תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

the declension of the Roman Empire. Now I would fain know the great importance of this kind of learning, and why it should not be as noble a talk to write upon a Bib and hanging sleeves, as on the Bulla and Prætexta. The reason is, that we are familiar with the names of the one, and meet with the other no where but in learned authors. An Antiquary will scorn to mention a pinner or a night-rail, a petticoat or a manteau ; but will talk as gravely as a father of the church on the Vitta and Peplus, the Stola and Inftita. How would an old Roman laugh, were it possible for him to see the folemn differtations that have been made on these weighty subjects ! To set them in their natural light, let us fancy, if you please, that about a thousand years hence, some profound author shall write a learned treatise on the Habits of the present age, distinguished into the following Titles and Chapters.

Of the old British Trowser.
Of the Ruff and Collar-band.
The opinion of several learned men concern-

ing the use of the Shoulder-knot. Such a one mistaken in his account of the

Surtout, &c. I must confess, says Eugenius, interrupting him, the knowledge of these affairs is in itself very little improving, but as it is impossible without it to understand several parts of your ancient authors, it certainly hath its use.' It is pity indeed there is not a nearer way of coming at it. I have sometimes fancied it would not be an impertinent design to make a kind of an old Roman wardrobe, where you should see Toga's, and Tunica's, the Chlamys and Trabea, and in short all the

different

different vests and ornaments that are fo often mentioned in the Greek and Roman authors. By this means a man would comprehend better and remember much longer the shape of an ancient garment, than he possibly can from the help of tedious quotations and descriptions. The design, says Philander, might be very useful, but after what models would you work ? Sigonius, for example, will tell you that the Vestis Trabeata was of such a particular fashion, Scaliger is for another, and Dacier thinks them both in the wrong

These are, says Cynthio, I fuppofe the names of three Roman taylors: for is it possible men of learning can have any disputes of this nature? May we not as well believe that hereafter the whole learned world will be divided upon the make of a modern pair of breeches ? And yet, says Eugenius, the Critics have fallen as foul upon each other for matters of the same moment. But as to this point, where the make of the garment is controverted, let them, if they can find cloth enough, work after all the most probable fashions. To enlarge the design, I would have another room for the old Roman instruments of war, where you might see the Pilum and the shield, the eagles, ensigns, helmets, battering rams and trophies, in a word, all the ancient military furniture in the same manner as it might have been in an Arsenal of old Rome. A third apartment should be a kind of Sacristy for altars, idols, sacrificing instruments, and other religious utensils. Not to be tedious, one might make a magazine for all sorts of antiquities, that would show a man in an afternoon more than he could led out of books in a twelvemonth. This would

cut

cut short the whole study of antiquities, and perhaps be much more useful to Universities than those collections of Whale-bone and Crocodileskins in which they commonly abound. You will find it very difficult, says Cynthio, to persuade those societies of learned men to fall in with your project. They will tell you that things of this importance must not be taken on trust; you ought to learn them among the Classic Authors and at the fountain-head. Pray confider what a figure a man would make in the republic of letters, should he appeal to your University-wardrobe, when they expect a sentence out of the Re Vestiaria? or how do you think a man that has read Vegetius will

relish your Roman Arsenal ? In the mean time, says Philander, you find on Medals every thing that you could meet with in your magazine of antiquities, and when you have built your arsenals, wardrobes, and facristies, it is from Medals that you must fetch their furniture. It is here too that

you

see the figures of feveral Instruments of mufic, mathematics and mechanics. One might make an entire galley out of the plans that are to be met with on the reverses of several old coins. Nor are they only charged with Things, but with many ancient customs, as facrifices, triumphs, congiaries, allocutions, decursions, lectisterniums, and a thousand other antiquated names and ceremonies that we should rot have had fo just a notion of, were they not ftill preserved on Coins. I might add under this head of antiquities, that we find on Medals the manner of spelling in the old Roman inscriptions. That is, says Cynthio, we find that Felix is never written with an e dipthongue, and that in 13

guftus's

1

gustus's days Civis stood for Cives, with other secrets in Orthography of the same importance.

To come then to a more weighty use, says Philander, it is certain that Medals give a very great light to history, in confirming such palsages as are true in old Authors, in fettling such as are told after different manners, and in recording such as have been omitted. In this case a cabinet of Medals is a body of history. It was indeed the best

way

in the world to perpetuate the memory of great actions, thus to coin out the life of an Emperor, and to put every great exploit into the mint. It was a kind of Printing, before the art was invented. It is by this means that Monsieur Vaillant has disembroiled a history that was lost to the world before his time, and out of a short collection of Medals has given us a chronicle of the Kings of Syria. For this too is an advantage Medals have over books, that they tell their story much quicker, and sum up a whole volume in twenty or thirty reverses. They are indeed the best epitomes in the world, and let you see with one cast of an eye the substance of above a hundred ges. Another use of Medals is, that they not only shew you the actions of an Emperor, but at the same time mark out the year in which they were performed. Every exploit has its date set to it. A series of an Emperor's Coins is his life digested into annals. Historians feldom break their relation with a mixture of chronology, nor distribute the particulars of an Emperor's story into the several years of his reign : or where they do it they often differ in their several periods. Here therefore it is much

safer

safer to quote a Medal than an Author, for in this case

you do not appeal to a Suetonius or a Lampridius, but to the E.nperor himself, or to the whole Body of a Roman Senate. Besides that a Coin is in no danger of having its characters altered by copiers and transcribers. This I must confess, says Cynthio, may in some cases be of great moment, but considering the subjects on which your chronologers are generally employed, I see but little use that rises from it. For example, what signifies it to the world whether such an Elephant appeared in the Amphi-theatre in the second or the third year of Domitian? Or what am I the wiser for knowing that Trajan was in the fifth year of his Tribuneship when he entertained the people with such a Horse-race or Bull-baiting? Yet it is the fixing of these great periods that gives a man the first rank in the republic of letters, and recommends him to the world for a person of various reading and profound erudition.

You must always give your men of great reading leave to show their talents on the meanest subjects, says Eugenius; it is a kind of shooting at rovers: where a man lets fly his arrow without taking any aim, to fhew his strength. But there is one advantage, says he, turning to Philander, that seems to me very considerable, although your Medalliits feldom throw it into the account, which is the great help to memory one finds in Medals: for my own part very

much embarrassed in the names and ranks of the several Roman Emperors, and find it difficult to recollect upon occasion the different parts of their history: but your Medallists upon the first naming of an

Empe

I am

« הקודםהמשך »