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Chapter 44

  • Light from the burning city filled the sky as far as human eye could rcack Th_oon rose large and full from behind the mountains, and inflamed at once b_he glare took on the color of heated brass. It seemed to look with amazemen_n the world-ruling city which was perishing. In the rose-colored abysses o_eaven rose-colored stars were glittering; but in distinction from usua_ights the earth was brighter than the heavens. Rome, like a giant pile,
  • illuminated the whole Campania. In the bloody light were seen distan_ountains, towns, villas, temples, mountains, and the aqueducts stretchin_oward the city from all the adjacent hills; on the aqueducts were swarms o_eople, who had gathered there br safety or to gaze at the burning.
  • Meanwhile the dreadful element was embracing new divisions of the city. It wa_mpossible to doubt that criminal hands were spreading the fire, since ne_onflagrations were breaking out all the time in places remote from th_rincipal fire. From the heights on which Rome was founded the flames flowe_ike waves of the sea into the valleys densely occupied by houses, — houses o_ive and six stories, full of shops, booths, movable wooden amphitheatres,
  • built to accommodate various spectacles; and finally storehouses of wood,
  • olives, grain, nuts, pine cones, the kernels of which nourishcd the more need_opulation, and clothing, which through Caesar's favor was distributed fro_ime to time among the rabble huddled into narrow alleys. In those places th_ire, finding abundance of inflammable materials, became almost a series o_xplosions, and took possession of whole streets with unheard-of rapidity.
  • People encamping outside the city, or standing on the aqueducts knew from th_olor of the flame what was burning. The furious power of the wind carrie_orth from the fiery gulf thousands and millions of burning shells of walnut_nd almonds, which, shooting suddenly into the sky, like countless flocks o_right butterflies, burst with a crackling, or, driven by the wind, fell i_ther parts of the city, on aqueducts, and fields beyond Rome. All thought o_escue seemed out of place; confusion increased every moment, for on one sid_he population of the city was fleeing through every gate to places outside;
  • on the other the fire had lured in thousands of people from the neighborhood,
  • such as dwellers in small towns, peasants, and half-wild shepherds of th_ampania, brought in by hope of plunder. The shout, "Rome is perishing!" di_ot leave the lips of the crowd; the ruin of the city seemed at that time t_nd every rule, and loosen all bonds which hitherto had joined people in _ingle integrity. The mob, in which slaves were more numerous, cared nothin_or the lordship of Rome. Destruction of the city could only free them; henc_ere and there they assumed a threatening attitude. Violence and robbery wer_xtending. It seemed that only the spectacle of the perishing city arreste_ttention, and restrained for the moment an outburst of slaughter, which woul_egin as soon as the city was turned into ruins. Hundreds of thousands o_laves, forgetting that Rome, besides temples and walls, possessed some ten_f legions in all parts of the world, appeared merely waiting for a watchwor_nd a leader. People began to mention the name of Spartacus, but Spartacus wa_ot alive. Meanwhile citizens assembled, and armed themselves each with wha_e could. The most monstrous reports were current at all the gates. Som_eclared that Vulcan, commanded by Jupiter, was destroying the city with fir_rom beneath the earth; others that Vesta was taking vengeance for Rubria.
  • People with these convictions did not care to save anything, but, besiegin_he temples, implored mercy of the gods. It was repeated most generally,
  • however, that Caesar had given command to burn Rome, so as to free himsel_rom odors which rose from the Subura, and build a new city under the name o_eronia. Rage seized the populace at thought of this; and if, as Viniciu_elieved, a leader had taken advantage of that outburst of hatred, Nero's hou_ould have struck whole years before it did.
  • It was said also that Caesar had gone mad, that he would command pretorian_nd gladiators to fall upon the people and make a general slaughter. Other_wore by the gods that wild beasts had been let out of all the vivaria a_ronzebeard's command. Men had seen on the streets lions with burning manes,
  • and mad elephants and bisons, trampling down people in crowds. There was eve_ome truth in this; for in certain places elephants, at sight of th_pproaching fire, had burst the vivaria, and, gaining their freedom, rushe_way from the fire in wild fright, destroying everything before them like _empest. Public report estimated at tens of thousands the number of person_ho had perished in the conflagration. In truth a great number had perished.
  • There were people who, losing all their property, or those dearest thei_earts, threw themselves willingly into the flames, from despair. Others wer_uffocated by smoke. In the middle of the city, between the Capitol, on on_ide, and the Quirinal, the Viminal, and the Esquiline on the other, as als_etween the Palatine and the Caelian Hill, where the streets were most densel_ccupied, the fire began in so many places at once that whole crowds o_eople, while fleeing in one direction, struck unexpectedly on a new wall o_ire in front of them, and died a dreadful death in a deluge of flame.
  • In terror, in distraction, and bewilderment, people knew not where to flee.
  • The streets were obstructed with goods, and in many narrow places were simpl_losed. Those who took refuge in those markets and squares of the city, wher_he Flavian Amphitheatre stood afterward, near the temple of the Earth, nea_he Portico of Silvia, and higher up, at the temples of Juno and Lucinia,
  • between the Clivus Virbius and the old Esquiline Gate, perished from heat,
  • surrounded by a sea of fire. In places not reached by the flames were foun_fterward hundreds of bodies burned to a crisp, though here and ther_nfortunates tore up flat stones and half buried themselves in defence agains_he heat. Hardly a family inhabiting the centre of the city survived in full;
  • hence along the walls, at the gates, on all roads were heard howls o_espairing women, calling on the dear names of those who had perished in th_hrong or the fire.
  • And so, while some were imploring the gods, others blasphemed them because o_his awful catastrophe. Old men were seen coming from the temple of Jupite_iberator, stretching forth their hands, and crying, "If thou be a liberator,
  • save thy altars and the city!" But despair turned mainly against the old Roma_ods, who, in the minds of the populace, were bound to watch over the cit_ore carefully than others. They had proved themselves powerless; hence wer_nsulted. On the other hand it happened on the Via Asinaria that when _ompany of Egyptian priests appeared conducting a statue of Isis, which the_ad saved from the temple near the Porta Culimontana, a crowd of people rushe_mong the priests, attached themselves to the chariot, which they drew to th_ppian Gate, and seizing the statue placed it in the temple of Mars,
  • overwhelming the priests of that deity who dared to resist them. In othe_laces people invoked Seraph, Baal, or Jehovah, whose adherents, swarming ou_f the alleys in the neighborhood of the Subura and the Trans-Tiber, fille_ith shouts and uproar the fields near the walls. In their cries were hear_ones as if of triumph; when, therefore, some of the citizens joined th_horus and glorified "the Lord of the World," others, indignant at this gla_houting, strove to repress it by violence. Here and there hymns were heard,
  • sung by men in the bloom of life, by old men, by women and children, — hymn_onderful and solemn, whose meaning they understood not, but in which wer_epeated from moment to moment the words, "Behold the Judge cometh in the da_f wrath and disaster." Thus this deluge of restless and sleepless peopl_ncircled the burning city, like a tempest— driven sea.
  • But neither despair nor blasphemy nor hymn helped in any way. The destructio_eemed as irresistible, perfect, and pitiless as Predestination itself. Aroun_ompey's Amphitheatre stores of hemp caught fire, and ropes used in circuses,
  • arenas, and every kind of machine at the games, and with them the adjoinin_uildings containing barrels of pitch with which ropes were smeared. In a fe_ours all that part of the city, beyond which lay the Campus Martius, was s_ighted by bright yellow flames that for a time it seemed to the spectators,
  • only half conscious from terror, that iii the general ruin the order of nigh_nd day had been lost, and that they were looking at sunshine. But later _onstrous bloody gleam extinguished all other colors of flame. From the sea o_ire shot up to the heated sky gigantic fountains, and pillars of flam_preading at their summits into fiery branches and feathers; then the win_ore them away, turned them into golden threads, into hair, into sparks, an_wept them on over the Campania toward the Alban Hills. The night becam_righter; the air itself seemed penetrated, not only with light, but wit_lame. The Tiber flowed on as living fire. The hapless city was turned int_ne pandemonium. The conflagration seized more and more space, took hills b_torm, flooded level places, drowned valleys, raged, roared, and thundered.