From The Inns of Greece & Rome, and a history of Hospitality from the Dawn of Time to the Middle Ages, by W. C. Firebaugh, with an Introduction by Wallace Rice and Illustrations by Norman Lindsay, Chicago: Pascal Covici; 1928; pp. 108-125.
THE INNS OF GREECE AND ROME108
The era of the Roman emperors — The great highways — The growth of the Persian Post Service — The menace of the imperial public houses — The Roman Diploma (diplomata tractarium) necessary for travellers — Landlords in Italy in the times of Polybius — Petronius and Trimalchio — Cicero and Macula, the inn-keeper — Horace and taverns — Inns dangerous places of refuge.
Let us, then, reverse the hour-glass of eternity, that the sands of time may filter backward until we have reached the era of the emperors of Rome: Augustus, or the timid and inhuman Domitian, Marcus Aurelius, or that stern disciplinarian Aurelian, who lived two centuries too late. Rome was then the sovereign city of the known world, bound to every province by those wide and solid roads, the number and ruins of which astonish us to the present day, and which, after the ascendency of barbarism, were still the arteries of such transportation as existed through the dark ages. It made no difference in what country the traveller found himself, if he was bent upon leaving Gaul, or Germany, or Greece, or Iberia, the highway he followed led him towards the Eternal City, and all roads lead to Rome.
The stages of travel were so admirably calculated that the end of each day’s journey found the traveller at a station where fresh horses and pack animals could be obtained, and where food and lodging were procurable. The post-houses were, in reality, great imperial inns which served as ration depots and halting places for military details, as well as the putting up of travellers, when otherwise unoccupied by imperial missions or other official guests. The entire system was an outgrowth of the Persian Post Service, but in many ways the Roman aggressiveness improved upon the model.109
Officials, known under the collective term frumentarii, were assigned to the administration and inspection of these great public houses: in addition to which they also maintained a system of espionage which was useful in keeping the authorities informed as to everything going on in the neighborhood. Some of these official delators were by nature so meddlesome that they placed this duty even above their actual official calling, using every means in their power to overhear the conversation and plans of those lodging with them,. If these plans appeared to them treasonable, no time was lost in denouncing the culprits to the emperor or to the praetorian prefect. It is to be regretted that mere suspicion was often equivalent to condemnation, and Gibbon’s strictures were justified. Taking this interpretation, these great inns were not so much a place of sanctuary, a shelter from the storms of winter in dreary climes; they were the lairs of espionage; in place of pleasant lodgings offered free of charge, they were rather snares perfidiously set and cunningly baited.
By virtue of such a system, the police, operating as a huge organization could arrest and detain a far greater number of criminals and malcontents than would have been the case had these great hostelries been maintained for official use alone. Gibbon has pointed out the utter impossibility of escape under the emperors and has cited one attempt under Tiberius, in which the fugitive was apprehended and brought back. So perfect was the organization, however, that even Tiberius saw nothing to fear from the example and the matter was dropped. In later times, however, this was not the case, as Aetius probably owed his life to his escape from inimical authority, and Attila would probably have won the battle of Chalons had Aetius been apprehended before he could sue for pardon at the head of sixty thousand veterans devoted to his interests.110
As the institutions of which we are speaking were imperial, it need not astonish us to learn that some credentials were necessary in order to gain admittance and procure the services of the master of posts and his organization. The document in question was called the diploma tractatorium under the earlier empire, but under Constantine it came to be known as epistola evictionis, a more specific term according to Bergier. The writ, for such it was, consisted of two leaves, hence its name; and the imperial couriers, who corresponded to what the British call king’s messengers, were of course always provided with the diploma. Travelling emperors lodged at these mansiones and held there a sort of local court to receive the homage of local authorities and their suites, and from this we may suppose that at times these inns were accessible to all the world; they witnessed a ceaseless coming and going of nobles and high officials, tourists of position, and even mere tradesmen. On this account an official lodged there was always exposed to danger no matter how carefully precautions for his protection had been taken, and the emperors therefore reserved for themselves the entire establishment when putting up there. The epistola evictionis was the instrument used to clear the way for them and their suites. All such documents bore the imperial seal and were either issued by imperial authority direct, or by some high official to whom that power had been delegated.
In spite of all the care taken to shield him, Titus fell a victim to the dangerous and criminal enterprise of his brother Domitian, in a mansio (post-house) in the Sabine country, almost at the very gates of Rome. He was taken with that raging fever which caused his death, and tradition has it that the fever was the result of a poison which set his blood on fire. The assassination of Aurelian by his trusted general Mucapor in the post-house at 111 Coenophrurium, between Heracleia and Byzantium, proved yet again that notwithstanding the most painstaking precautions, the gravest danger could still attend and menace even princes in these imperial public houses. Therefore we stress the fact that the diploma tractatorium was a most difficult document to procure, and the reasons for requesting it must have been vital and unavoidable. Pliny the Younger, a powerful minister high in the favor of Trajan, begged the emperor’s indulgence for having granted Calphurnia post-horses without first having obtained imperial authorization, and this, notwithstanding the fact that her business was so pressing as to admit of no delay. The bearer of an imperial diploma was literally able to command such service and attention as not even Lady de Winter, in Dumas’s Three Musketeers could have procured with Richelieu’s famous letter of absolution: “It is by my order and for the good of the state that the bearer of this has done what has been done.” On the other hand, should an individual or official present himself at a mansio and either seek or force service from the imperial establishment, he was liable to the most drastic punishment, no matter what his station or influence. An episode in the life of Helvius Pertinax, who later became emperor, will serve to illustrate the severity of the regulations governing the post-houses and service. Julius Capitolinus relates that when Pertinax was praefectus cohortis, serving in Syria, he was punished by the governor of that province for having levied post-horses without the diploma, being ordered as a consequence to proceed on foot from Antioch to the place to which he had been ordered as legate. Under the later empire it became very fashionable to apply for this all powerful diploma, which was good for a certain time and which became void automatically upon the death or removal from office of the emperor or official granting it. When such a request was honored, the 112 lucky recipient had great cause to congratulate himself because of the prestige which the possession of such a document conferred upon the bearer, whose importance was at once augmented. He was empowered to take any route that might suit his fancy. In special cases the emperor granted a sort of perpetual diploma which was good during the life of the possessor or during that of the emperor whose seal it bore. In fact, due allowance being made for the times, a diploma tractatorium was equivalent to a pass good on any railroad or steamship line, and in addition it granted the bearer carte blanche in the diner and buffet car, as well as in the Pullman stateroom, or for that matter, a special train, unlimited service, and prompt and respectful obedience. The nearest approach which we now of is the haticherif, until recently furnished to Turkish officials; a document which carried with it most of the powers conferred by the old Roman diploma, both as to hospitality and to horses, supplies, and so on. King’s messengers are also believed to possess credentials almost as powerful. Upon the mere presentation of the diploma, the bearer thereof did the post-master the honor of receiving from him horses, beasts of burden, and all the food and supplies of which he and his suite might have need. Should the station be short of supplies, a condition which did not often occur, the stables empty of fresh beasts, the cellars dry, the mansionarius or stationarius would levy upon the local inhabitants to supply his needs, and a requisition such as this had all the weight of imperial sanction. The rustics were ordered to furnish such animals and stores as were enumerated in the diploma, and in numbers, quantities, and quality, as specified therein. The term used to denote such requisitioning was angariare, in allusion to a usage prevalent amongst the Persians and a saying current among the Greeks, of which we have 113 spoken before. Marculphus, a Gallic monk, wrote a work entitled Formulae, in which he compiled and preserved the actual texts of many legal forms. To his industry we are indebted for the text of one of these diplomata tractatorium, or, as they were now in his time, circa 660 A. D., epistolae evictionis. The reader need not be surprised at the munificence of the emperor in thus providing for the needs of his legates, as they sometimes travelled with an innumerable train of officials, secretaries, slaves, and the like; and in some regions supplies were scarce and had to be transported with the traveller.
(Name of Emperor), Emperor: —
TO ALL OUR OFFICIALS AT THEIR POSTS OF DUTY.
Know ye that we have delegated. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ., an illustrious gentleman, to be our legate or ambassador to. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . We therefore command you by these presents to aid his excellency, to provide and furnish his excellency with. . . . . .horses, to collect such quantity of supplies as to him shall seem good and reasonable, in places proper and convenient; furnish. . . . . .ordinary sumpter horses and . . . . . .in addition; . . . . . .bread; . . . . . .hogs-heads of wine; . . . . . .barrels of beer; . . . . . .sides of bacon; . . . . . .cattle; . . . . . .hogs; . . . . . .suckling pigs; . . . . . .sheep; . . . . . .lambs; . . . . . .geese; . . . . . .pheasants; chickens; . . . . . .pounds of oil; . . . . . .pounds of pickle; . . . . . .pounds of honey; . . . . . .of vinegar; . . . . . .of cummin; . . . . . .of pepper; . . . . . .of coste; . . . . . .of cloves; . . . . . .of aspic; . . . . . .of cinnamon; . . . . . .grains of mastic; . . . . . .dates; . . . . . .pistache; . . . . . .almonds; . . . . . .pounds of wax; . . . . . .of salt; . . . . . .of oils; . . . . . .ricks of hay; . . . . . .of oats; and . . . . . .of straw.
Look ye that all these things are furnished him in full and entirely, in a place convenient, and let everything be accomplished without delay.114
From the foregoing, it is easily evident that life under the emperors was full and abundant in all that concerned their agents and legates, and we have reason to believe that they acted with equal liberality toward foreign ambassadors and august prisoners of war. Witness the treatment of Zenobia by Aurelian and that of Gelimer by Justinian, and neither of these princes was noted for his liberality. Such profusion did not greatly antedate the empire, however, and the complaints voiced by the deputies from Rhodes, and of those from Macedonia, inform the reader that Rome, during the period of the Punic Wars, sumptuously entertained foreign ambassadors of friendly states and lodged them in a house owned by the government; but that representatives whose home governments were of doubtful allegiance, might possibly be subjected to some indignity. Legates of the enemy were adequately cared for.
“Quintus Fulvius Gillo, a lieutenant-general of Scipio, conducted the Carthaginians to Rome; and as they were forbidden to enter the city, they were lodged in a country house belonging to the state, and admitted to an audience of the senate at the temple of Bellona.” (Livy, XXX, 21.)
In the case of the envoys from Rhodes, we find these ambassadors expressing their displeasure at what they considered a breach of diplomatic usage, as follows:
“In former times, when we visited Rome, after the conquest of Carthage, after the defeat of Philip, and after that of Antiochus, we were escorted from a mansion furnished us by the public into the senate house, to present our congratulations to you, conscript fathers, and, from the senate house to the capitol, carrying offerings to your gods. But now, from a vile and filthy inn, scarcely gaining a reception for our money, treated as enemies, and forbidden to lodge within the city, we come, in this squalid dress, to the Roman senate 115 house; we, Rhodians, upon whom, a short time ago, you bestowed the provinces of Lycia and Caria.” (Livy, XLV, 22.)
A little later on, however, when the republic had become more conscious of its strength, it absolved itself from courtesies other than those of wood and salt, which were the least that even a parochus or an innkeeper could have done; and we find envoys lodged very simply, friend or enemy, in an inn of the street.
Wayfarers, however, unless provided with the diploma, that magical charm that opened more doors than sesame, would perforce be driven by necessity to apply to such establishments as the inns for food and shelter when travelling, but, as Marculphus would have us see, the mere presentation of the diploma bearing the seal of the reigning prince, (those of Augustus bore a sphynx), at once procured the bearer a hearty welcome, excellent fare, a comfortable lodging, and all the heart could desire. The remains of the Roman mansio in the Great St. Bernard have been excavated and examined, and I take great pleasure in quoting from Lanciani’s Roman Compagna, pp. 32 and 33, to fill in the details of the picture:
“The Roman hospice (mansion in summo Paenino) stood a quarter of a mile to the south of the present one, and comprised a temple to the god of the mountain, a hospice for travellers, stables, and watering troughs, and store-houses for fuel and provisions. The mansio or hospice was built of stone, with an elaborate system of hypocausts and flues for the distribution of heat through the guest rooms. The roof, made of tile from the lime-kilns of the Val d’ Aosta, had projecting eaves in the old Swiss style.”
In the times of Polybius, almost contemporary with the Rhodian envoys of whom we have spoken above, 116 inns were numerous along the great roads of Italy. This is proved by an interesting passage in the works of the great historian of the Punic War. He was a cultured Greek of good social position. His travels took him well over Italy, and he commented upon what he saw. After having stated that in his time the price of wheat was four obols per Sicilian medimnus (about ten gallons), and that of barley two obols, a metretes of wine costing the same as a medimnus of barley, he goes on to say “that the cheapness and abundance of all articles of food will be most clearly understood from the following fact. Travellers in this country, who put up in inns, do not bargain for each separate article they require, but ask what is the charge per diem for one person. The innkeepers, as a rule, agree to receive guests, providing them with enough of all they require for half an as per diem, i. e., the fourth part of an obol, the charge being very seldom higher.” (Lib. II, 15.)
Unless human nature has undergone a very decided change, we are forced to the conclusion that the table set in such places much have been meagre and plain in the extreme, and the landlord of classical Italy must have been a blood brother to him of whom Gibbon said, in his Autobiography:
“Under an air of profusion, he concealed a strict attention to his interest,” yet the master of sarcasm does not complain of the table. The only difficulty in the situation lies in the continual carping and clamoring of the travellers who, if they paid no more than half an as for a day’s lodging en pension, could not be said to have paid anything, and for that reason could not be accorded the right to damn their dinner, as Fielding says.
In early times, the inns of this class were no better than hovels, badly roofed and insecurely fastened. In Petronius, the revellers return to their miserable sanctuary 117 at night and cannot get in because the old beldame, their landlady, had been swilling so long with her customers that you could have set her afire without her knowing it. Trimalchio’s courier rescued them from a night in the street by smashing in the door. Many of these establishments were mere sheds such as used to be seen along the Appian Way, and which were called, according to Festus, ceditae, because a certain Ceditius had been the proprietor of a great number of them. As the rental of such huts to an innkeeper assured the owner a good profit, and, according to Varro, played no unimportant part in supporting the cultivation of a piece of land on which the house had been built, nearly every landowner followed so common-sense an example and built such a shed at the boundary of his property.
Wealthy landowners sometimes refused to lease to innkeepers, reserving to themselves such rights, and erecting little booths along the road which bordered their property. Here they could break the tedium of a long and tiresome journey, have a comfortable place in which to rest, and avoid placing their persons and educated palates at the mercy of innkeepers and their scullions. The great patricians had many estates in the various parts of the peninsula; these they visited, as their moods dictated, and, as a general thing, they maintained small establishments such as are described above for their personal comfort and convenience. To institutions such as these, the name diversorium, or the diminutive diversoriolum, were given. Cicero wanted a lodge of this kind on the road to Terracina, in order that he might not always inflict himself upon Fabius Gallus when he visited in the neighborhood, but he either lacked the means or the amount necessary was always spent in advance on books and statues, and when he no longer travelled as a governor, and no longer possessed that 118 title and the right to avail himself of free lodging such as the parochi supervised and kept in readiness along the great roads, he was always forced to fall back upon the hospitality of his friends; accepting shelter with Gallus whenever he returned from Sicily, or with Lepta if he came from the other direction; but in the absence of his friends he had no other choice than that of lodging in an inn. In his case he was fortunate, for Macula seems to have been a much finer type of innkeeper than was commonly to be encountered. This innkeeper knew his duties and appears to have confined his activities strictly to them and to proprieties far above his own station in life. The wine he served was good, he himself esteemed it and drank it, though Cicero seems to have preferred a mixture of this wine and a little Falernian; he had only a few rooms in his inn, and they were so small that the great orator, on his way to meet Caesar who was returning to Spain, feared there would not be room for the equipages and attendants.
The inns along the great roads, then, were mere ordinaries and such dining-rooms as they maintained were small and few in number, in fact, a majority of such public houses must have been huts where the individual could obtain food and shelter, but often they were equipped with neither stables for the animals nor sheds for the vehicles. Others there were, however, in which conditions such as these did not obtain: they were stables out and out, and travellers were obliged to bed themselves down upon a “donkey’s breakfast,” among the horses and mules. Places of such rustic simplicity were necessarily poorly constructed and probably lacked bolts and bars to fasten their doors. There is a legendary episode in the life of Severus which is said to have occurred in such an inn. The future emperor at the time of his adventure was serving as a centurion, and necessity 119 bedded him down on the straw of a stable. As he was making the most of his situation a serpent glided in and coiled itself close to his head. It did not strike him, however, and, at the first startled outcries, it disappeared and an adventure which for the moment threatened him with grave danger was turned into an omen favorable to his future. It was construed as a divine portent which announced to Severus the lofty destiny in store for him.
The collective term used to denote an inn was deversorium; this applied to an establishment with or without stables, but when reference was made to the keeper the term used was stabularius: should the institution be one of those dingy, moth eaten, vermin ridden pot-houses, the term used to describe it was caupona.
The taberna deversoria were slightly more pretentious; here one could lodge and eat and drink; it is probably one of these establishments which was conducted by the hostess in the Isernian inscription.
The taberna meritoria were a sort of rooming house and tavern combined. Their custom seems to have been less transient than that of the taberna deversoria.
It is of the deversorium that Horace speaks when he scolds his nag for turning in at every inn and tavern along the road; poor habit-ridden beast, had your owner had you long in his possession?
Baiae, Musa protests, will not do for my case,
And has caused me no little ill-will in the place,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Needs must, then, to change my old quarters, and spur
My mare past the inns so familiar to her.
“Woa, ho! I’m not going to Baiae’s bay,
Nor to Cumae!” her choleric rider would say,
Appealing to her through the left rein, because
Saddle-horses, you know, have their ears in their jaws.
— Epist. Lib. I, 15, Martin’s Translation.120
There is no rancor in this passage, and Horace’s experiences along the Baiae road must on the whole have been pleasant. It is otherwise, however, in regard to the inns on the road between Capua and Rome, and the term employed by Horace to characterize them expresses the contempt in which he holds them, a term not to be literally translated here, though the passage reads thus:
But surely, friend, the man who gains an inn,
Besplashed with mud, and soaking to the skin,
When on his way from Capua to Rome
Will not desire to make that inn his home.
— Epist. Lib. I, 11, Martin’s Translation.
And with what care the refined taste of the poet evaded the pot-houses on the road to Brindisium, whenever possible. How cheerfully he said farewell to such asylums; how easily he contented himself with the slim and precarious hospitality of the little cottage near the Campanian bridge and the meager rations issued by the parochus. How worn out with boredom he was when he paid his compliments to the swarming inns and taverns of Caudium, Caudi cauponas, on his well provisioned way to the villa of Cocceius, so magnificent, so well stored with luxuries of every description, and so well found in necessities, plenissima villa! Then continuing his route, he tarried with the innkeeper at Beneventum. Here the fiery ardor of the landlord had nearly set the place on fire, for while that worthy was turning some thrushes which were roasting over a hot fire of grape vines, a blazing brand flew out of the brazier and set the kitchen on fire. The scullions and guests were greatly excited, the latter chiefly because their supper was thus menaced; with one accord they rushed to the rescue of their food and then put out the fire raging in the kitchen: 121
Hence without halting, on we post
To Beneventum, where our host
Escaped most narrowly from burning;
For while he was intent on turning
Some starveling thrushes on the coals,
Out from the crazy brazier rolls
A blazing brand, which caught and spread
To roof and rafter overhead.
The hungry guests, oh how they ran!
And frightened servants, to a man,
The supper from the flames to snatch,
And then to quench the blazing thatch.
The beds in such inns were not softer than sleep, and the mattresses, as we learn from Pliny, were stuffed with the largest tufts of a certain species of reeds, in place of goose feathers. Horace knew by experience that upon these narrow couches one was visited more frequently by insomnia than by dreams.
A TAVERN BEDROOM
For this reason, that he might charm away a little of the dreary emptiness of a “white night,” which lay ahead of him, he made certain advances to one of the strapping slaveys attached to the establishment for the purpose of rendering all manner of service to a none too discriminating public. There were always several of these rustic Hebes about the premises, and, in the eyes of the Roman law, none shirked this double duty. This lass, it seems, not looking forward with any degree of pleasure to a night spent in such distinguished company as that of the poet, preferred to rendezvous more pleasantly, and perhaps more energetically, with that distinguished individual who served Horace in the capacity of master of horse. His night, therefore, came to naught. To naught, did I say? Nay, let us read what the poet himself says, in this, the only passage in all his works in which he can be accused of absolute sincerity in speaking of the fair sex; the sex, which, alas, he often found magnificently false:122
’Twas there, O fool, O dolt supreme,
I waited for a lying jade
Till Sleep on me his finger laid,
And I, still panting with desire,
My pulse athrob, my blood afire,
Sank into slumber; and it seems
That I possessed her in my dreams.
Those whose associations had accustomed them to a finer environment would have always missed something in these inns: the kitchen was very likely to be carelessly kept and was often ill provided. The wine was often vile but in some parts of the country the lack of good water was even more keenly felt; especially in Northern Italy: and even in Rome, notwithstanding the marvelous system of aqueducts, there were continual brushes between the water porters and the publicans, who waged a never-ending warfare over a matter of a pint. The aediles were being constantly involved in such brawls, which always spread to the rabble and roistering vagabonds whose ends were best served by fomenting disorder to serve as a screen for their designs upon the money and goods of those in the neighborhood. The officials, on their part, were always on the alert to prevent fraud in measures or by adulteration; to prevent trespass upon the aqueduct system and damage of the same, with the consequent waster, which might have interfered with the supply which kept the fountains going. At Ravenna, conditions were much worse; there it was sometimes difficult to fine even a single cistern which was not dry to the deepest part. All publicans were reduced to the weary lot of him of whom Martial makes sarcastic mention: Epigrams, Lib. III, 57.
In an inn at Ravenna, the other day
I was bilked by the wiles of a cheat;
When I ordered my wine mixed with water, the gay
Deceiver retailed me wine neat.
and again mine author says in another pungent epigram.
I’d rather own a cistern at Ravenna
Than a vineyard in a clime more favored still,
For I could then sell water
At a price that soon had oughter
Make me richer than the dreams wine could fulfill.
Their only hope of relief lay in the showers of rain that filled the cisterns in succession: for them it was better than a heavy crop of grapes and a plentiful vintage.
“My dear Ovid,” writes Martial, “you report that the rains have made havoc with the vintage. What of it? The rain is far more beneficial for wine than you would think. Coranus, the innkeeper, was able to refill a hundred amphorae or so.”
Wealthy travellers, who knew beforehand what the penury common to inns had in store for then, took their precautions far in advance whenever the chance of the road obliged them to apply there for lodgings; in the manner of the Epicurean Philoxenes of Cytheria, who only travelled when precede by a train of slaves loaded with wines and everything proper and necessary for even the most educated and delicate of tastes; it was probably his example which prompted Sir Walter Scott to emulate him in Peveril of the Peak: and Regnard the subtle harp of malignant indirection remarks:
Who are not always burdened by books of the law
Bear their pepper ground fine and their food in their maw.
When wealthy and powerful transients arrived at such establishments, it was with an entire train of slaves and sumpter mules, minions, lapdogs, carriages and all the panoply of ostentation. They also carried with them a complete culinary apparatus, and on some occasions, when the highest caste was involved, portable garden plots with growing melons and early vegetables were transported, as was done by Tiberius.124
Ordinarily, however, the wealthy classes, though holding in extreme contempt the chipped and dirty cups and the lame dishes of the inns and taverns, contented themselves with merely carrying their own dishes and paraphernalia along with them. In this latter class we may place Martial’s Calpetianus (Lib. VI, 94):
“Calpetianus is always served from golden vessels; whether he dines in the city or at home; whether he goes on a picnic or not. Thus also is he served at a tavern, and thus in the country. Has he no other service? He has none of his own.”
Those who adventured with such spoils as these into the clutches of the innkeepers frequently did so at considerable risk. The inns were generally isolated, sometimes at some little distance from other habitations along the great roads which themselves were but little frequented except by those engaged in repairs: they were commonly under the eagle eye of an accomplished scoundrel, the receiver and fence for all the robbers and nightpads in the district: such hostelries were nothing if not out and out Snug Harbors for the predatory classes whose methods lacked the sanction of law if not that of common usage. There were many such inns to be found along the more deserted roads in Italy; the proprietors doubtless chose their locations with due regard to custom, immunity, and rapacity, and all the art of a specious landlord could not detract from their aspect of sinister purpose, at best it could be softened down: as an example we have in mind the malalbergo on the long road between Bologna and Ferrara, the only inn in the whole district, or, yet again, the post house at Monteroni on the Roman Campagna (Torre de mezza via), of which William Savage speaks so eloquently and with such spirit:
“One abandoned enough to have ventured himself in such a place ought to have gone to the gallows; a sentence merited ten times over.”125
Every dangerous refuge such as this was almost certainly the sanctuary of vagabonds and criminals, and the caupona of ancient Italy, and, I regret to say, the deversoria, as well, were closely allied in creed to the establishment of which Savage speaks.
Savage also speaks of the mal aria (malaria) which aided the cause of the cutpurses, and which still infests the Roman Compagna. It was a case of danger succeeding danger, and, as is easily seen, from the remarks of Didier on the post-house at Monteroni, the ancient Roman station (ad turres), the robbers which caused such terror of old have yielded before the fever which today has everywhere established itself:
“A great house of stone, in these reaches a rare thing, rears itself from the edge of the road; it is Monteroni, the only posting house between Rome and Civita Vecchia. I enter, solitude reigns throughout; not a soul comes forward to receive me. I call, and a silence as icy and impersonal as death responds to my voice. At last I discover two postillions lying on the floor on a filthy and ragged mattress; two others are lying wrapped in their cloaks, not before the fire, however, but in the center of the hearth itself. Every one of them had the fever and they were so weak that it would have been impossible for any of them to have mounted a horse. Of them I was unable to obtain bread, and it was the same with water.”