Ch.23: The City of Herculaneum

While making systematic and gradual discovered in Herculaneum inhabited area of the sea towards Vesuvius and West to the East, we have at our disposal to get an idea of the overall plan the city and the character of its buildings, two elements: firstly, the layout, designed by La Vega, the entire area explored during excavations by underground tunnels with the single stroke of the scope of insulas; secondly, the now concrete and organic vision of the neighborhood already uncovered, including six southern insula and in which excavations are underway, in addition to two great bodies of isolated buildings of the Eastern neighborhood.

The plan found in excavations made known to us only part of the ancient city;  eight insulas south of a large artery cranes in which one can easily recognize the decumanus maximums; North of this artery, the remains of a large rectangular building, in which some wanted to see the Place du Forum, others, with more reason, a Basilica or other place of public assembly;  in the northwest, the Theatre and next, in an area without any construction, a Temple with much like a temple on the podium with a cella preceded by a narthex and an altar (ara);  further, beyond a narrow, elongated insula which probably owes its shape to the presence of the bed of a stream that marked the boundary of the city on this side, the great Villa of the Papyri, which extended the suburban area;  Finally, some other secluded villas scattered in the Royal Garden area of Portici and on which the Palace of the foundation works have provided some information.

To the east stands a large square peristyle, where some had wanted to see a temple or a villa, while new excavations have shown that this is a public building, or rather a large Palaestra.  Further, to the south-east, 150 meters from the limit of the insula indicated by La Vega found the first tombs of the necropolis of Herculaneum, flanking, like in Pompeii, the great road leading to the coast this city and further, Stabiae and Nuceriae. On the side of the sea, the houses, as is clear from the new excavations, ran along the edge of the promontory and came to the end of the tip.  Terraces and glass galleries overhanging the coast, supported by powerful walls terreplein and in which were dug at different height levels, cellars and even convenient housing, which were blocked by the huge mudslide.

The buildings did not stop, however, at the tip of the promontory or the doors that open to the sea but, as also shown in recent excavations, they extended outside the doors to the port and up to the sea, forming the maritime suburb of Ercolano.
 The boundaries of the city on three sides, we are sufficiently known.  We have, however, no precise information on the boundary side of the mountains, occupied by the inhabited center of Resina.  We do not yet know, in fact, among the identified buildings along the slope Pugliano, which ones are part of the city itself and those belonging to its suburbs.

But, given that the party already explored by underground galleries includes five caridines and two decumanus that intersect at right angles, a third decumanus at least, as in the Neapolis plan was to pass north through eight other insulae, a total of 16 insulae, besides the insulae major East and West districts (probably eight in number too), as well as homes and marine facilities located along the lido and the port, and the villas of suburban territory permanently inhabited by the patrician families with their retinue of freedmen and slaves.  Thus, according to some scholars (Beloch), the city probably extended over an area whose main lines were to measure 370 m. x 320 m. x 320 m.  approximately, representing one third of the area of Pompeii.

But as we do not yet know precisely the extent and configuration of the promontory on which stood the inhabited center, it would be premature to accurately determine the size.  Only the population can be approximated, for the city and the suburbs, with 4 or 5,000 people at most, that is to say one third, and perhaps even less, than that of Pompeii. Anyway, Herculaneum, with its current decumanus, as in Naples, alongside the coastal line at Northwest Southeast, with megrim down the Northeast to the Southwest to the contrary, that is, -dire perpendicular to the lido, offers a much more regular plan than that of Pompeii.  And leaving aside the obscure and dubious question of Etruscan influences on the creation mode towns of Campania, it is undeniable that the plan of Herculaneum reproduced, regarding the orientation and distribution, the Plan of certainly a Greek city of origin and design, that of Neapolis.

The fact that the buildings of the city, with its bearings and artificial embankments, were divided on the steeply inclined terrain, as in a terraced waterfall, we is proven by the steep slope of megrim, the gradual elevation sidewalks and the difference in level often in parts ground floor of the same building.  The abrupt escarpment of the promontory sea is evidenced not only by the dominance of houses, but also by the fact that the three cardines discovered so far, arrived at the extreme edge of the hill àbruptus, debouched on the sea through underground tunnels, like the gates of a medieval citadel, like Porta Marina Pompeii, with its steep resulted in giving an idea.  The streets made so far uncovered, paved not only with the characteristic trachytic stone still used Vesuvius in Naples and the province but also for those of a more noble character, with limestone as the Cardo V ) have neither deep furrows dug the tanks in the streets of Pompeii as a result of intense commercial traffic or the famous large slabs to move from one sidewalk to the other.

Here too, the paving of sidewalks is particularly neat and refined before the most important houses but more than Pompeii, there is the use of porticoed sidewalks bordering entire insulae or the entire length of the street at least one side, as in the decumanus maximus, not yet discovered.
 The water supply in Herculaneum has followed the same trend as Pompeii as evidenced considering two public fountains at the intersection of decumanus cardo with the V and another at the mouth of the cardo decumanus maximus IV and that the presence of a water tower at the intersection of "House Samnite" of water lilies and fountain basins in the yards and gardens of the richest houses, lead fistulae flush here-and-there. According this evolution of dug wells shallow system to reach bodies of water and collect rainwater, they passed to Roman times, the use of water from more distant sources, perhaps thanks to a branch of the aqueduct of Augustus, who was leaving the plateau of Mount Serino and was to be the great power of the artery Vesuvian area.

But the substitution was not complete as at Pompeii and it is curious that, until the last moments, it was the well water that fed the Bathhouse.
 While the Forum area has not been désenseveli by new excavations, it can be a very vague idea of the great public buildings, civil and religious, which stood at Herculaneum and especially of changes modes of construction and architecture of the Samnite era to Roman times.  The Baths and the Theatre seem to belong to the first period of the reign of Augustus, with embellishments added time of Claude and Flavian.

Other buildings uncovered during previous excavations, the most important is the Basilica which together with the Theatre, restored us the greatest number of works of art. * Sculpture, equestrian statues and statues throughout the series Balbus the family, as well as fragments, all of which have not yet been recovered, the great bronze Quadriga which was, apparently, overcome the input propylon;  in painting, some of the most beautiful works of antiquity, like Hercules and Telephus victorious Theseus, Chiron and Achilles, Marsyas and Olympus, which decorated the apses of the room.  Among the temples that researchers in the pay of Charles de Bourbon claimed to have discovered and they named as such, only one really seems to be one: that which, in the area of La Vega, is shown next to the Theatre. The other, located at the end of the East district, are, according to the results of recent excavations, grandiose hallways leading to a public Palaestra.