Can Herculaneum Be Excavated?
OUR sources of information in regard to the ancient world are fortunately no longer confined to books. The spade of the excavator has done more of late to illustrate the classics, to extend our knowledge of the details of ancient life, and to settle doubtful points in ancient history than all the commentaries of the scholiasts. And that there is to-day a lively interest felt in archaeological researches is amply shown by the costly excavations recently undertaken at Ephesus and Troy, in Crete and Assyria, as well as those steadily going on in Italy. At the same time, the magnificent engineering enterprises lately accomplished or still in progress in various parts of the world indicate that we have reached a period when the mere vastness of a project is no longer an insuperable bar to its being taken into consideration and calmly judged of. It appears, then, to me the proper moment for calling attention to a fact that seems practically forgotten, that the wealthy city' of Herculaneum, which has already yielded us the richest spoils of antiquity that we possess, still lies buried and for the most part unexplored, and for discussing the possibility of laying it open to the light of day and availing ourselves of its remaining treasures.
The names of Herculaneum and Pompeii are so intimately associated in history as victims of the same appalling catastrophe, and so frequently connected in speaking of ancient works of art, that one who has never been on the spot is likely to think that these two cities have had a common fortune in their resuscitation as in their overthrow. But it is quite otherwise. At Pompeii a surface of fifty-five acres, or about one third of the whole city, is completely excavated; and the visitor may walk about its streets, enter hundreds of its houses, and study its architecture, inscriptions, and mural paintings at his ease. At Herculaneum, on the other hand, not over one acre has been uncovered. The theatre, which is the only other place that one can visit, has never been disencumbered of the volcanic matter that fills and covers it. To explore it, you must descend underground and grope your way, by the dim light of tapers, through narrow and tortuous passages like the galleries of a mine. Water trickling constantly from the porous mass above makes it slippery underfoot, and so charges the air with moisture as to make breathing difficult. The guide conducts you through the labyrinth to various points, which he names; but of the general plan of the building you see nothing.
The modern town of Resina, underneath which a part of the ancient city is buried, lies at the foot of Vesuvius, six miles from Naples and half a mile from the shore of the bay. It is known that Herculaneum was injured by an earthquake, A. D. 63; but when or in what manner it became covered by the immense mass of earth that now lies over it cannot be certainly stated. The commonly received opinion is that, together with Pompeii, it was overwhelmed by the famous eruption of Vesuvius, in the year 79. Modern scientific investigations, however, throw great doubt on this statement, and it must be confessed that the historical account rests on very insufficient evidence. Pliny the younger, who describes with great minuteness the above-mentioned eruption, in which his uncle lost his life, says not a word about the destruction of the two cities. In fact, there is no contemporary authority whatever for the story, but it is first found in much later authors, and garnished with tales of accompanying prodigies and wonders. Early in the present century the Naples Academy of Science was occupied for several years with this interesting question. Lippi and Tondi, the only geologists in their number, concluded not only that Herculaneum and Pompeii were not buried at the same time, but that water had more to do with their loss than fire. They observed that the country for many miles around bears all the marks of alluvial deposit. In and above the theatre of Herculaneum they found nine different kinds of tufa in horizontal strata. Imbedded in certain portions of the tufa were bits of limestone and other non-volcanic stones as well as snail-shells, and between some of the strata Were thin layers of vegetable earth. All this establishes beyond doubt that the covering of the city was the work of successive occurrences. The tremendous showers that often accompany and follow volcanic eruptions are quite capable of having washed these deposits into their present position. On the other hand, even a geologist’s eye could not easily distinguish between a stratum made by a shower of volcanic matter, such as occurred in the year 79, and one of the Same material deposited by water. That the first burial of these cities was sudden and violent is evident from the number of valuable articles left behind by the inhabitants in their flight, and from the skeletons of the many who were unable to escape. It seems, on tlie whole, most likely that while some of the layers were deposited by the action of water, others, and especially the first, were the result of a shower of rapilli and ashes from the volcano.
Copyright, 1877, by H. O. HOUGHTON & Co.
However that may be, the buried cities were, in the course of time, entirely forgotten by the common people, although the learned, by means of the old records, were of course aware of their former existence. Herculaneum is mentioned in the geographical dictionaries of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, and in inscriptions of the same period, but its exact site was unknown until a most singular circumstance led to its discovery.
A certain Prince d’Elboeuf came to Naples in 1707, and two years later he bought a country-house on the shore of the bay not far from Resina; he learned that it was no uncommon thing for his neighbors to find bits of colored marble in digging their wells, and he used to buy such pieces as were brought to him, to use in adorning his villa. A peasant, whose house stood on the main street of Resina, was then digging a well in his garden, and came, at the depth of sixtyfive feet, upon a flat, rectangular stone which proved to be the cover of an ancient well, carefully constructed, with excellent water at a further depth of twenty-five feet. Such a piece of good fortune was, of course, much talked of, and soon reached the ears of the prince. He rightly conjectured that the well cover marked the former level of the soil; so he descended to that point and began making lateral excavations. As this ancient well lay within the theatre of Herculaneum, just behind the stage, the prince soon came on portions of that building, which, however, he mistook for a temple. Finding many statues, he was encouraged to continue his explorations for several years, but they were at last ended by the interference of the Austrian viceroy, then ruling the country, who looked with a jealous eye on the treasures found by the prince, and compelled him to give up the greater part of them to the government.
No further explorations were made till the accession to the Neapolitan throne of the Bourbon Charles III. In 1738, Alicuhiarra, a Spanish architect who was constructing the royal palace at Portici, near Resina, informed the king of the former important discoveries, and the latter ordered the excavations to be resumed. An inscription was now found which showed that the supposed temple was really the theatre of Herculaneum. The king took such a lively interest in the progress of the works that he visited the site daily, and it was on account of his convenience that the entrance passage, which is still in use to-day, was cut. Alicuhiarra proved to be but an indifferent arclueologist, and the manner in which he performed his task may be judged of from the fact that on one occasion, having found an inscription in bronze letters, he did not think it worth while to copy it, but detached the letters and sent them in a box to his master. He was fortunately soon promoted to a higher position, and was succeeded at Herculaneum by a more competent superintendent, a Swiss named Weber. With a force of fifty laborers the explorations were now pushed into different parts of the buried city, and a multitude of beautiful paintings and statues were brought to light.
The king, wishing to give to the world an account of these discoveries as they were made, induced a savant named Bayard to come from Rome and write a description of the antiquities of Herculaneum. The result was a ponderous work in many quarto volumes, — a very chef-d’oeuvre of learned pedantry. The author could not, of course, neglect to say something of Hercules, the supposed founder of the city, and at the end of eleven hundred pages that hero has not yet returned from the lower world. The fourth volume opens with the remark, “I am drawing near to Herculaneum, but am not yet there!” It is not surprising that after eight years of these laborious but useless researches the king dispensed with Bayard’s services.
In 1750, a pleasure villa, known since as the House of the Papyri, was accidentally discovered in the digging of another well, and several years were devoted to rifling it of its treasures. This is by far the most elegant Roman dwelling-house that lias been found anywhere, and the large number of exquisite works of art taken from it attest the wealth and taste of its owner. Besides 1756 rolls of manuscripts, numerous mosaics and mural paintings, over fifty statues and busts in bronze, and thirteen in marble, were here found. The dancing and sleeping fauns, the two runners, the six dancinggirls, and the famous bust of Demosthenes, all came from this house. In 1755, the Accademia Ercolanese was founded, — an association of learned men charged with the task of reproducing, by means of engravings, the works of art of the buried city, and of superintending further search. The first part of its duty was most ably performed, and the publication of the Antichita di Ercolano made a great sensation in the artistic world.
Herculaneum was unfortunately considered from the moment of its discovery, simply as a mine from which plunder was to be extracted. No thought of determining its size, of uncovering it, or of preserving its monuments in situ and intact seems ever to have been entertained. Accordingly, these early explorations, which were continued till 1770, were made only by means of curriculi, small, under-ground passages, which were carried along in any direction where the yield of works of art seemed promising. The main passages were protected by boards, to prevent the earth falling in, and from them other passages branched off into the buildings that were searched. Each house, as soon as it was deemed sufficiently explored, was filled up again with the rubbish taken out of the next, and thus the work proceeded, if not in the best manner, at least with considerable economy of labor. About sixteen acres were visited in this cursory way, including the theatre, nine blocks of dwelling-houses, three temples, a basilica, and part of the forum.
The work remained suspended, or only occasionally prosecuted, from 1770 until 1827, when chance, which would seem to have been the presiding deity of these explorations, determined their renewal. The ground fell in at a certain spot in a vineyard, and disclosed ancient buildings quite near the surface. About an acre of the ground was at once bought by the government, and most of it has since been carefully excavated. This, as I have said before, is the only part, besides the theatre, now open to inspection. As this portion of the city was previously visited by the curriculi, the yield of art treasures has been small. A silver bust of Galba, of life size, was found here in September, 1875.
The labors of the academy threw a good deal of light upon the ancient topography of the country around Herculaneum. By a careful examination of all the wells in the neighborhood, and of the various strata through which they pass, the ancient shore was found to he from one to five hundred yards inside of the present sea line, and to have two considerable indentations. Two rivercourses were likewise found, of which there is at present no trace, as they have been completely filled up by successive eruptions. These discoveries explain and confirm those passages of ancient writers which describe Herculaneum as having more than one port, and as situated on a hill between two rivers and partly on a tongue of land running out into the sea. The changes since caused by the action of Vesuvius and by the general upheaving of the continent have been such that to-day not one of the features of this description can be recognized. It is not strange, then, if, before the discovery of the theatre, arclueologists were thrown off the scent in their search for the site of the buried city, for they necessarily followed these indications of the ancient geographers.
The academicians were less successful in determining the size of Herculaneum; or rather it must be said that this appears to have formed no part of their plan. Perhaps the limited means at their disposal put it out of their power. They have left us, however, an accurate map of the part of the city explored. This consists of the nine blocks of houses and of the public buildings that I have mentioned, and covers about sixteen acres, or one tenth of the space occupied by Pompeii. To call this a map of Herculaneum, implying that it represents the whole city, is very incorrect, and was evidently not intended to be so understood, although this is nowadays often taken for granted. The most obvious proof that the city had a greater extension than appears on the map is that it is known from ancient writings to have been surrounded by a wall. No part of this was reached by the explorers, except that the very thick walls of certain magazines facing the sea are conjectured, without great probability, to have formed part of it. The author of the Disertazio Isagogica, the official report of the result of the academy’s labors, as if in apology for the meagreness of the map, argues tbat Herculaneum was a small city, because, in the first place, Dionysius of Halicarnassus relates that Hercules founded a πολίχνη, or small city ; and, in the second place, Strabo calls Herculaneum a ϕρούριον, or fortified place, a term which he thinks would not have been applied to a large city. Yet a city, even if small when founded, would have had ample time to grow, from the days of Hercules to the reign of Titus; and ϕρούριον is a term with which it is hard to connect any definite notion of size, the word’s most obvious meaning seeming rather to invite explorers not to stop before reaching the walls which made Herculaneum a “fortified place.”
In the absence of certain information, there is great diversity of opinion among archaeologists as to the size of this ancient city. There are enthusiasts who speak of it as being many times larger than Pompeii, and others who are almost inclined to stand by the academy’s map as containing the whole truth. The best help, perhaps, that we have towards a solution of this question is the size of the theatre as compared with that of Pompeii. Signor Fiorelli, the director of the excavations, computes the population of Pompeii, as shown by its sleeping accommodations, to have been about twelve thousand; and it is precisely this number of persons that the amphitheatre will comfortably seat. The learned director calls especial attention to this coincidence, which indeed one might expect to find, since the shows of the amphitheatre were intended to be witnessed by the whole people. The size of a tragic theatre is undeniably a less sure criterion of the population of an ancient town than is that of its amphitheatre; nevertheless, when we find, as in the present ease, the tragic theatres of two towns differing sufficiently in their details to show that they were not constructed by any blind rule, and yet of nearly the same size, it seems not unreasonable to infer that the towns themselves had about the same number of inhabitants and possessed about the same area. We must pardon to the enthusiasm awakened by the first discovery of Herculaneum the enormous overestimates of the capacity of its theatre made in the last century. Wnickelmann stated that it would hold thirtyfive thousand persons. Modern guidebooks modestly reduce the number to ten thousand. I have found by taking such measurements as are possible that, there is barely room for three thousand to be seated. As to the theatre of Pompeii, it is commonly said to have had seats for five thousand persons, but it is certain that three thousand spectators would have constituted a most uncomfortably full house.
The superior construction of the buildings of Herculaneum as compared with those of Pompeii, and particularly the greater elegance of the works of art as well as of the utensils of ordinary everyday life, shows that of the two cities Herculaneum was the wealthier and the farther advanced in the arts of life. Being especially exposed to the southwest wind, from which Pompeii was cut off by the promontory of Sorrento, Herculaneum had, as we are told by Strabo, an uncommonly salubrious climate, and on this account it was much frequented by the wealthy Roman nobility. Servilia, the sister of Cato of Utica and the mother of Brutus, is known to have had a villa there, as well as Agrippina, the mother of Caligula. It is precisely in these villas of the nobility that our best hope lies of finding those inestimable treasures of antiquity, the rolls of papyrus which constituted their libraries. Such a villa was undoubtedly the famous House of the Papyri. In similar elegant pleasure-houses at Stabiæ several papyrus rolls were found, while in the whole of Pompeii only one has as yet come to light.
It is worthy of especial notice that the things found in Herculaneum are in general much better preserved than those in Pompeii. The bronzes from the former city are as clean as on the day they came from the founder’s hand, while those from the latter are always coated with green. The mural paintings of Herculaneum had, when first discovered, a freshness and vividness unequaled by those from Pompeii, except that in a few eases the same cause that was constantly at work there occasioned here also perfect preservation of the colors. That cause was simply the exclusion of the air. The lowest layer of volcanic matter that covers Pompeii consists of loose and porous rapilli or pumice-stones, through which air readily circulates. As this city stands on a hill, probably the summit of an extinct crater, its excellent drainage has kept the subsoil, in great part, in this dry and porous condition. Whatever air, therefore, enters through crevices in the surface layer of vegetable mold soon finds its way to the objects that are buried beneath the rapilli, and slowly but surely oxidizes and destroys them. The first covering of Herculaneum, on the other hand, though composed partly of rapilli, has been so affected by the rainwater which has filtered in from the surface that its component parts have become disintegrated and compacted into a firm and solid mass, forming, in fact, the light stone called tufa. A better preserver of the buried city could not have been devised than this natural cement. While it has effectually excluded the destructive agency of the air, it is so easily cut as to oppose no difficulty to the work of excavation. It must also have taken excellent molds of the bodies of men and animals overwhelmed by the catastrophe, and of such other objects as perished not suddenly but gradually. Even the loose soil of Pompeii occasionally furnishes molds like those I speak of. Where some man, for example, overcome by the fiery shower, fell down in the street to die, the ashes soon closed around and above him. Decomposition of the body succeeding quietly and slowly, the ashes did not fall in to fill the cavity thus left, but by the aid of the moisture absorbed from the body itself became hardened into a perfect mold of the vanished form. Hundreds of these most interesting relies were thoughtlessly destroyed at Pompeii until quite lately, when Signor Fiorelli had the happy inspiration to fill them, whenever found, with plaster of Paris. The success of this process has been marvelous. Recently, the form of a young woman was thus reproduced, — a form of great beauty, and as cleanly cut as if by the chisel of a sculptor. The details of her person and attire are rendered with surprising minuteness; the arrangement of her hair is distinctly visible, as well as the folds and even the texture of her scanty garments. It is most touching to look at these statues modeled by the hand of Death, bearing an impression of convulsive anguish or calm resignation such as can only he faintly imitated in the productions of art.
Another circumstance worth noticing is that as Herculaneum lay much nearer to Vesuvius than Pompeii did, it was probably covered, in the first instance, to a much greater depth. At any rate, it is certain that more difficulty was experienced at the former city than at the latter by those of the inhabitants who escaped and afterwards may have wished to recover the riches of their buried homes. That such attempts were occasionally, though rarely, made in both places is beyond doubt. The house of the qiuestor at Pompeii was visited by some one who had a perfect knowledge of the locality, and a large chest was robbed of its treasure of gold. At Herculaneum, both the theatre and the House of the Papyri bore evidences of unsuccessful efforts made at a remote period to reach their interiors.
The volcanic matter which covers Herculaneum may be conveniently grouped into three classes. First, there is what is called by the natives terra vecchia or pappamonte. This is commonly believed to have come from the eruption of 79, and also from other subsequent and similar ones. It is a conglomeration of rapilli, for the most part disintegrated, and ashes, which, wherever left undisturbed, has hardened into a soft tufa. When broken up on the surface, it becomes an exceedingly fertile soil. In many places this material is from forty to sixty feet deep, and is the only covering of the buried city. It is intersected at various depths by thin layers of vegetable mold, which accumulated in the intervals of the successive eruptions. Secondly, there is the terra di fuoco. There is a thin stratum of loose bits of breccia, tufa, and the scoriae of lava, some as small as a pea, others of twenty pounds’ weight, which were washed into their present position by the torrents of water that either issued from Vesuvius during the eruption of 1631, or resulted from the copious rains that followed it. For the purposes of excavation it is unnecessary to distinguish this material from the former, as the difficulty of removing it is practically the same. Thirdly, there is the real lava, an exceedingly hard rock, which flowed molten from Vesuvius at a heat several hundred times greater than that of boiling water, and ran down like a river to its present position. This exists, fortunately, in small quantities, and lies on or near the surface. There is a wide-spread but unfounded notion that it was this molten rock, the only substance properly bearing the name of lava, which originally overwhelmed Herculaneum. Had this been the case, it would, of course, be useless to talk of excavation. This mistake seems to have arisen from the circumstance that the ignorant natives, from whom most travelers get their information, call everything that conies out of the volcano lava, without distinction. The real lava is known to them as montagna.
The depth at which Herculaneum lies buried has been strangely exaggerated. Little discrepancy exists as to the distance of the pavement of the theatre below the surface, which is actually twenty and one half metres, or about sixtyseven feet. But the statement of the guide-books, that a part of the city is a hundred and twenty feet under-ground, is false. This blunder was first made by an early writer, who gives this as the depth towards the sea, the very portion where, in fact, it is only from twenty-six to thirty-six feet, and his figures have since been blindly copied. The respective quantities of lava and of tufa that cover Herculaneum can be estimated only approximately, as the exact limits of the city are unknown. The depth of the entire overlying mass increases regularly as ive recede from the ancient sea-shore; but as the lava lies in separate and irregular streams, more or less of it must be included in the estimate, according to the assumed position of the city. Supposing Herculaneum to be as large as Pompeii, I find that the mean of the amounts of lava that would he over it, in the three most probable positions that can be assigned to it, would be about half a million cubic metres; and under the most favorable circumstances it could hardly be less than a half of this amount. The average depth of the lava currents, as I have determined by repeated observations, does not exceed six metres.
If a line be drawn through the theatre parallel to the ancient sea-shore, the belt of land thus marked off will be a third of a mile wide. It is not unreasonable to surmise that this belt will contain at least one half and probably more of Herculaneum, since that city lay close to the sea; as, indeed, it contains all of it that has yet been visited. The average depth of the overlying mass in this belt is fifteen metres. As to the rest of the city, which I suppose to he between the theatre and Vesuvius, I think that twenty - one metres may fairly be set down as the average amount of earth covering it. For it must be remembered that the present Vesuvius is only a comparatively small cone that has arisen in modern times in the centre of the much larger ancient crater. Before the eruption of 79, the entire wall of that ancient and lofty crater was standing. That part of it, which faced Herculaneum and the sea has since been broken down, and the semicircular ridge still remaining is now called Monte Somma. As long as this crater stood complete, the mountain was, so to speak, nearer to Herculaneum than at present, and the slope from it down to that city must have been at least as steep as we find it now. There is reason, then, to believe that no part of Herculaneum lies much deeper than the theatre; and eighteen metres, or the mean between fifteen and twenty - one metres, may be safely taken as the average depth of the overlying mass.
The published results of many years’ work at Pompeii give us a ready means of calculating the cost of removing this amount of matter. Pompeii is buried at a depth of seven and a half metres, and the earth that has been removed has been carried, on an average, eighty-seven metres in baskets on men’s shoulders, and five hundred and thirty-five metres in cars running on an iron track and moved either by hand or by the impulse of an artificial slope. The cost of this labor, together with that of all necessary materials, restorations, the mending of walls, etc., reproductions for the museum, books and furniture for the school of archaeology, in fact of everything except the wages of tlie superintendents, is thirty cents and six mills per cubic metre of matter removed. For the removal, then, of the lowest seven and a half metres of the covering of Herculaneum, we may assume the same cost. For the remaining ten and a half metres, twenty cents per cubic metre will be an ample allowance, as the above extra expenses will not have to be incurred. Half a million cubic metres, at this last price, must be deducted for the lava, which is to form a separate item. Assuming, then, as before, that the superficial extent of Herculaneum is the same as that of Pompeii, namely, 646,826 metres, we have for the excavation of the city, omitting the lava, the expense of $2,742,800. As the theatre is only half a mile from the sea, and as the slope of the ground towards the latter is considerable, it would be very easy to dispose of the earth removed.
Half a million cubic metres of hard lava to be got rid of seems at first a formidable difficulty, and, indeed, if no use could be made of it, it would cost ninety cents per cubic metre simply to blast it out and throw it into the sea. But, fortunately, the very hardness of the lava makes it extremely useful for many constructions requiring a durable material, especially for paving-stones, and, in a limited quantity, it lias a considerable market value. It is quarried extensively all through this region, and cargoes of it are sent as far as to Alexandria in Egypt. Quarries near the seashore are let by the proprietors at a rent equivalent to a charge of forty cents per cubic metre of stone taken out. The horizontal and vertical fissures that generally occur in it increase the ease of extracting it. The quarry-man, after working it up into flag-stones, gets from $1.50 to $4 per cubic metre for it, and as much as $11 for massive blocks without a flaw. About 17,500 cubic metres are annually taken from the quarries in the immediate neighborhood of Resina. At this rate our half a million cubic metres would not be absorbed by the market in less than thirty years. The quarry-man would indeed have to work in a less favorable position than he does on the sea-shore; still, there are now quarries far inland, and they always yield some rent, though a small one. If the rock were given away, there would certainly be found men to take it. But if Herculaneum were to be excavated, the whole undertaking ought to be finished in at least ten years. In that time, just one third of the lava could be sold. It would be worth to the quarry-man the expense of taking it out, and its removal would therefore cost the excavators nothing. If a second third had to be removed in the same time, it would be worth to the quarry-man only half of the cost of extraction, since the value of money doubles in about ten years, and the other half of the expense would have to be borne by the excavators. In like manner, three fourths of the cost of removing the last third, iu the same time, would fall on the excavators. Hence, the expense of getting rid of all the lava in ten years would be five fourths of the cost of removing one third of it, or $187,500. The waste fragments of lava could, at a small charge, be applied to completing and extending the breakwaters of the harbor of Portici, a most desirable object, in view of the dangerous storms which occur in that bay.
A third element of expense would be the value of the land and buildings above the buried city. The commune or district of Resina, which lies above Herculaneum, derives its name from Retina, one of the ancient ports of that city. It extends a mile along the shore and inland as far as Vesuvius, hut the land ceases to be fit for cultivation about two miles from the sea. The population of this district is given by the official returns as a little over twelve thousand, but it is supposed really to reach fourteen thousand. It is chiefly gathered into the town of Resina, which begins over the middle of the already explored part of Herculaneum and extends thence towards Vesuvius, covering about thirtytwo acres. Besides this, a long street that traverses the commune, sensibly parallel to the sea and passing directly over the theatre, is built up more or less on both sides. One third of the part of Herculaneum already visited is covered by bouses, and it is not unlikely that, to excavate the city entirely, three fourths of all the buildings of the commune of Resina would have to be removed. This is certainly a most liberal estimate. As the entire value of these building is, according to the official returns of 1874, $613,334, we have, as the value of those to be destroyed, $460,000. The cost of their demolition would be balanced by the value of the materials, which could be used for other constructions.
The land of the commune lying near the sea is extremely fertile, and the very best of it, used for vineyards and kitelien-gardens, is worth $400a moggio, or $2240an acre; but most of it can be bought for three fourths of that price. As to that part of the land wanted, which is now covered by the town of Resina, it might at first seem necessary to estimate it at the advanced price which town land always bears. But if Resina were to be demolished, another town would have to be built up, for the accommodation of its inhabitants, between its present site and the sea, and the high-road would have to be diverted in that direction. And it is evident that if the excavators should first purchase the vineyards now lying there, the increase in the value of this land, when built upon, would compensate for the extra price to be paid for the present town land, and the site of Herculaneum would finally cost only its value as vineyard land. Such an enterprise could, of course, be successfully carried out only by means of an assessment made by the Italian government. We have, then, as the outlay required for the site of the buried city, estimating the land at its highest value, $369,300.
At Pompeii, it is found that, besides doing the requisite accessory work, one man does not remove quite two cubic metres of earth in a day. At this rate, it would require two thousand laborers to excavate Herculaneum in ten years. The cost of the personale needed to direct this large body of men would not exceed $30,000a year. The income that would be derived from visitors, during these ten years, may safely be put down at what it actually is at Pompeii, $7000 a year.
Summing up these various items, it appears that the entire expense of excavating Herculaneum would be —
Removing the earth, §2,742,800
“ “ lava, 187,500
Cost of the land, 369,300
“ “ “buildings, 460,000
“ “ superintendence, 300,000
Deduct income from visitors, 70,000
or, in round numbers, four million dollars.
If the excavation of Pompeii goes on at the present rate, it will take over seventy years more to finish it, and, making no deduction for the income received from visitors, it will have cost little less than three million dollars. There is a marked disproportion between the number of the laborers and that of the overseers and officials employed there. On an average, there are only eighty-one of the former, while there are no less than fifty-five of the latter. It is not surprising, then, if the cost of superintendence amounts to seven ninths of that of the laborers and materials.
In return for the above outlay of four millions, wo should have a city laid open to the light of day whose buildings, in partial ruin, while proclaiming aloud the great catastrophe which overwhelmed them, would speak no less eloquently to us of the period when they sheltered thousands of families and when the forum was daily thronged with busy life. Every detail of architecture and decoration, every public monument, every work of art or household object found, every inscription or chance scribbling on the walls, would throw some light on the political or religious customs of this people, or on their domestic life; and this light would be reflected on all general questions of the same kind. The income from visitors would much more than suffice to keep the recovered city in good order, and it would be handed down to posterity, a better text - book than any dictionary of antiquities, for the instruction of youth in the manners and customs of the ancients. With due care this precious heritage could be preserved for many centuries, unless, indeed, it should become, a second time, the victim of Vesuvius. For now, as in the days of Statius, —
“We should have also an immense number of mural paintings, mosaics, statues, and other works of art, as well as of utensils and implements, of the material value of which it would not be unreasonable to say that, if sold to the highest bidders, they would yield enough to cover the entire cost of the excavation. But the Italian government would never allow such a disposition to be made of them, nor could any genuine lover of antiquity desire it. They would most properly be collected into one museum, and be kept in the country" whose past history and customs they would so amply illustrate. Such being the destination of these objects, it would certainly seem best that the government should undertake their excavation. But unhappily, in the present unfortunate state of Italian finances, and at a time when so many important projects of reform are making urgent calls upon the public purse, it is useless to expect more to be given to archæological purposes than the pittance of $22,000 a year, the fund with which the Museum of Naples and the works at Pompeii are now carried on. If, however, enough foreign capital could be found to carry the enterprise through, there is no doubt that the Italian government would encourage and aid it, and would be willing afterwards to acquire the objects found, either by paying their market value or by bearing the expenses of the excavation.
The past of Italy embraced a civilization of which we are heirs in as great a degree as the Italians. When the sword of the northern barbarian overthrew the political power of Home, the language, laws, and institutions of the empire won a no less signal victory over those of its conquerors. From this mutual conquest have sprung such intimate relations between the ancient and modern civilizations that we must bo acquainted with the former before we can understand the development of the latter. Nothing, then, is without interest to us that can throw light upon Roman history or upon the institutions and the manners of the peoples under Roman sway. As Pompeii is likely to be one day thoroughly excavated, it may be thought that the possession of another ancient city would be of little importance. Regarded as a mere object of curiosity, the interest of Herculaneum would doubtless lose something by the fact of the existence of Pompeii. The careless traveler, remarking merely their similar features, would perhaps see in one only a repetition of the other; but the student, comparing the two cities, would detect their differences, and eliminating their peculiarities would arrive at broader and surer conceptions of the objects of his study".
Especially, the chance of finding books at Herculaneum is, as I have said previously, much greater than at Pompeii, because, in the first place, the former was the wealthier of the two cities and the residence of more men of culture; and in the second, its compact and deep covering has proved a better preserver of the buried objects than the loose and slight covering of Pompeii. In fact, nowhere else in the world have fragile and perishable articles of equal age been found in such good condition as at Hcrculaueum. Wood and all other vegetable substances buried there are, indeed, for the most part, blackened and completely" carbonized, and such would be the condition of any books that might be discovered. But this carbonization, whether it is the effect of the heat of the material that first overwhelmed the city, which is the view of those who stand by" the historical account of the catastrophe, or whether, as is the opinion of modern Italian geologists, it has resulted from those same agencies which have elsewhere converted the primeval forests into coal-beds, it has certainly merely modified and not by any means destroyed the texture of the articles it has affected. Such books as might be found would run no risk of being wantonly ruined by" ignorant workmen, as very many were in the last century, but they" would be carefully" collected, and the delicate apparatus now at work in the Naples Museum unrolling the papyri would enable us to read them.
Any one conversant with ancient, literature can call to mind many lost literary treasures, both in Greek and Latin, which were extant at the time of Herculaneum’s overthrow, and some of which might reasonably" be expected to be found there. What price could we not afford to pay for the recovery of the poems of Sappho, “the pride of Hellas,” “the tenth muse,” whose lyrics were acknowledged by the ancients to be as perfect productions as the great epic of Homer! What light would be shed upon a hundred dark passages in Roman history if only the missing books of Tacitus or Livy could be found, or the works of the early Roman historians, or copies of certain laws and treaties, or the Annales Maximi, in which the Pontrfex Maximus recorded annually the chief events of ihe year! We should have no inconsiderable prize if only a fabula togata should fall into our hands, or the works of Varro, or the orations of the Gracchi and their contemporaries.
Each of my readers may now, with the facts and figures that I have given before him, judge for himself whether the undertaking of excavating Herculaneum is worth the trouble and expense. Many even of those who view the enterprise most favorably will doubtless think it unfit for foreign capital to embark in, and decide that the project must await, for its execution, the return of financial prosperity to Italy. There is, however, one most important preliminary step that might be taken at once and is within the compass of moderate means, and I would suggest it to certain enterprising newspaper proprietors, who may he looking about for new fields of archæological exploration. I mean the determination of the exact limits of Herculaneum. This could be effected at a cost of from five to ten thousand dollars, by means of an under-ground passage starting from the part already excavated, following one of the main streets to a gate, and thence making the circuit of the walls.
Robert A. McLeod.