Charles Bucke.

Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

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the man to whom the gods have granted to perform
things worthy of being written, or to write what is
worthy of being read. Happier still is he who at
once obtains from them both these favours. Such
was my uncle's good fortune. I willingly therefore;
obey your orders, which I should have solicited.
My uncle was at Misenum, where he commanded
the fleet. On the 28d of August, at one in the
afternoon, as he was on his bed, employed in study-
ing, after having, according to his custom, slept a
moment in the sun and drunk a glass of cold water.
my mother went up into his chamber. She informed
him that a cloud of an extraordinary shape and
magnitude was rising in the heavens. My uncle
got up and examined the prodigy ; but without
being able to distinguish, on account of the distanet ,
that this cloud proceeded from Vesuvius. It resem-
bled a large pine-tree: it had its top and its branches.
It appeared sometimes white, sometimes black, and
at intervals of various colours, according as it was
more or less loaded with stones or cinders.

" My uncle was astonished ; he thought such a
phenomenon worthy of a nearer examination. He
ordered a galley to be immediately made ready, and
invited me to follow him ; but I rather chose to stay


at home and continue my studies. My uncle there-
fore departed alone.

" In the interim I continued at my studies. I
went to the bath ; I lay down, but I could not sleep.
The earthquake, which for several days had repeat-
edly shaken all the small towns, and even cities in
the neighbourhood, was increasing every moment.
I rose to go and awake my mother, and met her
hastily entering my apartment to awaken me.

" We descended into the court, and sat down there.
Not to lose time, I sent for my Livy. I read, medi-
tated, and made extracts, as I would have done in my
chamber. Was this firmness, or was it imprudence: 1
I know not now; but I was then very young !* At
the same instant one of my uncle's friends, just arrived
from Spain, came to visit him. He reproached my
mother with her security, and me with my audacity.
The houses, however, were shaking in so violent a
manner, that we resolved to quit Misenum. The
people followed us in consternation.

" As soon as we had got out of the town we stopped.
Here we found new prodigies and new terrors. The
shore, which was continually extending itself, and
covered with fishes left dry on it, was heaving every
moment, and repelling to a great distance the enraged
sea which fell back upon itself; whilst before us, from
the limits of the horizon, advanced a black cloud,
loaded with dull fires, which were incessantly rend-
ing it, and darting forth large flashes of lightning.
The cloud descended and enveloped all the sea, it
was impossible any longer to discern either the isle
of Caprea, or the promontory of Misenum. ' Save
yourself, my dear son,' cried my mother ; ' save your-
self; it is your duty; for you can, and you are young:
but as for me, bulky as I am, and enfeebled with
years, provided I am not the cause of thy death, I
* He was then only eighteen.

2 z '


die contented.' Mother, there is no safety for mo
but with you.' I took my mother by tin' hand, and
drew her along. * O my son,' said she in tears, * I
delay thy flight.'

" Already the ashes Began to fall ; I turned my
head ; a thick cloud was rushing precipitately to-
wards us. * Mother,' said I, 'let us quit the high road;
the crowd will stifle us in that darkness which is
pursuing us.' Scarcely had we left the high mad
Wore it was night, the blackest night. Thru
nothing was to be heard but the lamentations of
women, the groans of children, and the cries of mm.
We could distinguish, through the confused sobs and
the various accents of grief, the words, my fatlu r !
my ton ! my tcife ! there was no knowing earh
other but by the voice. One was lamenting his
destiny; another the fate of his relations: some
were imploring the gods ; others denying their ex-
istence ; many were invoking death to defend them
from death. Some said that they were now about
to be buried with the world, in that concluding night
which was to be eternal : and amidst all this, what
dreadful reports ! Fear exaggerated and believed

" In the mean time a glimmering penetrated the
darkness ; this was the conflagration which was
approaching ; but it stopped and extinguished ; the
night grew more intensely dark, and the shower of
cinders and stones more thick and heavy. We
were obliged to rise from time to time to shake our
clothes. Shall I say it ? Not a single complaint
escaped me. I consoled myself, amid the fears of
death, with the reflection that the world was about
to expire with me.

At length this thick and black vapour gradually
vanished. The day revived, and even the sun ap-
peared, but dull and yellowish, such as he usually


shows himself in an eclipse. What a spectacle now
offered itself to our yet troubled and uncertain eyes !
The whole country was buried beneath the ashes, as
in winter under the snow. The road was no longer
to be discerned. We sought for Misenum, and again
found it ; we returned and took possession ; for we
had in some measure abandoned it. Soon after, we
received news of my uncle. Alas ! we had but too
good reason to be uneasy for him.

" I have told you, that, after quitting Misenum,
he went on board a galley. He directed his course
towards Retina, and the other towns which were
threatened. Every one was flying from it; he how-
ever entered it, and, amidst the general confusion,
remarked all the phenomena, and dictated as he
observed. But already a cloud of burning ashes
beat down on his galley ; already were stones fall-
ing all around, and the shore covered with large
pieces of the mountain. My uncle hesitated whether
he should return from whence he came, or put out
to sea. Fortune favours courage (exclaimed he),
let us turn toicards Pomponianus. Pomponianus
was at Stabiae. My uncle found him all trembling :
embraced and encouraged him, and to comfort him
by his security, asked for a bath, then sat down to
table and supped cheerfully; or, at least, which does
not show less fortitude, with all the appearance of

" In the mean time Vesuvius was taking fire on
every side, amid the thick darkness. * It is the vil-
lages which have been abandoned that are burning,'
said my uncle to the crowd about him, to endeavour
to quiet them. He then went to bed, and fell asleep.
He was in the profoundest sleep, when the court of
the house began to fill with cinders ; and all the
passages were nearly closed up. They run to him ;
and were obliged to awaken him. He rises, joins


Pomponianus, and deliberates with him and his
attendants what is best to be done, whether it
would be safest to remain in the bouse or fly into
the country. They chose the lattn- measure.

" They departed instantly therefore from the town,
ami the only precaution they could take was to <
their heads with pillows. The day was reviving
everywhere else ; but there it continued night ;
horrible night ! the fire from the cloud alone en-
lightened it. My uncle wished to gain the shore,
notwithstanding the sea was still tremendous. He
descended, drank spme water, had a sheet spread, and
lay down on it. On a sudden, violent flames, pre-
ceded by a sulphureous odour, shot forth with a
prodigious briglttness, and made every one take to
flight. My uncle, supported by two slaves, arose ;
but suddenly, suffocated by the vapour, he fell*,
and Pliny was no more t."

If this visitation affected Misenum in so terrible
a manner, what must have been the situation of
the unfortunate inhabitants of Pompeii and II er-
culaneum, so near its focus ? The emperor Titus
here found an opportunity for the exercise of his
humanity. He hastened to the scene of alHiction,
appointed curatores J, persons of consular dignity, to
set up the ruined buildings, and take charge of the
effects. He personally encouraged the desponding,

* The death of this celebrated naturalist was probably occasioned
by carbonic acid gas. This noxious vapour must have been generated
to a great extent during the eruption. It is heavier than common
air, and, of course, occupies in greater proportion the substrata of
that circumambient fluid. The supposition is greatly strengthened
by the fact, that the old philosopher had lain down to rest ; but the
flames approaching him, he was compelled to rise, assisted by two
servants, which he had no sooner done than he fell down dead.

t It is a remarkable circumstance that some naturalists walking
amid the flowers, on the summit of Vesuvius, the very day before
this eruption, were discussing whether this mountain was a volcano.
* Gandy, 53.


and alleviated the misery of the sufferers; whilst ;i
calamity of an equally melancholy description recalled
him to Rome; where a most destructive fire, laying
waste nearly half the city, and raging three days
without interruption, was succeeded by a pestilence,
which for some time carried off ten. thousand persons
every day !

Herculaneum and Pompeii rose again from their
ruins in the reign of Titus ; and they still existed with
some remains of splendour under Hadrian*. The
beautiful characters of the inscription, traced out on
the base of the equestrian statue of Marcus Nonius
Balbus, son of Marcus, are an evident proof of its exist-
ence at that period. They were found under the reign
of the Antonines. In the geographical monument
known underthenameof Peutinger's chart, which is of
a date posterior to the reign of Constantino, that is to
say in the commencement of the 4th century, Hercu-
laneum and Pompeii were still standing, and then
inhabited ; but in the Itinerary, improperly ascribed
to Antoninus, neither of these two cities is noticed ;
from which it may be conjectured, that their entire
ruin must have taken place in the interval between the
time when Peutinger'e chart was constructed, and that
when the above Itinerary was composed.

The eruption, which took place in 471, occasioned
the most dreadful ravages. It is very probable that
the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii disappeared at
that period, and that no more traces of them were left.

It appears, bythe observation of Sir W. Hamiltont,
that the matter, which covers the ancient town of
Herculaneum, is not the produce of one eruption only ;
but there are evident marks that the matter of six
eruptions has taken its course over that which lie im-
mediately above the town ; and which was the cause
of its destruction. These strata are either of lava or
* Mons. Du Tbeil, f Reps.


burnt matter, with veins of good soil between them.

The stratum of erupted matter that
covers the town, and with which the theatre ami most
of the houses were filled, is not of that sort of vitril'n !
matter, called lava, but of a sort of soft stone com-
posed of pumice, ashes, and burnt matter. It is
exactly of the same nature with what is called the
Naples stone. The Italians call it tufa; and it is in
general use for building.

1 1 1 i;i i i. \ M :r M was covered with lava ; Pompeii
with pumice stone; yet the houses of the latter were
built of lava ; the product of former eruptions.

All memorials of the devoted cities were lost*;
and discussions, over the places they had once occu-
pied, were excited only by some obscure passages in
the classical authors. Six successive eruptions con-
tributed to lay them still deeper under the surface.
Hut after that period had elapsed, a peasant digging
a well beside his cottage in 1711, obtained some
fragments of coloured marble, which attracted atten-
tion. Regular excavations were made, under the
superintendence of Stendardo, an architect of Naples ;
and a statue of Hercules, of Greek workmanship,
and also a mutilated one of Cleopatra, were drawn
from what proved to be a temple in the centre of the
nncient H( rculaneum.

It may be well conceived with what interest .the
intelligence was received, that a Roman city had
been discovered, which, safely entombed under-
ground, had thus escaped the barbarian Goths and
Vandals, who ravaged Italy, or the sacrilegious
hands of modem pillagers.

The remains of several public buildings have been

discovered?, which have possibly suffered from sub-

sequent convulsions. Among these are two temples ;

one of them one hundred and fifty feet by sixty, in

Brcwter. f Ibid.


which was found a statue of Jupiter. A more ex-
tensive edifice stood opposite to them ; forming a
rectangle of two hundred and twenty-eight feet by
one hundred and thirty-two, supposed to have been
appropriated for the courts of justice. The arches
of a portico surrounding it were supported by columns;
within, it was paved with marble ; the walls were
painted in fresco ; and bronze statues stood between
forty columns under the roof. A theatre was found
nearly entire ; very little had been displaced ; and
we see in it one of the best specimens extant of the
architecture of the ancients. The greatest diameter
of the theatre is two hundred and thirty-four feet,
whence it is computed, that it could contain ten
thousand persons, which proves the great population
of the city.

This theatre was rich in antiquities*, independent
of the ornamental part. Statues, occupying niches,
represented the Muses ; scenic masks were imitated
on the entablatures ; and inscriptions were engraven
on different places. Analogous to the last were
several large alphabetical Roman characters in bronze;
and a number of smaller size, which had probably
been connected in some conspicuous situation. A
metallic car was found, with fourbronzehorsesattached
to it, nearly of the natural size ; but all in such a
state of decay, that only one, and the spokes of the
wheels, also in metal, could be preserved. A beau-
tiful white marble statue of Venus, only eighteen
inches high, in the same attitude as the famous
Venus de Medicis, was recovered ; and either here,
or in the immediate vicinity, was found a colossal
bronze statue of Vespasian, filled with lead, which
twelve men were unable to move.

Besides many objects entire, there were numerous
fragments of others, extremely interesting ; which
* Brewster.

346 RUINS OP AMir.vr cim>.

had been originally impaired, or were injured by
attempts to remove them.

When we reflect, that sixteen hundred years have
elapsed since the destruction of this city*, an interval
which has been marked by numerous revolutions,
both in the political and mental state of Kurope, ;i
high degree of interest must be experienced in con-
templating the venerable remains, recovered from the
subterraneous city of Herculaneum. Pliny, the
younger, in his letters, brings the Romans, their
occupations, manners, and customs, before us. He
pictures in feeling terms the death of his uncle, who
perished in the same eruption as the city we now
describe ; and that event is brought to our immediate
notice by those very things which it was the means
of preserving. Among these we see the various
articles which administered to the necessities and
the pleasures of the inhabitants, the emblems of their
religious sentiments, and the very manners and cus-
toms of domestic life.

These curiosities consist not only of statues, busts,
altars, inscriptions, and other ornamental appendages
of Grecian opulence and luxury ; but also compre-
hend an entire assortment of the domestic, musical,
and surgical instruments ; tripods of elegant form
and exquisite execution ; lamps in endless variety ;
vases and basins of noble dimensions ; chandeliers of
the most beautiful shapes, looking-glasses of polished
metal; coloured glass, so hard, clear, and well stained,
as to appear like emeralds, sapphires, and other pre-
cious stones ; a kitchen completely fitted up with
copper pans lined with silver, kettles, cisterns for
heating water, and every utensil necessary for culi-
nary purposes ; also specimens of various sorts of
combustibles, retaining their form though burnt to a
einder. By an inscription, too, we learn that Iler-


culaneum contained no less than nine hundred houses
of entertainment, such as we call taverns. Articles
of glass, artificial gems, vases, tripods, candelahra,
lamps, urns, dice, and dice-boxes ; various articles
of dress and ornaments; surgical instruments, weights
and measures, carpenters and masons' tools; but no
musical instruments except the sistrum, cymbals, and
flutes of bone and ivory.

Fragments of columns of various coloured marble
and beautiful mosaic pavements were also found dis-
seminated among the ruins ; and numerous sacrificial
implements, such as paterae, tripods, cups, and vases,
were recovered in excellent preservation, and even
some of the knives with which the victims are con-
jectured to have been slaughtered.

The ancient pictures of Herculaneum * are of the
utmost interest ; not only from the freshness and
colour, but from the nature of the subjects they
represent. All are executed in fresco ; they are
exclusively on the walls, and generally on a black or
red ground. Some are of animated beings large as
life ; but the majority are in miniature. Every dif-
ferent subject of antiquity is depicted here ; deities,
human figures, animals, landscapes, foreign and do-
mestic, and a variety of grotesque beings ; sports and
. pastimes, theatrical performances, sacrifices, all enter
the catalogue.

In regard to the statues found t, some are colossal,
some of the natural size, and some in miniature ;
and the materials of their formation are either clay,
marble, or bronze. They represent all different ob-
jects, divinities, heroes, or distinguished persons ;
and in the same substances, especially bronze, there
are the figures of many animals.

It is not probable that the best paintings of ancient
Greece and Italy J were deposited in Herculaneum
* Brewster, 741. f Ibid, 740. t Rees.

848 KflNs i.i r CITIES.

or Pompeii, which \vt-ro towns of the second order,
and unlikely to possess the master-pieces of the chief
artists, which were usually destined to adorn the
more celebrated temples or the palaces of kings and
nuperors. Their best statues are correct in their
proportions, and elegant in their forms; but their
paintings are not correct in their proportions, and arc,
comparatively, inelegant in their forms.

A few rare medals also have been found among these
ruins, the most curious of which is a gold medallion
of Augustus, struck in Sicily in the fifteenth year of
his reign.

Nor must we omit one of the greatest curiosities,
preserved at Portici *. This consists of n cement of
cinders, which in one of the eruptions of Vesuvius
surprised a woman, and totally enveloped her. This
cement, compressed and hardened by time around In r
body, has become a complete mould of it, and in the
pieces here preserved, we see a perfect impression of
the different parts to which it adhered. One repre-
sents half a bosom, which is of exquisite beauty ;
another a shoulder, a third a portion of her shape,
and all concur in revealing to us that this woman
was young ; that she was tall and well made, and
even that she had escaped in her chemise, for some of
the linen was still adhering to the ashes.

Though the city was destroyed t in the manner we
have related, remarkably few skeletons have been
found, though many were discovered in the streets of
Pompeii ; but one appears under the threshold of a
door with a bag of money in his hand, as if in the
attitude of escaping, leaving its impression in the
surrounding volcanic matter.

These and other valuable antiquities are preserved
in the museum at Portici, which occupies the site of
ancient Herculaneum, and in the Museo Borbonico at
Dupaty. t Brcwiter.


Naples. For details in respect to which, we must
refer to the numerous books that have described

One of the most interesting departments of this
unique collection is that of the Papyri, or MSS.,
discovered in the excavation of Herculaneum. The
ancients did not bind their books (which, of course,
were all MSS.) like us, but rolled them up in scrolls.
When those of Herculaneum were discovered, they
presented, as they still do, the appearance of burnt
bricks, or cylindrical pieces of charcoal, which they
had acquired from the action of the heat contained in
the lava, that buried the whole city. They seemed
quite solid to the eye and touch ; yet an ingenious
monk discovered a process of detaching leaf from
leaf, and unrolling them, by which they could be
read without much difficulty. It is, nevertheless, to
be regretted, that so little success has followed the
labours of those who have attempted to unrol them.
Some portions, however, have been unrolled, and
the titles of about 400 of the least injured have been
read. They are, for the most part, of little import-
ance ; but all entirely new, and chiefly relating to
music, rhetoric, and cookery. The obliterations and
corrections are numerous, so that there is a proba-
bility of their being original manuscripts. There
are two volumes of Epicurus " on Virtue," and the
rest are, for the most part, productions of the same
school of writers. Only a very few are written in
Latin, almost all being in Greek. All were found
in the library of one individual, and in a quarter of
the town where there was the least probability of
finding anything of the kind.

The following is a list of the most important
works that have been discovered :


). Pliilo.iemu, on the Influence of Music on the Human Con-

-. E|>irurut upon Nature.

.'<. I'hilomedes on Rhetoric.
4. Id. on the Vice*.

& Id. on the Affinities of the Vices and the Virtue*.
f>- Id. on the PocU.

7. Id. tome Philosophical Fragments.

8. Id. on Providence.

9. Democritiis, some Geometrical Fragments.

10. Philoitratus on Unreasonable Contempt.

1 1 . Carnisirus on Fiiendship.

12. Cotothes on Plato's Dialogue of Isis.

13. Chrysippus on Providence.

We shall give the reader a specimen, in a frag-
ment of a poem on the Actian war, copied from a
manuscript taken from Ilcrculaneum; supposed to
be written by C. Rabirius : .

COL. \.

. . . XIM AEL . . TIA-

. . CESAR . FA . . AR . HAR . IAM (J . . .



Cot. II.

fimeraque adCEDVNT-PATRiis deforMIA-TerRIS
rir ERAT-I>fpcrlIS-AXIMOs COHlberE SVorVM ;
QuID-cAPITIS lam caPTA lACENt QVAEpracmia belli ?

Cot. III.

f.i ct Atrf-XANDRO thAlaMOS iNtRaRE DEoRVM
AcTIACOS'CVM.cAVSa fORFS Tu Max I MA bcl.l.l


The letters in the smaller type were inserted by Ciampitti ; as those he
considered appropriate for filling up passages which could not be deciphered.



.QVA fuGITVr lux,erro : TamcX XVXC-QVAErerc caVSAS,


delect VMQue foruM Quo noXIA T7RBA COiRET,


hie cAdit absumtus fERRO- TunieT IlLE-VENeno,

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 36)