網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

was overwhelmed and suffocated by the fiery mass which rolled forth from the mountain, and fell a victim to his own curiosity, and love of natural science.

Herculaneum, being near the foot of Vesuvius, is covered with solid lava, and successive eruptions, which have overflown it, have buried it to the depth of from twenty to a hundred feet. Thus, most that has been done there, is by excavations, and one must pass under this immense bed of lava to see the parts of the city which have been explored. The first discovery of the place in modern times, was made by a peasant at Portici, A. D. 1713. While digging a well, he came to some pieces of mosaic, and further researches brought to light valuable statues and other curiosities. Little was effected, however, until 1736, when the king of Naples took the matter in hand, and all done since has been under the direction of government.

The distance of Pompeii from the base of the mountain is such, that the streams of lava did not reach it. A bed, or rather a succession of distinct layers, of pumice stone, ashes, and cinder, buried the city to the depth of fifteen or twenty feet. The fact that substances were found there, either burned or melted, shows that in some parts of the city there must have been fires, caused probably by the red-hot stones that fell. Pompeii was discovered about 1750, by some peasants who were at work in a vineyard. It is evident, however, that some places, containing articles of the greatest value, had been examined long before this, and probably soon after they were buried. The walls of the city are four miles in circumference, and though the French, while in power here, prosecuted the work of disinterring with much vigor, still less than half of the place has been uncovered. It is computed, that in twelve months a thousand men would clear the whole remaining space within the walls. At present, a few laborers only are at work, and the highest and most interesting portion of the city still remains to be explored. Just before our visit, a human skeleton was found, which, when we were there, was lying in one of the walled enclosures. The whole number of skeletons found is about three hundred, of which sixty-three were in what is called the Forum Nundinanium, or more commonly the Barracks. Thirty-four were in a single group, and the rest scattered here and there. It is supposed, from the armour near and upon them, that these were soldiers, who, knowing that by the Ronan law death was the penalty of learing their stations, died at their posts.

The temple of Isis is a place of much interest, not only from its perfect preservation, but also from the numerous distinct relics found there of its former occupants, and the religious rites which they practised. It is well known that the Romans adopted the gods of all the nations whom they conquered, but those brought from Egypt far exceeded those from any other country, except Greece, as may be seen by examining the museums and other collections of ancient statuary at Rome, Naples, and elsewhere. This was in a great degree owing to the extensive commerce carried on between Alexandria and Rome. The temple referred to above is much smaller and less imposing than others at Pompeii, being but little more than sixty feet in diameter, each way; but then upon the walls were paintings of the priests, with their shaven crowns, white robes, and woven shoes, just like the friars of the present day. There too were the boys who assisted them, with just such short white tunics as are worn by those who attend the Catholic priests, when ministering at the altar. The presiding deity also occupied a niche like those of the saints at the present day, while on the altar, instead of the sacrifice of the mass, - the real body and blood of Christ,

there were the cinders and burnt bones of the animals offered there. The priests were probably dining when the eruption occurred, as in one of the apartments à table was found, with a human skeleton near it, and the bones of fowls and fish, a faded garland of flowers, eating utensils, and the remains of eggs, bread, and wine. Another skeleton was leaning against the wall, with the axe used in sacrifices in his hand, while others near had the same instrument, probably with the design of cutting through the door, that thus they might escape. One of these priests seems to have attempted to carry off the treasures of the temple, but was overwhelmed near the Tragic Theatre. Beside his skeleton were found three hundred and sixty coins of silver, forty-two of bronze, and eight of gold, all secured in a cloth so strong as to have sustained no injury during the seventeen centuries which they had been there.

In one place were four skeletons embracing each other, supposed to be those of a mother and her three children, who clung to each other for security in that wild and fearful hour of sudden and awful destruction. In another place were the bones of a lady, who had perished with her rings and other ornaments upon her, while scattered around were her costly

11

VOL. I.

mirrors, and various other articles of luxury and pride, which she used in gratifying her taste and adorning her person. It were easy to fill a volume in pursuing the mournful detail of what was found in this City of the Dead ; but suffice it to say, as to those who perished, many of them doubtless preferred the chance of safety there was in continuing in their houses, to the imminent danger there was in exposing themselves during the awful darkness which prevailed, to the deadly sulphureous vapors, and the destructive showers of red-hot stones and boiling water, which ever and anon were pouring down.

The houses of Pompeii were from one to four stories high, built of stone, which was covered with plaster and painted. The roofs were flat, and were broken in by the weight of stones and ashes which fell upon them. The lower stories had small windows, with shutters of wood, while in the second story there was glass in thick, small panes. In some of the baths and public buildings, however, there were large squares of glass, of a fine quality. Most of the paintings, statues, household furniture, ornaments, coins, domestic and religious utensils, surgeon's instruments, and other articles without number, found in these buried cities, may be seen in the vast Museum at Naples, called the Studii. Between five and six hundred manuscripts have also been discovered, many of which were in a single small room at Herculaneum. They are unrolled by means of numerous silk threads, passed between the folds of the burnt parchment or papyrus. These are moved by a screw, and as fast as a fold is parted from the mass, it is secured by paper and

The English have, in tines past, done much at this business, and though some works of interest have been brought to light, yet I am not aware that any thing of high importance, that is new, has been discovered. I have not time here to describe the spa. cious Forum and the costly temples of the gods, with their massive columns, and the altars of pagan sacrifice, just as they were seventeen centuries ago. Nor can we pause to examine the shops and houses, showing, as they do most fully, the habits and domestic economy of the old Romans. A light is thus thrown upon the darkness of the past, such as no other means could supply, and it is with emotions of no common interest, that one wanders through this City of the Dead, and marks the traces of those who once were there. He sees the pavements of the streets deeply worn with wheels, as if it had been done but yesterday. The basins of the fountains, and the mouths of stone from which the water poured, are all in their places. He enters the court of a private dwelling, and, raising a small flat slab of marble, he sees the pipes of iron branching off, by which water was carried to the various apartments, and lying by them is the key by which the pipes were opened, and which even now fits well to its place. He wanders through the halls and sleeping apartments of the houses, all unchanged, even to the paintings on the walls, the mosaics of the floors, and the shrines where the household gods were worshipped. In the shops, too, he sees the oven of the bakers, the large earthen jars for oil and wine, the places where food was prepared, and even marks of the cups from which liquors were drank. But what are all these to the train of moral reflections excited in the mind; and how aptly does the language of our Saviour, in which he speaks of the cities of the plain, apply to Pompeii and Herculaneum. “ They did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” But in this case there was also another mournful point of analogy. I will give it in the language of one of our own countrymen, only premising that his recollections are such as are forced upon the mind of every virtuous man, by beholding the scenes to which he refers. When speaking of the subject in question, he says, “Some of the decorations, if such they may be called, found in the dwellinghouses of the two buried cities, manisest a degree of licentiousness of morals and grossness of vice, to which modern society, in the lowest depths of degradation, can probably furnish no parallel. There is reason to believe, that these depravations of mind and taste were not confined to particular classes of the community, or concealed from public view. The picture of the corruptions of the age, which is drawn in a passage of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, is forcibly illustrated by the contents of one of the rooms in the Studii at Naples. Sodom and Gomorrah, when, like Pompeii and Herculaneum, they were deluged with fire and overwhelmed in ruin, could not have sunk to greater depths of depravity, or have presented vice under more brutal and disgusting, forms."

gum Arabic.

During our cruise in the Mediterranean, we spent, at different times, about two months and a half at Naples, and many an amusing or exciting scene arises to my memory, when reverting to what transpired there, and to incidents connected with numerous interesting excursions in the surrounding region. Now I think of the groups of ragged young Lazaroni, who, for a few coppers, would play a thousand antic tricks, with such glee and humor, as, for the time, to lead one to feel that poverty and mirth are next door neighbours. Then comes up a rencontre with some of the numerous pickpockets who infest the city, and with the utmost adroitness extract pockethandkerchiefs from the skirt pockets of those who are so unwary as to carry them there. The shoulders of some of these knaves could testify to an intimate acquaintance with a heavy bamboo cane, which was repeatedly used in giving them their deserts, but which, at length, like many a faithful minister of justice, fell a victim to lawless violence, and was borne off in triumph by a troop of banditti.

One day, when strolling about the city, viewing the thousand and one objects of curiosity to be met with there, my attention was attracted by an eager and excited group at the corner of one of the streets. The actors, and most of the lookers-on, were but a single grade above the Lazaroni, and were most earnestly engaged in a puppy auction! I had thought before, that I had seen almost every odd kind of business transaction, from a Spanish hog lottery upwards, but here was something new under the sun, and so I stopped to moralize. The vagabond auctioneer was holding up their little dogships as high as he could reach, and shouting rapidly, and at the top of his voice, the successive bids and bidders, and all seemed as much absorbed in what was going on, as their more deluded betters, when, in times of mad speculation, they eagerly bid their thousands for stock in wildcat banks, and wooden railroads, and for western city-lots. These puppy buyers had something real placed before them, in which they took a lively interest, for

“Little things are great to little minds." They may, too, have thus secured the kind companionship of an attached and faithful dog, to protect and cheer them in their loneliness and poverty; or, if what they bought was worthless, it cost them but little, and they could easily rid themselves of it. Such, however, is not the lot of him, who, lured by eager thirst for gain, bids away his all for what is worse than worthless to him, and in a moment brings himself, and those dependent on him, down from affluence to

« 上一頁繼續 »