The Anniversary of the Roman Fire

[The fire which Nero blamed on the Christians] broke out in the night between the 18th and 19th of July, among the wooden shops in the south-eastern end of the Great Circus, near the Palatine hill. Lashed by the wind, it defied all exertions of the firemen and soldiers, and raged with unabated fury for seven nights and six days. Then it burst out again in another part, near the field of Mars, and in three days more laid waste two other districts of the city.

The calamity was incalculable. Only four of the fourteen regions into which the city was divided, remained uninjured; three, including the whole interior city from the Circus to the Esquiline hill, were a shapeless mass of ruins; the remaining seven were more or less destroyed; venerable temples, monumental buildings of the royal, republican, and imperial times, the richest creations of Greek art which had been collected for centuries, were turned into dust and ashes; men and beasts perished in the flames, and the metropolis of the world assumed the aspect of a graveyard with a million of mourners over the loss of irreparable treasures.

This fearful catastrophe must have been before the mind of St. John in the Apocalypse when he wrote his funeral dirge of the downfall of imperial Rome (Apoc. 18).*

*Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 379–380.