Chapter I - General plan

Preface Contents Chapter 2

The plan of the recent excavations in the vicinity of the Forum is given for the purpose of adding to the map of the city, published in the year 1821, a portion which is requisite for the better connexion of the two original excavations of the theatres and the Gate of Naples. It will be observed, that the forms of the chalcidicum, the Temple of Mercury, and the adjoining edifice were known in the year 1819, when the general plan given in the second edition of the Pompeiana was published ; but that a great deficiency then existed between the chalcidicum and the house of Pansa, where the excavations had not been extensive.

Since that period, the whole of the great street connecting the Forum with the theatres has been cleared, and, as it was necessary to apply to it some name by which it might be recognized, it has received, among the custodi, the name of Strada dei Mercanti.

It would appear, by certain impediments, or stepping-stones, as well as two steps placed in this street toward the Forum, that carriages were denied access, on this side, to that place of public resort. The same difficulties exist in the street issuing from the south end of the Forum, and in that on the West ; and, though the blocks which oppose the passage have been considered only as stepping-stones to be used in the rainy season, it seems clear, from their magnitude, that they also served to prohibit the passage of wheeled carriages.

At the lower end of this street, and at the angle nearest the great theatre, is a house, excavated in the presence of the Emperor of Austria, on the portal of which was visible the name of F U S C U S. It contains, at the entrance, a boar and hounds in mosaic, and within, among other rooms, two beautiful cabinets or boudoirs, opening into the atrium, remarkable for the specimens they offer of the different styles of painting, one being decorated with compartments highly coloured with red and yellow, and the other with beautiful light tracery on a white ground. Both of these are represented in plates III and IV.

At a spot in this street, on the side opposite to the chalcidicum, may be observed three steps in the footpath, at the bottom of which, close to the wall of a house, a marble cone, ending in a sharp point, rises from the pavement to the height of about twelve inches. The house or pier adjoining is built with large and well-united blocks of stone, on one of which are the evident vestiges of a now almost illegible Oscan inscription in two lines, plastered and painted over with a sacrifice and an altar of Victory. As it seems not improbable that the ancient languages of Italy will hereafter be better understood than at present, it may be useful to give the letters as they appear, or did appear, having been carefully copied at many different periods.

This pier exhibits the marks of having been worn by frequent attrition at the height of about three feet from the pavement, but how used, or for what purpose the cone was intended, is yet an enigma. Mr. Wood, the well-known editor of the last volume of the Antiquities of Athens, having been requested to examine the spot, discovered other instances in the neighbourhood, of stones evidently worn in the same manner, which he was disposed to attribute to the chaining of slaves, or perhaps criminals, to the wall. The cone might have been the only point on which the foot could rest, and may have been used to add to the cruelty of the punishment.

The Cone, part of the Pier, and the Steps

Three houses, on the same side of the street, have received the names of the Pescatrice, the Cinghiale, and the Grazie, from the subjects found represented within their precincts. There is also a handsome and perfect doorway of stone, a rare occurrence in Pompeii, with many architectural mouldings well suited to the purpose, in the same street, which probably belonged to some building of consequence. This door is represented, with the window above it, in plate VI.

Right of the entrance, is a monkey playing the double pipes painted on the wall as a sort of guardian to the place. The stepping-stones are here repeated in the pavement, and are shown in the View. This street is about twenty-eight feet wide, and the foot-pavements, generally, extend to the breadth of six feet on each side, formed in some places of a species of hard plaster, ornamented, at intervals, with pieces of marble. The doors of several shops were found in this street to have left perfect impressions on the hard volcanic deposition, by which it is evident that the planks were united by laying the edge of one over the next in succession, as they appear in a modern boat. A small alley, perhaps a vicus, ran to the houses once known as the excavation of the Regina Carolina, now, from political motives, called the house of Adonis by the Directors, where is the beautiful picture of Perseus and Andromeda, formerly engraved. In an arched cellar, near this last-named excavation, were found, in the year 1826, the skeletons of two or more persons who had taken refuge during the fatal catastrophe of Pompeii, carrying with them four gold rings, four silver spoons, a pair of earrings, and many coins both of gold and silver. The figures of the Twelve Gods, also published, have given the modern name of Vicolo de' Dodici Dei to this passage. In a neighbouring house, once supposed by the custodi to have been that of an apothecary, was a beautiful painting of Venus supporting the wounded Adonis. His dogs lie at his feet, and a Cupid, with «purple pinions», armed with two spears, is bewailing the unfortunate hunter, in an attitude worthy of Correggio himself.

In the same house are several tasteful decorations, and, among others, marine horses occupied in a variety of gambols. A boar-hunt, executed with much spirit, seems to have given to the house the name by which it is at present known, Casa del Cinghiale.

The plate no. V is taken from the wall of an apartment in this quarter, and is given principally on account of the practicability of its application to modern decoration. It might make a beautiful library, with a mirror in the centre, vases arranged on the top, and maps to be drawn down from the frieze: books might occupy the space under the red curtains, and archives, etc. the base.

Behind the chalcidicum runs a narrow street, beginning at a fountain in the Strada de' Mercanti. The high wall of the Cryptoporticus formed one side, and shops of a thermopolite, a soap-boiler, and others, such as Sextius, Syrticus and their patrons, named as usual in the accusative, C. SUETTIVM CERTVM ET M. LEPIDVM SABINVM, formed the other. The name of Lollius, of a great and consular family, is found as proprietor or protector of a house in the vicinity. This alley, or vicus, contains little of importance, but this may be the place best suited to the remarks it may suggest. The east side of the chalcidicum presents a lofty wall ornamented, at intervals, with a species of Corinthien pilasters. On this may be observed the inscription LOLLIVM AED.; but it is difficult to imagine why the protection of any aedile could be requisite for a public building.

In a house on the right are some pretty panels, with fishes, birds, and sphinxes on blue, red, and black grounds. A very small passage runs to the left, between the chalcidicum and the Temple called that of Mercury, and leads to a house which occupies the space behind that Temple and the edifice usually termed the Curia. This house has another great entrance front a passage running to the southern entry of the Pantheon, and having a communication with the Curia, and, being of more consequence than any in the vicinity, it may perhaps be considered as the residence of the Chief of the College of Augustales, who had the care of the building now called the Pantheon, or, at least, as the habitation of a public officer.

At the entrance next the Pantheon is an anchor between two dolphins in mosaic, and on the right, on entering the atrium, is, or was, the picture plate VII, which, however the colours may be changed to red by time or heat, must be considered as an agreeable composition.

The atrium has two alae, in one of which is an altar, and after passing the tablinum, where is a picture of Venus disarming the God of War, with Cupid carrying off his sword and shield, we find a magnificent peristyle of seven columns by six, terminated by a wall, in which is an opening to the alley of the chalcidicum.

In the Hypethrum are two cisterns or baths, and, at an angle, is a marble pedestal about fifteen inches square and two feet in height, with two iron cramps for fastening the feet of the statue or vase, and this inscription :

V. A. S. P. P.

From a comparison of the Fasti Consulares with the list of Bishop Idatius, it seems probable that this inscription may be dated about 32 years after Christ. Between this house and the Temple of Mercury is an arched kiln, said to have been used for making lime. Directly opposite this gate of the Pantheon is the well, about 116 feet deep, before mentioned, the water of which is singularly cold and very slightly brackish. Behind this is a space supposed to be for soap-boiling, all of which may, however, have appertained, with the lime, to some process of whitening or cleansing the garments of those who attended the supposed Pantheon, or College of the Augustales.

Pursuing the street uniting that of the Mercanti with that north of the Pantheon, to which the name of Frutti Secchi, or dried fruits, has now been given, nothing worthy of remark occurs except the house inscribed LOLLIVM AED. on the left. In this is an obscene picture, and in what appears to be an atrium, paved with mosaic in the forms of ducks and fishes, an altar, or what may have served for a kitchen. At the junction of the two streets, on a house at the angle inscribed M. HOLCONIVM and PRISCVM FELICEM.AED. O.V.F., is a species of triple Phallus in terra cotta of singular invention. Near this, in a house, is the picture of a graceful young Bacchus expressing the juice of the grape into a vase placed on a column. A rampant Tiger or Lynx is expecting the liquor. On a pier is written


To return to the Street of the Merchants, and quitting the description of the general plan, which will be resumed as often as is necessary, the chalcidicum deserves a particular description.

Vignette 4 - Commentary