Belisarius had not resided here, preferring for his abode the palace of the Pincian. His successor in the military government of Rome chose a habitation on the deserted hill, in that portion of its complex structures which had been raised by Vespasian and his sons. Thither the two visitors were now directing their steps. Having passed a gateway, where Marcian answered with a watchword the challenge of the guard, they ascended a broad flight of stairs, and stood before an entrance flanked with two great pillars of Numidian marble, toned by time to a hue of richest orange. Here stood soldiers, to whom again the password was given. Entering, they beheld a great hall, surrounded by a colonnade of the Corinthian order, whereon had been lavished exquisite carving; in niches behind the columns stood statues in basalt, thrice the size of life, representing Roman emperors, and at the far end was a tribune with a marble throne. This, once the hall of audience, at present served as a sort of antechamber; here and there loitered a little group of citizens, some of whom had been waiting since early morning for speech with the commander; in one corner, soldiers played at dice, in another a notary was writing at a table before which stood two ecclesiastics. Voices and footsteps made a faint, confused reverberation under the immense vault.
Anxiously glancing about him, Basil followed his conductor across the hall and out into a peristyle, its pavement richly tesselated, and the portico, still elaborately adorned with work in metal and in marble, giving proof of still greater magnificence in bygone time; pedestals had lost their statues, and blank spaces on the wall told of precious panelling torn off. Beyond, they came to a curtained doorway, where they were detained for some moments by the sentry; then the curtain was drawn aside, and Basil found himself in the triclinium of the Flavian palace, now used by the Greek general as his public reception room. Its size was not much less than that of the hall of audience; its decoration in the same grandiose style. Enormous pillars of granite supported the roof; statues stood, or had stood, all around; the pavement, composed of serpentine, porphyry, and Numidian marble in many hues, was a superb work of art. But Basil saw only the human figures before him. In a chair