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Luigi Fischetti.

Pompeii, past and present : illustrated by photographs of the ruins as they are, with sketches of their original elevations online

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POMPEII



PAST AND PRESENT



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1884








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English & German

BOOKSELLER

59 Piaiza dei Martiri



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N A P L E S^ ^'»^:;-^:::.=>::



POMPEI I,



PAST AND PRESENT



POMPEII,

PAST AND PRESENT.



ILLUSTRATED BY



Photographs of the Rtiins as they are,



SKETCHES OF THEIR ORIGINAL ELEVATIONS.



THE DRAWINGS BY

LUIGI FISCHETTI,

ARCHITECT;
SPECIAL ARTIST EXTRAORDINARY TO THE EXCAVATIONS OF POMPEII ; PROFESSOR OF DRAWING
IN THE GOVERNMENT NORMAL SCHOOLS ; DIRECTOR OF THE NAPLES
MUNICIPAL SCHOOL OF ART, ETC.

THE LETTERPRESS BY

E. NEVILLE ROLFE, B.A.,

HEACHAM HALL, ENGLAND;
EDITOR OF THE "ENGLISH HANDBOOK TO THE NAPLES MUSEUM."



THE PHOTOGRAPHS, WHICH ARE COPYRIGHT, ARE TAKEM EXPRESSLY FOR THIS WORK, BY

E. LAURO, 197 STRADA DI CHIAJA, NAPLES.
PRICE 30 FRANCS.



LONDON:
WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, Limited,

13, CHARING CROSS.
1884.

\All rights reserved^



LONDON :
PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, Limited,

STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.



INTRODUCTION.

The object of this work is to give the general reader a popular idea of what
Pompeii was before it was destroyed by the great eruption. Few people of
the many thousands who annually visit the city have the time or the books
necessary to enable them to understand what they see in the course of a
morning's walk through the ruins, and we believe that to such, a work of this
kind will be a real boon, by giving them a definite idea of the town such as they
cannot obtain in the course of a cursory visit. Nor will those who have not
seen the city, and whose knowledge of it is confined to that charming work
'The Last Days of Pompeii,' fail to enjoy a study of the localities which will
enable them to realise the scenes where the dramatic incidents of that interest-
ing book are laid.

It should always be remembered, and it is nearly always forgotten, that
although Pompeii was destroyed in a day, it was not built in one. It contains
specimens of architecture as early at least as 500 B.C., and though its houses
have to a certain extent all assumed the type of the Roman habitations of the
day, because the city was rebuilt after the earthquake which occurred in 6;^ A.D.,
sixteen years before the eruption, signs are not wanting of the massive stonework
of the Etruscan age, with which, the excavations near Florence have made all
travellers familiar.

The restoration sketches have been made on the spot ; first by carefully repro-
ducing such of the work as is still standing, and then building up the remainder
stone by stone according to evidence adduced in the course of the excavations,
such evidence having been carefully collected as the work proceeded by
Professor FiorelH and his able staff.

The letterpress has been compiled with the assistance of Professor Fiorelli's
work, Dr. Smith's Dictionaries, and Dr. Ramsay's ' Manual of Roman Antiquities,'



iv INTRODUCTION.



whose description of the various rites has enabled both the artist and the author
to follow out their conceptions consistently with the historical accuracy that
such a work requires.

In treating of the Roman customs in their sacrifices, elections, and funerals,
we must acknowledge our great obligations to the Authors mentioned above,
and especially to ' Ramsay's Manual,' which we commend to all those who
desire to understand the details of Roman habits and customs.

We desire also to acknowledge the great assistance we have received from
the Rev. J. C. Fletcher in the revision of the proof-sheets, and to thank him
for the useful hints which his profound study of the subject has enabled him to
place at our disposal.

Proceeding thus upon the certain foundations of the ruins, and the history
disclosed by them, there has been little left to the imagination, and the reader
may rely upon seeing as faithful a representation of what Pompeii actually was,
as is possible in the nineteenth century.



INDEX TO THE PLATES



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POMPEII, PAST AND PRESENT.



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TOPOGRAPHY OF POMPEII.

The walls of Pompeii are in the shape of an irregular hexagon enclosing about
a hundred and forty acres, of which something like fifty have been excavated,
so that nearly two-thirds yet remain to be laid bare, which it is calculated will
engage the excavators about thirty more years at the present rate of progress.

The city was a seaport standing at the mouth of the river Sarno, which has
formed a new channel about half a mile further South, and is no longer navigable.
The sea has undoubtedly retreated, and is now about a mile and a half off, and
it is probable that it never came quite up to the walls of the town, but that the
estuary of the river formed the port of Pompeii.

Strabo tells us that Pompeii was the port for the neighbouring towns of Nola,
Nuceria, and Atella, to which the Sarno may in those days have formed a
waterway. It was entered by eight gates, of which the most important was that
of Herculaneum, leading into the Street of the Tombs outside the walls on the
North side of the town.

Next in order came the Vesuvian and the Capuan Gates, also towards the
North ; the Nolan and the Sarnian towards the East ; the Nucerine and the
Stabian to the South, and the Sea Gate to the West.

These gates have been called, without classical authority, after the names of
the neighbouring towns towards which they opened, and towards which wide
roads were constructed ; but as the great eruption covered the whole region,
these roads are still buried many feet below the surface of the soil, their
presence having been ascertained by experimental borings, which have disclosed
the ancient pavements.

There is one exception to this, in the case of the Street of the Tombs, which
has been excavated for some five hundred yards outside the Herculaneum gate,
and has derived its name from the Mausolea of distinguished personages which
line it on either side, after the manner of the Appian Way at Rome.

B



POMPEII, PAST AND PRESENT.



The city itself lay on a south-western slope, the upper half of it being
practically flat, and the lower rising gradually from the Stabian Gate towards
Vesuvius.

The main streets led towards the gates and divided the city into nine
districts, while a labyrinth of smaller streets gave access to the various dwellings.
The public buildings appear to have been grouped on the western side of the
town, where, no doubt, the aristocracy had their houses, so that we are justified
in assuming that the wealthiest quarter has been hit upon by the explorers, and
that only the poorer portion remains undiscovered.

The Amphitheatre appears to be the only public building remote from the
West end, and it is natural that the aristocracy should have preferred to have
such a building at a distance, because its vaults were tenanted by wild beasts, and
the gladiators who frequented its purlieus were the lowest and most brutal class
of the population.



( 3 )



THE HISTORY OF POMPEH.

According to the best authorities, the city of Pompeii was founded by the
Oscans about 6oo B.C., and was afterwards inhabited by the Tyrrheno-Pelasgi
and the Samnites. It became an important city on account of its populous
neighbours, Nola, Nuceria, and Atella, all of which drew their supplies from
its port.

In early times the Oscans were the only inhabitants of Campania, but they
were driven out by the Etruscans and Pelasgi, who formed a Campanian
confederation of twelve cities, of which Pompeii was one. This powerful con-
federation was at length overthrown by the Samnites, who dominated the South
Italian populations for several centuries, but were driven out by the Romans
about 80 B.C.

From this period to the time of their destruction in 79 A.D., Pompeii and
Herculaneum became summer pleasure seats of the Roman aristocracy, who
introduced into them all the vices and luxury of the capital.

A scientific survey of the ruins enables us to trace out the evolution of the
city from the time when its walls were little more than a place of security for
the flocks and herds of the pastoral Oscans, to the time when Emperors and
Consuls celebrated their banquets and orgies within its walls, conceding
privileges to the townspeople to make them bear contentedly the Roman yoke,
and submit in quietness to the dissolute misrule of the later days of the
Empire.

Augustus, who died at Nola, can hardly fail to have been familiar with
Pompeii ; it was here that Drusus, the son of Claudius, died, choked by a pear,
and there is every probability that the triumphal arches to Caligula and Nero
were erected in commemoration of visits paid to the town, or of special privileges
accorded to it by them, although there is no record of the fact.

It was from the time that she became a Roman city, that Pompeii became what
we find her. The Empire was an age of wealth and luxury, and though religion
was in a state of decadence among the educated classes, it was so interwoven
with the State, so useful to the ruling classes, so necessary to the magistrates,

B 2



POMPEII, PAST AND PRESENT.



that there was no way in which public money, Imperial extravagance, or private
munificence, could be more usefully expended than in enriching a city with
costly temples, encouraging the citizens to spend fabulous sums in sacrifices to
the gods, and thus blinding the populace by the feasting and revelry which
always accompanied the rites.

Hence we see a collection of temples and public buildings in Pompeii of a
magnificence out of all proportion to the size of the city, all testifying to
enormous wealth, great progress, and exquisite culture.

On the 5th of February, A.D. 6^), a violent earthquake was felt over the
whole of Campania, damaging many of her cities, but working its worst ravages
upon Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Nuceria. A great part of these cities was
razed to the ground, and nearly all the public buildings in Pompeii were
irretrievably damaged. The statues in the Forum were wrenched from their
pedestals, and many of the inhabitants went mad with fear.

The city was for a time completely deserted, as many of the houses were
insecure, and large numbers of them had actually fallen. But confidence was
eventually restored, the citizens returned to their homes, and set to work to
repair their dwellings.

There seems at first to have been considerable debate whether the public
buildings should be rebuilt, but eventually the panic passed off and the
Decurions gave orders for their re-construction — premising that even in the
case of private houses, the shattered edifices should be rebuilt from their
foundations.

This rebuilding can be clearly traced in numerous instances ; the debased
fashion of the day, and the hurried, careless work of the artificers standing out
in strong contrast to the architectural unity and classic style of the older buildings
which Greek taste had erected in a happier age of art. This may specially
be seen in the Forum, where some of the Doric stone pillars of the Greek period
were replaced by marble ones of Roman style and the poorest proportions.

Moreover, the restorers modified the architecture of the public buildings very
materially. They covered the columns, capitals, and cornices with ornamental
reliefs in stucco, picked out with many-coloured devices ; they departed from
the grand simplicity of the Greek originals, and introduced the tawdry style of
the Decadence ; they rebuilt their houses fantastically, and decorated them
grotesquely, in violation of every canon of Greek taste, and in defiance of all the
recognised laws of the aesthetic code.

Still, notwithstanding that they thus completely changed the character of
their city for the worse, they could not, and did not, sweep away Greek art
altogether, but left us (besides a strong colouring of Greek survival) a perfect



THE HISTORY OF POMP EH. 5

Roman city according to the fashion of the age of Vespasian, Things seem to
have gone pretty smoothly with them for some sixteen years after this great
earthquake, when new shocks began to be experienced, and the superstitious
asserted that giants had been seen in the plain and upon the mountain.

It was on the 23rd of August, A.D. 79,* during some sports that were being held
in the Amphitheatre, that Vesuvius was seen to send up a column of black
smoke, spreading itself like the giant umbrella pines with which every one who
has visited Naples is so familiar — this column was dense with volcanic matter
thrown up from the crater beneath, and spread itself gradually far and wide
like a vast black cloud, until it descended upon the doomed city with a gloom
as impenetrable as the darkness of the blackest night.

The volcano meanwhile emitted without cessation, and with a loud roaring
noise, a cloud of ashes, pumice, and red-hot black stones ; rain fell in torrents
from time to time, and the whole city was convulsed by a succession of violent
earthquakes. The dense cloud of ashes fell thick and fast, driven on by a
strong wind which bore it to the shores of Egypt and Syria, and even darkened
the daylight in Rome itself

The best account we have of the catastrophe is written by the younger Pliny
who witnessed it from Misenum, and who contributed two letters on the subject
to the historian Tacitus for insertion in his Annals. His uncle, the elder
Pliny, lost his life in an heroic endeavour to render assistance to the city.
According to Pliny the younger, the earthquakes and darkness experienced at
Misenum were scarcely less alarming than those at Pompeii itself He describes

* We give the 23rd of August as the date of the eruption, because it has ahvays hitherto
been accepted as correct, and it is the date stated in all the usual books of reference ; but there
is little doubt that the real date was the 23rd of November. No writer except Pliny gives the
day and month, and the MSS. of his writings vary between the two days we have mentioned.
There can, we think, be no doubt that the November date was the correct one, as chestnuts in
their husks, dried grapes, and walnuts have been found in the excavations, and it is manifest
that these would not be gathered so early as the 29th of August, and that the grapes would not
be artificially dried until the vintage was over, and they became more plentiful than they could
ever be in the month of August.

That the population of Pompeii was in the Amphitheatre at the time of the disaster is also
a time-honoured legend, due in part to Dion Cassius, who says they were in the " theatre "; but
mainly to the genius of the writer of the ' Last Days of Pompeii,' whose magnificent description
of the eruption must be familiar to all our readers.

The actual words of Dion Cassius are that " Herculaneum and Pompeii were buried while
the people were sitting in the theatre." Now (as far as we know) Herculaneum had no ajnphi-
theatre, and the prevailing conjecture is, that Dion Cassius meant that the cities were destroyed
" at theatre time," that is, in the afternoon, which answers to Pliny's account. The perform-
ances in the theatre were frequent, those in the amphitlieatre were comparatively rare. Our
readers must judge for themselves. We cannot do more than give them a summary of the
discussion which has been threshed out in the works of the leading writers.



POMPEII, PAST AND PRESENT.



the flight of the terror-stricken population, the cries of the women as they
searched wildly in the darkness for their families, whom they could only recog-
nise by the sound of their voices. It seemed, he says, as if everything had come
to ruin and must be engulfed by the earth or the flames.

On the third day the darkness began to disappear, the sun shone pale as
through a fog, or as in an eclipse ; the ruins were covered with ash and pumice-
stone, and from time to time fresh earthquakes led the population to think that
their danger was not yet over.

When confidence was restored, the survivors set to work to recover such of
their lost property as they could reach, and it is evident that they succeeded in
finding a good deal that was valuable, as there can be no doubt that many of the
principal houses were rifled of their chief treasures. Whether the owners were
the only persons to profit by these early excavations is a matter of doubt, several
indications having been found which lead us to suppose that many thieves
searched the ruins with the view of obtaining booty, and of this there is a
notable example in the case of a skeleton found in the Street of Stabiae with a
lantern and pickaxe, the remains of a man who it is assumed was buried alive
while engaged in a clandestine excavation. Titus, who was the reigning
Emperor at the time of the catastroj^he, came with laudable energy to the
assistance of the cities. He sent down some senators to organise the relief of
the destitute, and ordered the town to be cleared and re-built, but whether the
gigantic nature of the undertaking baffled him, or the cares of the State diverted
his mind to other matters, has never yet been satisfactorily shown. At all events
the idea was abandoned, and the site of the city was lost, not to be found again
for many hundred years.

But although the site of the city was lost, its history remained, and the wall
of the great theatre had never been completely covered, nor had the shape of the
Amphitheatre been altogether obliterated. These signs were neglected in the
lapse of centuries, and no one seems to have troubled himself to search for the
lost city, till the architect Fontana in cutting an aqueduct that was to convey
the waters of the Sarno to Torre dell' Annunziata, discovered the foundations of
some ancient buildings and a few inscriptions.

But even then it occurred to no one that Pompeii had been hit upon, the
solution being that some remains of the ancient Stabiae had come to light.

It was not till 1748, in the reign of Charles III., the Bourbon King, and after
the discovery of Herculaneum had drawn the attention of learned men to the
matter, that some statues found by some peasants led to the assumption that the
site of Pompeii had been discovered, and some convicts were set to work upon the
earliest excavations.



I



THE HISTORY OF POMP EH.



It may readily be imagined that these early excavations were not very well
or very scientifically executed, and we are not surprised to find Barthelemy and
Winckelmann, the greatest antiquaries of their day, loud in their complaints of
the slowness and carelessness with which the work was being carried on.

Winckelmann (who visited Pompeii in 1757) asserted that four generations
after, we should still be searching in the ruins. His words have been more
than fulfilled, for we are the fifth generation, and only about one-third of the
city is yet excavated !

Notwithstanding the protests of these experts, things went on as before,
and it was not till i860 that the matter was taken scientifically in hand, and a
regular plan formed for grappling with the difficulty and reducing the plan
of the excavations into a definite order.

From this date everything was changed, and the excavations are now conducted
by qualified persons, and on a regular system. Every work of art is con-
scientiously preserved, and a careful record is kept of all that is archasologically
interesting. Nothing is so small that it does not receive its due share of
attention, and wherever the name of Pompeii is scientifically known, there too
will the names of Professors Fiorelli and Ruggiero be held in honour as
the men who have conceived and are carrying out this truly magnificent
undertaking.

To sum up the condition of Pompeii at the time of her destruction, we may
say that she was an ancient provincial town which had been recently in great
part rebuilt, that she contained splendid buildings and exquisite remains of
ancient art. She was a wealthy and luxurious city, partly owing to her
commerce, partly to the extreme fertility of the adjacent hills and plains, which
are reckoned to this day as productive as any in Italy.



POMPEII, PAST AND PRESENT.



THE BASILICA, OR LAW COURT.

The Romans undoubtedly derived this name from the Greeks, and borrowed

the shape of the building from Athens. The inscriptions found in the Pompeian
Basilica are unusually interesting, and show that the date of the main building
was B.C. 164, and that the portico was earlier still, having been constructed by
the Quaestor Vibius Popidius ; that is to say, before Pompeii was made a colony
and the office of Quaestor was abolished. The judgment-seat at the western
end was erected later, probably by the architect of the larger theatre. Beneath
it is a cell which is thought by some to have been used to confine prisoners
awaiting their trial ; but is considered by others to have been the depository
of the archives of the Court.

The main entrance to the Basilica was from the S.W, angle of the Forum.
It was approached by a portico and four stone steps adorned by two statues of
which only the pedestals remain, and closed by five sliding doors of which the
grooves are still visible.

The building was divided into three naves by Ionic columns in brick, of
beautiful construction, of which the central and widest nave was open to the
sky, the other two being covered by a ceiling, above which was a gallery
divided into tribunes for spectators, and approached by an outside staircase.

The Basilica was adorned with many statues of which fragments only
remain, and verses from Virgil, Ovid, and Propertius were found scribbled upon
the walls, together with memoranda from disappointed suitors, abusing the
judges, complaining of the cost of litigation, and invoking imprecations upon
the august head of Justice herself

The Basilica seems to have been a recognised lounging place of the more
educated classes. Some went to hear the decisions and arguments before the
judges, others to meet their friends and converse in the cool colonnade. It
seems probable too that the building was used for purposes of political meetings
as well as for the administration of justice.

Our illustration shows the Basilica as viewed from the Forum, with the
judgment-seat at the extreme end.



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( 9 )



A LAWSUIT.

Our illustration represents the western end of the Basilica with the judgment-
seat ; the upper galleries thronged with spectators, and the colonnade below
with idlers. A ^' cause celibTe" is being adjudicated, and all Pompeii is interested
in the result. The drawing for this photograph is made from the south-western
corner, and like all those in this work represents exactly every detail of the
building.

Apart from the interest that always attaches itself to litigation where the
plaintiff and defendant are persons whose affairs and whose quarrels are known
to the inhabitants of the locality, there was another circumstance that would
naturally lead the citizens to contemplate with interest the sentences given in
their Basilica.

Sundry enactments had been made to prevent, or rather to check, the
enormous waste of human life that was occasioned by the debasing games of
the Amphitheatre. Citizens might no longer have their slaves butchered
wholesale to delight a bloodthirsty populace, but when a criminal was con-
demned to death, there was a shout of triumph as the words " To the Lions ! "
passed from mouth to mouth. It was mainly to satisfy this popular craving
for unhealthy excitement that the persecution of the early Christians was taken


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Online LibraryLuigi FischettiPompeii, past and present : illustrated by photographs of the ruins as they are, with sketches of their original elevations → online text (page 1 of 4)