existence. He declares, indeed, that the city had two populations, equally numerous, — one of people, and the other of statues. Toward the end of the same century, Cassiodorus, the minister of Theodoric the Great, speaks with enthusiasm of the works still to be seen there, thus showing conclusively that the invasions of the barbarians were far less destructive to art than it has been the fashion to believe. The smaller cities, however, and the villas of emperors and wealthy Romans were in many cases less favored, and those which dared oppose the progress of the invaders were often leveled to the ground. Puteoli was subjected to the most wanton violence at the hands of Alaric, Genseric, and Totila, the latter of whom also destroyed Perusia and numerous other towns. A similar calamity befell those that refused to open their gates to the victorious Attila. In such cases there can be no doubt that works of art shared in the general devastation. While encamped at Tibur, preparatory to the siege of Rome, the army of Totila laid waste a great part of the town and the splendid villa of Hadrian, in which for four centuries had been garnered up some of the most precious monuments of antiquity. The sculptures found here in modern times, broken, cut, and battered by the strokes of axes, show how vindictive these barbarians could be, while the multitudes of statues which, in the last three centuries and a half, have been taken from the ruins to adorn almost all the museums of Europe indicate what a vast treasure-house of art this imperial villa had been made. The conquests of the Saracens, too, were not less disastrous. The luxurious Baiæ, whose magnificent villas contained many an ancient masterpiece, was sacked by them, and their fierce hatred of images must have found free exercise in shattering alike the effigies of gods and the statues of eminent men. Capua, Antium, Cumæ, and other towns were entirely destroyed by them. The celebrated Venus and Psyche of the Naples Museum are doubtless to be looked upon as memorials of their desolating career, as probably also are the Apollo Belvedere and the Borghese Gladiator, both of which adorned the imperial palace of the favorite seaside resort of Latium.
What has been said of the barbarians in Italy may apply with equal truth to their career in Greece. Here, too, the accounts of their ravages seem to have been greatly exaggerated. Notwithstanding the statement that Alaric demolished all the temples which had hitherto been spared, it is unreasonable to suppose that, coming from a career of wanton devastation in the Hellenic territory, his army would so suddenly have acquired the temperance and moderation which they displayed in Italy. Evidence exists, too, that the buildings said to have been destroyed by him were standing many years after his death. Indeed, it was in Athens that the monuments of antiquity remained longest uninjured. The story of the terror which caused him to lead away his troops on beholding the lofty figure of the Athene Promachos frowning on him from the Acropolis is no doubt a fiction, born in the imagination of the pagan writer Zosimos, who transferred to the breast of Alaric emotions which might have been natural enough to his own. The Christian Goth was not a man to be so easily frightened, and, still more, he showed similar forbearance on other occasions, when there was no Athene whose frown he had to dread.
The condition of art during the mediæval period forms one of the saddest chapters in its eventful history. By the time the Western empire became extinct Italy had passed completely under the domination of ecclesiastical ideas. The struggle of orthodoxy with Arianism and other heresies of the age had called into exercise the intellects of the ablest fathers of the church, and their learning and eloquence, permeating every channel of thought and feeling, had drawn the attention of the entire Christian world to the consideration of religious truths. In addition to this, the ascetic views of these great leaders — which grew out of a literal interpretation of the command to mortify the deeds of the flesh and separate themselves from the world — had been accepted as matters of unquestioned belief. This life, to most men only a snare and a delusion, was at best but an uncertain preparation for a dread and awful eternity. No time in its fleeting hours for the pleasures of taste and the delights of the imagination, when the austerest use of all its moments barely sufficed to snatch the soul from perdition and win a humble place in heaven. The masterpieces of ancient art were therefore regarded as but the vain and profitless toys of worldly gratification. But this was not all. They were the embodiment of a religion antagonistic to the principles of the gospel, and many of them were associated with rites of the grossest immorality. The hard battle which the champions of Christianity had so lately won was still vivid in their remembrance, and the wounds which they had received in the conflict had not yet lost their soreness.
Under the influence of teachings like these it is not surprising that a general indifference to works of art should gradually have been brought about. Valued scarcely more than so many blocks of uncut marble from the quarries, the most precious statues were left to totter from their bases through age or neglect, to be mutilated at the pleasure of the passer-by, to be torn down by the overzealous partisans of an unenlightened faith, and, when thus overturned, to be gradually covered up beneath the accumulations of earth which hid from view their broken and disfigured forms. Ghiberti tells of an antique statue which was discovered in digging for the foundations of a house at Siena, about the middle of the fourteenth century, and was erected with great honor above the public fountain. After suffering many reverses in war with the Florentines, the citizens in public council decided that their misfortunes were a visitation of divine wrath, sent upon them because of their leniency to this idol, which would continue as long as it was allowed to remain in the city. At the advice of one of their number, it was accordingly broken to pieces and buried by stealth in the Florentine territory, that even its fragments might not pollute the Sienese soil. In a similar spirit Carlo Malatesta threw the statue of Virgil into the Mincio, because the people paid to the great poet the honor which should have been reserved for the saints. Manuel Chrysoloras, near the close of the same century, says that many figures of illustrious men, with their laurels and trophies were to be seen in Rome, overthrown and rolling in the mud and filth of the streets, some were hopelessly shattered, not a few fulfilled the office of stones for the foundations and walls of buildings, others were used as mountingblocks for horses, or employed to build inclosures for cattle and asses; while many were burnt into lime, and countless numbers covered up beneath thorns and brambles and growing trees, or buried out of sight in the ground.
These results were promoted by the unsettled character of the times. All the abler and more energetic intellects outside the ranks of the clergy found employment in the profession of war. Italy was for centuries the musterground of hostile armies, whose achievements have been indelibly etched upon the pages of European history. The cities, divided between rival factions which were liable at any moment to break out into deadly strife, were filled with impregnable towers and castles, whose frowning walls looked down on the peaceful citizens at every turn. Perched like birds’-nests upon the hilltops and inaccessible rocks of the open country, these strongholds in the towns were built on precipitous slopes, in the public squares, along the narrow streets, or amid the ruins and massive structures of republican and imperial grandeur. Not only so, but the ancient edifices themselves were often used for the same purpose. The mausoleums of Hadrian, Augustus, and Cecilia Metella, the triumphal arches of Titus, Constantine, and Septimius Severus, the Septizonium of the latter emperor, the Coliseum, the theatre of Marcellus, the baths of Constantine, and the ruins of the Palatine Hill were converted into fortresses by the Roman nobility. So intolerable did this strife of factions become that in 1258 the senator Brancaleone, who was invested with dictatorial power in order to check the evil, found it necessary to demolish a hundred and forty of these strongholds, among them temples, palaces, baths, and other venerable monuments of antiquity. Such statues as they contained must have been destroyed at the same time.
But another method of utilizing the ancient structures readily suggested itself. They were standing vacant, they were falling into ruin, they were no longer of any use either to gods or men, they were only needless encumbrances of the ground. Why transport stone from distant quarries, when here were materials ready fashioned to hand ? To the unimaginative masters of mediæval Rome this seemed the height of folly. Yet there were other considerations which influenced them no less. Upon the ancient buildings, as upon the ancient statues, anathema was written. They were not merely useless. They were tainted with the hopeless curse of paganism. The Flavian amphitheatre had been polluted with the blood of martyrs, the temples were the dwellingplaces of idols, the theatres had been consecrated to the obscene and sinful pleasures of a licentious drama, the baths were still reeking with pestilential memories of orgies which put high heaven to the blush. To this was added a feeling of superstitious awe, begotten within the mediæval mind at sight of those stupendous structures of the past. No human hands had reared their mighty sweep of walls, or poised those massive vaults and arches in the air. Demons alone could have done the work, and by demons must the work have been performed. Virgil and the other poets had possessed the potent charm which summoned these lost spirits from the abyss, and by their infernal power the huge stones had been piled, block on block, into those time-defying monuments of the ancient world. Whatever reverence might have been felt for such structures as the triumphs of human skill was therefore destroyed, and the only motive which could have prompted their preservation was wanting. As a result, the crowbar and the axe were called into requisition, and edifices the like of which the world has never beheld were torn down by ecclesiastics and nobles, to furnish materials for the churches and secular buildings of Rome ; while such masterpieces as the Niobe and Farnese Flora were buried beneath falling masonry, or left, shattered and overthrown, to be covered by the débris of crumbling roofs and walls, or by the sand which the wind slowly sifted over their disfigured loveliness. From the Coliseum alone have been erected the Palazzo di Venezia, the Cancelleria, the Palazzo Farnese, and it would be difficult to say with certainty how many other palaces and houses of the modern city. Nicholas V. quarried the Temple of Peace for his own buildings, Sixtus IV. destroyed the circular temple of Hercules, and Innocent VIII. authorized his architects to make use of whatever antique masonry they chose. For these new works lime must be obtained, and material for its manufacture was ready at hand in the statues and marble ornaments which existed in such profusion on every side. No care was taken to preserve these. They were at the mercy of any one who chose to use or abuse them, and none questioned him for so doing. In the Basilica Julia alone kilns and stone-cutters’ yards have been found at three different points; and here and in other parts of the city and vicinity not only inscriptions, marble columns, and the incrustations of buildings, but also the most precious statues of the ancient chisel, were reduced to lime. So universal was this custom that Petrarch declared that all the modern Rome of his day, great and beautiful as it was, and adorned with palaces, churches, and other edifices, had been cemented with lime made from antique marbles. Although an earthquake, described by the poet, overthrew many monuments in 1349., there seems to be no method of accounting for the disappearance of the innumerable statues which he alleges were still in the city except on the supposition that they were utilized in this way. So complete was the destruction that Poggio, not more than seventy-five years later, declared that, out of all the colossi and statues erected to eminent men in marble and bronze, only six remained. These were the equestrian figure of Marcus Aurelius; the Tiber, now in the Louvre; the Nile of the Vatican; the Marforio; and the horsemen of Monte Cavallo, then looked upon as representing two of the ancient philosophers. Peggio excepts, however, various works, intended, as he says, merely to Cater to the taste for art, — a statement which, it must be confessed, is capable of considerable elasticity of interpretation. The practice of burning statues for lime had begun as early as the fourth century, if not before. Constantins II. found it necessary to pass a law against it in 349, and more stringent measures were subsequently adopted by Valentinian II. During the mediæval peuiod these decrees were no longer available. At length, about the middle of the sixteenth century, Paul III. forbade the practice under penalty of death, and gave orders that statues should not be taken from Rome without the especial permission of the Pope. Remembering that this was in the age of Raphael and Michael Angelo, when enthusiasm for antiquities was at its height, we may form some conception of that mad rage for destruction which could be restrained only by so severe a penalty as this. In the same century antique heads and fragments were often found built into walls, like common stones. From the masonry of a house near the church of St. Lorenzo outside the Walls were taken eighteen or twenty heads of imperial personages, which went to enrich the famous collection of the Cardinal Farnese. Even Paul III., though loving and protecting art, added to the rubbish resulting from the previous destruction of towers and fortresses in the Forum by demolishing three small churches and over two hundred houses and other buildings between the arches of Titus and Constantine, when he constructed his triumphal street from the Porta San Sebastiano to the Capitol, preparatory to the reception of Charles V., in 1536. The débris from the neighboring hills was also deposited here when the old foundations were cleared for the erection of new structures, until the accumulation in some places reached a depth of forty feet, and such works as had escaped destruction were buried hopelessly beneath it. A similar state of things existed in other parts of the city. The scarcity of metal, too, caused the bronzes of antiquity to be in equal demand for the needs of the times. Sixtus IV. destroyed the most ancient bridge across the Tiber for cannon-balls. Urban VIII. removed the bronze from the beams and ceiling in the portico of the Pantheon, and converted it into the columns which support the canopy of the high altar of St. Peter’s, and into cannon for the defense of the papal fortress of St. Angelo. There is no reason to suppose, indeed, that these pontiffs would feel toward sculptures in bronze a tenderness which those in marble had failed to awaken within them, and masterpieces by Myron and Lysippos may have been among the works that disappeared forever in the melting, pot of the founder. Sunt idola antiquorum, — They are the idols of the ancients,” — growled Adrian VI., as he walked through the Belvedere gallery after his election to succeed the munificent Leo X. Pius V., nearly half a century later, debated the question of removing the statues of the gods from the Vatican, and Sixtus V., at the expiration of twenty years more, ordered all such to be thrown from the Capitol. The importance of keeping in mind the distinction between sacred and secular art is here seen. In antiquity it was the latter which suffered most, the figures of the gods being generally preserved by the Greeks and Romans in their foreign and domestic wars. In later times the reverse was true. The statues of the ancient deities were the most obnoxious to the champions of the Christian faith, and hence were frequently destroyed when those of heroes and eminent men escaped. Bargæus, professor of belles-lettres at Pisa in the latter half of the sixteenth century, and the defender of papal iconoclasm as directed against the works of classic art, mentions the fact that almost all the statues found iu his time overturned upon the ground were those of Venus, Apollo, Jupiter, Mercury, Bacchus, satyrs, and similar subjects relating to the superstitions and fables of the pagan religion. From this he infers that the motive of their destruction was a purely ecclesiastical one; and such, no doubt, it was. Thrown down and broken partly by command of the Popes, partly by the zeal of the people ; jeered and mocked at and spit upon by those within whose bosoms their beauty could awaken no responsive feeling; made the target of missiles; their shattered fragments employed to prop the pots of the housewife or to stop the chinks of walls; their heads rolled about by boys in sport, or used, it may be, as cannon-balls to subserve the needs of mediæval artillery, — what crime had these frail beings of the imagination committed ? The crime of surviving an age which could appreciate their worth.
One cannot dwell upon considerations like these without emotions of the deepest sadness. As we think of those masterful creations in which the ancient artist had embodied the choicest feelings of his soul, and in imagination see them shivered by the axe and sledge-hammer, then stand by the kiln and look upon the fragments as they gradually crumble into lime, or beside the furnace of the bronze-moulder, and watch the metal of exquisite hands and limbs, or of fair, sweet features that have calmly looked the centuries in the face and felt no change, slowly melting to a liquid mass, in which their delicate outlines and still more delicate spiritual qualities are forever lost, we involuntarily exclaim, in the language of the Northern mythology, Surely the twilight of the gods has come.
But it was not at Rome alone that works of sculpture met such a fate. In the capital of the East a similar series of calamities overtook them. The Fortuna Urbis, borne in the chariot of the sun, which was erected by Constantine in the Hippodrome, was ordered by Julian to be thrown into a pit and covered with earth, on account of the cross that the champion of Christianity had caused to be engraved upon its forehead. It is probable that other works, equally objectionable to the restorer of paganism, met a like doom, though their loss in an artistic point of view cannot have been great. The effigy of Julian himself, which he had erected in front of the mint, was subsequently broken to pieces by Theodosius the Great, through abhorrence of one whom he regarded only as a detestable apostate. The Arians, on coming into power, under the patronage of Constantius and Valens threw into the fire the statues of Alexander, Metrophanes, Mary Jesus, and Paul, which Constantine had placed near his great column in the Forum. During a conflagration in the reign of Theodosius the Younger, a triple statue of porphyry, said to represent Constantine, Constantius, and Constans, was stolen and carried from the city. The emperor sent out a messenger into remote parts and along the sea-coasts, with threats of vengeance if it was not returned. The robbers, on being overtaken, threw themselves and their plunder into the sea. Ropes and boats were brought, divers were secured, and great rewards were offered, but the statue could not be recovered. Among the many works brought to Constantinople was one of Menander, made of wrought silver, eight cubits wide and fifteen cubits long. This was appropriated by the Emperor Marcianus, who converted it into coin for the royal treasury, or, as Codinus says, for distribution among the poor.
During the reign of Leo I. his general, Ardaburius, while in Thrace, came upon a statue of Herodian, hump-backed and fat, and so hideous that he demolished it; whereupon he found in it a hundred and thirty-three pounds of gold. Elated at his good fortune, he hastened to announce it to his sovereign. The emperor, either from cupidity, or for the purpose of conveying a salutary rebuke for such an invasion of the royal prerogative, ordered him to be put to death. Anastasius melted many of the bronze statues which adorned the city, and even one of Constantine himself, to obtain metal for his own colossal equestrian figure. This was placed in the Forum Tauri, upon the column on which the statue of Theodosius the Great formerly stood, the latter having been prostrated by an earthquake in 476. This magnificent column, which was mounted upon a socle of white marble twenty feet high, consisted of six enormous blocks of porphyry, each eleven feet in diameter and ten feet thick. These were perforated vertically with a cochleary passage, which, when the sections were placed in position, formed a continuous winding staircase from the bottom to the top. When it is remembered that this stone is so hard as to require two entire years for the chiseling and polishing of an ordinary statue, some conception may be formed of the enormous task of constructing a work like this. The figure of Anastasius was itself succeeded by that of Apollo, which was attributed to Pheidias, and remained till the reign of Alexis Comnenos in the twelfth century. Justinian overthrew the leaden column supporting the silver statue of Theodosius in the Forum Augusteum, converting the lead into water-pipes for the public aqueducts, and using the precious metal, which weighed over seven thousand pounds, to defray the expense of his own equestrian figure. This was made out of the bronze tiles of the Chalke, and was erected upon a porphyry pillar in the place in which its predecessor had stood. In the Hippodrome was a colossus of hewn stones sheathed with plates of bronze. These were stripped off in the barbarian invasions, but the rest of the structure was to be seen there as late as the sixteenth century. At the close of the sixth, Mauritius broke in pieces all the statues of the Hexakionion, and also the Fortuna Urbis which Constantine had brought from Rome, and which for two centuries and a half had stood above the arch of the palace. It was probably this same figure whose hands Michael Rhangabe ordered to be cut off, that factions against the emperor might not prosper.
In the Forum Bovis was the bronze figure of a bull, erected by Valentinianus, the chamberlain of Constans. This, like the famous bull of Phalaris at Agrigentum, was used as a furnace in which criminals were burned to death. It is said to have been frequently employed by Julian in ridding himself of the Christians, and continued to consume its human victims till the time of Phocas, at the beginning of the seventh century. This emperor was overthrown and thrust into it by his rival Herakleios, and the statue was afterward melted and coined into money for the enrollment of troops in Pontus. On the right side of the Forum of Constantine stood twelve porphyry statues and twelve gilded sirens. Two of these were demolished, three carried to the church of St. Mamas, and the rest left for a long time in situ. Not without touches of grim humor did these old iconoclasts set about their destructive task, laughing and cracking many a joke as the works of ancient genius disappeared beneath their hands. “ Come, Herakles,” said a certain Diagoras, as he placed on the fire the fragments of a fine old wooden statue of the hero which he had split up for fuel, “ you have already performed twelve labors; now undertake a thirteenth, and cook me a dish of lentils.”It is curious to reflect that this sally constitutes its author’s sole claim to immortality. But for it his very name would long since have become extinct, — so high a value do men place on that rare quality, wit.
In the Zeugma — a place so called because, when the bones of St. Stephen the martyr were brought to the city, the mules at this point were yoked to the chariot, and drew it thence to the baths of Constantine — was a figure of Venus standing upon a twisted column. This was regarded not only as the protecting deity of the lupanar, situated near by, but also as an infallible test of female virtue. Whenever in a given case the latter quality was called in question, it was the custom to conduct the culprit to the Zeugma, and set her face to face with the statue of the goddess. If innocent, she departed unharmed; if not, her clothing was suddenly torn from her by a mysterious and irresistible power, and her guilt was made manifest to the world. At last the wife, or according to certain accounts the sister-in-law, of Justinus Curopalates, having encountered the same experience while merely riding past the spot on horseback, on her way to the baths of Blachernæ, destroyed the statue which had cast so heavy a reproach upon her good name. The lupanar was afterwards converted into a convent, and subsequently into a hospital.
Many ancient statues also perished in the destruction of ecclesiastical images under Leo the Isaurian. Bardas Cæsar removed from the Strategion a Fortuna Urbis and a prophetic tripod capable of revealing the past, present, and future, and demolished the other statues which stood there. In the time of this same Cæsar the Chrusocamera was robbed of the precious golden statue which gave the building its name, and which seems never to have been recovered. Over the western arch of the Forum Tauri were bronze figures of a fly, gnat, flea, and other insects, reputed to have been made by direction of that arch-quack Apollonios of Tyana on one of his visits to Constantinople. As long as they remained there, say the old chroniclers, neither flies, gnats, nor fleas entered the city. They were thrown down and broken to pieces, however, by Basil the Macedonian in the latter half of the ninth century, either because, like the modern traveler, he had not experienced entire immunity from those vivacious pests, or because he regarded such a concession to the powers of darkness as a greater evil than that which it was designed to obviate. The statue of Constantine, which stood on the great porphyry pillar in the Forum, after remaining unharmed for more than seven hundred years, at length fell in a gale, in the reign of Alexis Comnenos, breaking into fragments and killing several persons.
In the fifth century Constantinople was desolated by no less than four great conflagrations. In the reign of Arcadius one of the senate-houses and its adjacent buildings were destroyed. Under Leo I. fire twice swept over the city, and a large part of it was laid in ashes, including the great senate-house in the Forum of Constantine and all its wealth of statues. In the time of Basiliskos two of the largest porticoes, the mint, the Lausos with its inestimable collection of ancient bronzes and marbles, the statues of the Forum Augusteum, the Cistern Basilica, and the great library of a hundred and twenty thousand volumes were consumed. Among the treasures of the latter was the famous book, a hundred and twenty feet in length, made from a dragon’s intestines and containing the entire Iliad and Odyssey. In the riot of the circus factions under Justinian the town was again set on fire, and the Chalke and the baths of Zeuxippos, both so richly stocked with statues, were destroyed. In one of these great calamities, when nearly the entire city had been leveled to the ground, a two-faced seated female figure in the Castrum Panormum was protected as if by divine power. The fire repeatedly swept up to the spot, and it seemed on the point of being consumed; but each time the flames receded to the distance of fifteen ells, and It was preserved. It was subsequently carried to Persia by Chosroes, and dedicated as an object of worship there. In 564, 740, and 861 the fire-fiend again wrought desolation, and much that before had escaped was now consumed. Constantinople was also visited by about a dozen severe earthquakes, in several of which not only statues and buildings but almost the entire city was destroyed. In one of those a bronze elephant, which stood near the great column of Constantine in the Forum, was overturned and one of its hind logs broken off. On running to set it up, the custodians found in it the complete skeleton of a human body and a tablet on which were engraved the words, " From Venus, hallowed virgin, not even in death am I separated.” The adjectives in the original denote by their agreement that the remains were those of a woman. So dreadful an act of idolatry could not be overlooked, and the statue so hopelessly cursed was melted and coined into money for the public treasury. It was an earthquake, too, which in 224 B. C. overthrew the famous Colossus of Rhodes. Some conception of the size of this figure may be formed from the statement of Pliny that few persons could embrace its thumb, while the fingers alone were larger than most entire statues. After lying on the ground till the seventh century of our era, it was broken into fragments and sold to a Jew for old metal. The weight of the bronze is estimated to have been three hundred and sixty tons, and nine hundred camels are said to have been required to remove it.
The capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1203 and 1204 was the occasion of two more of those terrific conflagrations with which the unfortunate capital of the East had become familiar. The flames, kindled by some Flemish pilgrims in a synagogue or mosque, continued to rage for eight days and nights, traversing the city from the harbor to the Bosphorus. In the siege of the following year it was again set on fire, and in the language of Gibbon a space equal to the measure of three of the largest cities of France was consumed. The town was also given up for several days to the pillage of the soldiers. At this time there still stood in the forum a colossal figure of Juno, so large that, according to Niketas Acominatos, four yoke of oxen could scarcely draw the head to the palace. This statement is unquestionably exaggerated, but it is possible that the author intended to express merely his opinion of what the weight would have been found to be if the attempt to remove it had actually been made. Here also was a group representing Paris proffering to Venus the golden apple as the prize of beauty. On a lofty square pyramid, erected under Theodosius the Great or Leo the Isaurian, was an elegant female figure in bronze, called the Anemodoulion, or Slave of the Winds. This had been brought from Dyrrachium by a woman who had received it as a dower. The statue, as its name implies, served the purposes of a weather-vane, and was so nicely pivoted that it was turned about by the slightest breezes. The sides of the pyramid were covered with sculptures representing singing birds; nude Cupids, in groups of two or three, laughing and pelting each other with apples; husbandmen engaged in their various pursuits, with rustic pipes, milkpails, bleating sheep, and skipping lambs ; the sea with its fish, some of which were swimming about, some caught in nets, and others escaping from the meshes and plunging again to the bottom. Near by were the statues of the twelve winds, four of which, of colossal size, had, like the Anemodoulion, been brought from Dyrrachium. In the Forum Tauri stood an equestrian statue of immense size, commonly regarded as the figure of Bellerophon seated upon Pegasus. In the opinion of some, however, it represented Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, the outstretched hand being interpreted as engaged in a gesture to the descending orb. In the Hippodrome was the Herakles of Tarentum, which had been brought from Rome by Constantine. The son of Alkmene was seated upon a basket, over which was spread the lion’s skin. His right arm and leg were extended to their full length, but the left leg was bent at the knee and supported the corresponding elbow, while the head reclined in the hollow of the left hand. The hero was portrayed with broad chest and shoulders, massive legs, powerful arms, and hair curling in ringlets, but was without quiver, bow, or club, and gazed gloomily downward, filled with grief at the hardship and injustice of his lot. This statue was of such size that, according to Niketas, a cord which encircled the thumb was large enough for the girdle of a man, while the length of the leg from the knee down was equal to the height of an ordinary person. Here again an error is evident from the fact that the two proportions would not be right for different parts of the same figure. The second dimension being taken as the correct one, the entire height would be something under twenty-five feet. — a size by no means improbable. In the same place stood the statue of a braying ass, loaded with a burden and followed by his driver. This had been erected by Augustus at Actium after his victory over Antony and Cleopatra. The story is that, going out by night to view the enemy’s position, he encountered a peasant leading a donkey. On being asked his name and destination, the man replied, “ My name is Nicon and my ass’s name Nicander, and I am going to join the army of Cæsar.” So pleased was Augustus with this naive answer that after the battle he caused bronze statues to be erected to man and beast, thus conferring on them in the history of art an immortality which their achievements could hardly have secured in any other way. Niketas also mentions figures of Seylla, girt with savage monsters and devouring the companions of Ulysses, the wolf which had suckled Romulus and Remus, a sow, a Nile-horse, sphinxes, an elephant swinging its trunk, an unbridled horse pricking up its ears and plunging fiercely, a man fighting with a lion, and an eagle clutching a serpent in its talons. The latter, like the bronze insects in the Forum Tauri, was reputed to have been made by Apollonios of Tyana, to drive away the reptiles with which the city was infested. By means of lines engraved upon the wings of the bird it served the additional purpose of a sun-dial. Here, too, were still to be seen the statues of the charioteers of the circus, a remarkable group of two fighting animals, and a seated female statue, of youthful aspect and beautiful form. In its outstretched hand it held, entirely without support, the equestrian figure of a warrior ; and although the rider was of robust proportions, the horse on which he sat was as lightly sustained as one would hold a cup.
Among the most celebrated works at this time in Constantinople was the statue of Helen of Troy, who was represented as standing clad in the chiton. The brow, crowned with gold and gems, seemed almost transparent. The flowing hair was stirred gently by the wind, and was so long that, though bound with a fillet and caught up on the crown, it nevertheless fell in rich masses below the knees. The lips, slightly parted, like the opening petals of a flower, seemed to he breathing forth sound, and the smile which played about the mouth filled the beholder with delight. The tender grace of the eyes, the beauty of the arching brows, the loveliness of the whole form, no words could adequately paint and no description transmit to posterity. Such is the glowing account given of it by Niketas, to whom it must have been as familiar as the Apollo Belvedere or the Venus of Melos is to us. These works, which were all of bronze, were melted by the Crusaders and coined into money for their own use. In regard to the Bellerophon, or Joshua, a rumor had long been current that in the left fore-foot of the horse was concealed the figure of a man. According to one report, it was that of a member of the Venetian or blue faction of the Hippodrome; according to another, a Bulgarian, or some one belonging to the Western nations not in alliance with the Romans. When the statue was broken in pieces preparatory to being cast into the furnace, sure enough it was found to contain a figure of bronze, clad in a woolen mantle. The Latins, however, caring little for the import of the inscription, threw it into the fire with the rest. Besides the works thus destroyed a great many were carried to Venice, prominent among them being the four bronze horses which now adorn the portal of St. Mark’s. These are said to have stood originally on a lofty tower above the carceres, or barriers, of the Hippodrome, from whose summit a certain Agarenos, emulous of the ill-fated Icarus, leaped into the air on wings and met death on the pavement below. In regard to the foregoing works it should be borne in mind, as has already been intimated, that Niketas and the other Byzantine chroniclers are not always trustworthy in the names of statues described by them, though doubtless reflecting truthfully enough the most enlightened opinion of their times.
In spite of all vicissitudes, however, a considerable amount of sculpture still remained in the Eastern capital. Manuel Chrysoloras, nearly two centuries after the conquest of the city by the Crusaders, declares that he himself had seen there many works which were subsequently carried off. He mentions especially two seated figures of porphyry at a point where three ways met, and a reclining statue of marble, probably representing a fountain nymph, placed near the head of a small stream which flowed through the city. There were many others of a similar character, he says, with which he was not personally familiar, but of which he had learned through those who had seen them. He also cites, evidently as well known, certain statues which were before the Golden Gate, and representations of the labors of Herakles, the tortures of Prometheus, and other excellent works, apparently in bas-relief. The latter existed, at least in a fragmentary condition, as late as the sixteenth century, when they were seen there by Gylles, Leunclavius, and Bullad. Indeed, we have direct testimony that numerous statues were standing in the city on its capture by the Turks, when a large Herakles, still in position on one of the columns of the Hippodrome, was among the works destroyed.
The great pillar in the Forum Angusteum supporting the equestrian figure of Justinian was stripped of its bronze sheathing by the barbarians, and remained in this condition for centuries. It was under the left fore-foot of this horse, which was lifted from the pedestal, that the head of Constantine XIII., the last emperor of the East, was exhibited to the people by Mahomet II. in 1453. The column was destroyed by the Turks about half a century later, but the statue was preserved in the court of the palace some thirty years more. It was then broken and carted away to the bronze-foundry to be cast into cannon. Two lions near the harbor known as the Neorion were standing in their ancient position in the first half of the present century, and may be there still. The group which was placed not far from this, and represented a lion fighting with a bull, disappeared, however, long ago.
The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks marks its practical disappearance from the history of art. The hostility of their religion to all representations of living beings led them for the most part to demolish such objects wherever found, and deprived mankind of those scanty remnants of ancient sculpture which still survived in the once brilliant capital of Constantine.
Of the fate of statues in other parts of the world little need be said. Such works as had not been carried away from Greece and Asia Minor probably perished through the common vicissitudes of war, the rapacity of invaders, the wantonness of Roman emperors, and the iconoclasm of the early Christians. At Olympia, in addition to the outrages committed by Nero, other rulers substituted their own statues in the treasuries of the different states for those originally dedicated there. The Olympic Games were suppressed by Theodosius the Great in 394, and many figures of the gods were undoubtedly broken to pieces through the zeal of unenlightened ecclesiastics. In the following year Elis was overrun and plundered by the army of Alaric, and here, as in Italy, works of bronze and the more precious metals were probably melted for coin. The pediment figures of the temple of Zeus were cast down by an earthquake at an early period of Byzantine history, and portions of them, with other statues and reliefs, were incorporated into a rampart for the defense of settlers. In a similar manner the celebrated Hermes of Praxiteles was built into a brick wall in the temple of Here, and the body of the infant Dionysos into another in a remote part of the Altis, while the head of the child was thrown upon a heap of rubbish at some distance from both. At length the whole Olympian plain was covered with an alluvial deposit, brought down from the surrounding hills and left by the overflowing waters of the Alpheios and its tributaries, till the layers of clay and gravel were from ten to fifteen feet in thickness.
In other places similar events occurred. At Athens fragments of ancient architecture and sculpture were built at hap-hazard into the wall of Valerian. The disappearance of the immense quantities of rubbish from the Olympieion, moreover, is to be accounted for upon the supposition that these stupendous ruins gradually melted away beneath the hammer and chisel of mediæval and Turkish masons, the latter of whom regularly employed the ancient structures of Athens as quarries. The great temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned by the Goths about 202 A. D. After this the columns were probably thrown down by earthquakes, such as in the last few months have desolated that unhappy region, while the ruins furnished materials for all the Byzantine edifices subsequently erected there. At length the Kaystros and its tributaries, overflowing their banks, buried the spot beneath twenty-two feet of alluvial earth.
But it is needless to multiply instances. The facts in this mournful history have a wonderful similarity, and with slight variations of detail may apply to one locality as well as to another. Amid these vicissitudes attempts were occasionally made to preserve favorite works from destruction. Ghiberti speaks of an antique statue found at Florence, which, on the triumph of the Christian faith, was placed in a sepulchre of brick constructed for the purpose, and there left in the belief that a better day would come when it would again receive the homage of mankind. In like manner the Mastai Hercules was discovered at Rome, carefully built over with masonry, at a depth of two feet below the ancient level. The Venus of Melos was concealed for some eighteen centuries in a niche covered with stones and rubbish, and the Capitoline statue of the same goddess was found at Rome walled up in an unoccupied room of an old house in the Suburra.
In addition to the losses already described, a number of ancient works have disappeared or been mutilated in modern times. In the war between the Venetians and Turks, in 1687, Count Konigsmarck, a Swedish officer in the employ of the former nation, planted a battery on the Pnyx at Athens, and two mortars near the Latin convent at the foot of the Acropolis, and turned bis guns against the ancient citadel. In the bombardment, which lasted for several days, the temple of the Nike Apteros was destroyed, and the Parthenon severely injured. At length a shell penetrated the powder magazine located in the latter building, and a terrific explosion followed. The walls of the cella and the central columns of the peristyle were blown down ; much of the sculpture was defaced, and some hopelessly shattered. The statue of Poseidon and the chariot of Athene driven by Nike were also broken by the Venetians, in attempting to lower them from the western pediment for the purpose of carrying them to Italy. The removal of the Elgin marbles in 1802 came near proving not merely a spoliation, but an entire destruction. The ship conveying them to England was wrecked near Cerigo, the ancient Cythera, and it was only after remaining there for several months that Mr. W. R. Hamilton, Lord Elgin’s private secretary, succeeded in rescuing them from the sea, and proceeding with them to their destination. Winekelmann mentions a torso of Herakles, or Asklepios, by Apollonios, son of Nestor, of Athens, which was formerly in the Massimi Palace at Rome, but in some unaccountable manner had been lost. The same fate, he declares, had befallen very many glorious pieces, among them a Hermes by Speusippos; the head of Xenocrates; a picture of the goddess Roma, described by Spon; a relief which represented Painting making the portrait of Varro, formerly belonging to the celebrated antiquary, Ciampini; and numerous other reliefs from the Baths of Pozzuoli. It is possible that these and other works are lying hidden and forgotten in the closets and cellars of Italian palaces, from which they may yet come forth with all the freshness of original discoveries. A colossal trunk of Jupiter unearthed at Velleia, of which the head also was in existence, was worked over into two modern statues to adorn the ducal garden at Parma. Those who have visited the Castle of St. Angelo, in Rome, will remember the busts of Hadrian and Cicero, standing in the stairway near the entrance, and mutilated by the bayonet-stabs of papal soldiers. When Madrid was captured by the allied armies, in the war of the Spanish Succession, a fine bust of Claudius, which had been discovered at Fratocchie and carried to Spain by Cardinal Colonna, was found in the Escurial suspended as the principal weight to the church clock, and was conveyed by Lord Galway to England. By a similar sarcasm of fortune a beautiful hollow medallion of Hadrian was used for many years as a mule-bell by an Italian cartdriver in the suburbs of Rome.
In view of all the facts of this strange history it seems surprising, not that so many works of ancient art have been destroyed, but that any at all have remained until the present day. Transported from place to place, shattered by accidents, overthrown by earthquakes, consumed by conflagrations, subject to the destructive malice of Macedonian and Roman emperors, exposed to the violence of wars, buried beneath falling walls; delivered to the axe of the iconoclast, the hammer of the mason, the kiln of the lime-maker, and the melting-furnace of the bronze-moulder ; torn from their bases, trampled in the mire and filth of the streets, broken into fragments, and gradually overwhelmed and hidden from view beneath the earth, how slight was the chance that productions of the golden age of Athenian sculpture should ever meet the eyes of that far-off nineteenth century in which we have our being! With what reverence may we justly stand before a work which, surviving such vicissitudes, has traversed the vast reaches of bleak, barren centuries that lie between us and antiquity, to greet us with its matchless loveliness to-day ! Perikles may have gazed upon it; Sokrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno may have taught their disciples in its presence; Euripides and Sophokles may have paused in the composition of their stately lines to rest the eye and brain on the symmetry of its proportions and the spotless purity of its marble; Herodotos may have recited his histories and Demosthenes have thundered his eloquence before it; Cicero may have turned aside from the delights of poetry and the comforts of philosophy to contemplate in it the evidence of a finer genius than his countrymen could ever hope to attain ; Virgil, Horace, and Ovid may have found their perceptions of beauty elevated and made nobler by its influence ; the glance of Paul may have wandered over it as he proclaimed to the people the mysteries of the new birth and the hope of the resurrection ; Marcus Aurelius may have seen in it a reflection of that heavenly truth and harmony in which his lofty soul found consolation; and still to-day the connoisseur may dwell upon it with everincreasing delight, and find the subtle sympathy of art lifting him closer and closer into communion with those master souls of the past, —
Our spirits from their urns.”
William Shields Liscomb.