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1 The mention by Cato of the variety which bears the name of the African fig, strongly recalls to my mind a remarkable fact connected with it and the country from which it takes its name.

Burning with a mortal hatred to Carthage, anxious, too, for the safety of his posterity, and exclaiming at every sitting of the senate that Carthage must be destroyed, Cato one day brought with him into the Senate-house a ripe fig, the produce of that country. Exhibiting it to the assembled senators, "I ask you," said he, "when, do you suppose, this fruit was plucked from the tree?" All being of opinion that it had been but lately gathered, —Know then," was his reply, "that this fig was plucked at Carthage but the day before yesterday2—so near is the enemy to our walls." It was immediately after this occurrence that the third Punic war commenced, in which Carthage was destroyed, though Cato had breathed his last, the year after this event. In this trait which are we the most to admire? was it ingenuity3 and foresight on his part, or was it an accident that was thus aptly turned to advantage? which, too, is the most surprising, the extraordinary quickness of the passage which must have been made, or the bold daring of the man? The thing, however, that is the most astonishing of all—indeed, I can conceive nothing more truly marvellous—is the fact that a city thus mighty, the rival of Rome for the sovereignty of the world during a period of one hundred and twenty years, owed its fall at last to an illustration drawn from a single fig!

Thus did this fig effect that which neither Trebia nor Thrasimenus, not Cannæ itself, graced with the entombment of the Roman renown, not the Punic camp entrenched within three miles of the city, not even the disgrace of seeing Hannibal riding up to the Colline Gate, could suggest the means of accomplishing. It was left for a fig, in the hand of Cato, to show how near was Carthage to the gates of Rome!

In the Forum even, and in the very midst of the Comitium4 of Rome, a fig-tree is carefully cultivated, in memory of the consecration which took place on the occasion of a thunderbolt5 which once fell on that spot; and still more, as a memorial of the fig-tree which in former days overshadowed Romulus and Remus, the founders of our empire, in the Lupercal Cave. This tree received the name of "ruminalis," from the circumstance that under it the wolf was found giving the breast—rumis it was called in those days—to the two infants. A group in bronze was afterwards erected to consecrate the remembrance of this miraculous event, as, through the agency of Attus Navius the augur, the tree itself had passed spontaneously from its original locality6 to the Comitium in the Forum. And not without some direful presage is it that that tree has withered away, though, thanks to the care of the priesthood, it has been since replaced.7

There was another fig-tree also, before the temple of Saturn,8 which was removed on the occasion of a sacrifice made by the Vestal Virgins, it being found that its roots were gradually undermining the statue of the god Silvanus. Another one, accidentally planted there, flourished in the middle of the Forum,9 upon the very spot, too, in which, when from a direful presage it had been foreboded that the growing empire was about to sink to its very foundations, Curtius, at the price of an inestimable treasure—in other words, by the sacrifice of such unbounded virtue and piety—redeemed his country by a glorious death. By a like accident, too, a vine and an olive-tree have sprung up in the same spot,10 which have ever since been carefully tended by the populace for the agreeable shade which they afford. The altar that once stood there was afterwards removed by order of the deified Julius Cæsar, upon the occasion of the last spectacle of gladiatorial combats11 which he gave in the Forum.

1 Another war is said to have originated in this fruit. Xerxes Was tempted by the fine figs of Athens to undertake the invasion of Greece.

2 Tertium ante diem." In dating from an event, the Romans in- cluded both days in the computation; the one they dated from, and the day of, the event.

3 In sending for the fig, and thinking of this method of speaking to the feelings of his fellow-countrymen.

4 A place in the Forum, where public meetings were held, and certain offences tried.

5 He alludes to the Puteal, or enclosed space in the Forum, consecrated by Scribonius Libo, in consequence of the spot having been struck by lightning.

6 On the banks of the Tiber, below the Palatine Mount. The whole of this passage is in a most corrupt siate, and it is difficult to extract a meaning from it.

7 By slips from the old tree, as Tacitus seems to say—" in novos fœtus revivisceret."

8 At the foot of the Capitoline Hill.

9 Probably near where the Curtius Lacus had stood in the early days of Rome. The story of Metius Curtius, who leaped into the yawning gulph in the Forum, in order to save his country, is known to every classical reader.

10 The Forum.

11 See B. xix. c. 6.

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