Inner court of the house of Marcus Lucretius
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
We have here the remains of a once palatial dwelling, richly fitted up, its very ruins giving every indication of its former elegance. In the fairy-like garden, which originally was laid out with considerable artistic skill, you perceive a double fountain. The part against the opposite wall consists of a circular niche with shell-like ceiling, beneath which is a marble figure. Behind it is a water tower ; the water coming from it enters the fountain above the head of the marble statue and pours down the shell-like grooves of the ceiling and the inner sides of the niche ; then it flows down the marble steps, a series of miniature waterfalls, until it reaches the last step, which is so arranged that it is directed down the marble inclined plane into the circular fountain in the center of the garden, round about which are beautiful pieces of statuary and statuettes. When this house was first discovered, some fine frescoes were found here, but in order to better protect them from the action of the elements they were removed to the Museum at Naples.
Carbonized blossoms of the pomegranate, which generally blooms in July, were found here. This seems a little remarkable in view of the generally accepted date of the catastrophe, that given by Pliny, the last of August.
Almost every house thus far discovered in Pompeii has, centuries ago, been rifled of its choicest treasures. This accounts for the fact that while much of value must have been buried in such a house as this of Marcus Lucretius, yet but comparatively little has been found. About one hundred and fifty years ago, a cameo with a comic mask was discovered in Pompeii. Charles III had it mounted in a ring, which he wore for years. On leaving Naples to assume the crown of Spain, he drew it from his finger, saying that, unlike those who had conducted excavations be-fore, he would carry away nothing from the kingdom he had governed so long, and ordered it to be placed in the Museum. It is a pity that others were not actuated by the same unselfish spirit. Among the rings found were twelve having the design of the palm branch, two with a fish, and three with a bird, and one with palm and anchor, emblems such as were commonly worn by Christians alone and which suggests the question, " Were there Christians in Pompeii? " A double gold ring was also found, which appears to have been a wedding ring.
The name of the proprietor of this palace was learned from a letter painted on the wall and addressed to " M. Lucretio Flam. Martis decurioni Pompei." Wall artists have their real mission, you see, and the names of not a few structures, or of their occupants, have been discovered in this way. Even the ancient wall-scribblers have done us good service, since several important buildings in Pompeii, notably the Basilica, have been identified by means of their productions. Some of these scribblers lapse into a comic mood, and other wax sentimental, and still others become defiant and threatening. Witness this strain which was written on the outer wall of the very house upon which we are gazing :
"If any man shall seek
My girl from me to turn, On far-off mountains bleak
May love the scoundrel burn ! "
It is difficult to get any adequate idea of the beauty and elegance of these Pompeian houses from their ruins. We will now turn to one that has been completely restored.