National Geographic : 1922 Jun
THE SPLENDOR OF ROME BY FLORENCE CRAIG ALBRECHT AUTHOR OF "AUSTRO-ITALIAN MOUNTAIN FRONTIERS," "CHANNEL POTS--AND SOME OTHERS," "THE CITY OF JACQUELINE," "FRONTIER CITIES 01 ITALY," "LONDON," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC \MAGAZINE. W ITH the name of Rome there comes to me always a vision of wide-open spaces radiant with blinding sunshine and of great bands and pools of velvety purple shadow. There are no half-tones in the picture. Everything lies bare to the sun or cowers in deepest shade. Along with the glare and the shadows is the splashing of manv foun tains, the sound of rushing waters. It is not the Tiber, Rome's turbid river, which fills the air with music. The charm of the Tiber is romantic and in the past. That "Father Tiber to whom the Romans pray" exists-only in poetry; the river of today is almost negligible in the sum of Rome's attractiveness, while ranking high among her menaces. "Too large a stream to be harmless, too small to be useful," Rome says of it; not altogether fair, per haps, but we shall reach the Tiber again and again. It is Rome's fountains that engage us now. No one goes to Rome expectant of them or comes away to forget. At first un marked, later the fairest pictures shrined in memory show the flash and glitter of high-tossed spray, the rush and plunge of heavy streams, the shimmer of sleepy pools. Yet they are but tiny bits of all that we come to Rome to see and, going, strive to remember. ROME LINKS US WITH ALL OTHER CITIES How pitifully inadequate are words, how futile, where book upon book has been written and the subject but just begun. Older cities there are, cities that in their day were just as great, but they do not touch us as does Rome, who links us with them. It was Rome who, with one hand vet stretched to the East, raised with the other the veil that shrouded all of Europe beyond the. Alps, who brought upon the stage of the world all those rude tribes from which our race is sprung. Andcanwegotoherastoourown young cities, all unprepared, to tarry a week, a day, an hour? Not if we will have anything of her who can teach every one of us. "I shall never dare to tell my Latin teacher that I was in Rome," said the president of a western university as he stood dazzled in the Forum; "I should have to confess that I gave it three days, and he said three years was too little." Except students, there are few who can give years to any city but their own. There are very few cities in which so much can be learned in a day or two as in Rome; in ten years one could not ex haust it. DISAPPOINTING AT FIRST SIGHT Yet at first sight Rome is disappoint ing. So new, so conventional, so ready made, so like any other European city, with smooth-paved, sunny streets, monot onous houses, trolley cars, electric lights, hotels, and little trace of those seven hills we came so far to see. The pity is one enters the city usually upon its newest side, a side that in the memory of living man was all villas and gardens. One should come in by motor, at the north, by the old road and the Porta del Popolo, at the Pincian Hill, or be dropped ever so gently from an air plane on the Janiculum, the ridge west of the Tiber, and see Rome first as a whole, as one may from these points, not piecemeal, as one does arriving by train. Yet if one has eyes that see, even here one may be brought speedily to that mood of loving appreciation which all visitors to Rome sooner or later attain. In the noise and confusion of puffing locomotives stands a bit of Servius Tullius' wall; in the piazza opposite is the remnant of Diocletian's baths reconstructed into a church by Michael Angelo; all those fear fully new dwellings beyond cover the gardens of Maecenas, where Virgil and Horace were frequent guests. In one glance we link with our own these wide-spread epochs, six centuries before Christ, His own time, three, and fifteen centuries after Him-and that is Rome.