Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/65

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51
PoMPEii


been quiescent ever since the first records of the Greek settlements in this part of Italy. Pompeii in ancient times was a prosperous seaport town situated close to the seashore, from which it is now nearly 2 m. distant, and adjoining the mouth of the river Sarnus or Sarno, which now enters the sea nearly 2 m. from its site. The present course of this stream is due in part to modern alteration of its channel, as well as to the effects of the great eruption. The prosperity of Pompeii was due partly to its commerce, as the port of the neighbouring towns, partly to the fertility of its territory, which produced strong wine, olive oil (a comparatively small quantity), and vegetables; fish sauces were made here. Millstones and pumice were also exported, but for the former the more gritty lava of Rocca Monfina was later on preferred. .

The area occupied by the ancient city was of an irregular oval form, and about 2 m. in circumference. It was surrounded by a wall, which is still preserved for more than two-thirds of its extent, but no traces of this are found on the side towards the sea, and there is no doubt that on this side it had been already demolished in ancient times, so as to give room for the free extension of houses and other buildings in that direction* These walls are strengthened at intervals by numerous towers, occupying the full width of the wall, which occur in some parts at a distance of only about 100 yds., but in general much less frequently. They are, however, of a different style of construction from the walls, and appear to have been added at a later period, probably that of the Social War. Similar evidences of the addition of subsequent defences are to be traced also in the case of the gates, of which no less than eight are found in the existing circuit of the walls. Some of these present a very elaborate system of defence, but it is evident from the decayed condition of others, as well as of parts of the walls and towers, that they had ceased to be maintained for the purposes of fortification long before the destruction of the city. The names by which the gates and streets are known are entirely of modern origin.-The

general plan of the town is very regular, the streets being generally straight, and crossing one another at right angles or nearly so. But exceptions are found on the west in the street leading from the Porta Ercolanese (gate of Herculaneum) to the forum, which, though it must have been one of the principal thoroughfares in the city, was crooked and irregular, as well as very narrow, in some parts not exceeding 12 to 14 ft. in width, including the raised footpaths on each side, which occupy a. considerable part of the space, so that the carriage-way could only have admitted of the passage of one vehicle at a time. The explanation is that it follows the line of the demolished city wall. Another exception is to be found in the Strada Stabiana (Stabian Street) or Cardo, which, owing to the existence of a natural depression which affects also the line of the street just east of it, is not parallel to the other north and south streets. The other main streets are in some cases broader, but rarely exceed 20 ft. in width, and the broadest yet found is about 32, while the back streets running parallel to the main lines are only about 14 ft. (It is to be remembered, however, that the standard width of a Roman highroad in the neighbourhood of Rome itself is about 14 ft.) They are uniformly paved with large polygonal blocks of hard basaltic lava, fitted very closely together, though now in many cases marked with deep ruts from the passage of vehicles in ancient times. They are also in all cases bordered by raised footways on both sides, paved in a similar manner; and for the convenience of foot-passengers, which was evidently a more important consideration than the obstacle which the arrangement presented to the passage of vehicles, which indeed were probably only allowed for goods traffic, these are connected from place to place by stepping-stones raised above the level of the carriage-way. In other respects they must have resembled those of Oriental cities-the living apartments all opening towards the interior, and showing only blank walls towards 1 it consisted of two parallel stone walls with buttresses, about I5 ft. apart and 28 in. thick, the intervening space being filled with earth, and there being an embankment on the inner side. the street; while the windows were generally to be found only in the upper storey, and were in all cases small and insignificant, without any attempt at architectural effect. In some instances indeed the monotony of their external appearance was broken by small shops, occupying the front of the principal houses, and let off separately; these were in some cases numerous enough to form a continuous facade to the street. This is seen especially in the case of the street from the Porta Ercolanese to the forum and the Strada Stabiana (or Cardo), both ofwhich were among the most frequented thoroughfares. The streets were 'also diversified by fountains, small Water-towers and reservoirs (of which an especially interesting example was found in 1902 close to the Porta del'Vesuvio) and street shrines. The source of the water-supply is unknown.

The first-mentioned of the two principal streets was crossed, a little before it reached the forum, by the street which led directly to the gate of Nola (Strada delle Terme, della Fortuna, and di Nola). Parallel to this last to the south is a street which runs from the Porta Marina through the forum, and then, with a slight turn, to the Sarno gate, thus traversing the whole area of the city from east to west (Via Marina, Strada dell' Abbondanza, Strada dei Diadumeni). These two east and west streets are the two decumani.

The population of Pompeii at the time of its destruction cannot be hxed with certainty, but it may very likely have exceeded 20,000. It was of a mixed character; both Oscan and Greek inscriptions are still found up to the last, and, though there is no trace whatever of Christianity, evidences of the presence of Jews are not lacking-such are a wall-painting, probably representing the Judgment of Solomon, and a scratched inscription on a wall, “ Sodoma, Gomora.” It has been estimated, from the number of skeletons discovered, that about 2000 persons perished in the city itself in the eruption of A.D. 79.* Almost the whole portion of the city which lies to the west of the Strada Stabiana, towards the forum and the sea, has been more or less completely excavated. It is over one-half of the whole extent, and that the most important portion, inasmuch as it includes the forum, with the temples and public buildings adjacent to it, the thermae, theatres, amphitheatre, &c. The greater part of that on the other side of the Strada Stabiana remains still unexplored, with the exception of the amphitheatre, and a small space in its immediate neighbourhood. The forum at Pompeii was, as at Rome itself and in all other Italian cities, the focus and centre of all the life and movement of the city. Hence it was surrounded on all sides by public buildings or edilices of a commanding character. It was not, however, of large size, as compared to the open spaces in modern towns, being only 467 ft. in length by 126 in breadth (excluding the colonnades). Nor was it accessible to any description of wheeled carriages, and the nature of its pavement, composed of broad flags of t raver tine, shows that it was only intended for foot-passengers. It was adorned with numerous statues, some of the imperial family, others of distinguished citizens. Some of the inscribed pedestals of the latter have been found. It was surrounded on three sides by a series of porticos supported on columns; and these porticos were originally surmounted by a gallery or upper storey, traces of the staircases leading to which still remain, though the gallery itself has altogether disappeared. It is, however, certain from the existing remains that both this portico and the adjacent buildings had suffered severely from the earthquake of 63, and that they were undergoing a process of restoration, involving material changes in the- original arrangements, which was still incomplete at the time of their final destruction. 'The north end of the forum, where alone the portico is wanting, is occupied in great part by the imposing temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva being also worshipped here. It was raised on, a podium ro ft. high, and had a portico with six Corinthian columns in front. This magnificent edifice had, however, been evidently overthrown by the earthquake of 63, and is in its present condition a mere ruin, the rebuilding of which had not been begun at the time of the eruption, so that the cult of