Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/583

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The superstitious awe with which the Middle Ages had viewed the ruins of ancient Rome was not accompanied by any feeling for their artistic worth, or by the slightest desire to preserve them. A Latin epigram by Pius II (1458-64)-the first Pope who endeavoured to arrest their decay-attests the fact, to which there are other witnesses, that even then the citizens of Rome used to strip marbles from the ancient monuments, in order to burn them as lime. Where the Roman remains were capable of conversion into dwellings or strongholds, as was the case especially with some of the baths and tombs, they had often been occupied by medieval nobles, and had thus been exposed to further damage. Many such monuments had been destroyed, and the ruins had then been used as quarries. But a change of feeling came with the spirit of the incipient Renaissance. The first phase of this new feeling was a sense of pathetic contrast between the majesty of the ancient remains and the squalor of the modern city. Petrarch compares Rome to a stately woman, of venerable aspect, but clad in mean and tattered garments. Poggio is reminded of a queen in slavery. He was the first man of the Renaissance who had studied the monuments of Rome with the method of a scholar and an archaeologist, comparing them with the testimony of the Latin classics. His Urbis Romae Descriptio-the title commonly given to the first section of his essay De Varietate Fortunae-is the clearest general survey now extant of the Roman monuments as they existed in the first half of the fifteenth century. Poggio gives us some idea of the rate at which destructive agencies had been working even in his own lifetime. But a better day was at hand. The interest in Italian archaeology had already become active. Flavio Biondo (Blondus), who died in 1463, compiled an encyclopaedic work in three parts, Roma Instaurata, Roma Triumphans, and Italla Illustrata, on the history, institutions, manners, topography, and monuments of ancient Italy. He lived to complete also more than thirty books of a great work on the period commencing with the decline of the Roman Empire, Historlarum ab inclinatiane Romanorum. In an age so largely occupied with style, which was not among his gifts, Biondo is a signal example of laborious and comprehensive erudition. He holds indeed an honourable place among the founders of Roman archaeology.

It was just at the close of Blonde's life that Pius II, in 1462, issued his bull designed to protect the remains of ancient Rome from further depredations. The solicitude of which this was the first official expression was not always imitated by his successors. But the period from about 1470 to 1525 was one which saw a notable advance in the care and study bestowed on works of ancient art and architecture. Within that period the Museum of the Capitol and the Museum of the Vatican were founded. The appreciation of classical sculpture was quickened by the recovery of many ancient works. Near