A. L. (Antoine Laurent) Castellan.

Letters on Italy : illustrated by engravings online

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between the promontoiy of Misene and the isle of Procita,
though he still gilds behind us the rocky cliifs of Anacapri.

Grotto of Paiisilypo. $-19

The evening deepens, and the clear azure of the sky is painted
with the colours of the rose and the violet, and then with a
grey silvery tint, the soft shadowing of the mantle of night,
through which even now a few trembling stars are visible —
the breeze dies, the waves grow tranquil, the sea becomes
smooth and transparent ; and the star of Venus, reflected in
the waters, shines like a diamond swimming on their surface,
while the voices of the sailors rise upon the air singing their
evening hymn.

After having tasted all the sweets of the deepest calm, and en-
joyed the most sublime beauties of Nature, the noise and bustle
of the city was more than I could bear, and I hastened to repose.

Although it is late in the year the weather is beautiful, and
the atmosphere is as pure as in any of our summer days ; the
plains are still green ; there is no season more favourable than
this for visiting the delicious banks of Pouzzuole. I set off with
my friend in a calesso, a vehicle drawn by one horse, and we
traversed the populous streets of the city, dashing over the
pavement, and piercing the crowd with the speed of light, and
grazing and crossing other carriages, which flew as quickly,
yet without any other injury than the anxiety occasioned by
the rapidity of our course ; when we arrived on the quay of
Cliiaya, our horse redoubled his speed, and in a moment we
reached the grotto of Pausilypo.

At sun-set in this place, but only at this period of the year,
a very picturesque effect may be observed ; the horizontal
beams grazing the side of the grotto, penetrate into the
cavity, and illuminate all the length of it ; and when you pass
at this moment, the particles of dust always in motion, have
all the appearance of a stream of flame, with which the pas-
sengers are dazzled, and almost suffocated, and immersed in
which they seem only like transparent shadows.

On leaving the grotto we drove to a village called Fuori-
Grotta, and then through a country where the trees were
twined together by festoons of vines ; after that we entered a
long avenue of poplars, leaving Cape Pausilypo on the left,
and on the right the Vomero covered with beautiful villages
and seats, overtopped by a delicious hermitage, from which all
the Campania J'elice is seen, and even a part of the Roman
states. The sea, with all its isles, lay before us ; the road is
cut amongst the rocks, and a mimerous body of galley slaves
was employed in repairing it. The miserable lot of these
wretches causes many melancholy reflexions, and casts ovei
the laughing landscapes a shade which tarnishes its beauty.

The history of Pouzzuoli is well known ; celebrated in the
time of the Romans for the unbridled luxury and voluptuous-

iO Castellan's Traveh in Italy,

ness of its inhabitants; it was destroyed by an earthquake.
The declivity of the hill, at the foot of which the modern city
is built, is covered with the ruins of ancient edifices and
temples j that of Jupiter Serapis is alone distinguishable by
its form. The foundations exist entire ; three columns are still
standing, and the fragments of the others lie scattered about;
this temple was magnificent, though of small proportions and
of a circular form.

The three columns present a singular phenomenon, which
has never been explained in a satisfactoiy manner ; these co-
lumns, and many of the others which have been overthrown, are
perforated nearly all at the same height in the form of a ring,
by a little marine worm (the mitylus lithophagtis) . Some
people pretend that this is a proof that at some period the
waters of the sea have flowed much above their present level,
and that they have left these traces on the shores of Pouzzuole ;
but this assertion, though supported by many clever men,
seems by no means satisfactory ; for how can it be supported,
that an inundation, which must have covered a part of Europe,
and have lasted long enough to have allowed these worms to
pierce the marble, lias left no trace in history, and that
there are no marks of its remaining but on the coast of Pouz-
zuole ? The real cause probably is, that these columns have
been all cut from the same quarry, which has contained a bed
of marine petrifactions, softer than the base of marble, which,
being decomposed, have left the cavities with which the cohmin
is pierced.

On ascending the hill we meet with subten'aneous remains
bordering the road, belonging to some ruins which they call the
Temple of Neptune ; a little higher there are some remains of
a Temple of Diana, the ruins of an ancient v.ay, and an
aqueduct, of M'hich some portions are well preserved. The
last object is an amphitheatre, the seats of which, no longer
Tisible, are entirely covered Avith little gardens. On leaving
the amphitheatre our guide conducted us to the Via Campana,
an ancient consular road, which forms a continuation of the
Via Appia ; it is bordered with tombs constmcted by the an-
cient inhabitants of Pouzzuole ; the sepulchral chambers are
varied in their forms, but are built in a good style ; they are
all built of brick covered with stucco, or with cement, on
which are still distinguishable the remains of paintings of ex-
quisite taste. If these tombs have been violated, it is owing to
the shameless curiosity of modern times, when the sacred
asylums have been overthrown in search of vases containing
only tears, or some few pieces of gold mixed with cinders !

Continuing to ascend, the traveller arrives at a sort of inclo-



Tomb of Virgil, 21

sure, which is clearly the crater of an ancient volcano : it is the
Solfatara. The mouth of the crater is immense: surrounded
by arid rocks, the centre is crowned with a wood of youn^
chesnut- trees; a winding pathway, overshadowed by their
foliage, conducts us to the alum mines and to the Solfatara.
On the way our guide related to us some curious facts respect-
ing this place. Thus, if you dig to the depth of one foot the
stones which lie there are too hot to be held in the hand • if
you stamp violently on the ground it returns a sound which
seems to indicate the existence of great cavities.

But the most extraordinary appearance is that of the columns
of smoke which rise from the crevices of the ground, covering
it with crystallizations of every colour. To catch the full effect
of this spectacle it is necessary to stand on the side from which
the wind blows, or it is still better to wait till the atmosphere is
calm. The vapour then rises in thick twisted columns of
brilliant whiteness ; they whirl around, enlarging as they
ascend, and at last they seem to dissolve into air, leaving no
trace in the azure sky. An attempt was made to establish an
alum manufactory where these vapours issue most abundantly,
but the fevers which attacked the workmen caused it to be re-

In descending the steep sides of the crater, by a very difficult
path we visited the fountain of Pischiarelli, which appears to
takes its course from the furnace of Solfatara. The waters
possess strong medicinal properties. Tired with our journey,
we stood in need of repose, of freshness, and of shade, and we
found them all on the borders of the limpid lake of Agnano,
where we enjoyed a rural repast.

As we ascended a hill an ancient edifice, covered with ver-
dure and crowned with laurel, met our view. The following
inscription was traced upon the rock :


It was the tomb of Virgil! Time has shewn less respect to this
last asylum of the illustrious dead, than to his unperishing
glory : the monument is in ruins, and the interior is empty.
[See Plate 11.)

The memory of great names adds beauty to the most deso-
late scene. I was now surrounded by objects, which to the
most picturesque charms, added the interest of having been
described by Homer and by Virgil. There, Avernus, the
marshes of Acheron, and the grotto of the Sibyl, lay
stretched before me ; farther on, the city of Cumae, and the
perfumed hills of Falernia. At my feet was the superb Par-
thenope, and the sea of Misene, while my eye rested on the

52 Castellan's Travels in Italy,

isles which adorned its bosom ; then turning off at Capree,
it rai)idly glided along the shores of Lorrente, along the Lata-
rian mountains, the rock of Hercules, and the ruins of Stabia,
Pompeii, and Herculaneum, At last it reposed on temples, ou
marble palaces, and all the beautiful e(hfices of the capital,
whose low murmurs, and light wreaths of smoke, scarcely
reached my elevated station.

It is said that the tomb of Virgil was constructed by the
orders of Augustus in the bosom of the villa which the poet
possessed upon the borders of Pausilypo, and where a great
portion of his work was composed. The younger Pliny informs
us that this country residence was afterwards the property of
Silius Italicus, who was consul after the death of Nero. He
was formerly the owner of the villa to which Cicero gave the
name of the Academy. Silius delighted to meditate in the
very spots where Virgil drew his inspiration, and which
prompted his own muse in the composition of his poem on the
African war. The tomb of the immortal poet was to him an
object of worship, and he suffered not a single day to elapse
without visiting it. This monument, the situation of which is
pointed out, in the place where it is now seen, by iElius Do-
natus, a grammarian of the fourth century, now presents only
ruins, of which the original design can hardly be conjectured.
It is covered with a vault constructed in opus reticulatum ; in
the interior are seen several niches, to which access is only
obtained by irregular passages opened by violence about the
year 1326, until which period a sarcophagus remained in the
tomb, supported by nine small columns of white marble, and
containing the ashes of the poet. These venerable relics were
removed by King Robert of Anjou, who was anxious for their
safety, and transported to Castel-nuovo, where, notwithstanding
the researches of Alphonso I. of Arragon, they have never
since been seen. In the time of Eugenius, about the year 1625,
the following inscription was dug up in the neighbourhood: —

" Siste Viator, quaxo ; puree, legito, hie Maro situs est.^'

On leaving the ancient heritage of Virgil, the eye enjoys a
prospect of the greatest richness. Pathways, winding down
gentle declivities, border the edges of the rocks. — They are
supported by enormous walls, piered with arcades, and flanked
by counter-forts. Houses, embosomed in gardens, rise on these
ramparts in the form of steps. These are again surmounted by
terraces, rendered impenetrable to damp by cement, and on
which flourish the arbutus and the vine. These aerial bowers
guard the habitations from the rays of the sun, and make the
most delightful retreats, which, catching the refreshing sea-
breeze, temper the heat of the atmosphere. During the

Tomb of Sanazaro, 23

night, especially, the most delicious freshness is found here.
Many persons pass the night on these terraces under no other
roof than the vault of heaven, or the shade of the trees, a
pleasure well appreciated under the serene sky of Naples, and
in the warm, diy, and healthy climate of Greece.

At the foot of the mountain, on the borders of the sea, at the
extremity of the beautiful piers, which in this spot stretch out
in semi-circles, rise the church and convent of Santa Maria
del Parto, celebrated for the tomb of Sanazaro, the Virgil of
the Neapolitans.

King Frederic, who was much attached to the poet, gave
him this agreeable retreat, with a house Avhich he had built
there. Sanazaro took great delight in embelhshing the soli-
tude which he never afterwards quitted, and whose charms he
unceasingly celebrated.

We may judge of his despair, when, during the siege of
Naples by the French in 1528, Lautrec, having made this place
his head quarters, was attacked there by the Prince of Orange.
They fought with great fury on both sides ; at last, Lautrec
was defeated, but the Casino and its plantations were destroyed.
The poet, in grief, quitted Naples, and died soon aftenvards,
leaving this estate to the monks of the Holy Virgin, that they
might erect, on the ruins of his favourite retreat, a church,
which he endowed with an income of six hundred ducats, and
to which was given the name of Santa Maria del Parto, in re-
membrance of one of Sanazaro's poems, entitled, De Partu

The relations of Sanazaro carried his body to Naples, and
raised a magnificent tomb to him in the church of Santa Maria,
at the foot of the mountain where the ashes of Virgil repose,
and on it were inscribed the following lines, written by the
celebrated Cardinal Bembo : —

" Da Sacro cineri flores. Hie ille Maroni
" Sincerus Musa proxiraus ut tumulo.*

The Neapolitan bard wrote on the model, and indeed caught
many of the beauties, of his master. Like him he sung of the
Shepherds, and the pleasures and labours of the country ; but,
instead of depicting heroes, he has produced, in the poems on
which he rested his reputation, a most extravagant mixture of
Christian mysteries and mythological fables. Although his
Latin poetry is written with great purity, and in his Italian
poems, and particularly in his Arcadia, there is much delicacy

* " Fresh flowerets strew, for Sanazar lies here,
"In genius, as in place, to Virgil near. '
= ^ J Roscoe's Leo X. v. 3, p. 389.

*"■* Acciu3 Sincerus was the academical name of sanazaro.

^ Castellan's TVavehTin tialy.

and simplicity, yet it may perhaps be said, that his talent has
move facility than originality, more grace than vigour. In
short, to mingle with the poets of antiquity, he seems to have
resigned bis rank amongst the poets of modern times.

The tomb of Sanazaro has been the subject of much lively
discussion amongst the historians of the arts ; and, as it is well
designed and executed, the glory of it is attributed to several
diferent artists. Some assign it to Gio-Angelo Poggibonsi, a
'i'uscan ; others to Girolamo Santacroce, a Neapolitan.

The executors of the poet, and the brothers of the conv'ent
of Margellina, formed themselves into two parties, when the
monument was to be erected. The former declared themselves
in favour of the design modelled by Santacroce ; the monks
wished Poggibonsi, who was one of their order, to undertake
the whole work. At last they came to an arrangement, and
each of the artists had a portion of the work assigned to him.


Description of Pompeii.

1 CANNOT quit this part of Italy without giving some account
of the Museum of Portici, which contains a very complete col-
lection of antiquities, discovered in the bosom of the earth,
still perfect, and in the vei*y situation in which they were sur-
prized by the dreadful scourge which at the same lime over-
whelmed the cities of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabia.
(See plate III.)

Portici is a countiy residence of the King of Naples, who
frequently visits it with his court. This palace, which com-
mands a magnificent view of the sea is surrounded by beautiful
gardens, planted on the base of Mount Vesuvius. It was built
in the year 1738, by Charles of Bourbon, who also founded the
Museum. This immense collection consists of a vast number
of bronze and marble statues, of pictures, and of vases of gold,
of silver, and of earthen-ware still more precious. On one side
are seen articles of fiu-niture elegantly designed, such as tables,
curule chairs, tripods, lamps and candelabra; on the other,
instruments of agriculture, of chimrgery, of music, and kitchen
utensils. In another quarter are arms offensive and defensive,
jewels and other appendages of the toilette; intaglios, cameos,
and other precious stones set in rings, in pins, and bracelets.
We find there also colours for painting, eggs, cheese, walnuts.



Curiosities of Pompeii. 25

and leguminous vegetables, the forms of which are still distin-
guishable. There are even some remains of \Aine and oil.
One of the greatest curiosities is an entire library, which once
was the delight of some scholar of the Augustan age, and which
creates despair in our owni ; for all the rolls of Papyrus have
been either reduced to a cinder or destroyed by damp. The
latter fall into dust the moment they are touched, and the others
only owe their superior preservation to the heat which has cal-
cined them. With skill and industiy, it is even possible to
unfold them, and to put them into a condition to be read and
transcribed. The famous Padre Antonio Piaggi, the inventor
of the process, has as yet unfolded only a very small number.
The slowness of his operations, and, aljove all, the disappear-
ance of a great part of these precious manuscripts, are causes
of just complaint.

It was in the first age of the Christian era, and in the reign
of Titus, when that violent eruption of the volcano occurred
which destroyed several cities, and filled all Italy with con-
sternation. To the ruin which seemed to have extinguished
them for ever, Herculaneum, Stabia, and Pompeii, are indebted,
for their miraculous preservation and their present celebrity.
Herculaneum and Pompeii stood near each other, but the his-
tory of the latter is but little known ; it was a sea-port town,
situated about five miles distant from the crater of Vesuvius,
at the mouth of the wSarno. Its harbour was common to the
inhabitants of Nola, of Nocera, and of Accra, but the eruption
of the volcano changed its site, or, rather, that of the
river, which now flows several leagues distant from its
former bed. The lava and the ashes filled up the port, and
created a new shore, which encroached to a great extent upon
the sea.

Pompeii had been much injured by the earthquake, in the
year 63, and it was entirely buried by the eruption of 79, — the
first-mentioned in history, and fatally celebrated for the great
number of cities which it destroyed, for the multitude of its
victims, and for the death of Pliny. Herculaneum, much
nearer the volcano, was overwhelmed by a hard and compact
substance, which it has been necessary to dig out with infinite
labour, in order to disengage the monuments. This substance,
in its fluid state, had penetrated into the remotest recesses,
and had filled them as if with molten lead; whilst Pompeii had
only disappeared under a shewer of loose ashes. These it was
easy to remove, since they only rose a few inches above the
edifices. This shower of stones and burning matter extended
as far as Castello a Mare, the ancient Stabia, and covered the
countiy for thirty miles round, but with an intensity decreasing
Voyages and Travels, No. 5, Vol. III. E

tE^ Caitglhn's Travels in Italy.

in proportion to its distance. At Pompeii there fell stones
-weighing as much as eight pounds, and at Stabia not more
than an ounce.

In 1689, on turning up the earth in the neighbourhood of
Vesuvius about a mile from the sea, some antique inscriptions
were fcimd, making mention of the city of Pompeii, which was
not suspected to have existed on that spot, and this discovery
produced no further consequences. However, in 1713, the
Prince D'Elbeuf, a general officer in the Austrian service,
built a country house, at Portici, a beautiful spot, but almost
deserted. Having occasion for some blocks of marble, he ^A'as
informed that an inhabitant of the village, in sinking a well,
had discovered a large quantity. The prince purchased the
land; and his workmen, having discovered a vault, penetrated
into it, and found several fine fragments of marble statuary.
Encouraged by this circumstance, tlie prince redoubled his
researches, which produced so many remarkable acquisitions,
that the jealousy of the Neapolitan government induced it to
assume to itself the direction of the works. At last, at the
depth of 70 feet there was discovered an entire city — the ancient
Herculaneum, with its temples, its theatres, its private houses,
replete with marble and bronze statues, with pictures, and with
furniture; and, in a word, with eveiy thing which the unfore-
seen and sudden catastrophe had allowed no time to remove.

It seemed impossible to restore Herculaneum to the light of
day, because the earth -vvhich covers them nov,- supports the
cities of Portici and Castello a Mare ; but, the true site of Pom-
peii having been fortunately discovered under land little
adapted to cultivation, it was easy to obtain possession of it,
and it was determined to disengage that city from the mass of
ashes which concealed it.

The first excavation, made in 17'^>5, discovered by a singular
and fortunate chance, the road which led to the gate of the
city. It has three passages: that in the middle for carriages;
and the two others, which are much narrower, for foot passen-
gers. The road, paved with irregular blacks of lava, and lined
M'ith causeways, runs into the interior of the city, not in a
direct line, but in a winding course, and varying considerably
in breadth. Before entering the city, we see the tombs, ac-
cording to the custom of the ancients, on each side of the
road ; and, at a little distance, a country house, having a court
ornamented with columns ; it is raised only a single story from
the ground, beneath the level of which are found dining apart^
ments, and other rooms, which were used as cellars, or a»
retreats from the heat of the weather.

The houses of the ancients had not, in general, like ours, a

Build'mgs of Pompeii. 27

nliiltitude of stories, rising- one above another; they were
unacquainted with those long suites of apartments which
luxury and wealth have since introduced. The rooms are small,
without any communication between themselves, and often only
lighted by the door. They all opened into a portico, something
similar to the cloisters of a convent, which surrounded a small
court where the air was refreshed by a little fountain. The
upper story was lighted by a few narrow windows; those
which opened on the street were situated like the windows of
the Turks, about six feet from the ground, and w^ere closed by
leaves of talc, by plates of alabaster, and sometimes by little
squares of unpolished glass ; this construction prevented the
inhabitants from seeing what passed out of doors, and also pro-
tected them from the impertinent inspection of others. Timber
wood was I'arely used in the construction of these houses, and
its place was supplied by arches ; and, in general, the roofs
terminated in terraces. The floors were inlaid with Mosaic
work, and the external walls were covered with paintings,
worked on beautiful stucco.

In visiting Pompeii, a striking resemblance is found between
its buildings and those of the Levant, and particularly of the
modern Greeks. We find there those low seats running round
the apartments, on which the inhabitants, no doubt, reposed,
as in Turkey, on cushions, carpets, and pillows. These seats
are raised about a foot from the floor, which prove pretty
clearly that the ancients sat in the oriental mode, a fact which
is further supported by the seats in the theatres. We also find
in the Levant, marble pavements, Mosaic works, paintings on
the walls, fountains in the courts, and even in the interior
apartments, Avindows removed from sight; rooms lighted only
by the door opening into covered galleries supported by
columns. The vaj)our-baths of the orientals; their painted,
gilt, and sculptured tombs ; their sepulchral edifices, situated
at the gates of the city, at the side of the high roads, and sur-
rounded with public walks; the same arrangement of the
shops ; the foot-paths raised in front of the houses, and along
the roads : all these customs of the Levant are founded on
antique usages. The resemblance is such, that these ruins
appeared to me the remains of a Turkish city, with the ex-
ception of the architectural style of the public buildings ; and
if it had been inhabited by Orientals, I should have conceived
it to have been built by them. In fact, a tolerably correct idea
of the manners of the Romans may be formed amongst the
Turks; while many vestiges of their arts are to be found in
the Museum of Portici.

Amongst the buildings of Portici, one obsen-ation struck m^

E 2

23 ' Castellan's Travels in Italy.

with astonishment, — the extraordinary diminutiveness of their'
proportions. The houses, the streets, the squares, of this city,

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