National Geographic : 1922 Jun
THIE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Emil P. Albrecht HOUSE OF TIHE VESTAL VIRGINS IN THE ROMAN FORUM, WITH SOME OF THE STATUES OF THE CHIEF VESTALS STILL STANDING The Vestal Virgins played an important part in Imperial Rome, not only as conservators of the sacred fire, but in politics as well, their influence obtaining offices and favors for relatives and friends, as evidenced by inscriptions found on the statues erected by grateful recipients. Near Porta Pia lie the bones of guilty Vestals, each buried alive in a little vault 12 feet deep, with the small dish and crust and the earthen lamp that was soon extinguished in the close, damp air. It was the fatal thumb of the Vestals that gave the signal of life or death for the unsuccessful performer in the Colosseum. To the right rise the columns of the Temple of Faustina, dedicated in 141 by Emperor Antoninus to his wife. that seven centuries later conquered the world. Two hundred and fifty years (754-509 B. C.) this Kingdom lasts, and is then overthrown. A Republic takes its place, to give way in five centuries (509-27 B. C.), through military despotism, to an Empire, which in turn endures five hun dred years (27 B. C.-476 A. D.), though for the last third of that time very weak indeed. After that, chaos. Kingdom, Republic, Empire-all are gone; only a weak, ruined city remains. The great nobles, the Popes, and the people struggle for mastery; there is war within and without-invasion, rebellion, open strife, and secret murder. Charle- magne is crowned in St. Peter's and sets the Pope more firmly on his throne; a new element enters, the Frankish and German emperors, but the struggle goes on. Emperors and Popes are alternately friends and foes; the city is now Guelph, now Ghibelline. Enters Napoleon and changes the map for a brief while, and again insurrection. Now, in our own time, a united Italy, and Rome its capital. There is the puzzling question of the "Prisoner of the Vatican," the problem of large needs and little means, the after math of war with her ancient foe beyond the Alps, to tax all resources. After twenty-five centuries, Rome is still mak ing history.