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- Wonders of Creation - 5/15 -


fall upon them, that not a few of them perished in their dwellings or their streets. As for the cities themselves, they were utterly buried completely out of sight, and, like other things that are long out of sight, they soon became also buried out of mind. For many centuries they remained entirely forgotten.

You will doubtless like to know how Vesuvius looked, after doing so much mischief. Here is a picture showing what like it was immediately before the eruption; and one showing its appearance soon after the event. On comparing the two, you will observe the mountain had undergone a great change. It was no longer flat on the top, but had formed for itself a large cone, from the summit of which dense vapours ascended. This cone was composed entirely of the ashes, cinders, and loose stones, thrown up during the eruption. It had become separated by a deep ravine from the remainder of the former summit, which afterwards came to be distinguished by the name Monte Somma. The whole of the forests, vineyards, and other luxuriant vegetation, which had covered that portion of the sides of Vesuvius where the eruption took place, were destroyed. Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between the beautiful appearance of the mountain before this catastrophe, and its desolate aspect after the sad event. This remarkable contrast forms the subject of one of Martial's Epigrams, lib. iv. Ep. 44. It is thus rendered by Mr. Addison:--

[Illustration: Vesuvius after the Eruption of A.D. 79.]

"Vesuvius covered with the fruitful vine Here flourished once, and ran with floods of wine. Here Bacchus oft to the cool shades retired, And his own native Nysa less admired. Oft to the mountain's airy tops advanced, The frisking Satyrs on the summit danced. Alcides [1] here, here Venus graced the shore, Nor loved her favourite Lacedaemon more. Now piles of ashes, spreading all around, In undistinguished heaps deform the ground. The gods themselves the ruined seats bemoan, And blame the mischiefs that themselves have done."

[1. Hercules]

Since the eruption of A.D. 79, Vesuvius has had many fits of activity with intervals of rest. In A.D. 472, it threw out so great a quantity of ashes, that they overspread all Europe, and filled even Constantinople with alarm. In A.D. 1036 occurred the first eruption in which there was any ejection of lava. This eruption was followed by five others, the last of which occurred in 1500. To these succeeded a long rest of about a hundred and thirty years, during which the mountain had again become covered with gardens and vineyards as of old. Even the inside of the crater had become clothed with shrubbery.

In this interval, however, there was an extraordinary eruption--not of Vesuvius itself, but at no great distance from it, in the Bay of Baiae, on the opposite shore of the Bay of Naples. The whole of this neighbourhood is a volcanic country, and was anciently named the Phlegraean Fields. It contains a crater in a state of subdued activity, called the Solfatara; an extinct volcano having a large crater called Monte Barbaro; and Lake Avernus, also supposed to be an extinct volcanic crater. Between Monte Barbaro and the sea, there was formerly a fiat piece of ground bordering on the Lucrine Lake, which is separated from the Bay of Baiae by a narrow strip of shingle. On the 29th of September 1538, the flat piece of ground above mentioned became the scene of a great eruption, which resulted in the throwing up of a new elevation to the height of four hundred and thirteen feet, and with a circumference of eight thousand feet. It received the name of Monte Nuovo, and is now covered with a luxuriant vegetation.

In 1631 there was another dreadful eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which covered with lava most of the villages at the foot of the mountain. To add to the calamity, torrents of boiling water were, on this occasion, thrown out by the volcano, producing awful destruction.

There have been since that time numerous eruptions, which it would be tedious to mention in detail; but two of them are worthy of notice. During an eruption in February 1848, a column of vapours arose from the crater about forty feet high, presenting a variety of colours; and a short time afterwards there arose ten circles, which were black, white, and green, and which ultimately assumed the form of a cone. A similar appearance had been observed in 1820. More recently, in May 1855, a great stream of glowing lava, about two hundred feet in breadth, flowed towards a vast ravine nearly a thousand feet in depth. The first descent into this chasm is a sheer precipice, over which the lava dashed heavily, forming a magnificent cascade of liquid fire.

Of the buried cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii no traces were discovered till the year 1713, when some labourers, in digging a well, came upon the remains of Herculaneum about twenty-four feet underground. Little attention, however, was paid to the discovery at that time; but in 1748 a peasant, digging in his vineyard, stumbled on some ancient works of art. On sinking a shaft at this spot to the depth of twelve feet, the remains of Pompeii were found. This discovery led to further researches, and the exact positions of the two cities were erelong ascertained. The work of disinterment has continued with little interruption from that to the present time, and many valuable specimens of ancient art have been brought to light.

The greatest progress has been made at Pompeii; because the stuff, in which it was buried, is far looser than that which covers Herculaneum. In the former city, although it was anciently reckoned only a third-rate place, there have already been discovered eight temples, a forum, a basilica, two theatres, a magnificent amphitheatre, and public baths. The ramparts, composed of huge blocks of stone, have also been exposed. One of the most remarkable places is the Cemetery. It consists of a broad path covered with pavement, and bordered on either side with stately monuments, placed over the tombs of the wealthy citizens of the place, and in which whole families have been interred.

The houses were found filled with elegant furniture, the walls of the apartments adorned with beautiful paintings. Numerous statues, vases, lamps, and other elegant works of art, have been recovered. Many skeletons have also been found, in the exact positions in which the living men were caught by the deadly shower of suffocating ashes. The excavators came upon the skeleton of a miser, who had been attempting to escape from his house, and whose bony fingers were still clutching the purse which contained the treasure he loved. There were also found in the barracks at Pompeii the skeletons of two soldiers chained to the stocks; and the writings scribbled by the soldiers on the walls are still quite legible. In the vaults of a villa in the suburbs were discovered the skeletons of seventeen persons, who had probably sought refuge there, and been entombed. The stuff in which they were imbedded had been originally soft, but had become hardened through time. In this substance was found a cavity, containing the skeleton of a female with an infant in her arms. Although nothing but the bones remained, the cavity contained a perfect cast of the woman's figure--thus showing that she must have been imbedded in the substance while alive. Round the neck of this skeleton there was a gold chain, and on the fingers jewelled rings.

In many of the houses the names of the owners over the doors are still legible, and the fresco-paintings on the inner walls are still quite fresh and beautiful. The public fountains are adorned with shells formed into patterns; and in the room of a painter there was found a collection of shells in perfectly good order. A large quantity of fishing-nets was found in both the cities, and in Herculaneum some pieces of linen retaining its texture. There also was discovered a fruiterer's shop, with vessels full of almonds, chestnuts, carubs, and walnuts. In another shop stood a glass vessel containing moist olives, and a jar with caviare--the preserved roe of the sturgeon. In the shop of an apothecary stood a box that had contained pills, now reduced to powder, which had been prepared for a patient destined never to swallow them--a happy circumstance for him, if he eventually escaped from the city. Very recently there has been laid open a baker's shop, with the loaves of bread on the shelves, all ready for his customers, but doomed never to be eaten. These loaves are of the same form as those still made in that country, and on being analyzed were found to consist of the same ingredients as modern bread.

Mount Vesuvius rises rather abruptly from the plain on which it stands. The circuit of the base is about twelve miles, and the height of the summit above the level of the sea about three thousand feet. This latter measurement, however, alters from time to time, owing to the variable height of the cone. Its moderate elevation, and the ease with which it may be approached, have induced many travellers to ascend the mountain; and not a few have recorded their experiences. So frequent are the eruptions of the volcano, however, and so much do they change the aspect of the crater, that any description remains correct for only a limited time.

Within the last hundred years the crater has been five times wholly altered, in consequence of its interior having been completely blown out, and its walls having crumbled down. When Sir William Hamilton ascended the mountain in 1756, it had no less than three craters and cones, one within another. The outermost was a very wide-mouthed cone. Within it rose centrically another, smaller in size and narrower in the mouth; and within that again was the third and highest, having a smaller base and still narrower opening at the top, whence the greatest volume of vapour ascended. In 1767 this innermost cone merged in the second, which was greatly enlarged; and by a subsequent eruption the interval between the first and second was obliterated, so that only a single cone remained. In 1822 the whole interior of the cone was blown out, and its walls crumbled down, so as to lower the height of the mountain several hundred feet. But within the vast gulf, nearly a mile in diameter, which was thus left yawning open, there soon began to be formed a new cone, which showed itself erelong above the jagged edge of the crater. Eventually this cone increased, by the accumulation of ejected matters, to such an extent as to obliterate the division between it and the rim of the former crater--thus once more establishing a continuous cone. Since that time, the cone and crater have twice undergone similar changes.

The most usual appearance of the crater, when in comparative repose, is that of a vast circular or oval hollow basin, with nearly perpendicular walls, broken in their continuity, every here and there, by large projecting dykes, formed by the injection of more recent lavas into fissures rent in those which had previously become consolidated. Below the perpendicular walls is a rapid slope, composed of fine ashes or sand, descending to the floor of the crater, which is, for the most part, nearly flat. It is much rent by fissures, which during the night are seen to glow with a


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