Pompeii, an ancient city of southern Italy, 12 m. S. E. of Naples, and at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius. Though probably several centuries older, it is not mentioned in history previous to the conquest of Campania by the Romans in the latter part of the 4th century B. C. The origin of the name is not known. During the social or Marsic war the inhabitants joined in the insurrection, but it escaped the punishment inflicted on the other cities. It became a favorite summer resort, and is mentioned as such by Seneca and Tacitus. In A. D. 59, in consequence of a sanguinary affray in the amphitheatre with the neighboring people of Nu-ceria, the inhabitants were prohibited by the emperor Nero from exhibiting any gladiatorial or theatrical shows within the city for ten years. Four years later Pompeii was partly destroyed by two earthquakes, occurring at an interval of a few months; and it was overwhelmed by the eruption of Vesuvius, Aug. 24, 79, which involved it with Herculaneum and Stabiae in a common destruction. (See Herculaneum.) For nearly 17 centuries afterward the city disappears from history, although the name seems never to have been wholly lost.
A village arose upon the site; but after the destruction of this by the eruption of 472, the Campus Pompeius, as it was long called, remained until the middle of the last century an undisturbed and uninhabited plain. The eruption of 79 produced striking physical changes in the vicinity, and the sea, which formerly laved the walls of the city, is now more than a mile from its site, while the river Sarno has been considerably diverted from its ancient course. Hence the geographer Cluverius, who investigated the subject in the early part of the 17th century, following the descriptions of ancient authors, was induced to locate Pompeii several miles from its actual position. The superincumbent deposit of ashes and cinders had an average depth of not more than 15 ft.; yet an aqueduct had been carried over part of the city a few years previously without leading to its discovery, although a portion of the great theatre was still visible. In 1748 several statues and other objects of antiquity were exhumed in sinking a well. Charles III. of Naples ordered excavations on an extensive scale, and in 1755 the amphitheatre was uncovered. His successors, including Victor Emanuel, have continued the work from time to time, until a large part of Pompeii has been brought to light.
The city thus partially exhumed is of incalculable importance from the insight which it has afforded into the domestic economy, the arts, and the social life of the ancient world. The light and friable character of the volcanic deposits which overlaid it has preserved from decay the objects of most importance to modern archaeologists, and the interiors of private and public buildings have been found undisturbed save by the original owners, who in many instances returned after the eruption had subsided to search for articles of value, and also probably for the bodies of relatives or friends. The latter supposition seems to be proved by the fact that comparatively few skeletons have been discovered, whereas, according to Dion Cassius, the loss of life was considerable, notwithstanding the inhabitants were assembled in the amphitheatre at the time of the catastrophe, and could readily make their escape. - Pompeii occupied within its walls, which have been traced throughout their whole extent, an irregular oval area about two miles in circumference.
It has generally been supposed that the population was from 20,000 to 50,000; but according to Fiorelli, the general superintendent of the excavations, Pompeii had no more than 2,000 inhabitants in its earlier days, and no more than 12,000 at the time of its destruction. On the W. or sea side there are no traces of walls, and those remaining, though originally of great strength, being flanked at irregular intervals by massive square towers, appear to have been allowed to fall into decay many years before the destruction of the city. The workmanship of these indicates the Osco-Pelasgic origin of the city. Eight gates have been discovered, and the roads outside of them were lined on either side with tombs of considerable size and architectural pretension. The street of tombs before the gate of Herculaneum was the principal burial place of the city, and the sepulchral monuments adorning it give evidence of the refined taste and great wealth of prominent Pompeiians. The streets, which for the most part run in regular lines, are with some exceptions barely wide enough to admit the passage of a single vehicle, and everywhere the ruts of the chariot wheels are visible in the polygonal lava blocks of the pavement. The widest does not exceed 30 ft. in breadth, and few are over 22 ft.
Five of the main streets have been partially or wholly traced, with which a regular system of minor streets appears to have been connected. These thoroughfares, with a single exception, terminate in or traverse the westerly quarter of the city, which is the only part yet completely explored, and which, from the number and character of the public buildings found there, was undoubtedly the most important. The forum, in the S. W. corner, is the most spacious and imposing structure, and in its immediate vicinity are the chief temples, theatres, and other public buildings. It was enclosed on three sides by a Doric colonnade, which embraced an area 160 yards long by 35 broad, and in its general plan as well as in its surroundings resembled the usual Roman structures of the kind. Of the buildings adjoining it, that known as the temple of Jupiter on the N. side is supposed to have been the most magnificent in the city, and its portico of Corinthian columns is perhaps the finest yet exhumed. On the E. side stood the pantheon or temple of Augustus, as it has been called; the Curia or Senaculum; the temple of Mercury; and a spacious house, called the Chalcidi-cum, which, as appears from an inscription, was erected by the priestess Eumachia. On the south are three buildings supposed to have been courts of justice, and on the west a basilica, a large temple profusely decorated with painting and commonly called the temple of Venus, and the public granaries and prisons.
All of these afford striking evidences of the disastrous effects of the earthquakes of 63 and 64. The architecture, like that of most public and private edifices in Pompeii, is mixed, the style, whether Greek or Roman, being frequently defective, and the attempts to unite different orders clumsy and tasteless. Other public buildings were the temples of Fortune, of Isis, of Neptune or Hercules, and of JEscu-lapius, the names of the two last being conjectural. That of Neptune is of pure Doric architecture, not unlike the temple of the same name in Paestum. S. E. of the forum, and at a distance of 400 yards, were the great or tragic theatre and the lesser theatre or Odeum, both of Roman origin. The former, having accommodations for about 5,000 people, stood on a slight elevation, and was never completely buried. In the S. E. angle of the city was the amphitheatre, an ellipse 430 ft. by 335, capable of seating 10,000 spectators; and immediately N. of the forum were the thermm or public baths, in an elegantly adorned and well arranged structure. A long quadrangular building S. of and adjoining the great theatre is supposed to have been the barracks of troops or of gladiators.
Numerous implements of war have been discovered there, and in and about the building were 64 skeletons, probably of men forming the guard, who remained at their posts. By means of seals and inscriptions found in them the names of the proprietors or occupants of many shops and dwellings have been recovered, and it is intended to affix these names in large letters over the entrances of the houses. The dwellings are for the most part small and low, few exceeding two stories, have little external ornamentation, and are well adapted to a people accustomed to pass most of the day in the open air. The ground fronts of many of the finest are occupied by shops. The upper stories of private dwellings, being of wood with flat roofs, were speedily consumed by the heated ashes of the eruption; but as these portions of the house were generally used as store rooms or apartments for servants, their loss is of little consequence. The lower or ground apartments, in which the family proper lived, have escaped serious injury, and about 100 human skeletons, and also several skeletons of dogs, horses, and various fowls, have been brought above ground in an excellent condition.
In many of the dwellings the daily life, habits, tastes, and even the thoughts of the occupants can be traced with almost positive certainty. Of the houses of the better description, the names applied to which are either those of the supposed possessor, or are suggested by his occupation, or by prominent objects of art found in them, the most important are the house of Sallust, one of the largest and most complete in its arrangement and adornment in the city; that of Pansa; that of the tragic poet, less distinguished for its size than for the variety and beauty of its paintings, most of which have been removed to the museo Borbonico (now national museum) in Naples, and for the well known mosaic of the choragus instructing the actors; that of Meleager or the Nereids; that of Castor and Pollux, unsurpassed in magnificence and size, and equally ornamented within and without; that of the faun, or of the great mosaic, so called from the bronze figure of the dancing faun and the famous mosaic of the battle of Issus found there; and that of M. Lucretius, rich in pictures, mosaics, vases, bronzes, ornaments, and coins.
Among the 70 statuettes and the bronze vessels ornamented with figures which have been recovered by Fiorelli, there is a youthful form with a Phrygian cap, sitting, and leaning his head on one hand, while the arm rests on the knee, which has won the universal admiration of modern artists; it is either a Ganymede or a Paris. Outside of the gate of Herculaneum are the remains of two extensive suburban villas, called with little reason the villas of Diomedes and of Cicero, the latter of which, after the removal of its treasures toward the end of the last century, was again filled up with earth. Several houses were evidently entered by their owners immediately after the subsidence of the first eruption, in search of valuables. The most important paintings and objects of art discovered by excavation have been deposited in the museo Borbonico. Among them may be mentioned a beautiful painting of the landing of Aphrodite, and numerous representations of Narcissus, who seems to have been a favorite with the Pompeiians. The painting of Laocoon found in 1875 is one of the most important specimens of ancient art brought to light.
Until recently the excavations proceeded slowly, the annual amount appropriated by the late Bourbon government having barely sufficed for repairs and incidental expenses; but since 1861 the government has liberally assisted the work, though the great care taken in unearthing the monuments has prevented any rapid progress. The space laid bare measured on June 30, 1872, 664,149 sq. ft., which is about one third of the whole area occupied by the city. Fiorelli calculates that, making the excavations on an average 25 ft. deep and employing 81 laborers daily, the whole city will be unearthed in 1947. Detailed accounts and illustrations of the results of the explorations in Pompeii will be found in Mazois's work, continued by Gau, Les ruines de Pompei (4 vols, f ol., Paris, 1812-'38); in Sir "W. Gell's " Pompeiana " (4 vols. 8vo, London, 1824-'30; new ed. edited by John P. Gandy, London, 1875); Breton's Pompeia (8vo, Paris, 1855); Dyer's " Pompeii, its History, Buildings, and Antiquities" (London, 1867); Fiorelli's Relatione degli scavi di Pompej dal 1861 al 1872 (Turin, 1873); Curti's Pompej e le sue ruine (3 vols., Milan and Naples, 1874); and Over-beck's Pompeji in seinen Gebduden, Alterthii-mern und Kunstwerken (3d ed., Leipsic, 1875).
Interior of the House of the Tragic Poet (restored).
Street of the Tombs.