Chapter III - Forum

Chapter 2 Contents Chapter 4

On entering the Forum from the great gate of the chalcidicum, which opened inwards and was fastened by two bolts into the pavement, it will be observed that much has been effected since the publication of the plan in the year 1818.

On the right of the Temple of Jupiter or Senaculum, or, as it has since been called, the Aerarium, the whole space has been cleared, and a colonnade, consisting of an upper and lower range of elegant pillars of the Corinthian order, the bases of seventeen of which yet romain in their places, has been discovered.

These columns are placed on plinths three inches in height and two feet five inches square, upon which are circular bases eight inches high. The shafts, which are in part corded, are about one foot eleven inches in diameter. The diameter of the upper range did not exceed one foot three inches. The intercolumniation was about five feet six, and, within the portico, was a pedestal opposite to every pillar. The restoration in the former Volume of Pompeiana is defective with regard to the two ranges here, and, probably, in other parts of the Forum. From this portico was the great entrance into the building commonly called the Pantheon, which will be hereafter described, and from the upper portico it is very probable that a connexion existed with the gallery of the same building, seemingly accessible by no other means. The exit from the Forum on this sicle was under a species of Triumphal Arch, exceeding its fellow in dimensions, probably in order that its greater distance from the Forum might have rendered them apparently equal when viewed from the centre.

The arch offered a passage twelve feet eight inches in breadth, and the piers were nearly of the same magnitude. Within these has been a receptacle for water and, possibly, some sort of fountain for rendering it useful. At the opposite extremity of the Forum, two habitations have been excavated near the house discovered by General Championet during the year 1826, but, except the pavements, they appear to have been anciently stripped of every species of decoration, and therefore have little to recommend them to notice. M. Bibent observes that the four columns of the house of Championet are placed upon the pavement, and that, consequently, they may be considered as having been subsequently erected, and offer no argument in favour of columns in the Cavaedium.

The opposite side of the same Street leading to the excavation of the Regina Carolina has also been examined, but without bringing to light any thing of importance. On examining in certain lights portions of the painted wall under the colonnade of the Basilica, many inscriptions may be perceived faintly scratched with a sharp point by the idlers of Pompeii. Some of them have been published, but without an acknowledgement to the Author, from whose portfolio they were furnished. They are stated to be painted on an outer wall to the east, but it will save trouble to mention that they are to be found on the inner or south side of the north wall. They are not remarkable for correctness either of style or sentiment, but among the least exceptionable are the following.

Nemo nisi Bulius nisi qui amavit mulierem.

H. Caesari. tertio Germanico. Caesare iter.

Amianthus. Epaphra. tertius ludant cum Idysto
Jucundus Nolanus petat. NC. Restiticus.
Non est ex albo Judex patre Aegyptio.



is painted in large letters. Again, scratched with a point are in another place,

C. Pumidius Dipilus heic fuit
Ad nonas octobreis. M. Lepid. Q. Catul. Cos.

On the north wall also are,

Lucrio et Salus hic fuerunt

Damas audi


Arescus. A. Proism nefario
Sumsit sibi casta Muthunium.

Suavis vinaria sitit roto vos et valde sitit.

There is also a libel on the reputation of a female named Lucilia :

Lucilia a corpore lucrum fecit.

Many others are to be read with difficulty, and without much improvement in morals or orthography.

The view, plate X., of the lower part of the shafts of the columns which formed the peristyle of the Forum is calculated to give an idea of the present state of the ruins, and of the ornamented pedestals, which, when they supported their statues, must have added so materially to the beauty and interest of the spot.

These pedestals are decorated with a Doric frieze, and one yet retains its dedicatory inscription.


They are all of white marble. ln front of them, other pedestals, of more ancient date and rude construction, may be observed, which were evidently intended to be replaced by the more elegant models which were erecting at the moment of the last fatal catastrophe. Bonucci conjectures that these pedestals sustained the statues of the Scauri, Gelliani, Holconii, and other worthies of Pompei.

That species of bench or table which is seen in the recess behind the first column on the right in plate X. is remarkable for containing two measures used as the standards, probably, for grain in the market of Pompeii. The stone is a thick horizontal slab, pierced perpendicularly by two inverted cones truncated at the smaller end. Baskets or sacks were placed beneath, and a flat piece of wood was held so as to prevent the grain from running out at the bottom, till, the measure being full, the contents, on the removal of the wood, fell into the recipient. The smaller may be about half the size of the larger. Bonucci mentions a stone, in the Royal Museum at Naples, which contains measures of liquids as well as of solids, and with the narres of the magistrates to authenticate them. Such public measures were probably common to all the cities of antiquity. Travellers may observe one of these stones in a wall near the north gate of Fondi, and another, with three different measures, on the ground near that of Naples.

It may be necessary to observe that the great building on the west of the Forum called the House of the Dwarfs, and the Temple of Bacchus in the first work on Pompeii, seem now to have acquired, universally, the name of Venus and the College of Venerei. Bonucci says an inscription was found on the spot which would decide the question, but he has not given it in the original Latin. The general meaning is, that «Marcus Holconius Rufus, Duumvir Judge for the first time, and C. Egnatius Postumus, Duumvir Judge for the second time, have bought, according to a decree of the Decurions, the right to close the windows, for the sum of three thousand sesterces, and they have also raised the private wall of the Incorporated College of Venerei as high as the roof». These windows, it is probable, looked toward the Forum.

On quitting the Forum, by the opening near a low door, which is that of a prison, may be observed the figure of a goat upon the pier of a house where milk was sold ; and, near it, the picture of fighting gladiators, which has been roughly represented in the preceding work, is seen upon the wall of a house which, from its sign, and a sword which was found at its excavation, is now commonly called the school of fencing. Under the goat is written


The inscription under this is so ill written that it is not without difficulty decipherable. It is like the celebrated inscription in the Baths of Titus, except that Venus alone, of all the divinities of Pompeii, threatens revenge to the transgressor. The Roman inscription runs thus :

Duodecim Deos et Dianam et Jovem
Optimum Maximum habeant iratos
Quisquis, etc.

This of Pompeii is «Abiat Venere Pompeiiana iratam qui hoc laeserit». It is unnecessary to remark on the Latinity of this inscription, in which the principal word is written rather B O M P I L I A N A than as it ought to be. The protecting aedile is named MARCELLVM. The practice of rendering sacred any spot, either by painting or inscription, appears to have been common ; and Persius says, that two serpents painted upon a wall were supposed to sanctify the spot, and prevent the wilful accumulation of filth there, much as the cross or a penny print of the Madonna is vainly used in modern Naples for the same purpose. In this curious painting the two personages seem to be Tetraites and Prudens.


This has most ingeniously been translated in the Museo Borbonico, and signifies «Prudens invincible in the eighteenth combat. Tetraites, who fell in the tenth». This sense is obtained by calling the letter I invictus and the L lapsus. They are combatants, according to this author, called Mirmillones, as may be seen by the fish on their helmets. A herald separates the combatants, and gives a wand to the victor. Near this on a pier is


This street runs to the right, in the direction of the north entry of the Pantheon. To the west it is slightly curved, and, at a little distance from the Forum, may be seen an altar, probably consecrated to Jupiter, placed against the wall of a house upon the raised footpath. It is represented in plate XI, and is not without interest. It has been engraved by Mazois, to whose work a copy of the original drawing was presented by the author, but not acknowledged in the text. The eagle alone, in the painted tympanum, seems to indicate Jupiter as the presiding deity. The remains of a basso relievo in stucco are too much mutilated to be traced with precision.

On quitting the Forum, by the triumphal arch on the east side of the temple of Jupiter, the street, now called that of Fortune from the temple of the goddess, presents itself, terminated at the extremities by triumphal arches, which, though now sufficiently lofty, were probably still more elevated, as, before the excavation, their present summits were on a level with the soil of the vineyard. It is possible the statues on that of the Forum were removed after the destruction of the city, and probable that those of the other arch were thrown down by the earthquake, as the fragments were found below.

The street of Fortune is one of the most spacious in Pompeii, being 26 palms wide and nearly 200 feet long. It is flanked by footpaths on each side ; and, besides its terminations in triumphal arches, the portico of the temple of Fortune must have added great dignity to its appearance. The first pier on the right is decorated by a relievo, in terra cotta, of two men carrying wine, which was probably sold at the house. At this angle was an inscription with the name of Samellius, in which the letters ID in the second fine have been taken for the word Judex.


Close to the pavement on this pier was a remarkably spirited griffin, on a black ground, which has now disappeared. The street running to the right from this end of the Forum has been called, on the spot, the Strada dei Frutti Secchi, from an inscription showing that dried fruits were sold in it. On the right we find a range of shops, in front of which ran a portico, or vestibule, with piers and columns. On one of these piers is the inscription


showing that even those who carried sacks were considered as a body or corporation, and stood in need of a patron. Nearly opposite the entrance to the thermae, which occupies the centre of this street on the left hand, is a house on the right of more consequence than the rest. It has received the name of the house of Bacchus from a large painting of the god yet existing on a wall opposite to the entry.

Canals for the introduction of water are found in the atrium, which has been surrounded by a small trough, or parterre of natural flowers, the side of which next the eye is painted blue, to represent water on which boats are floating. The wall behind this is painted with pillars, between which run balustrades of various forms, and upon these perch cranes and other birds, not badly painted, with a background of reeds or plants, and the sky visible behind. The effect must have been pretty when the whole was perfect. In the same house is the picture of a male and female sitting at the base of a pillar, attended by three Cupids. In the back ground is a tree, with mountains in the distance. Nothing can exceed the grace of these figures in the original, and, on that account, an outline of the picture has been, among others, selected for this work. Vide plate XII.

In the same house is a pavement of coloured marbles, in the nature of the opus Alexandrinum, which is pretty, and is therefore given at the end of this work, in plate LXXXVI.

At present (1827) the habitations on the right hand, or east side of the street of Fortune, have been little excavated, so that it is difficult to say what they may hereafter produce.

A small statue of Fortune, with a diadem and crescent on her head, and a lotus, like Isis, was found in this street. She was represented at Smyrna with the Polar Star on her front. An oval bail, and a pair of golden ear-rings were also discovered, together with a silver ladle or spoon.

Many of the pilasters had inscriptions which have been since defaced.

On the second of these Lucius Popidius the Aedile was recorded as the protector of the house. On the third Caius Cuspius Pansa. On the seventh


On the ninth is


On the fifteenth we find Pansa again, who was certainly among the most powerful of the patrons of Pompeii, and had a numerous list of clients.

This street seems to have been more than usually productive in bronzes. Among other things a pretty Mercury upon a rock, three inches high, the statue of a female nine inches high, another Mercury four inches high, and many bronze lamps and stands were excavated. Several vases, basins with handles, one of which was formed by the wings of swaps, patera, bells, an inkstand, a strigil, elastic springs, a needle, hinges or cardines, a lock, buckles for harness, an oval caldron, a mould for pastry, and a saucepan, contribute to our knowledge of the common utensils of the Ancients.

Here have also been discovered no fewer than two hundred and fifty little bottles of common glass, forty-one bottles nine inches high, four decanters and many fluted tumblers, six tumblers eight inches high and only two inches and two-fifths in diameter, with thirty cups of green glass, and four plates six inches in diameter. Besides these were found several bottles formed of four bulbs united, twenty-six tazze, and ten other cups. In marble was discovered a small laughing Faun, a dise of porphyry, and a weight, used in spinning byhand, of alabaster with its ivory axis remaining. The list finishes with a leaden weight, forty-nine common pottery lamps with masks and animals, forty-five lamps with two lights, three tills, or boxes, with a slit, to keep money, and, in these, thirteen coins of Titus, Vespasian, and Domitian. Seven glazed plates were also dug up, which are a great curiosity, and were found packed in straw, but which the author did not see. Seventeen jars of terra cotta, unvarnished, and seven dishes in the same state, with a large pestle and mortar, complete the numerous list given in one of the reports.

An account of scales, said to have been found about the time of the same excavation, appeared in print at Naples. They were of a species, according to the work, called hmizugia stathrai, trutina Campanae, sfairwma and aequipondium. The beam was one palm and a third long. The weights were in the forms of an armed head, a goose's head, etc. On the beam were numbers from X to XXXX, and V was placed for division between two Xs, besides smaller fractions. The inscription was


Which bas been translated, «In the Consulate VIII of Vespasian Emperor Augustus, and in the VI of Titus Emperor and Son of Augustus, Proved in the Capitol». This inscription is another confirmation of the care which was taken to produce a strict uniformity in weights and measures throughout the empire, and the date corresponds with the year 77 of our aera, being only two years prior to the great eruption.

A steetyard was found, also, with chains and hooks and with numbers up to XXX. Common scales, with two cups, like those in modern times, were found, but it is remarkable that they are without that little projecting point above the beam which serves to mark more accurately the absence of equipoise, and which, according to the dissertation here quoted, was called by the Greeks and Romans, kanwn, ligula, and examen.

The skeleton of a Pompeian, who, apparently, for the sake of sixty coins, a small plate, and a saucepan of silver, had remained in bis bouse till the street was already half filled with volcanic matter, was found as if in the act of escaping from his window. Two others were found in the same street, probably arrested by the vapour emitted by the sulphureous mass.

Vignette 8 - Commentary