Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

of war, is galeated, and distinguished by the palladium, the hasta-pura, or the parazonium,—but never, to the best of my recollection, with a standard. She is, moreover, very tastefully draped, wears the strophium or breast-girdle, and has her right breast, arms, and legs bare: thus

ROMA

In my Descriptive Catalogue of Roman Large-Brass Medals, I inadvertently styled this an Amazonian female — Amazonis, sive Heroina, being a common designation among medallists; but she certainly has not the revolting mutilation which distinguished the bust of those ladies. Still the helmet recalls the taste which induced the fair of the Eternal City to fence and fight, and even to appear in the bloody arena for hire: well might the contemporary satirist indignantly ask

Can helméd dames have any sense of shame,
Who
ape
the

man, and their own sex disclaim ?

Not, however, to dilate upon a digression, the reader is referred to Juvenal's sixth Satire; and he will soon bless his stars that we are now happy with what Barnabas truly calls, “female women.”

Such is Roma; whereas Britannia appears mostly as a warrior at rest, in a Gaulish attire with a closely-dressed head, wearing the bracce, or trowsers, so distinctive a token of a cold-climate people. The province was probably thus symbolized on obtaining the full privileges of a garrisoned colony: but a mere inspection will at least shew to any competent antiquary, that the man here represented, be he what he may, cannot have been intended for Roma. As I happen to have by me the wood-engraving of the cast which the late Mr. R. Thomas allowed me to make of his fine medallion of Commodus, now in the British Museum, it shall here be placed before the reader *

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors]

Among other medals of importance in historical chronology, those struck by Philip, on the fifth celebration of the Secular Games, deserve particular mention. It will be recollected that this semi-barbarian murdered the younger Gordian, who had made large preparations for that splendid pageant: and, among other matters, had collected together no fewer than thirty-two elephants, ten tigers, ten elks, sixty lions, thirty leopards, ten hyænas, one hippopotamus, one rhinoceros, forty wild horses, twenty wild asses, and ten camel-leopards, with lots of deer, antelopes, and gladiators. Philip, on this occasion, struck medals in honour of himself, Otacilia his wife, and Philip Junior his son, under the legend Sæculares Augusti; the reverses of which represented the lions, the stags, the antelopes, the elks, and the hippopotamus—evidences of the games. But the most interesting medals then minted are the Roma Eterna, Milliarium Sæculum, and Sæculum novum of Philip's own series; since they shew, as I have elsewhere said, the correctness of the vulgar era of the building of Rome over that of Sir Isaac Newton, which last docks one hundred and twenty-five years from the age of the imperial city. Not only are the Consular Fasti and the centennial festival in accordance upon this point, but a third evidence is cast into the scale by the remarkable solar eclipse which happened at the coronation of Gordianus Pius, and which was so completely total that torches were used in the streets of Rome at mid-day.

* Pinkerton, habitually caustic and growling, always belabours those who advance opinions upon what he deems slight grounds, and calls them all sorts of names; but now and then he nods himself. Thus, in describing a fine coin of Queen Christina's, bearing a draped female holding out a patera, with BRITANNIA on the exergum, he, recollecting how highly British pearls were prized, asserts that the lady is wielding a “basin,” the which“ appears to contain pearls." This is peeping into a representation with a vengeance !

Besides the effigies of the emperors, the cabinet also exhibits a rare collection of their empresses and children, from the two Julias—wife and daughter of Augustus—down to Salonina, the wife of Gallienus, and their son, Saloninus. Here the Agrippinas, mother and daughter, excite very different recollections; while the dignified Livia and the prudent Antonia attract respectful attention. Domitia (the patroness of Josephus), and Julia (the daughter of Titus), are well represented; and the coins of Plotina -summa honestate et integritate fulgens, —with those of Matidia and Marciana, the excellent ladies of Trajan's court, are in singularly fine preservation. The heads of Sabina and of the Faustinas exhibit such tasteful elegance in the hair-dressing, that we are somewhat startled at the falling off in this respect, when we examine Julia Mæsa, Tranquillina, and Herennia Etruscilla ; but fashion and taste are not necessarily connected. The reverses to the medals of Roman empresses usually bear very appropriate symbols, and the legends—as Venus Victrix, Veneri Genetri Junoni Lucinæ, Matri Castrorum, Lætitia, Pudicitia, Fecunditas, Hilaritas, &c. -are pointedly significant.

But I promised not to be diffuse, however tempting these matters may be: I shall therefore only add, that besides the produce of ancient mints, that of modern ones also has been attended to. Among the circulating media of various countries, the large and weighty square coppers used as coin in Sweden, may be contrasted with the light paras of Turkey. Mingled with the more recent medals, is a collection of those of distinguished men of our own and foreign countries. And this department of art must be concluded with the simple commemoration of an event, from the burin of Mr. Stothard,

[blocks in formation]

We now approach an important department of the museum; one that is rich in a class of relics which are of singular value to the historian, the chronologist, the scholar, and indeed to every person of education. Being moreover personally interested in the wondrous revealments lately made by the Egyptian researches, and following the impulses of both duty and inclination, I must here be allowed to expatiate rather discursively; but the hasty or uninterested reader has the remedy mentioned on page 136.

The land of Mizraim--a dual word, which has been considered by Hebraical philologists as applicable to the space comprehending Upper and Lower Egypt, the residence of the descendants of llam-had remained a wonder and a mystery from the most remote ages; the only elucidations to its monuments being through the ponderous tomes of Kircher, and the suppositions of Biblical commentators, pedantic mystagogues, and unqualified travellers. These attempts to lift the Isiac veil, it is true, were attended with many advantages to public information ; but we still talked about Pompey's Pillar and of Cleopatra's Needles, of Moses and Aaron’s having built the Pyramids, and of the whistling Memnon ; nay more, while some viewed the sacred legs of the Ibis in the common hand

a

plough of picture-writings, other sages perceived an indication of the mariner's compass in the mystic Tau, the symbol of eternal life, and a still more inducted set believed the pyramids were erected for squaring the circle! Such were the fruits of the patient and often frivolous industry of former schools ; old Greek authorities, and classical puerilities, were ransacked with greater zeal than judgment, and erroneous conclusions thereby stamped with factitious erudition. This was the state of our knowledge—so to speak—till the French and

English expeditions to Egypt, at the commencement of the present century, opened the road which has since that time been so successfully trodden, that the darkness which had hitherto obscured the records of that most interesting country is dispersing, and even affords a promise of being gradually dispelled. There had existed much diversity of opinion in the learned world upon the subject; at length the arrival of the celebrated tri-grammatic Rosetta Stone in England, in February, 1802, afforded a key to the lost literature of ancient Egypt. This invaluable relic bears three inscriptions, the upper of which is in the Hieroglyphic or sacred character; the middle one in the Enchorial, Demotic, or civil letters; and the lower one is written in Greek. The inference that these related to one and the same circumstance, at once struck its French captors; yet almost vain and fruitless were the exertions of MM. Sacy, Akerblad, and other savans of the local Institute, in attempting the unravelment, as they only identified some parts of the enchorial inscription. It was therefore reserved for the erudition and powerful sagacity of my friend, the late Dr. Thomas Young, to give the clue, and thereby “to convert to permanent profit, a monument which had before been a useless though a glorious trophy of British valour."

The date which Dr. Young assigned to the Rosetta Stone was the 27th of March, 196 B.C., according to the proleptic Julian reckoning; but the learned Dr. Hincks has recently shewn, pursuing the same computation, that the date is actually the 27th of March (18th Mechir), 197 B.C., a year which was proleptically bissextile. This very re-examination affords a substantial proof of the integrity of Young's system.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »