Niccolò Marcello Venuti.

A description of the first discoveries of the antient city of Heraclea, found near Portici, a country palace belonging to the king of the Two Sicilies. In two parts.. online

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Online LibraryNiccolò Marcello VenutiA description of the first discoveries of the antient city of Heraclea, found near Portici, a country palace belonging to the king of the Two Sicilies. In two parts.. → online text (page 5 of 11)
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Memoirs of the Royal Academy at Paris % and
* Mem. deLiterat. torn. ic. Des embrafemens duM. Vefuve,


Lff Description, Qfr. 47

likewife, give you the whole Relation out of the
celebrated M. Bianchini's Book of Univerfal Hif-
tory *.

Firfl, from the Memoirs of the French Aca-
demy. .

As fome Workmen were digging at the Foot of this
Mountain (Vefuvius,) ahout two Miles from the Sea ;
having come to a pretty great Depths they ohferved
fome Strata of Earthy which appeared to he regularly
difpofedy as tho* they were Floorings or Pavements^
horizontally placed^ one above the other.

The Owner of the Ground^ being thereby invited to
fearch farther^ continued the Digging, and under the
fourth Layer, finding fome Stones with Infcriptions on
them, he ordered them to continue their Search, till the
Water coming in fhould prevent them. Whereupon th^y
dug till they came to above a hundred Palms depth, and
found various Floorings, alternatively one under an-
other ; one of cultivable Earth, another of black vi-
trified Stone^ of which, (fcr the greater Certainty) I
Jhall give you an Account in the very Words, which
Francis Piccheti, (a famous Architect in Naples^
much celebrated for his curious Muf^um, or ColleSiion
of Antiquities, of his own compiling) communicated to
fever al Perfons, and particularly Sig. Adrian Avianus^
Profeffor of Mathematicks at Rome, and much efieemed
for his great Experience in the Study of Philjfophy^
(^c, viz.

" In the Year 1689, in a Hole dug in the Side
** of Mount Vefuvius, about a Mile from the Sea ;
*' in that Spot, where formerly was the Villa of
'** Pompey ^, I obfervcd that the clodded Earth, and
" vitrified Stone were laid in a kind of pleafmg Re-
" gularity •, and that the Earth, which is continu-
*^ ally falling from the Mountain unto the plain

• Iftoria Univerfal. di M. Bianchini. Rom. 1699. P^S- ^^^' *
Ivi. J74S. ^ Or rather Cit/ cf Pompeia, as will be feea


" Ground,

48 ji 'Desct^ivtio^ of tBe

** Ground, and into the Sea ; together with the
•' Streams of melted and vitrified Stone, that
" flowed from the fundry Eruptions, had difpofed
** Things in the following Manner, viz,

jlmong ivhichy what they found firft^ was twelve
Palms of cultivated Earthy viz.

1 2 Palms of cultivated Earth ; then
4 Palms of black vitrified Stone^ that the City is
paved with ; then

3 Palms of folidjliff Earth ; then

6 Palms and a half of vitrified Stone, under which
they found * fome Coals, then Iron Boor-locks,
end two Infcriptions, /hewing that in that Place^
had been the Villa of Porapey ; then, about
10 Pahjis of f olid Earth ; then

2 Palms and a half of vitrified Stone, as above \ then

% Palms of Jliffer Earth ; then

4 Palms of vitrified Stone, moreflaty '», and tight e?

than the former ; then
25 Palms of muchfiiffer Earth, like a Kind of Stone.
16 Palms of vitrified Stone as ahove^ very heavy "" %

12 Palms of a foftifh Stone, below which ihey found

fweet frefh Water in great Quantities, which

flopped their Search.
'' The Infcriptions {fays M. Bianchini) founds
'^ together v/ith the Tools and Iron-work, twenty-
*' five Palms deep in the Ground, carry with them
'' fuch Signs of the Age, in which that Plain was
*^ inhabited, and of the Romans having erected
" them j as would pcrfuade any one to believe,
" that the fix Palms and a half of vitrified Stone
" was depoficed there, by the Eruption which oc-

« Strati 4. dalla fuperfizie della Campagna alle Ifcrittioni,
due de' quaii di pietra fufa. •* Strati 4. dalle Ifcrizioni. piis
fotto, due delle quali di pietra fufa, '^ Aitri 2 Strati piu fotto,
ano de'quali di pietra fufa.

4 " cafionrd

Jntient City i?/ H E R A C L E A. 49

" cafioned the Death of Pliny, in the firfl Year of
" the Reign of Titus, and by which the Pom-
*' pcian Infcriptions were buried, which are faid
** to have been afterwards, laid up in the Muf^uni
*' of Francis Picchetti mentioned above, whofe
" Death rendered it very difficult to obtain a Copy
" of the Infcriptions ; but I hope to be able to
*' fubjoin them at the End of the Book, when they
" liiall be tranfmitted me, which I fhall be very
" defirous of, in order to refolve a Doubt, which
" I have concerning this, i. e. whether they relate
" to the City of Pompeia, or to a Villa of Pompey
*' the Great, and his Children. For the Villa be-
" longing to that Family, and the great Captain
" da Loffredo, is thought not to have been fitu-
" ated near Vefuvius^ but nearer to Pozzuoli^ and
." not far diftant from the Lacus Avernus : On
" the contrary, Sig. Baudrand, in his Lex. Geo-
** graph, infers from both antient and modern Au-
** thors, and the Stones dug up a little before the
" Year i6;:>4, that the City of Pompeia was fitu*
*' ated near Scafati in the Plain at the Foot of
" Mount Vefuvius, and was much molefted with
" the Matter that runs down from the Mountain,
" in the Time of any Eruption." Thus far M.

The Prince d'Elbeuf being at Naples, in the
Year 1711, purpofedtobuildhimfelf, (near P(?r//a,)
a pleafant Houfe, on the Sea-lhore, and joining to
a Convent of Friars of the Order of St. Peter
d' Alcantara, and was at the fame Time, thinking
to floor fome Ground-rooms with a new Kind of
Terras. He knew that fome Perfons at Refina,
attempting to dig a Well, had found in that Place,
fome Pieces of yellow Antique, and other coloured
Grecian Marble. Whereupon he ordered that they
ihould continue to dig, on a Level with the Water
in the Well^ and fearch out for a fuflicienc Qiian-

H tity

56 '^Description o/" the

tity of that Marble, which he intended to powder,
and therewith to finifli the Terras for his faid Coun-
try Houfe, which at prefent belongs to the Dukes
of Laviano, and the Princes of Cannalunga, my
intimate Friends.

Scarce had they begun to dig Tideways, before
they found fome beautiful Statues, among which
was a Marble one of Hercules, and another which
was imagined to reprefent Cleopatra : Then pro-
ceeding on towards the Farm of Don Antonio
Brancaccio ; the Diggers met with feveral wrought
Columns of Alabafler, which appeared to them to
be a Temple of a round Form, ornamented on the
Outfide with twenty-four of thofe Columns, the
greateft Part of them Yellow •, many of which
were carried to the Farm of Counfellor Salerno.

The Infide of the faid Temple had been adorn-
ed with the fame Number of Columns % between
which were as many Statues of Grecian Marble,
tho' broken -, it was alfo paved with yellow
Antique. The Statues were fent by the abovefaid
Prince d'Elbeuf, to Vienna, as a Prefent to Eugene,
Prince of Savoy.

They tell rne there was alfo dug up a great
Block of Marble, with the following Letters of
Metal inlaid in it.


They alfo found a great Quantity of African
Marble, which was wrought into Tables, by the
ingenious ArchitedV, Jofeph Stendard % who went
down into the Hole they had dug. After that,


a D. Giufeppe Stendardo, a Neapolitan Archited, died at
Florence in the Year 173?, and was buried in the Church di
Sanca Felicita, and his Executors erecled a Monument for him,
uvth the foUowLng Infcription, compofed by the Author of this
'Tr^atiif ; who wa:^ a gredC Friend of his. joSEPHO

Antienf City ?/^ H E R A C L E A. 51

their Search was ftopt, to avoid being called upon
for fome Dues, claimed by the Minifters of the
Government, who, [in all Kingdoms,) by their Way
of Proceeding, are often the Occafion of the moft
beautiful Monuments of Antiquity remaining buri-
ed, to the great Prejudice of the learned Part of
the Republick.


Jri Account of the Bifcovery of the antient Theatre at

^irtHESE remarkable Difcoveries were firfl: be-
X g'-^^ ^o ^^ made, at the Time I was order-
ing and difpofing the copious Library, and cele-
brated Mufasum, (known thro' all Europe, by the
Name of the Farnefian MufcEum,^ in the King's
Palace at Naples, over which, by the King's Order,
dated the 12 th of November, 1738, I had the

The King of the Two Sicilies, being, in the
Month of December at Portici, about four Miles
diftant from Naples, there were found, in the a-
bove mentioned Well, fome Pieces of Marble.
W^hereupon the King gave Orders, that they fhould
fearch at the Bottom of the Well ; fo entering the
Cavern (whence the abovefaid Prince d'Elbeuf had,
in the Year 171 1, dug out the Statues above de*











, H 2 fcribed,)

52 y^ D E S C R I P T I O N ^ ^^^

fcribed,) and going to the further End, with their
Mattocks, they found two Fragments of Brafs E-
queftrian Statues, larger than Life, and this, 4
fmall Matter above the Surface of the Water,
which was about eighty-fix Palms deep in the Earth..

Proceeding to fearch laterally, or fide ways, as
they were digging along, they brought out two
gowned Statues of Marble, which alfo were larger
than the Life : The Face of one looked like Au-
guftus -, after that, they every now and then litt
upon fome Filacers of Brick, very well made, and
plaiflered over, and painted with various Colours,
and among them another gov/ned Statue, entire,
on a Marble PedeftaL

Another Day, his Majefty went to fee the faid
Statues, when I, who followed him, as was my
Cu'flom ; was afked by him, the Meaning of fome
Letters of a Cubit long, on Part of an Architrave,
which being in different Pieces, feems to be as

. . A.. . MAMML..VS. nVL QVl/tTt^

And having in my Mind, the Paflfage of Dion %
which gives an Account of Heraclea, being over-
whelmed by the firft Eruption of Vefuvius, to-
gether with its Theatre, where the People were
entertaining themfelves -, upon feeing the Name
of a Duumvir, and alfo a T joined to a Piece
of an H, which appeared to me to have been Pare
of the Word ^Z?^^/r/^w ; I ventured to afTerr, that
it might be Part of the Theatre of Heraclea, which
was ruined.

I, was not miftaken in my Opinion ; for, caufing
myfelf to be let down with a Rope about my Mid-
dle, I went into the Cavern, and ordering them to

a Xiphil. ad Dion, in Tit. pag. 251. Lugd. 1559. Duafque
urbes Herculanum ac Pcmpeios populo fedente in Theatre peaitus
©bruit (Vefevus.) .


^dntient City of HER ^CLE A. 55

work further •, they obferved, as it were, fome Steps
of a great Wooden-flaircafe -, but thefe feeming to
me too high to ferve for going up and down, and
the Edges tending not in a ftrait Line, but rather
circular, I ordered them to try further on, whether
they could difcover another Staircafe. Having
fearched feveral Places, and turned up the Ground
all about, I perceived it to be the Seats on which
the Spedators fat to fee the Plays, as I had before
(as it were) foretold.

I went immediately, and acquainted the King
with it: They then found fome more Pieces of the
fame Architrave, which ferved to prove my Afier-
tion. Thofe Fragments being by me put together,
were as follows :

ORCH, DE SVO J.i-rx^^^

So that I could with more Certainty affert, that
this was the theatre of the City Heracka with its
Orcheftra, built at the Charge of Mammianus Ru-
fus. And in Order, that all they who (bccaufe
they had not been Eye-witnefTes) doubted the Ex-
iftence of the Theatre, may be convinced of the
Truth thereof, there is another Part of the fame
Architrave found, with two Infcriptions in cubital
Letters, which ferve to explain the: former, and
I imagine had been placed over the two principal
Doors of this beautiful Theatre. The fecond,
bearing moreover, the Name of Puhlius Numi/iuf;
the Architedl, of whom we fhalJ fpeak hereafter.


QviNQ, 'HEAIr* o. p. NVMISIVS.

P. F. ARCH. EC ..... a

g L'ho veduta riportata corrottamente cofi in una relazione.



54 ^DESCRlPTIONc/'/y^^

Near the faidlnfcrlption, which was dug up the
nth of December 1738. they found fome Frag-
ments of brafcn Horfes gilt, one of which in fall-
ing, had one Side fo compleatly drove into the
other, that it appeared to be only the Half of one :
Afterwards they found fome Pieces of a Carr or
Chariot belonging to the faid Horfes, with the
Wheels whole, all of Brafs gilt ; wherefore I ima-
gine that the two chief Doors of the Theatre were
adorned, (above the Infcriptions) with thefe Cha-
riots and Horfes, as is feen in Triumphal Arches
on Medals. I don't doubt but v/e might find the
Equeftrian Statues to reprefent fome of the Em-
perors, were not the Heads wanting. Wherefore
it was agreed, with one of thefe Trunks of Statues
which was judged good for nothing, to make two
great Medallions with the Mouldings of Brafs, a-
bout two Yards high, v/ith the Pourtraits of the
King and Qiieen.

Going frequently to this Well, I caufed them
to clear away the Earth all about the Theatre, the
Outfide of which, I obferved to be raifed on fun-
dry equidiflant Pilafters of Brick, adorned with
Cornifhes of Marble, Plaifter'd with a kind of Ter-
ras, variouQy coloured, in fome Parts like a Jafper,
in other Parts black and glofiy, like the Glafing
of China. Finally, I faw the infide Stairs, which
led to their rcfpedive Vomitories % and to the Seats
for the Ufe of the Spectators, fo that I conceived
great Hopes of finding fome beautiful Marble Sta-
tues, either ftanding on the Top, or fallen down.

And my Hopes were not vain, for they dug up
daily throughout that Year, many Pieces of Marble,
fuch as beautiful Capitals of the Corinthian Order,
and other fmaller ones of Rofle Antique, neatly
wrought, and various Incruftations of African and

* Doors from every Tier of Seats, to go out, under the vault-
ed Galleries.


Anttent City / H E R A C L fi A. '55

Serpentine Marble, yellow Antique, and Egyptian
Pebble, Fragments of Mouldings, Cornifhes, and
Architraves, of a curious Tafte, and perfedt Work-

Having laid open the Seats in the Theatre for a
confiderable Way, they were found to be eighteen
in Number, among which were perceived fome
rather lower, in a right Line, which ferved as
Stairs to the {Vomitories^) and to the infide Stair-
cafe of the Buildings : Having afcended the eigh-
teen Seats, you come on a landing Place, running
round the Edifice, which I knew to be the Precin-
zione % above which, there are more of them Steps
to afcend to the fecond. This Precmzione, being
in a great Meafure, cleared from the loofe Earth,
afforded me Room to calculate, that this Theatre,
together v/ith its Orchejlra or Cavea^ was about
fixty Palms in Diameter, being entirely inlaid with
diverfe Sorts of African, Grecian and Egyptian
Marble, red and yellow Antique, veined Agate,
and other curious Marbles. In a Manufcript Ac-
count, which I faw, the following Dimenfions of
the Theatres are fet down, but I don't know how
true, viz. That the outer Circumference of the A-
rena was tv/o hundred and ninety Feet •, an hundred
and fixty Feet the outer, and an hundred and fifty
the inner Diameter ; the Stage or Place for a6ting
was feventy five Feet in Breadth, and only thirty
in Depth.

This Theatre appears, from the Pieces of Mould-
ings, Cornifhes, Brackets, and other Ornaments of
Architedlure, and from the Quantity of Marble-
ftones, and Fragments of Columns (which belong-
ed, either to the Stage, or to the adjoining Temple,
which was difcovered a great While before) to have
been a mod beautiful Building •, whether we exa-
mine the Strudure of the Caverns, and internal

» Vid. ilpaffo di Calpurnio citato dal Sig. Marchefe MafFei,
3 Ccrridores

56 yf D E S C R I P T I N ^ //5^

Corrldores built with Bricks, ornamented with Cor-
nifhes of Marble, on which are the Arches which
fupported the Scats. Or if we look into the Dens,
or the other Steps, by which the Spedlators went
from one Range of Seats to the other.

I fhould have been willing to have defcribed
very diftindly, all its Parts, if my Defire of ha-
ving it laid open, could have been effedled : But
the great Quantity of Earth that had been laid
over it, by the many and vaft Eruptions of Vefu-
vius, together with the Houfes and other facred
Edifices built thereon, prevented the putting it in


Ohfervations on the fat d Theatre,

IT is very probable, that the Theatre had beeft
built as long as the City Heraclea ; for, (as we
have feen before ;) that Part of the Country was
formerly inhabited by the Ofci, who, as is well
known % were the Authors of obfcene Plays, and
the ¥€rfus Fefcennini ; and the Tufcans were fup-
pofed to have been the Inventors of the Hiftrioni-
cal Reprefentaticns. And altho' Plutarch derives
the word Hiftrio^ from a certain Philofopher of
Cyrene or Macedonia, called Ifter j yet all agree
with Efichius and Thomas Bempfierus^ that IJier is
one, out of the fmall Number of antient Tufcan
Words that are extant, Livy ^, fpeaking of the
firft Introdu(rtion of the Fejli HiftrioniceSn into
Rome, attributes it to the Tufcans, and fays, that
the Word is derived from them.

I am of Opinion, that Mention is made of that

" Cic, nel lib, 7. deir Epift. fam. epift. i. fa menzione delle
Comedie facte fare da Pompeo per la dedicazione del fao Teatro.

^ Lib: t.


Jnttent City ^/ HER ACLEA. 57

Theatre, in the following Infcripcion on a Stone,
taken from the learned Canon Mazzocchi ; who
called it, Pagifcito or the Pagan Law *.


As this was in a ' ollege of Jefuits in the Vil-
lage of Recale, near Capua, we may fuppofe that
that Place was called formerly Herculaneum, and
afterwards corruptly, R- cale, and be 'ides, they had
the Temple of Jupiter near them ; and the Hera-
cleans gave thole that belonged to the faid Temple^
the Privilege of fitting in the Theatre, they ha-
ving built. a Part thereof at their own Expence.
But, is not it poffible that this Infcription, may
have formerly been brought from our Heraclea?
We know very well it was done m the Year of
Rome 659, a great while before the Settling of the
Campanian Colony, and at a Time when Heraclea
did not deferve the \ame of a City. Dionyfius
Halicarnafleus calls Heraclea Oppididum^ or Pagus^
into which, when the Loloiiy entered, they aug-
mented the Buildings, and embellifhed the 7 heatre
with new Pillars, and the Statues of the Roman
Knights, who either protedled or frequented thofe
Parts. Falcus and Summons atteif, that Portici,
which is now one of his Majedv's Pdiaces, was the
Seat of Qiiintus Pontius Aquila, and that the
Theatre was at firfl: built, in proportion to the
Smallnefs of the i'lace, and very probably of Wood.

* De Camp. Amphit. cap. 8. pag. 142.

I But

58 -^Description of the

Bot fcarching more narrowly into our Theatre,
I was prefently ftruck with the Beauty of the Cha-
raflers, Ibme of which w^re tied together, as may
be feen in the Medals of Auguftus's Time ; the
gowned Statues without Beards, with fhort Hair,
and of perfect Workmanfhip, all which bear the Ap-
pearance of being done in that Time. The For-
mation of the infide Work gave no fmall Confir-
mation, being of Brick?, on one of which I read
thefe words,


Abda or Abdala was the Name of a Slave in
Africa, who was fet over all the other Slaves that
made Bricks ; and pertained to the Emprefs Livia,
the Wife of Auguftus.

If the Account of the Life of Appius Pulcher
was extant, and the abovefaid Fragment entire,
which makes mention of the Epuloni j frbm their
Number, or from the Space of what is wanting,
one might polTibly get fome Light into the Time of
its Building ; for the Epuloni were at firfl, two ;
then three in the Time of Pacuvius, and laftly
were increafed by Silla and Auguftus to feven.

I cannot tell how to explain the three Figures
thereon, (which I have never feen on any Monu-
ment) any other way than thus, Temphm Baccho
dediidvit fue fumptu Septemvir Epulomim ^ : Which
fignifies, that the Temple which the Prince d'Elbeuf
found, was by Appius Claudius, dedicated to Bac-
ciius, himfelf being one of the Epuloni. And a-
mong the Fragments of Marble, I perceived the
Trunk of a £ia:ne, which might poflibly be that
of Bacchus ; and jcLning together the following
Letters, which were on a Marble Cornifh, viz,

* Simiii fpiegazloni da il Nicolai cV Sig/is FcUrumj e fre-
quent ne hiiQ gli efempi in Roma.

4. .... LON

'Antient City of HER ACLE A. 59

I imagine it to have run thus, Patrono Coloni^y
Sepcjnviro Epilonum \ whence this alfo may pertain
to Appius Claudius. Some doubt the Veracity of
the former, which was fhewn me in Manufcript %
but, as the Infcription of Annius Rufus was a
double one, fo alfo might this of Appius Claudius

I have found two Appii Claudii Pulchri, Sons of
Caius. The one Conful with P. Servilius Anno
Romas 674 ; the other with Caius Norbanus Anno
Rom^ 715. Thefe were, without doubt, fprung
fi'om that noble Family of the Claudii, famous for
giving Birth to that Decemvir, who brought in
the Laws of the XII. Tables from Greece ; and was
the Occafion ^ of the beautiful Virginia being
killed by her Father in the Senate-houfe ; and alfo
for having produced fo many great Confuls and
Emperors of Rome.

That Part of the Country, which v/e now call
the Kingdom of Naples^ was at that Time much in-,
debted to that Family, on Account of Appius
Claudius Coccus making the famous Via Appia^
called by Strabo ^ Longarimivianimreginam^ which
is not better defcribed by any one, than by Pro-
copius, who fays it ends at Capua i but others tell
you it goes as far as Brundufium.

Brundiifium longa finis chart*eque^ vl^que, ^

a Vid. le controvert tra il Sig. Marchefe Tannucchi, e i\ fu
P. Grandi, quando erano Profeffori in Pifa, dirette all' Acade-
mia Etrufca di Cortona, ftampate in Pifa, e Lucca nel 172S.
^ Cic. in Orat. pro Ccelio : Appim Claudius C^cus facem Pyrrhi
diremity aquam adduxit, 'viam muni^oit : Sopra tal paffo fu for-
mata la falfa Ifcrizione di Arezzo, riportata dal Grutero, e da
akri : APPIVS. CLAVDIV3. CENSOR &c. Vid. Staz. SyW.
Carm. 2. Sanfelic. in Campania. Eutrop. 1. 2. Frontio. dc Aquse-
duft. Lipfmm ad Tacit. Procop. de bello Got. lib. i. Nicolas
Bergier. Hiftoiredes grands Cheminsl. a.ediz. di Brufelles 1736.
pag. 221. Liv. 1. 9. c. 29. ilCanonico Pratilii della Via Appia in
fogl. Napoli 1745. ^ Horat. lib. i. Sat. 5,

I 2 I ob~

6o -^ Descr-iption o/" //&^

I cbfervcd certain Remains of it, on the Mount
Pofilipus, near one Part of my Territories ; which
led f'^om Pozzuolo to Naples. But it did not run
farther than L apua, till the Year 341. Galenus *
attributes the txtencing of it, to Trajan, others to
Cefar, and others to Auguftus ^

Suppofing the fecond Appius Claudius was Go-
vernor of the Colony, when the Theatre was built,
it will appear to have been about the Time of

Bur from the Name of the Archited, I draw an-
other Suppofition.


In the firft Place I fay, 'tis very rarely that you
find any Infcription, where the Names of the Ar-
tificers are fet down, and efpecially Architedls,
even tho' it were ereded at their own Hxpence ;
for it was not allowed amopg either Greecians or
Romans, to put their Names. Pliny tells us, that
Batracus and Saurus, two Archite6ls, not being al-
lowed to infcribe their Names on a Building, put
up in lieu thereof, the Hieroglyphic k". Bathra"
cum ^ Sauron Lac ones ^ Architedios in columnarum
frivis infcidpta nomnum corum argumenta Rana^ i^
Lacerta *" ; the latter of which, is believed to have
been the Maker of the Marble Vale (on which are
wrought the Solemnities of Bacchus) in the Jufti-
nian Garden at Ronie, becaufe there is the Repre-
fentation of a Lizard, which has no Relation to the
other Part of the Carving. M. Bianchini obferves,
that there were only two Infcances, of the Names of
Architedls being recorded, among the Latins ; fc.
in Pozzuoli, and in Verona; and a Pourtrait of an

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Online LibraryNiccolò Marcello VenutiA description of the first discoveries of the antient city of Heraclea, found near Portici, a country palace belonging to the king of the Two Sicilies. In two parts.. → online text (page 5 of 11)