All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to email@example.com.
Page added in February 2023.
All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Page added in February 2023.
The paintings shown in this page are by Alberto Pisa, an Italian painter who lived and worked in London. They were published in 1910 to illustrate Pompeii
by William Mackay Mackenzie, one of the Black's Beautiful Books, a series of illustrated books published at the beginning of the
XXth century by A. and C. Black, Soho Square, London W. The price of the books ranged from 5s. to 20s.
The books were embellished with full-page illustrations,
which at the time were reserved only to very expensive books.
The books were dedicated to London and the British countryside, foreign countries, birds and a few contemporary painters. Italy was represented in the series by seven other titles: Florence and some Tuscan Cities, The Italian Lakes, Naples, The Riviera, Rome, Sicily and Venice. The illustrations of Pompeii, Rome and Sicily were commissioned to Pisa.
The present volume is neither a guide-book nor an archaeological treatise, though in places it may recall one or the other; a character unavoidable from the nature of the subject. What has been aimed at is a (..) general view from different sides of what Pompeii means and gives us. (Preface)
Over the crest of a low ridge nearly parallel with the highway, (..) a mass of building stiffly thrusts itself, suggesting to a casual glance the outskirts of a town rather flatter in outline and more sombre in appearance than is common in Italy. The situation is obviously desirable, fronting the distant Bay of Naples and rising above the sea of green, thickly dotted and diversified by pale yellow villas and towns, that washes up to a background of blue hills. But the cluster of houses opens out behind in the silent streets and shattered buildings of Pompeii. (Chapter I)
William Mackay Mackenzie (1871-1952), a Scottish historian, archaeologist and writer.
The spot, rising high above the level of the city wall, which terminates at the steep southern corner, afforded the most magnificent view in all Pompeii: beyond was the plain of the Sarno with its busy roads, vineyards, and gardens; thence the eye followed the ridge of Monte S. Angelo rising over the vagrant white villas of Stabiae embowered in greenery, and so out to Capri. (Chapter VI)
Stabian Street and Mount Vesuvius
On the whole, with modifications due to inequalities in the site or reconstructions in the neighbourhood of the Forum, the lie of the streets is fixed by the north-west strike of Stabian Street and that of Nola Street at right angles to it; the former being thus the "cardo" (hinge) of Italian town-planning, the latter the "decumanus major". (..) For practical modern purposes Stabian Street may best serve as the "hinge" of the city; the excavated part lies almost wholly to the west of it; on its eastern side only a few streets have been disinterred. (Chapter I)
(left) Stabian Gate; (right) Street of the Tombs
The Stabian Gate, through which on this account most of the port traflic passed, is almost due south in the bottom of the hollow. From this point draw a straight line back on the longer axis of the flow; it follows the great central furrow, and cuts the town wall at the Gate of Vesuvius: this is Stabian Street. (Chapter I)
All good Pompeians looked northward to Rome, and the Herculaneum Road became the Westminster Abbey of the city. (..) A striking development of the altar-tomb was that which reared a huge altar on a vaulted basement within which were niches and pedestals for the reception of the urns ; an arrangement of this sort was known as a columbarium from its resemblance to a dovecot. (..) One panel of the altar shows the "bisellium" or magistral chair; another a ship putting into port, a reversal of "crossing the bar," but an always appealing metaphor of death. (Chapter VII)
Public fountain at the Consular Street
Puffs of steam from the cook-shops and the odours of their food crossed the less pleasant exhalations from the garbage and wash in the gutters. Interested persons would stop to read on a public album the latest political appeal or public advertisement of shops or houses to let, or of articles stolen; others bent at some corner to draw or drink from the splashing jet of a fountain; or dodged for the stepping-stones, or swallowed a hot or cold refresher at an open bar. (Chapter II)
Any further extension of the house is done simply by the duplication of these parts, either by the acquisition of a neighbouring house, giving two atriums with a peristyle, or of original design as in the House of the Faun, where the two atriums flank each other, and a larger peristyle follows a smaller one. In such a mansion the smaller atrium and its apartments may well have served as quarters for the domestics - the "servants hall." (..) The House of the Faun occupies a whole insula of itself, a veritable palace, and shops are confined to its front; it is a hundred yards long by about thirty broad, and its side walls, flanking narrow alleys, are absolutely bare, save for the high, small, irregularly placed windows. (Chapter III)
(left) House of Castor and Pollux (see a famous fresco which was found there); (right) Decorative Panel Picture from House of the Vettii
Corinthian atrium in the house of Castor and Pollux. Columns and shallow impluvium of tufa coated with stucco. Between the pillars on the left, the puteal; to right, pedestal of a statue. Behind the tablinum. To left, corridor leading to colonnaded garden. (Chapter III)
One very charming department of Pompeian work is the place given to Cupids, the little loves that flutter through the Greek Alexandrian literature. In Pompeii they are everywhere. They help to bind and weep for the wounded Adonis, they lead Bacchus to Ariadne, they play with the armour and weapons of Mars as he woos Venus, they strain at the quiver and club of Hercules, they bring to Polyphemus the message from Galatea; they ride creatures of all sorts, from horses and tigers to dolphins and crabs and lobsters. (Chapter IV)
Peristyle of the House of the Vettii (see some famous frescoes which were found there)
The peristyle garden of the House of the Vettii has been replanted. Characteristic on the wall dadoes, and now in these revivified flower-beds, is the ivy trained round a central stick in the form of a cone; of the many blooms shown selections have been made, such as iris, narcissus, lily, marguerite, gladiolus, and of the decorative plants the gracefully curving acanthus, the aloe, and others; but the staple of Roman gardens was the rose, their queen of flowers, which was equally prized in Pompeii and Campania generally. And these floral displays were not confined to the garden proper; if the garden had a low balustrade a furrow on the top would be planted; there were flower-boxes of stone, or a great jar for a palm; the atrium at the border of the impluvium or the tablinum might also display its lines or masses of blossom. (Chapter III)
Peristyle of the House of Ariadne or of the painted capitals (see the similar House of M. Epidius Rufus)
Space was taken, normally behind the atrium and so from the garden, and surrounded on three or, if possible, all sides by a colonnade, off which rooms were built (peristyle). The central space was then treated as a flower-garden, with sometimes, as in the House of Ariadne, a long basin for fish. (..) It seems clear that the family life migrated, in the main, into the more pleasant and retired peristyle. (Chapter III)
Corner of atrium and peristyle in the House of the Vettii
The wall decorations are in the Fourth or Intricate Style. (..) It is the Style which has come to be known as specifically Pompeian, though its life there was short; but, coinciding with the reconstruction after the earthquake, it made up for this in the space available for new embellishment. The name suggests the difficulty of description; it is a style intricate and various beyond any general account, and as difficult to realise in words, even in a single example, as it is impossible to reproduce. The fluency of idea and execution is extraordinary, though frequently cheap and flashy ; the artist invented as he went on, scattering lavish details of bird, or beast, or leaf, or tendril; pausing in little panels filled with sketchy landscapes or hunting or wild-beast scenes, or, at the base, groups of still life, or grotesque designs, or rectangular and circular insets of richly veined painted marbles. (Chapter IV)
Temple of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva in the Forum
A goodly part of the ruin we see is the result of the earthquake of a.d. 63, to which the vandal mountain could in 79 only add a further contribution as it worked its disastrous will on what was whole again; a few more columns topple over from the Temple of Jupiter. (Chapter I)
We need only note how Jupiter as standing for the State on the male side, Juno on the female, and Minerva as the industrial deity, were grouped in the great trio of the capital, the centre of official ritual. (Chapter VII)
The oldest establishment was the Stabian Baths at the corner of Abundance and Stabian Streets, which covered altogether an area of about one hundred and sixty-four feet square. It was constructed in its original form in the second century b.c. A reconstruction took place early in the first century, about the time of Sulla, at the expense of two duumvirs. (..) The general scheme of the Baths is substantially one and the same, whatever minor conveniences there may be. The entrance is to a large exercise court or palaestra where games were indulged in, such as a sort of ninepins played with the stone balls that lay on a paved strip in the Stabian Baths. Round the court was a sheltering colonnade. (..) Seneca lived above a bathing establishment and has left a vivid picture of its distractions: the groaning and heavy breathing of the men exercising with weights as dumb-bells; the slapping of the massage attendant on the muscles he is oiling and pounding; the ball-player counting his catches; some one shouting in his bath or splashing into the outside swimming-tank; (..) - a medley of sound no doubt familiar also to Pompeian ears. (Chapter V)
Site of the Greek Temple in the Triangular Forum. The south-western aspect of the city is here shown. To the right are the wall of the Great Theatre and part of the colonnade.
If we ask for something in Pompeii resembling a public park, we may select the area known from its shape as the Triangular Forum, near the outer edge of which are what remains of the ancient Greek temple. It fills the south-western corner of the city, with the apex of the triangle almost due west. (..) High over the Forum rose the upper wall of the Large Theatre, which, with its stage space and the great colonnaded court beyond, extended nearly the whole length of the town side. (..) Official processions to the play paraded down the Forum and descended to the lower level at the stage by a wide stairway. (..) The Large Theatre was seated for about five thousand. (Chapter VI)
The Gladiatorial Barracks from the Triangular Forum. The Great Theatre is to the left. The lofty building in the centre is modern
The entrances were closed to the general public, and two stories of rooms were built round the sides behind the colonnade, cells about twelve feet square entered only from the front and not connected with each other; while some larger rooms indicate official occupation, and one was clearly a big kitchen. The central room at the south end gives the explanation; here we see painted on the walls miscellaneous groups of gladiatorial weapons. In ten rooms portions of gladiatorial equipment were found: ornamented greaves and bucklers, helmets, belts, bone scales for a coat of mail, and other such things, but only two or three specimens of offensive weapons - daggers and spearheads. One room was equipped with the stocks in which offenders against discipline were confined, a long flat board with uprights pierced for the insertion of an iron bar locked at one end. All these finds point to the presence of gladiators, and the theatre colonnade was thus in all probability turned into a barracks for these who, in the latter days, had, as elsewhere, become a most popular element in Pompeian amusement. (Chapter VI)
The Temple of Fortuna Augusta and the Honorific Arch at the northern end of the Forum
Going north from the Forum towards Mercury Street we reach a small but once handsome temple, which, with its site, was the gift of a private citizen, Marcus Tullius, and was dedicated to Fortuna Augusta. (..) The cella was veneered with marble, and in its rear, no doubt, had a statue representing Fortune in her relation to Augustus and the imperial family. The cult of Fortune, in an unofficial, literary way, took strong hold of the medieval mind; certain reflective moods find consolation in a religion of caprice. This temple was served by the "ministri Fortunae Augustae" four slaves and four freedmen, about whom we have several inscriptions. (Chapter VII)
Tiberius probably had an equestrian statue on the arch in line with the front of the Temple of Jupiter. (Ch. V)
Semicircular bench tomb of Priestess Mamia outside Porta Ercolano
Of the several similar in type on the Herculaneum Road, one was conspicuously dedicated to Mamia, a "public priestess," the only office of dignity open to women. Here the urn was buried beneath the bench. These tombs were on sites granted by the city council, an honourable recognition of public service which always receives notice. These seats were for the gatherings in memory of the dead. (Chapter VII)
The City covered and uncovered and Mt. Vesuvius in the background
The two great east and west thorough-fares, crossed by Stabian Street and a street unnamed, and only partially disclosed to the east of it, thus divide the town into nine great quarters or regions, which from the Stabian Gate are numbered against the clock, so that II., III., IV. are, so far, still covered, and I., V., and IX. in the centre have been but partially exposed. Recent excavations have completed Regio VI. towards the Gate of Vesuvius, about which the main interest is at present concentrated. (Chapter II)
Temples and Religion
Public Buildings near the Forum
Other Public Buildings
Other Works of Art
Villa di Poppea at Oplontis