Model of the ruins of Pompeii
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
In this model we have spread out before us most of the town, as it now appears. We can see that it must have been a populous place, as indeed it was, since it had twenty thousand inhabitants or more, and of these less than two thousand perished. The town has three principal streets, two of which extend from right to left, or east to west, and but one from north to south. This latter street, the Strada Stabiana, we see stretching away in front of us. At the south-ern extremity of this street is the Porta di Stabia.
Nearer us, and to the right, is the Teatro Coperto - the small theater which was used for the rendering of musical pieces, and which accommodated fifteen hundred spectators. The building was constructed in 78 B. C. An inscription informs us that the marble pavement of the orchestra was presented by M. Oculatius Verus, a duumvir. To the left is the Great Theater, called the Teatro Scoperto. This building was probably erected some years after the smaller theater and both were constructed of brick, but faced inside and out with marble. This structure was used for performances upon the stage, probably Greek verses and plays. Behind the orchestra is a long narrow stage in front of which is a depression in the ground for the rising and falling of the curtain. The rear wall of the stage has three doors, according to ancient custom. Back of the stage was the dressing-room. Beyond the theater, just over the extremity of the left wall, is the ancient reservoir from which saffron water was sprinkled upon the spectators as a means of refreshment on a hot day. The building seated about five thousand people. The stone rings for the poles supporting the awning, which was spread over the building on hot or rainy days, may still be seen at the top of the encircling wall. At this end of the theater are the remains of the quarters for the gladiators, originally a portico attached to the building consisting of seventy-four columns. As Kelsey says, " the promenade for theatergoers became barracks." Here were a number of separate cells for gladiators and rooms for the various officials. One of these chambers was used as a prison in which, when the city was destroyed, there were three prisoners. In the excitement accompanying the great catastrophe they were overlooked and left to perish. Three skeletons and iron stocks for the feet were discovered here. Sixty other bodies and a number of gladiatorial weapons were found in this building, also the skeleton of a dog which appears to have died in great agony.
Over the left wall of the Great Theater may be seen an open space which was the Triangular Forum, surrounded on three sides by a splendid arcade composed of ninety-five noble columns, some of which are standing. The south side, the one next the sea, was open. It was used principally as a lounging place by the frequenters of the theater and contained a statue of Marcellus with an inscription. There also was a Temple of Minerva, one hundred feet long and sixty-seven feet wide surrounded by columns. Only a few fragments of walls and columns remain. This complete ruin was, perhaps, the result of the earth-quake of the year 63, rather than of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A. D.
Over the northern or circular wall of the Great Theater may be seen two rectangular structures ad-joining one another. The one to the right is the Temple of Isis. This also was damaged in the shock of 63, but, as an inscription over the entrance informs us, it was restored by a lad six years of age at his own expense, and in recognition of his liberality, he was received into the rank of the decurions and his name, Numerius Popidius Celsinus, was engraved upon the wall of the building. The temple, as was customary with such structures, had a court surrounded by columns in which were found several altars and a shrine where ablutions were performed. The building beside it on the left is the Palaestra or open air gymnasium, with a court surrounded with tall columns, some of which are standing. There was found what is wrongly restored as a doryphorus, or spear-bearer, but which was probably a Hermes. It is now in the Neapolitan Museum. The street which skirts the north side of these buildings is called the Street of the Temple of Isis. The street north of this one is the Street of Abundance, whose western extremity we saw at the southeastern corner of the Forum. If you will glance along Stabian Street, the long street which extends away in front of us, you will see near its farther extremity an open space beyond a wall on the right-hand side of the street. That is the courtyard of the Central Baths and beyond its north wall, extending to the right and left, is the Strada di Nola, or the Street of Fortune. In the extreme background of this model you notice white level patches elevated above the walls of the excavated houses. Well, as doubtless you have inferred, they represent the portions of the town not yet excavated. The northern extremity of the Strada Stabiana, as we see it, ends at one of these, and on the western side of the white patch which obstructs the street, and near its southern corner, is a model of the house of the Vettii, which we shall visit presently. As the eye travels along the Strada Stabiana, it rests upon a square tower at the point where this street is crossed by the Street of Abundance. That is the remains of a water tower which partially supplied the building northeast of it, the Baths of Stabiana, with water. Now if you will count the rows of stepping-stones which cross this street, until you come to the fourth, north of the tower, you will then be at the point where the Vico di Lucrezio enters this north and south thoroughfare, and the house situated midway between that street and the courtyard of the Central Baths is that of Lucretius, to which we shall pay a visit.
In the extreme left-hand upper portion of this model you will see a long street extending nearly north and south. That is Mercury Street, and it was the Fifth Avenue of Pompeii, the most spacious houses being erected there. At its northern extremity was the city wall and its southern terminus was the Forum.
Glancing over this forest of brick walls, this unroofed city - for the roof beams being of wood gave way under the weight of the superimposed mass which rested upon them to the depth of from twenty to thirty feet, the result of several eruptions - we must not fall into the error of thinking that its art or its edifices were inferior to those of Herculaneum. True, the chief treasures of the Neapolitan Museum came from Herculaneum and some of the houses of this latter town are of more than one story, but the Pompeiians had more time in which to remove articles of value and the walls of the upper stories of its houses, some of them being three stories high, protruding above the ashes and lava, were either taken apart and used in other structures or worn away by the action of the elements. There is no reason why either town should have been superior to the other since, in their situation and essential character, they were almost identical, both being at that time practically on the bay shore, and a resort for eminent and wealthy Romans. Both towns were under Roman rule, but each was left pretty much to govern itself ; their greatest burden being to pay a tribute of men in case of war.
Now that we have gained from this model an idea of the general aspect of the disinterred city, let us look at the actual street of Stabia, as it appears to-day. The map shows what our position is to be.