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Eth. POMPE´II (Πομπηΐα, Strab.; Πομπήιοι, Dio Cass.: Eth. Πομπηΐανος, Eth. Pompeianus: Pompeii), an ancient city of Campania, situated on the coast of the beautiful gulf called the Crater or Bay of Naples, at the mouth of the river Sarnus (Sarno), and immediately at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. It was intermediate between Herculaneum and Stabiae. (Strab. v. p.247; Pliny, 3.5. s. 9; Mela, 2.4.9.) All accounts agree in representing it as a very ancient city: a tradition recorded by Solinus (2.5) ascribed its foundation to Hercules; but Dionysius, who expressly notices him as the founder of Herculaneum, says nothing of Pompeii (Dionys. A. R. 1.44). Strabo says it was first occupied by the Oscans, subsequently by the Tyrrhenians (Etruscans) and Pelasgians, and afterwards by the Samnites (Strab. l.c.). It continued in the hands of these last, that is, of the branch of the nation who had assumed the name of Campanians [CAMPANIA], till it passed under the government of Rome. It is probable that it became from an early period a flourishing town, owing to its advantageous situation at the mouth of the Sarnus, which rendered it the port of Nola, Nuceria, and all the rich plain watered by that river. (Strab. l.c.) But we meet with no mention of its name in history previous to the Roman conquest of Campania. In B.C. 310 it is mentioned for the first time, when a Roman fleet under P. Cornelius touched there, and the troops on board proceeded from thence to ravage the territory of Nuceria. (Liv. 9.38.) No subsequent notice of it occurs till the outbreak of the Social War (B.C. 91), in which it appears to have taken a prominent part, as the Pompeiani are mentioned by Appian apart from the other Campanians, in enumerating the nations that joined in the insurrection. (Appian, App. BC 1.39.) In the second year of the war (B.C. 89) Pompeii was still in the hands of the insurgents, and it was not till after repeated engagements that L. Sulla, having defeated the Samnite forces under L. Cluentius, and forced them to take refuge within the walls of Nola, was able to form the siege of Pompeii. (Appian, ib. 50; Oros. 5.18; Vell. 2.16.) The result of this is nowhere mentioned. It is certain that the town ultimately fell into the hands of Sulla; but whether by force or a capitulation we are not informed; the latter is, however, the most probable, as it escaped the fate of Stabiae, and its inhabitants were admitted to the Roman franchise, though they lost a part of their territory, in which a military colony was established by the dictator, under the guidance and patronage of his relation, P. Sulla. (Cic. pro Sull. 21; Zumpt, de Colon. pp. 254, 468.) Before the close of the Republic, Pompeii became, in common with so many other maritime towns of Campania, a favourite resort of the Roman nobles, many of whom had villas in its immediate neighbourhood. Among others, Cicero had a villa there, which he frequently mentions under the name of “Pompeianum,” and which appears to have been a considerable establishment, and one of his favourite residences. (Cic. Ac. 2.3, ad Att. 1.20, ad Fam. 7.3, 12.20.) Under the Empire it continued to be resorted to for the same purposes. Seneca praises the pleasantness of its situation, and we learn both from him and Tacitus that it was a populous and flourishing town ( “celebre oppidum,” Tac. Ann. 15.22; Sen. Nat. Qu. 6.1). In addition to the colony which it received (as already mentioned) under Sulla, and which is alluded to in an inscription as “Colonia Veneria Cornelia” (Mommsen, Inscr. R. N. 2201), it seems to have received a colony at some later period, probably under Augustus (though it is not termed a colony by Pliny), as it bears that title in several inscriptions (Mommsen, l.c. 2230--2234).

In the reign of Nero (A.D. 59) a tumult took place in the amphitheatre of Pompeii, arising out of a dispute between the citizens and the newly-settled colonists of Nuceria, which ended in a conflict in which many persons were killed and wounded. The Pompeians were punished for this outbreak by the prohibition of all gladiatorial and theatrical exhibitions for ten years. (Tac. Ann. 14.17.) Only four years after, the city suffered severely from an earthquake, which took place on the 5th of February, A.D. 63. The expressions both of Seneca and Tacitus would lead us to suppose that it was in great part utterly destroyed; and we learn from existing evidence that the damage done was unquestionably very great, the public buildings especially having suffered most severely. (Sen. Nat. Qu. 6.1; Tac. Ann. 15.22.) The city had hardly recovered from this calamity, when it met with one far greater; being totally overwhelmed by the famous eruption of. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which buried Pompeii, as well as Herculaneum, under a dense bed of ashes and cinders. The loss of life in the former city was the greater, because the inhabitants were assembled in the theatre at the time when the catastrophe took place. (D. C. 66.23.) The younger Pliny, in his celebrated letters describing the eruption (Ep. 6.16, 20), does not even notice the destruction of Pompeii or Herculaneum; [p. 2.647] but his attention is directed principally to the circumstances of his uncle's death and the phenomena which he had himself witnessed.

From this time the name of Pompeii disappears from history. It is not noticed by Ptolemy; and it is certain that the city was never rebuilt. But the name is again found in the Tabula; and it thus appears that a small place must have again arisen on the site, or, more probably, in the neighbourhood, of the buried city. But all trace of Pompeii was subsequently lost; and in the middle ages its very site was entirely forgotten, so that even the learned and diligent Cluverius was unable to fix it with certainty, and was led to place it at Scafati on the Sarno, about 2 miles E. of its true position. This difficulty arose, in great measure, from the great physical changes produced by the catastrophe of A.D. 79, which diverted the course of the Sarno, so that it now flows at some distance from Pompeii,--and at the same time pushed forward the line of the coast, so that the city is now above a mile distant from the sea, which in ancient times undoubtedly bathed its walls.

There is no reason to suppose that Pompeii in ancient times ever rose above the rank of a second-rate provincial town; but the re-discovery of its buried remains in the last century has given a celebrity to its name exceeding that of the greatest cities. The circumstances of its destruction were peculiarly favourable to the preservation of its remains. It was not overthrown by a torrent of lava, but simply buried by a vast accumulation of volcanic sand, ashes, and cinders (called by the Italians lapilli), which forms a mass of a very light, dry, and porous character. At the same time, it is almost certain that the present accumulation of this volcanic deposit (which is in most places 15 feet, in depth) did not take place at once, but was formed by successive eruptions; and there is little doubt that the ruins were searched and the most valuable objects removed soon after the catastrophe took place. This seems to be proved by the small number of objects of intrinsic value (such as gold and silver plate) that have been discovered, as well as by the fact that comparatively few skeletons have been found, though it appears certain, from the expressions of Dio Cassius, that great numbers of the inhabitants perished; nor have any of these been found in the theatre, where it is probable that the greatest loss of life occurred.

It was not till 1748 that an accidental discovery drew attention to the remains of Pompeii; and in 1755 regular excavations on the site were first commenced by the Neapolitan government, which have been carried on ever since, though with frequent intervals and interruptions. It is impossible for us here even to attempt to give any account of the results of these excavations and the endless variety of interesting remains that have been brought to light. We shall confine ourselves to those points which bear more immediately on the topography and character of the town of Pompeii, rather than on the general habits, life, and manners of ancient times. More detailed accounts of the remains, and the numerous objects which have been discovered in the course of the excavations, especially the works of art, will be found in the great work of Mazois (Les Ruines de Pompeii, continued by Gau, 4 vols. fol., Paris, 1812--1838), and in the two works of Sir W. Gell (Pompeiana, 1st series, 2 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1824; 2nd series, 2 vols. 8vo. 1830); also in the little work published by the Society of Useful Knowledge (Pompeii, 2 vols. 12mo. 1831). A recent French publication by Breton (Pompeia, 8vo. Paris, 1855), also gives a good account of the whole progress and results of the discoveries (including the most recent excavations) in a moderate compass and inexpensive form. The still more recent work of Overbeck (8vo. Leipzic, 1856), of which the first part only has yet appeared, contains an excellent compendium of the whole subject

  • 1. Gate of Herculaneum.
  • 2. Gate of Vesuvius.
  • 3. Gate of Capua.
  • 4. Gate of Nola.
  • 5. Gate of the Sarnus.
  • 6. Gate of Stabiae.
  • 7. Gate of the Theatres.
  • 8. Modern entrance to the city.
  • 9. Forum.
  • 10. Theatres.
  • 11. Amphitheatre.
  • 12. Street of the Tomos.

[p. 2.648]

with especial attention to the works of art discovered.

The area occupied by the ancient city was an irregular oval, about 2 miles in circumference. It was surrounded by a wall, which is still preserved round the whole of the city, except on the side towards the sea, where no traces of it have been found, and it seems certain that it had been pulled down in ancient times to allow for the extension of houses and other buildings down to the water's edge. The wall itself is in many places much ruined, as well as the towers that flank it, and though this may be in part owing to the earthquake of 63, as well as the eruption of 79, it is probable that the defences of the town had before that time been allowed to fall into decay, and perhaps even intentionally dismantled after the Social War. There were seven gates, the most considerable and ornamental of which was that which formed the entrance to the city by the high road from Herculaneum: the others have been called respectively the gate of Vesuvius, the gate of Capua, the gate of Nola, the gate of the Sarnus, the gate of Stabiae, and the gate of the Theatres. The entrances to the town from the side of the sea had ceased to be gates, there being no longer any walls on that side. All these names are of course modern, but are convenient in assisting us to describe the city. The walls were strengthened with an Agger or rampart, faced with masonry, and having a parapet or outer

  • 1. Villa of Arrius Diomedes.
  • 2. Gate of Herculaneum.
  • 3. Public Baths.
  • 4. Forum.
  • 5. Temple of Jupiter.
  • 6. Temple of Augustus or Pantheon.
  • 7. Senaculum.
  • 8. Edifice of Eumachia.
  • 9. Basilica.
  • 10. Temple of Venus.
  • 11. Ancient Greek Temple.
  • 12. Great Theatre.
  • 13. Square called the Soldiers' Quarters.
  • 14. Small Theatre.
  • 15. Temple of Isis.
  • 16. Temple of Fortune.
  • 17. Street leading to Gate of Nola.
  • 18. Gate leading to Vesuvius.
  • aaa. Towers.
  • bbb. Ancient line of coast.
  • ccc. Modern road from Naples to Salerno.

[p. 2.649]

wall on its external front: they were further fortified at intervals with square towers, which in some parts occur regularly at about 100 yards from each other, in other parts are added much more sparingly. These towers seem to have been subsequent additions to the original walls, being of a different and less solid style of construction. The walls themselves are very solidly built of large blocks of travertine, in horizontal courses, but presenting considerable irregularities of construction: the upper part is more regularly finished, and consists of peperino. But both walls and towers are in many places patched with coarser masonry and reticulated work; thus showing that they had been frequently repaired, and at distant intervals of time.

The general plan of the city is very regular, and the greater part the streets run in straight lines: but the principal line of street, which runs from the gate of Herculaneum to the Forum, is an exception, being irregular and crooked as well as very narrow. Though it must undoubtedly have been one of the chief thoroughfares of the city, and the line followed by the high road from Capua, Neapolis, and Rome itself it does not exceed 12 or 14 feet in width, including the raised trottoirs or footpaths on each side, so that the carriageway could only have admitted the passage of one vehicle at a time. Some of the other streets are broader; but few of them exceed 20 feet in width, and the widest yet found is only about 30. They are uniformly paved with large polygonal blocks of hard lava or basalt, in the same manner as were the streets of ancient Rome, and the Via Appia, and other great highways in this part of Italy. The principal street, already noticed, was crossed, a little before it reached the Forum, by a long straight line of street which, passing by the temple of Fortune, led direct to the .gate of Nola. In the angle formed by the two stood the public baths or Thermae, and between these and the temple of Fortune a short broad street led direct to the Forum, of which it seems to have formed the principal entrance. From the Forum two other parallel streets struck off in an easterly direction, which have been followed till they cross another main line of street that leads from the gate of Vesuvius directly across the city to the gate adjoining the theatres. This last line crosses the street already noticed, leading from the gate of Nola westward, and the two divide the whole city into four quarters, though of irregular size. Great part of the city (especially the SE. quarter) has not yet been explored, but recent excavations, by following the line of these main streets, have clearly shown its general plan, and the regularity with which the minor streets branched off at intervals in parallel lines. There is also little doubt that the part of the city already excavated is the most important, as it includes the Forum, with the public buildings adjoining to it, the theatres, amphitheatre, &c.

The Forum was situated in the SW. quarter of the city, and was distant about 400 yards from the gate of Herculaneum. As was commonly the case in ancient times, it was surrounded by the principal public buildings, and was evidently the centre of the life and movement of the city. The extent of it was not, however, great; the actual open space (exclusive of the porticoes which surrounded it) did not exceed 160 yards in length by 35 in breadth, and a part of this space was occupied by the temple of Jupiter. It was surrounded on three sides by a Grecian-Doric portico or colonnade, which appears to have been surmounted by a gallery or upper story, though no part of this is now preserved. It would seem that this portico had replaced an older arcade on the eastern side of the Forum, a portion of which still remains, so that this alteration was not yet completed when the catastrophe took place. At the north end of the Forum, and projecting out into the open area, are the remains of an edifice which must have been much the most magnificent of any in the city. It is commonly known, with at least a plausible foundation, as the temple of Jupiter; others dispute its being a temple at all, and have called it the Senaculum, or place of meeting of the local senate. It was raised--on a podium or base of considerable elevation, and had a portico of six Corinthian columns in front, which, according to Sir W. Gell, are nearly as large as those in the portico of St. Paul's. From the state in which it was found it seems certain that this edifice (in common with most of the public buildings at Pompeii) had been overthrown by the earthquake of 68, or, at least, so much damaged that it was necessary to restore, and in great part rebuild it. and that this process was still incomplete at the time of its final destruction. At the NE. angle of the Forum, adjoining the temple of Jupiter, stood an arch which appears to have been of a triumphal character, though now deprived of all its ornaments: it was the principal entrance to the Forum, and the only one by which it was accessible to carriages of any description. On the E. side of the Forum were four edifices, all unquestionably of a public character, though we are much in doubt as to their objects and destination. The first (towards the N.) is generally known as the Pantheon, from its having contained an altar in the centre, with twelve pedestals placed in a circle round it, which are supposed to have supported statues of the twelve chief gods. But no traces have been found of these, and the general plan and arrangement of the building are wholly unlike those of an ordinary temple. A more plausible conjecture is, that it was consecrated to Augustus, and contained a small temple or aedicula in honour of that emperor, while the court and surrounding edifices were appropriated to the service of his priests, the Augustales, who are mentioned in many inscriptions as existing at Pompeii. Next to this building is one which is commonly regarded as the Curia or Senaculum; it had a portico of fluted columns of white marble, which ranged with those of the general portico that surrounded the Forum. South of this again is a building which was certainly a temple, though it is impossible now to say to what divinity it was consecrated; it is commonly called the Temple of Mercury, and is of small size and very irregular form. Between this and the street known as the Street of the Silversmiths, which issued from the Forum near its SE. angle, was a large building which, as we learn from an inscription still existing, was erected by a female priestess named Eumachia. It consists of a large and spacious area (about 130 feet by 65) surrounded by a colonnade, and having a raised platform at the end with a semicircular recess similar to that usually found in a Basilica. But though in this case the founder of the edifice is known, its purpose is still completely obscure. It is commonly called the Chalcidicum, but it is probable that that term (which is found in the inscription above noticed) designates only a part of the edifice, not the whole building. [p. 2.650]


B. Temple of Venus.

C. Temple of Mercury.

D. Basilica.

E. Edifice of Eumachia.

F. Thermae.

G. Pantheon or Temple of Augustus.

I, K, L. Tribunals or Courts of Justice.

N. Granaries.

P.Curia or Senaculum.

R. Part not yet excavated.

S. Street of the Dried Fruits.

T. Street leading to the Temple of Fortune.

V. Triumphal Arch.

W. Pedestals.

Y. Street of the Silversmiths.

The S. end of the Forum was occupied by three of justice, in which the tribunals held their sittings. buildings of very similar character, standing side by The western side of the Forum was principally occuside, each consisting of a single hall with an apse or pied by a Basilica, and a large temple, which is semicircular recess at the further extremity. The commonly called (though without any authority) most probable opinion is that these were the courts the Temple of Venus, The former is the largest [p. 2.651] building in Pompeii; it is of an oblong form, 220 feet in length by 80 in breadth, and abutted endwise on the Forum, from which it was entered by a vestibule with five doorways. The roof was supported by a peristyle of 28 Ionic columns of large size, but built of brick, coated with stucco. There is a raised tribunal at the further end, but no apse, which is usually found in buildings of this class. Numerous inscriptions were found scratched on the walls of this edifice, one of which is interesting, as it gives the date of the consulship of M. Lepidus and Q. Catulus (B.C. 78), and thus proves the building to have been erected before that time. Between this edifice and the temple is a street of greater width than usual, which extends from the Forum in a westerly direction, and probably communicated with the port. The Temple of Venus, on the N. side of this street, was an extensive building consisting of a peripteral temple with a small cella, elevated on a podium or basement, surrounded by a much more extensive portico, and the whole again enclosed by a wall, forming the peribolus or sacred enclosure. All parts of the building are profusely decorated with painting. The temple itself is Corinthian, but the columns of the portico seem to have been originally Doric, though afterwards clumsily transformed into Corinthian, or rather an awkward imitation of Corinthian. This is only one among many instances found at Pompeii of very defective architecture, as well as of the frequent changes which the buildings of the city had undergone, and which were still in progress when the city itself was destroyed. The buildings at the NW. corner of the Forum are devoid of architectural character, and seem to have served as the public granaries and prisons.

TEMPLE OF VENUS. (The Forum and Temple of Jupiter in the background.)

The open area of the Forum was paved, like that of Rome, with broad slabs of a kind of marble, thus showing that it was never designed for the traffic of any kind of vehicles. It is moreover probable that the whole space, including the porticoes which surrounded it, could be closed at night, or whenever it was required, by iron gates at the several entrances. It was adorned with numerous statues, the pedestals of which still remain: they are all of white marble, but the statues themselves have uniformly disappeared. It is probable either that they had not been re-erected during the process of restoration which the Forum was undergoing, or that they had been searched for and carried off by excavations soon after the destruction of the city.

The remaining public buildings of the city may be more briefly described. Besides the temples which surrounded the Forum, the remains of four others have been discovered; three of which are situated in the immediate vicinity of the theatres, a quarter which appears to have had more of architectural ornament than any other part of the city, except the Forum. Of these the most interesting is one which stood a little to the SW. of the great theatre, near the wall of the city, and which is evidently much more ancient than any of the other temples at Pompeii: it is of the Doric order and of pure Greek style, but of very ancient character, much resembling that of Neptune at Paestum and the oldest temples at Selinus. Unfortunately only the basement and a few capitals and other architectural fragments remain. It is commonly called the Temple of Hercules, but it is obvious that such a name is purely conjectural. It stood in an open area of considerable extent, and of a triangular form, surrounded on two sides by porticoes: but this area, which is commonly called a Forum, has been evidently constructed at a much later period, and with no reference to the temple, which is placed very awkwardly in relation to it. Another temple in the same quarter of the town, immediately adjoining the great theatre, is interesting because we learn with certainty from an inscription that it was consecrated to Isis, and had been rebuilt by N. Popidius Celsinus “from the foundations” after its overthrow in the great earthquake of A.D. 63. It is of a good style of architecture, but built chiefly of brick covered with stucco (only the capitals and shafts of the columns being of a soft stone), and is of small size. Like most of the temples at Pompeii, it consists of a cella, raised on an elevated podium, and surrounded externally by a more extensive portico. Adjoining this temple was another, the smallest yet found at Pompeii, and in no way remarkable. It has been variously called the temple of Aesculapius, and that of Jupiter and Juno.

The only temple which remains to be noticed is one situated about 60 yards N. of the Forum at the angle formed by the long main street leading to the gate of Nola, with a short broad street which led from it direct to the Forum. This was the Temple of Fortune, as we learn from an inscription [p. 2.652] and was erected by a certain M. Tullius, a citizen and magistrate of Pompeii, who has been supposed to be of the family of Cicero; but the absence of the cognomen renders this highly improbable. The epithet of Fortuna Augusta shows that the temple and its inscription are not earlier than the time of Augustus. It is much in ruins, having probably suffered severely from the earthquake of 63; and has little architectural effect.

Pompeii possessed two Theatres and an Amphitheatre. The former were situated, as seems to have been usual in Greek towns, close together; the larger one being intended and adapted for theatrical performances properly so called; the smaller one serving as an Odeum, or theatre for music. Both are unquestionably of Roman date: the larger one was erected (as we learn from an inscription found in it) by two members of the same family, M. Holconius Rufus and M. Holconius Celer, both of whom appear to have held high civil offices in the municipal government of Pompeii. The period of its construction may probably be referred to the reign of Augustus. The smaller theatre seems to be of earlier date, and was erected at the public expense under the direction of the Duumviri or chief magistrates of the city. The large Theatre is to a considerable extent excavated out of the side of a hill, on the slope of which it was situated, thus saving a considerable amount of the expense of construction. But the exterior was still surrounded by a wall, a part of which always rose above the surface of the soil, so that it is singular it should not have long before led to the discovery of the buried city. Its internal disposition and arrangements, without exactly coinciding with the rules laid down by Vitruvius, approach sufficiently near to them to show that it was constructed on the Roman, and not the Greek model. Its architect (as we learn from an inscription) was a freedman of the name of M. Artorius Primus. It seems to have been almost wholly cased or lined with marble, but the greater part of this, as well as the other decorations of the building, has been carried away by former excavations, probably made soon after the catastrophe. The interior diameter of the building is 223 feet: it had 29 rows of seats, divided into three stories by galleries or praecinctiones, and was capable of containing about 5000 spectators. The smaller Theatre, which communicated with the larger by a covered portico on the level of the orchestra, was not above a fourth of the size of the other, being adapted to receive only about 1500 spectators. We learn from an inscription that it was covered or permanently roofed in, a rare thing with ancient theatres, and doubtless owing to its small size. Its chief architectural peculiarity is that the seats are cut off by the walls at the two sides, so that it is only the lower seats of the cavea, of which the semicircle is complete.

Adjoining the two theatres, and arranged so as to have a direct communication with both, is a large quadrangular court or area (183 feet long by 148 wide), surrounded on all sides by a Doric portico. Its destination is very uncertain, it has been called a provision market (Forum Nundinarium); but is more generally regarded as having served for the barracks or quarters of the soldiers. Perhaps a more plausible conjecture is that it was a barrack, not of soldiers but of gladiators. On the W. of this, as well as of the great theatre, was the triangular area or forum already noticed, in which the Greek temple was situated. The opening of this on the N., where it communicated with the street, was ornamented by a portico or Propylaeum composed of eight Ionic columns of very elegant style, but consisting of the common volcanic tufo, cased with stucco.

The Amphitheatre is situated at the distance of above 500 yards from the Theatres, at the extreme SE. angle of the city. It offers no very remarkable differences from other edifices of the same kind; its dimensions (430 feet by 335) are not such as to place it in the first rank even of provincial structures of the class; and from being in great part excavated out of the soil, it has not the imposing architectural character of the amphitheatres of Verona, Nemausus, or Pola. It had 24 rows of seats, and about 20,000 feet of sitting-room, so that it was adapted to receive at least 10,000 spectators. From one of the inscriptions found in it, it appears that it was built, or at least commenced, by two local magistrates, named C. Quinctius Valgus and M. Porcins, after the establishment of the colony under Augustus, and probably in the reign of that emperor.

The only public building which remains to be noticed is that of the Thermae or Baths, which were situated in the neighbourhood of the Forum, adjoining the short street which led into it from the Temple of Fortune. They have no pretence to vie with the magnificent suites of buildings which bore the name of Thermae at Rome, and in some other great cities; but are interesting as containing a complete suite of all apartments really required for bathing, and from their good preservation throw much light upon all similar remains. The details of their construction and arrangement are fully given in the Dictionary of Antiquities [art. BALNEAE], as well as in the works specially devoted to Pompeii.

It is impossible here to enter into any details concerning the results of the excavations in regard to the private dwellings at Pompeii, though these are, in many respects, the most interesting, from the light they have thrown upon the domestic life of the ancient inhabitants, their manners and usages, as well as from the artistic beauty and variety of the objects discovered. A few words on the general character of the houses and other private buildings of Pompeii are all that our space will admit of. As these are almost the only remains of a similar kind that have been preserved to us, it must be borne in mind that they can hardly be regarded as representing in their purity the arrangements either of the Greek or Roman mode of building. On the one hand Pompeii, though strongly tinctured with Greek civilisation, was not a Greek city; on the other hand, though there is no doubt that the houses at Pompeii present much more the Roman plan and arrangement than that of the Greeks, we must not conclude that they represent them in all respects. We know, at least, that Rome itself was built in many respects in a very different manner. Cicero, in a wellknown passage, contrasts the narrow streets, the lofty houses, and irregular construction of the capital with the broad streets and regular arrangement of Capua, resulting from its position in a level plain; and it is clear that, in some respects, Pompeii more resembled the capital of Campania than the imperial city. Its streets indeed (as al. ready stated) were narrow, but with few exceptions straight and regular, and the houses were certainly low, seldom exceeding two stories in height; and even of these the upper story seems to have consisted [p. 2.653] only of inferior rooms, a kind of garrets, probably serving for the sleeping-rooms of slaves, and in some cases of the females of the family. From the mode of destruction of the city the upper stories have indeed been almost uniformly totally destroyed; but this circumstance itself, as well as the few traces which occasionally remain, seems to prove that they were built wholly of wood, and could never have formed an important part of the houses. It is only on the W. side of the city, where the ground slopes steeply towards the sea, that houses are found which consisted of three stories or more. Externally the houses had little or nothing of an ornamental character; not a single instance has been found of a portico before a private house; and towards the street they presented either dead walls, with here and there a few small and scanty openings as windows, or ranges of shops, for the most part low and mean in character, even when they occupied (as was often the case) the front of dwellings of a superior description. The interior of the houses of the more wealthy class was arranged apparently on the same model as those at Rome: its disposition is given in detail in the Dictionary of Antiquities under the article DOMUS where a plan is given of the House of Pansa, one of the most extensive and complete of those found at Pompeii. In this case the single house with its garden and appurtenances, including as usual several shops, occupied the whole of an insula or the space bounded by four streets or alleys: but this was unusual; in most cases each insula comprised several houses even where they were of a better description, and must have been the residence of persons of some wealth. Among the most remarkable of these may be mentioned the dwellings known as the House of Sallust, that of the Tragic Poet, of Castor and Pollux, of the Labyrinth, &c. The work of Dr. Overbeck (above cited) gives a very interesting series of these houses, selected so as to afford examples of every description of house, from the humblest dwelling, consisting of only two rooms, to the richly decorated and spacious mansions of Sallust and Pansa.

The style of decoration of these houses presents a very general uniformity of character.. The walls are almost invariably ornamented with painting, the atrium and peristyle being decorated with columns; but these are composed only of a soft and coarse stone (volcanic tufo) covered with stucco. The prodigal use of marble, both for columns and slabs to encrust the walls, which had become so general at Rome under the first emperors, apparently not having yet found its way to Pompeii. The floors are generally enriched with mosaics, some of which possess a very high degree of merit as works of art. The most beautiful yet discovered adorned the house known as the House of the Faun, from a bronze statue of a dancing Faun which was also found in it. The illustrations to Gell's Pompeiana (2nd series, Lond. 1835) will convey to the reader a sufficient idea of the number and variety of the artistic decorations of the private houses at Pompeii; though several of the most richly ornamented have been discovered since the date of its publication.

Outside the gate leading to Herculaneum, in a kind of suburb, stands a house of a different description, being a suburban villa of considerable extent, and adapted to have been the abode of a person of considerable wealth. From the greater space at command this villa comprises much that is not found in the houses within the town; among others a large court or garden (Xystus), a complete suite of private baths, &c. The remains of this villa are of much value and interest for comparison with the numerous ruins which occur elsewhere of similar buildings, often on a much more extensive scale, but in a far less perfect state of preservation; as well as for assisting us to understand the descriptions given by Pliny and Vitruvius of similar structures, with their numerous appurtenances. (For the details of their arrangements the reader is referred to the article VILLA, in the Dictionary of Antiquities, and to the work on Pompeii, Lond. 1832, vol. ii. ch. 11.) Between this villa and the gate of the city are the remains of another villa, said to be on a larger scale and more richly decorated than the one just described; but its ruins, which were excavated in 1764, were filled up again, and are not now visible. It has been called, though without the slightest authority, the Villa of Cicero. The one still extant is commonly known as the Villa of Arrius Diomedes, but for no other reason than that


[p. 2.654]

a sepulchre bearing that name was discovered near its entrance; a very slight argument, where almost the whole street is bordered with tombs. In fact, the approach to the gate of Herculaneum is bounded on both sides by rows of tombs or sepulchral monuments, extending with only occasional interruptions for above 400 yards. Many of them are on a very considerable scale, both of size and architectural character; and though they cannot vie with the enormous mausolea which border in a similar manner the line of the Via Appia near Rome, they derive additional interest from the perfect state of preservation in which they remain ; and the Street of the Tombs, as it is commonly called, is perhaps one of the most interesting scenes at Pompeii. The monuments are for the most part those of persons who had held magistracies, or other offices, in the city of Pompeii, and in many cases the site was assigned them by public authority. It is therefore probable that this place of sepulture, immediately outside the gate and on one of the principal approaches to the city, was regarded as peculiarly honourable.

Besides the tombs and the two villas already noticed, there have been found the remains of shops and small houses outside the gate of Herculaneum, and there would appear to have been on this side of the city a considerable suburb. This is supposed to be the one designated in the sepulchral inscription of M. Arrius Diomedes as the “Pagus Augustus Felix Suburbanus.” We have as yet no evidence of the existence of any suburbs outside the other gates. It is evident that any estimate of the population of Pompeii must be very vague and uncertain; but still from our accurate knowledge of the space it occupied, as well as the character of the houses, we may arrive at something like an approximation, and it seems certain that the population of the town itself could not have exceeded about 20,000 persons. This is in accordance with the statements of ancient writers, none of whom would lead us to regard Pompeii as having been more than a second or third rate provincial town.

The inscriptions found at Pompeii, which are often incorrectly given in the ordinary works on the subject, are carefully edited by Mommsen, in his Inscriptiones Regni Neapolitani (pp. 112--122). These do not, however, include a class of much interest, and peculiar to Pompeii, the inscriptions of a temporary kind which were rudely painted on the walls, or scratched on the plaster of the houses and public buildings. It is remarkable that several of these are in the Oscan dialect, and seem to prove that the use of that ancient language must have continued down to a much later period than is commonly supposed. [OSCI]. But the public or official use of the Oscan seems to have ceased after the Social War, and the numerous inscriptions of a public character which belong to the age of Augustus and his successors are uniformly in the Latin language.


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.5.39
    • Cicero, For Sulla, 21
    • Tacitus, Annales, 14.17
    • Tacitus, Annales, 15.22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 38
    • Cicero, Lucullus, 9
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