Ch.26: The Public Monuments in Herculaneum

While making systematic and gradual discovered in Herculaneum inhabited area, from the sea to the mountains and West to the East, we have at our, disposal to get an idea of the plan of citywide and 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 insulae;  secondly, the now concrete and organic vision of the neighborhood already uncovered, including six southern insulae and in which excavations are underway, in addition to two great bodies of isolated buildings of the Eastern neighborhood.

The plan drawn up by La Vega makes us know that part of the ancient city;  eight insulae south of a large artery cranes in which one can easily recognize the decumanus maximus;  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.

In 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 southeast, about 150 meters from the edge of insulae indicated by La Vega found the first tombs of the necropolis of Herculaneum, flanking, like in Pompeii, the great path leading to the litoral this city and further, Stabiae and Nuceria.  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 full land and where 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 (see District Suburban), they extended outside these gates to the port and 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 megrim and two decumani which 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 to ia city and suburbs, to 4 or at most 5,000 inhabitants, that is to say one third, and perhaps even less, than that of Pompeii.

Anyway, Herculaneum, with its decumani current, as in Naples, parallel to the line of the Northwest coast in the Southeast, with its descendant cardines Northeast southwest on 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 abruptus, debouched on the sea through underground tunnels, like the gates of a medieval citadel as Porta Marina Pompeii (Pl. XXXIX), 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 (such 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 (Pl. VI), as in the maximum decumanus (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 the cardo decumani V and another at the mouth of the cardo decumanus maximus IV and that the presence of a water tower at the intersection of "Casa Sannitica ,,, of water lilies and fountain basins in the yards and gardens of the richest houses, lead fistulae flush here-and-there. According to this development, the wells dug shallow system to reach bodies of water and collect rainwater, they passed to Roman times, the use of water from more distant sources, possibly through be a derivation of the aqueduct of Augustus, who was leaving the plateau of Mount Serino and was to be the great power of the Vesuvian area artery (Pl. III). But the substitution was not as complete 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 time Samnite to the Roman era.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, we restored the largest number of works of art; sculpture, equestrian statues and the whole series of statues of the Balbus family, as well as fragments, all of which have not been recovered yet, the great bronze Quadriga which was, apparently, to overcome the propylon 'entry;  in painting, some of the finest 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.


However, the true aspect of Herculaneum proves less in the mode of construction of public buildings than for private buildings, at least in the history of its underground discoveries in the vision of his neighborhood désenseveli already in its rich houses as in humble dwellings. Browsing is discovered in every direction in the first streets whose pavement was found intact, stopping at the first crossroads released, no one knows how this huge disgorgement of the earth.  And even the most casual observer immediately seized the difference between the two Vesuvian cities, who shared the same tragic fate. We do not see in the streets of Herculaneum this hype that pervades the walls of Pompeii (Pl. VII).

Shops and tabernae if they are large and well appointed with some of the busiest parts of the city, do not have this intrusive character in Pompeii shows the absolute supremacy of the merchant class in all neighborhoods. The craft had to be there, on the contrary, more developed, particularly in the area of the mosaic, due to the more pronounced taste for rich wall coverings, as well as among masons for the polychrome marble inlay (almost luxury power in the house of Herculaneum) and among cabinetmakers and carvers for every artistic layout of the house: beds, tables, altars and armoirs.  But the favorite occupation of the common people had to be fishing, judging from the large quantity of nets, hooks, ropes, fishing instruments that have been found in all excavations.

Herculanaise the house, according to the insulae only a few that have been completely désensevelies far we appear, contrary to what it could be assumed, freer, more decidedly routed the Pompeian house towards the adoption of new forms and new types.  Certainly, as in Pompeii, old plans italics homes had been gradually evolve into new forms imposed by the increasing development of urban planning that forced the old patrician house to shrink, the ancient domus to divide in business premises and apartment house, trying to gain height space that she could not deal in size.  The Italic and Hellenistic house undergoes a radical transformation, driven by the practical mind of the Romans and under the more direct influence and deeper than a big city like Naples, struggling between its old walls against the Greek housing crisis, was to exercise on its neighbor.

Herculaneum we find homes that are yet samnite type and their owners, in Roman times, did not hesitate to raise a floor above the roof ridge to compluvium ("Casa del Tramezzo di Legno "- home to the wooden partition) We find the houses of the merchant class, who abandon any connection with the traditional plan of the Italian house, substituting the court, the source of light and air of modern house in. the atrium and cohabitation of several tenants oneness of the domus. We mansions, whose porch is more Hellenistic but is completely transformed into a type of closed gantry with large windows corridors release. We finally isolated building of the great body of the eastern quarter (Insula II orientalis), which offers us the type of the house of the imperial era with several apartments and several floors, such that we knew so far as Ostia, Rome.

And, although a small part of the city has just been uncovered, the architecture of Herculaneum in private construction already presents us with an unexpected variety of types and shapes of great importance for the study of what remains the essential problem of the history of human civilization: the origin and development of the home. Gradually, as the excavations extend and sink into the heart of the city to the Forum, the types of housing herculanaise enrich new forms and reflect in a way more precise the difference classes, life and customs of its inhabitants.  In a city that has not been, as at Pompeii, the trend leveling due to the development of industry and trade, and most of the inhabitants were engaged in navigation and fishing, contrast appears lively and deep at Pompeii between the type of rich houses and the popular houses.

Two or three houses rich enough to occupy most of the area of a insula. The rest is occupied by modest houses, including the need for space can not be satisfied by the raising of the upper floors. Shops are often being installed, they succeed more or less quickly, according to the fortune of their owners, to creep between the houses and expand at the expense of the noble houses. The city, located as it was, facing the sea, was made especially for enjoying the scenery and the refreshing sea breeze. Also, the most beautiful and richest houses came to crown the crest of the promontory, where we find the oriented and largely open by verandahs, terraces, rooms reserved for napping and viewpoints overlooking a vast expanse of sea. The houses of this type have been discovered so far ("House of the mosaic atrium", "House of the Deer", "House of the Gem" and "Terrain House Télèphe ,,) offer a synthesis character, taste and spirit of the rich classes of Herculaneum, in the last period of the life of this city.

Rich houses and sumptuous inlaid with pavements and polychrome marbles, following the fashion of the time of Nero and the Flavian, the delicate decorations paintings and numerous works of art.  Built primarily to allow to enjoy the wonderful view of the Gulf, they rise and extend powerful retaining bastions overlooking the steep slope of the old lava flow.  Terraces, small hanging gardens and elegant alcoves are disposed along the front for hours of rest during the day (cubicula diurna) or the happy hour nap after lunch hours spent with pleasant readings and conversations between friends, this otium that the Romans did not know separate the pleasures of the mind or intellectual enjoyment.  Porticos and interior corridors are aligned with the axis of verandahs and galleries, so that the reflection of the brightness of the sky and the sea manages to penetrate into the remotest nooks and most intimate of the house.

In short, it is fully oriented to the panoramically view of the Gulf and as far as space allows, becomes Villa. View of the sea, this advanced point of the city, with its houses gathered and backed each other on the steep slope, was to appear come an aerial belt porticos and galleries (Pl. III).  Alongside these sompteuses houses, Herculaneum has restored us the type and cost of the humble dwelling, made for families of modest craftsmen, divided into several apartments.  One example, among many others, we provided including per la "Casa has Graticcio" - "partitions House" - beautifully preserved, which reveals his poor technique and wattle wooden frame and his humble and vibrant human testimony.

Herculanaise home and comes to us with this character at a time of intimacy and intense life, it is not always possible to note in the Pompeian house, due to better preservation of the upper floors and above , the framing and furniture: beams of attics and roofs, window frames and door leaves, stairs, walls, beds and objects of daily use.  Also, at the price of very delicate and painstaking work of restoration and consolidation, we could not only recover and replace robust supporting architraves and ceiling beams, but again turn their old hinges on the doors of a door, climb to the upper floors of some houses by the steps, protected by glass plates, primitive wooden stairs.

But to penetrate the intimacy that characterized life in Herculaneum, you have to see the one and the other type of home, the humble as the rich, spend homes to shops, seize aspects of daily living, everyday objects, scrutinize the most secret corners of a house, stop for a little while strolling on the coarse threshold of a door or a rear -boutique.
 Excavations of a buried city does not offer only partial and fragmented vision of rare and beautiful things, each taken separately.  If so, the interest or curiosity would soon be exhausted.  Indeed, every ancient city that we are born, as every historic city that is revived, have their own face, their face, their soul that speaks to the soul of the visitor and is reborn in it.  But the spirit and the ancient Herculaneum face take shape ever more, to progressively extend the excavations, the streets and houses reappear either in a haphazard and piecemeal, but obedient and by integrating the plan of a neighborhood, the general plan of the city, to his face, to his mood.

The most sensitive visitors have the impression of watching the resurrection of the désensevelie city to perceive the breath more and faster. Ils sortent comme enivrés de l'extase dans lequel ce spectacle les plonge. They come out as intoxicated with the ecstasy in which this show plunges.
 The house Herculaneum enthusiastic visitors with its extraordinary human character, it offers the unexpected by unexpected and true aspects of life that took place there, for the simple and deeply intimate atmosphere even in its the most secret corners: the bedroom with a wooden bed and, next, the small marble shelf;  the room for a nap with his couch, richer, with rare wood inlays;  the small room with wooden cabinet containing both the sacred tabernacle for the Lares and the secret cabinet where the hostess kept his most valuable necklaces and toilet articles;

galley with piece of bread put aside by the housewife-sighted for the next day and finally document and monument of exceptional interest for the history of the origins of Christianity, the presence of the first Cross emblem in a room which can be considered as the private chapel of a Christian family.  The human corpses which make dramatic spectacle of the houses of Pompeii, are not found in the houses of Herculaneum, clean and quiet, ready to welcome its occupants and their guests.  We do not regret it: the spectacle of death, among signs of life, here would be too painful. These houses, with all they contained, were abandoned by their occupants fled, hoping to escape, to Naples or to the sea. And we got back there now, with this painful experience of those who have survived a disaster, after a little less than two thousand years, with no other concern than to relate the son of our existence in the frame of this ancient life.