Letter from Charles S. Peirce to his aunt Charlotte Elizabeth Peirce
(Roma, 16.10.1870)



Spanish translation & annotations


Rome Sunday 10/16/70

My dearest Aunt Lizzie – I address this letter to you merely that you may know I dont by any means forget you or Aunt Sanders but often think of you. I shall simply describe what I have done today & it may be taken as a fair sample of all my days. I got started about 10 o’clock for I find & the doctor tells me it is bad for me to make too early a start in the morning. I begin deliberately without hurry. I first went to the Collegio Romano to see the Kircherian Museum –not I imagine remarkably interesting but one of the few things open on Sunday. In the first place I found troops quartered in the building (throughout Italy now one sees full five times as many soldiers in all the monasteries as monks) so that I had some difficulty in getting in at all & often I once was in after a good deal of delay & consultation among the authorities I was informed that the Museum was closed until November & I couldn’t see it. No great disappointment but a loss of time. I then took a carriage


& drove to the Catacombs of Callixtus a long drive. On the way I passed the Palatine Hill with some ancient ruins on it, I don’t know what –perhaps an imperial palace. I passed under a triumphal arch erected in honor of one Claudius Drusus Germanicus B. C. 8. It has two marble columns & is pretty good. Thence out of the city gate of St. Sebastian rather an imposing brick medieval structure. At the entrance of the Catacombs of Calixtus is a small chapel which is evidently extremely ancient. It is used as a chuch no longer. It had 3 apses thus.

These catacombs impressed me a good deal. I saw some catacombs in Syracuse & supposed all catacombs were alike, so I didn’t even go to see these in Naples. But I found my Syracusan catacombs were one horse affairs. They were three stories deep, but the depth of these & the darkness of’em, and the coldness & damp –together with the  extreme pallor & alarming infirmity of the old man who was guide & who I began to think would sink down exhausted & not be able to guide me back – the whole combined

(together with the occasional corpses which he displayed & commented on & insisted on my examining closely) produced an awful effect upon me of a kind I very rarely, if ever, felt before. There were many interesting inscriptions & paintings there, but I was glad to get out. These catacombs are on the Appian Way. I then drove out on this celebrated road a mile or two further. Among a great many things which I saw today which I do not mention, I passed a very early church of St. Sebastian with 6 ancient columns of granite in the portico. A little farther the monstrous Circus of Maxentius A.D. 311, a most enormous building. Then a great tomb of one Caecilia Metella a great cylinder more like a castle than a tomb, a singular illustration of Roman Magnificence built of great stones. Stone is not a durable material for building because what has made ruins of all ancient structures is the fact that they have been used by subsequent generations as quarries. Brick, therefore, naturally lasts longer than stone. Marble columns go the quickest. The have been broken


to pieces purposely. That this tomb should have been preserved therefore requires explanation & the explanation is that it was used as a fortress in the middle ages so that it was exposed only to such injury as an enemy could inflict on it when opposed. Just beyond this point I began to get some very extensive & beautiful views of the country about & especially there were some very extensive & picturesque ruins of two Aqueducts –the Aqua Maria & the Aqua Claudia. Here also I began to come upon the ancient pavement of the Appian Way and the sides of the street were lined with ancient tombs. The driver said one of them was that of Seneca. Without going much further I turned round & drove back the same way I came. Just within the city wall (passing by some things of interest that I hadn’t time to see) I stopped and visited the celebrated tomb of the Scipios, where all that family are buried back to about B. C. 300. This tomb is hewn in the solid rock a sort of little catacombs. I next stopped & visited the baths of Caracalla which being built of brick are well preserved. The size of them is sublime & the breadth of the vaulting perfectly


surprising. I got a fine view from the upper story. They dig up a good many fine statues here still & some very celebrated ones have been found here. It gives one a vivid conception of the magnificence of ancient Rome. Why what there is left of these baths of connected building exceeds the area of St. Peter’s –and that’s pretty large I can tell you -though there are no vaults equal in size to that. But this was only a public bath! It wasn’t one of the great temples or theatres –but only a bath. From here I determined to go over the other side of the river a long way to the Villa Farnesina because there are most wonderful frescoes by Raphael & my guidebook said it was only open Sundays. But what was my disappointment on getting there to learn that the arrangement had been changed that it is now open only on the 1st & 15th of every month (today being the 16!th) & that the Prince had given most positive orders that no one should be admited at any other time!!! A great disappointment! Equal to not seeing the Palazzo Sciarra. On the way, I passed a very interesting church S.


Maria in Trastevere. In front outside are beautiful & extensive mosaics of the 12th century. I was then driven back to my hotel & started off on foot for a little sightseeing.

So I started off to see the Capitoline Museum. It was not open, being Sunday. But finding myself there on top of the Capitoline hill I began to look about me. First in the square there, a very fine one, designed by Michael Angelo, the Piazza del Campodolio there is a fine bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius which has escaped being banged to pieces by having being popularly supposed to represent Constantine. I will not however undertake to describe this square which is very fine & very peculiar. From here I first went round to see the church of S. Maria in Araceli which is on one of the two highest points of the Capitoline –the other being the Tarpeian Rock- on the spot where the temple of Juno Moneta used to be. It is an ancient church with some noticeable things in it. A madonna perhaps of the 10th Century in mosaic over the back door. The alterpiece on the pictures of the Madonna attributed to St. Luke. From here I went down to examine the Forum a little more minutely than I had done before. I went over it with some care & noted everything I could. From here I went to see the Forum of Augustus where there


is a triplet of fine columns with entablature which belonged to a a Temple or Mars –inconceivably battered. Also a very lofty & extraordinary wall. From here I went to take another look at the Forum of Trajan, where there are some considerable remains & columns strange to say of a Basilica & the celebrated Trajan’s Column now absurdly crowned with a statue of St. Peter as the other finer column of Marcus Aurelius is with St. Paul, -finer in my humble opinion, the correct opinion is quite enterely the reverse. From here I went to the church of SS. Apostoli. There are two monuments by Canova here. One of them very striking. I greatly admire Canova. My opinions on the subject of painting & sculpture I am generally hold very timidly but not this one. I think Canova great –very, very great. I was first struck –indeed quite overwhelmed- by his Theseus Killing the Minataur in Vienna. Then I was greatly pleased with his Pauline Borghese & now this monument of Clement XIV I think has great power. The church also has some fine frescoes & an ancient eagle in relief from the Forum of Trajan. I then went into the monastery adjacent to this church & saw a monument


by Michael Angelo. But to appreciate Michael Angelo’s statues requires more knowledge of the history of art than I have got. They seem to me horrid misshapen misproportioned things. The tomb of Cardinal Bessarion was also here. After that I came home, not knowing where else to go though I still had a good hour before dinner. I have been 3 days in Rome. The Vatican with all the finest works of art is shut up by this goose of a Pope, many of the other finest things are invisible & yet there remains so much that in three days I don’t seem to have seen any considerable proportion of what I have to see & I am perfectly confused with the amount I have before me. Yet I make it a strict rule not to look at anything not particularly worth seeing & I pass over a great many of those things. In the quarter I have seen the most of there still remains one celebrated gallery, one beautiful palace & one lovely villa to be seen. I have seen next to nothing of the Hills of Rome. Very little of Rome on the Tiber, not all by any means of Ancient Rome. Next to nothing of the Right Bank. Only one glimpse of the campagna. I haven’t seen the Palazzo Colonna, Palazzo di Venezia, the Gesu, the Villa Ludovisi, the Villa Albani, The Piazza di Monte Cavallo, the Quirinal Apostolic Palace, the Palazzo Rospiglosi, the Palazzo Borghese, the Palazzo Farnese, the Palazzo Spada alla Regola, the view from the Basilica of Constantine, the Cloaca Maxima, the Monte Testaccio, S. Paolo fuori le mura, Capitoline Museum Palace of the Conservatori, Palazzo Corsini, S. Pietro in Montorio, Villa Doria Pamfili, & I mention only things that can’t be passed over.





Transcription by Sara Barrena (2009)
Una de las ventajas de los textos en formato electrónico respecto de los textos impresos es que pueden corregirse con gran facilidad mediante la colaboración activa de los lectores que adviertan erratas, errores o simplemente mejores traducciones. En este sentido agradeceríamos que se enviaran todas las sugerencias y correcciones a sbarrena@unav.es
Proyecto de investigación "La correspondencia europea de C. S. Peirce: creatividad y cooperación científica (Universidad de Navarra 2007-09)

Fecha del documento: 18 de mayo 2009
Última actualización: 14 de septiembre 2017
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