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The people, free from cares, serene and gay,
A Siren, for her songs and beauty famed,
Et nunquam turbata quies, somnique peracti:
There are the gentle seats that I propose;
THE ANTIQUITIES AND NATURAL CURIOSITIES THAT LIE
NEAR THE CITY OF NAPLES.
At about eight miles' distance from Naples lies a very noble scene of antiquities. What they call Virgil's tomb is the first that one meets with on the way thither. It is certain this poet was buried at Naples, but I think it is almost as certain that his tomb stood on the other side of the town which looks towards Vesuvio. By this tomb is the entry into the grotto of Pausilypo. The common people of Naples believe it to have been wrought by magic, and that Virgil was the magician; who is in greater repute among the Neapolitans for having made the grotto, than the Æneid.
If a man would form to himself a just idea of this place, he must fancy a vast rock undermined from one end to the other, and a highway running through it near as long and as broad as the Mall in St. James's Park. This subterraneous passage is much mended since Seneca gave so bad a character of it. The entry at both ends is higher than the middle parts of it, and sinks by degrees, to fling in more light upon the rest. Towards the middle are two large funnels, bored through the roof of the grotto, to let in light and fresh air.
There are nowhere about the mountain any vast heaps of ones, though it is certain the great quantities of them that e dug out of the rock could not easily conceal themselves, d they not probably been consumed in the moles and buildgs of Napies. This confirmed me in a conjecture which I ade at the first sight of this subterraneous passage, that it as not at first designed so much for a highway as for a arry of stone, but that the inhabitants, finding a double Ivantage by it, hewed it into the form we now see. Perhaps e same design gave the original to the Sibyl's grotto, condering the prodigious multitude of palaces that stood in its eighbourhood.
I remember when I was at Chateaudun in France, I met ith a very curious person, a member of one of the German niversities. He had stayed a day or two in the town longer an ordinary, to take the measures of several empty spaces at had been cut in the sides of a neighbouring mountain. ome of them were supported with pillars formed out of the ck, some were made in the fashion of galleries, and some ot unlike amphitheatres. The gentleman had made to himIf several ingenious hypotheses concerning the use of these bterraneous apartments, and from thence collected the vast agnificence and luxury of the ancient Chateaudunois. But on communicating his thoughts upon this subject to one the most learned of the place, he was not a little surprised hear that these stupendous works of art were only so any quarries of free-stone, that had been wrought into fferent figures, according as the veins of it directed the orkmen.
About five miles from the grotto of Pausilypo lie the mains of Puteoli and Baje, in a soft air and a delicious tuation.
The country about them, by reason of its vast caverns and bterraneous fires, has been miserably torn in pieces by rthquakes, so that the whole face of it is quite changed om what it was formerly. The sea has overwhelmed a ultitude of palaces, which may be seen at the bottom of e water in a calm day.
The Lucrine lake is but a puddle in comparison of what once was, its springs having been sunk in an earthquake, I stopped up by mountains that have fallen upon them. ne lake of Avernus, formerly so famous for its streams of
poison, is now plentifully stocked with fisn and fowl. Mount Gaurus, from one of the fruitfullest parts in Italy, is become one of the most barren. Several fields, which were laid out in beautiful groves and gardens, are now naked plains, smoking with sulphur, or encumbered with hills that have been thrown up by eruptions of fire. The works of art lie in no less disorder than those of nature, for that which was once the most beautiful spot of Italy, covered with temples and palaces, adorned by the greatest of the Roman commonwealth, embellished by many of the Roman emperors, and celebrated by the best of their poets, has now nothing to show but the ruins of its ancient splendour, and a great magnificence in confusion.
The mole of Puteoli has been mistaken by several authors for Caligula's bridge. They have all been led into this error from the make of it, because it stands on arches. But to pass over the many arguments that may be brought against this opinion, I shall here take away the foundation of it, by setting down an inscription mentioned by Julius Capitolinus in the Life of Antoninus Pius, who was the repairer of this mole. Imp. Cæsari. Divi. Hadriani. filio. Divi. Trajani. Parthici. Nepoti. Divi. Nerva, pronepoti. T. Act. Hadriano. Antonino. Aug. Pio. &c. quod super cætera beneficia ad hujus etiam tutelam portus, Pilarum viginti molem cum sumptu fornicum reliquo ex Ærario suo largitus est.
It would have been very difficult to have made such a mole as this of Puteoli, in a place where they had not so natural a commodity as the earth of Puzzuola, which immediately hardens in the water, and after a little lying in it, looks rather like stone than mortar. It was this that gave the ancient Romans an opportunity of making so many encroachments on the sea, and of laying the foundations of their villas and palaces within the very borders of it, as Horace1 has elegantly described it more than once.
About four years ago they dug up a great piece of marble near Puzzuola, with several figures and letters engraven round it, which have given occasion to some disputes among the antiquaries. But they all agree that it is the pedestal of a statue erected to Tiberius by the fourteen cities of Asia which were flung down by an earthquake; the same that,
1 Lib. ii. Od. 18; lib. iii. Od. 1; lib. iii. Od. 24; Epist. lib. i.
according to the opinion of many learned men, happened at our Saviour's crucifixion. They have found in the letters, which are still legible, the names of the several cities, and discover in each figure something particular to the city, of which it represents the genius. There are two medals of Tiberius stamped on the same occasion, with this inscription to one of them, Civitatibus Asia Restitutis. The emperor is represented in both sitting, with a patera in one hand and a spear in the other.
It is probable this might have been the posture of the statue, which in all likelihood does not lie far from the place where they took up the pedestal; for they say there were other great pieces of marble near it, and several of them inscribed, but that nobody would be at the charges of bringing them to light. The pedestal itself lay neglected in an open field when I saw it. I shall not be particular on the ruins of the amphitheatre, the ancient reservoirs of water, the Sibyl's grotto, the Centum camera, the sepulchre of Agrippina, Nero's mother, with several other antiquities of less note, that lie in the neighbourhood of this bay, and have been often described by many others. I must confess, after having surveyed the antiquities about Naples and Rome, I cannot but think that our admiration of them does not so much arise out of their greatness as uncommonness.
There are indeed many extraordinary ruins, but I believe a traveller would not be so much astonished at them, did he find any works of the same kind in his own country. Amphitheatres, triumphal arches, baths, grottoes, catacombs, rotundas, highways paved for so great a length, bridges of such an amazing height, subterraneous buildings for the reception of rain and snow-water, are most of them at present out of fashion, and only to be met with among the antiquities of Italy. We are therefore immediately surprised when we see any considerable sums laid out in anything of this nature, though at the same time there is many a Gothic cathedral in England, that has cost more pains and money than several of these celebrated works. Among the ruins of the old heathen temples they showed me what they call the chamber of Venus, which stands a little behind her temple. It is wholly dark, and has several figures on the ceiling wrought n stucco, that seem to represent lust and strength by the emblems of naked Jupiters and Gladiators, Tritons and Cen
taurs, &c., so that one would guess it has formerly been the scene of many lewd mysteries. On the other side of Naples are the catacombs. These must have been full of stench and loathsomeness, if the dead bodies that lay in them were left to rot in open niches, as an eminent author of our own country imagines. But upon examining them I find they were each of them stopped up: without doubt, as soon as the corpse was laid in it. For at the mouth of the niche one always finds the rock cut into little channels, to fasten the board or marble that was to close it up, and I think I did not see one which had not still some mortar sticking in it. In some I found pieces of tiles that exactly tallied with the channel, and in others a little wall of bricks, that sometimes stopped up above a quarter of the niche, the rest having been broken down. St. Proculus's sepulchre seems to have a kind of mosaic work on its covering, for I observed at one end of it several little pieces of marble ranged together after that manner. 'Tis probable they were adorned, more or less, according to the quality of the dead. One would, indeed, wonder to find such a multitude of niches unstopped, and I cannot imagine anybody should take the pains to do it, who was not in quest of some supposed treasure.
Baja was the winter retreat of the old Romans, that being the proper season to enjoy the Bajani Soles, and the Mollis Lucrinus; as, on the contrary, Tibur, Tusculum, Preneste, Alba, Cajeta, Mons Circeius, Anxur, and the like airy mountains and promontories, were their retirements during the heats of summer.
Dum nos blanda tenent jucundi stagna Lucrini
Quo te bis decimus ducit ab urbe lapis.
1 Vide Hor. lib. ii. Od. 6.
MAR. lib. i. Ep. 116.