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through which I was passing reminded me of the south highlands of Scotland, being partly wooded and partly grassy slopes. I was now, in fact, approaching the grazing-grounds of Naples, to which the sheep and cattle were driven during the summer months. There were many picturesque views, which artists would have spent months in conveying to their canvas, and I could have willingly lingered days in sauntering through the glens. This time, however, I could not afford, and I hurried on to Campobasso, which I reached at an early hour. It is situated on the declivity of a hill, which slants off in the form of an amphitheatre. It is a modern town, having a population of about seven thousand, and possessing nothing to attract the attention of a stranger. The mountains are less elevated than in the other parts of the province, and have no conspicuous summits. There is, therefore, a good deal of cultivated land in its neighbourhood, and it is the centre of a trade in corn and cattle. Its cutlery was at one time particularly famous, and rivalled what England could produce ; this, however, has long passed away, and English cutlery reigns pre-eminent. Samnium was at all times inhabited by a rude, wild people, and there are, therefore, few of the cities that ever possessed objects of interest to the traveller. It is the natural features of the country that strike the eye, and these can be enjoyed, with whatever rapidity you hurry on. I lost no time in applying to the police magistrate to allow me to proceed; and, as he threw no obstacle in my way, I started on a fresh mule on my way to Æsernia, through the ancient Bovianum, Boiano, the chief city of the Samnites. Boiano is about twelve miles from Campobasso, and is approached by a gradual descent through a well-cultivated country, till I reached the city, situated on a rocky hill, one of the lowest offshoots of the western part of the Apennines, known in this quarter as Monte Matese. It is placed very picturesquely, surrounded on all sides by lofty mountains; and I was much struck by a large stream gushing at once from the side of the hill with great violence. Its coldness was delightful, though prudence dictated a moderate draught.
I remained here for a couple of hours, and examined what was to be seen of ancient remains. They are found on the low ground near the banks of the river Tifernus, Biferno, the upper course of which is in this direction. It is curious that no specimen of Cyclopean architecture should be found in the southern parts of Italy which I have lately traversed. Is it because these cities of Magna Graecia were all of late foundation, and colonised at a comparatively modern period 2 The walls of Bovianum were the first of polygonal blocks of a massive style which I had yet met. There is not much of them remaining, yet they struck me very forcibly as the work of a race differing in civilisation and habits from the later Greeks. Some of the inhabitants told me that they only enjoy the rays of the sun for two months, as the high mountains around throw their shade over them; and I could easily believe that this must be the case when I looked up to the hills. Does this explain the “Boviana lustra” of Silius Italicus? I now proceeded on my way towards AEsernia, which I understood to be about twenty miles distant. The country continued to be hilly, and our progress was so slow, that on approaching the small village of Cantalupo I saw the sun fast approaching the horizon. This village lies at the foot of Monte Mileto, which is six thousand seven hundred and forty-four feet above the level of the sea, and was a very striking object above us. Here I was pulled up, as my muleteer maintained that our road lay through a difficult pass, and that he did not know the ground sufficiently to venture forward after sunset. I found it necessary, therefore, to stop, though it was with a grudge, as on examining the premises I saw that my coach must be in the stable with my mule. While I was seated before the door at my supper of dried sausage (how I abominate the idea!), several respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood joined me. They could not be brought to believe that I was a simple traveller, traversing their country for my amusement and to see the ancient remains of their cities, but pestered me on Neapolitan politics, of which I am heartily sick.
I HAD been so thoroughly worn out by the fatigues of the last few days, that, though lying in the stable with the mules, I had slept so soundly that I heard nothing of what had gone on during the night. Imagine my great disgust on awaking to find that my muleteer had disappeared with his mule about midnight, leaving me to make my way as best I could to AEsernia, about ten miles distant. I had paid his hire last night on a representation that he had no money, and required it to pay his night's lodgings. It was a silly act on my part; but the muleteers had, during my long journey, invariably behaved so honourably and faithfully, that it did not occur to me that I could be cheated by any of them. My rule has been to hire them by the day at a fixed sum, which should include all expenses for food to themselves and mule, with a promise of a buona mano if they gave satisfaction. If I were living at an albergo, I always ordered a meal for two, so that, in fact, I gave him his food in addition; but the expense was so trifling that I did not think it worth consideration.
I found it impossible to get a mule at this miserable place, and, hoisting my knapsack, sauntered on alone towards AEsernia. The morning was delightful—very different from the heat I had been enduring for the last few weeks—and I moved forward with a feeling of independence of all mules and their masters. The road was bad, but this was of little consequence to a foot passenger. I was ascending a wild pass, through which a small stream was flowing eastward to join the river Tifernus, which falls into the Adriatic about twenty miles north of Garganus. . To my right rose the lofty Mileto, where my friends last night assured me that snow was always found, and on the table-land a large lake, several miles in extent. I came to a point where the waters seemed to have changed their direction, and were flowing northwards, which proved that I had passed the water-shed, and must be now descending on the western side of Mount Matese. The streams were, in fact, the feeders of the Volturno, on which Capua stands.
I reached AEsernia at eight o'clock, and was once more threatened by the police authorities with arrest because my passport did not bear the signature of the magistrate where I had slept last night. Only imagine this horrid annoyance; and yet this is the law of the land. . It was in reality of no great consequence, as they must send me forward to Naples
under an escort, and it would only cause me to miss one or two places which I wished to visit. I saw that I was in their hands, and therefore determined to try what a soft answer would do. I pointed out to the magistrate how impossible it was for a stranger to adhere at all times strictly to their laws on such points, and that an English traveller, as I was, must trust to the kindness of the authorities in overlooking any slight deviation from the strict letter of the law. I had, luckily, a letter from Prince Satriano to a gentleman of Æsernia, which I showed to him, and, as he turned out to be a personal friend, he at once signed my passport, and allowed me to proceed to the Albergo. I was anxious to lose no time here, and after breakfast called on the gentleman for whom I had a letter, who received me with great kindness, and was anxious that I should spend the day with him. To this, however, I could not agree, and merely requested that he would show me any ancient remains that might be found in AEsernia or its neighbourhood. The city is prettily situated amidst the hills at the head of the valley leading down to Venafrum, and has a population of about eight thousand. It is on the site of the old Samnite town, as the modern walls are built on the ancient foundations, constructed of huge polygonal masses of stones, like those which I saw yesterday at Boiano. I have no doubt that this lower part of the wall is of Samnite construction. There is an ancient aqueduct, tunnelled in many places through the rock, and my friend said that it could be traced for upwards of a mile. Where I saw it, it was four palms broad and eight in height, but it is now in ruins. Like other parts of this country, AEsernia has suffered severely from frequent shocks of earthquakes, and it is, therefore, surprising that there should be any such remains. The Roman bridge over the Volturno has survived all these shocks, and is a fine specimen of the massive works of the ancient Romans. Many inscriptions are scattered over the city, but the following is probably the most interesting:
This refers to a fact mentioned by Frontinus, that Julius Caesar placed a Roman colony here, and in gratitude the inhabitants had erected this inscription, which has survived all the calamities of nineteen hundred ears. y My friend wished me to accompany him to a property he has about two miles distant, where some sulphureous springs are found, made use of by the inhabitants for various diseases; but it would have been too great a sacrifice of time for a very insufficient object. I walked out, however, about half a mile to a hill, on which stood an old church dedicated to S. Cosmas and Damianus, said to have been physicians to the Emperors Diocletian and Maximianus (A.D. 284–310), and who suffered martyrdom during the persecutions of those days. There is a festival to their honour towards the end of September, which brings great numbers Q
of people from all parts of the country, and a fair, like that held at the tomb of Palinurus, where merchants congregate for the sale of their goods, cattle, corn, cloths of all kinds, and jewellery, for the mountain lassies. These saints, probably from their original profession, are considered by the superstitious people to have the power of healing all kinds of diseases, and those afflicted by the various ills to which “flesh is heir to” offer vows, and when they become “compos voti,” as the Romans called it, that is, have got their prayers granted, offer up a representation in wax of the form of the disease from which they have recovered. The walls of the church, like many others in Italy, have a variety of such votive offerings, and among others, in former times, though they are now discontinued, were representations of “membra genitalia” in red wax, reminding the classical scholar of Priapus, the god of fertility. The hermae of Priapus in Italy, like those of other rustic divinities, were usually painted red, whence the god was called ruber or rubicundus (Ovid. Fast. i. 415; v. 319, 333). The making of these waxen figures has always been a considerable manufacture in AEsernia, and the country
people crowd in to possess themselves of legs, arms, &c., according to the .
disease with which they have been afflicted. This custom has been handed down from their pagan ancestors, as you may recollect the allusion to it in that beautiful little ode of Horace (Carm. i. 5) to Pyrrha:
Me tabulá sacer
While I, now safe on shore,
To Neptune's saving power.
This is the very custom which is still practised at Æsernia, nor do I think it worthy of being altogether condemned and ridiculed. The feeling is the same that induces us, on recovery from severe illness, to give thanks to Almighty God, either publicly in the church or privately in our closets. It is the superstitious notion involved in giving to the Madonna, or some saint, that alone incurs our ridicule. There are some curious and strange scenes at these sacred festivals— festas, as the Italians call them—but it is seldom that the traveller is aware of the precise day on which they are enacted. A few days before I left Naples for my southern tour, on the 18th of last April, I was witness to an amusing scene at the Festa di Vomero, which took place on the ridge of the hill above Naples. In the middle ages, you are aware that sacred plays were common in England and every Catholic country, and possibly it was thought the best way of giving the common people some knowledge of sacred history. What I saw at the festa was a continuation of that ancient custom ; it was a little drama acted by the Madonna, our Saviour, St. John, and Mary Magdalene. The stage was the public square, and the audience consisted principally of country people, who were deeply interested in the development of the plot. It was Sunday,
and they were all in their gala dress. Gold lace, earrings of great value,
red-coloured cloaks, added to the liveliness of the scene. The statues
that were to perform in the play were kept in a church at some distance from the place, where the drama was acted. They started at the same moment, separating at a certain point, and arriving by different routes at the square. The Madonna, Mary Magdalene, and St. John went by one street, and Our Saviour by another. First came a procession of the Congregazioni di Santa Maria Rosario, at whose expense the whole was got up, being, apparently, country people in good circumstances. They carried lighted torches, and were accompanied by a magnificent flag, on which the Virgin Mary was embroidered. Then came the statue of Mary Magdalene, which had been newly painted for the occasion, followed closely by St. John. These stopped in the square till the Madonna arrived, accompanied by a number of people in white masks, and a band playing a death march. She was completely enveloped in a black mantle, and was supposed to be mourning the loss of her son. In a short time Mary Magdalene passed before us, and soon returned to announce to St. John that she had seen Our Saviour. St. John seemed to be incredulous, and went with her to convince himself of the truth. They both returned to the Madonna, and brought Our Saviour with them. She was so overjoyed that she threw off her mantle, and, to our surprise, about twenty canary-birds flew from beneath her petticoats, and escaped amidst the huzzas of the people. It was rather an odd place to stow them, but their escape gave great amusement. After this they proceeded to a church, where a sermon was preached on the virtues of the Madonna, and concluding with a begging petition. On leaving the Albergo, I had given directions to have a curricle ready to start the moment I had finished the examination of the antiquities of Æsernia, as I found that I had reached an excellent road leading to Naples past Venafrum. Thanking my kind cicerone for his invaluable assistance, I started. The road was dusty, the heat excessive; yet it was nothing in a carriage rolling along with a beautiful country on both sides, more particularly after the fatigues on mule-back, or even on foot. I was now passing down the valley of the Volturno, along the western side of Monte Matese, in general well wooded, with villages perched on the heights. After a drive of a couple of hours, olive-trees began to abound, and I knew that we were approaching Venafro, the ancient Venafrum, so celebrated for its olive oil. It is situated at the foot of a lofty mountain, on the banks of the river Volturno, and has a considerable plain stretching beneath it, covered with olive-trees and vines. Horace praises its olive-berries:
Ille terrarum mihi practer omnes
I ordered a salad for dinner, that I might judge for myself of this famed oil. I know not whether my taste was corrupt, or my landlord