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The heat for more than half of the year must be nearly unendurable, and where water could be procured I know not. At the present moment not a drop could be procured, and I suffered as much from thirst as I had done on the sandy beach leading to Taranto. It must have required more than a Siren's charm to have kept me here another hour. Worn out and panting, I threw myself at the bottom of the boat, directing that I should be rowed to the Promontorium Minervae, now Punta della Campanella, the headland opposite to the island Caprea, now Capri, being the southern boundary of the Bay of Naples. The coast continued to be precipitous, and as we approached the point we came upon some high needlepointed rocks, which had a picturesque appearance. They were nothing but rocks, and were much worn away by the waves. The point on which I landed is famed as the site of a Temple of Minerva, which had looked down on the southern extremity of Capri, by far the finest and boldest part of the island. The glare of the limestone rock of which it is composed was at present disagreeable to the eye, and reminded me of what I had complained when I visited the Capo di Leuca, the Japygian promontory, where another Temple of Minerva had been placed. There was scarcely any vegetation to be seen. I found a tower, once strongly fortified, now nearly in ruins, guarded by two soldiers, with several cannon. I was told that it had been erected by Murat, and that his soldiers had, Wandal-like, demolished the greater part of the Temple of Minerva to build the fortifications. The flagstaff remains; the flag had been turned into a shirt for the last officer who commanded it. Some few remains of the ancient temple are found, and the space over which they are scattered shows that it must have been extensive. It is situated about seventy feet above the level of the sea, to which there have been two steep descents. I descended by the most precipitous, and found an enormous grotto, which seems at one time to have been walled in. There is a small passage which ascends through the rock, communicating probably with the temple, but it has never been explored. The roof of the cave is covered with beautiful stalactites of the most fantastic shapes. This promontory was a point of considerable importance in the coast-line of Italy, forming the point of demarcation for the two fleets that were appointed, B.C. 181, to clear the seas of pirates (Liv. xi. 18). Here also part of the fleet of Augustus, B.C. 36, on its way from Misenum to Sicily, suffered heavy loss (App. B. C. v. 98). I rowed forward to Capri, separated from this promontory by a strait three miles in width. On reaching the island, I was requested by a police-officer to write my name in a book, and with this simple ceremony was allowed to advance up the hill to a little village, where I found a respectable locanda. After some refreshment, I proceeded towards the palace of the Emperor Tiberius through ground without shelter from the sun's rays. The palace is situated on the southern part of the island, on the highest point overhanging the sea. As you approach it, you see everywhere immense ruins, which plainly show the extent of the villa. Some parts have been excavated, and exhibit mosaic floors and stucco walls, stained red and green—colours which appear so frequently in Pompeii. You are shown the place where the emperor used to amuse himself in making those, who offended him, leap over a precipice into the sea. It is at least three hundred feet high, and the projecting rocks must have ended their sufferings before they reached the bottom. There was a large marble sarcophagus lately discovered, containing a quantity of bones: it is ornamented with a variety of figures. Augustus took a fancy to this island, and in exchange for it gave the Neapolitans, to whom it belonged, the island of AEnaria, Ischia; but it was his successor, Tiberius, who rendered it famous, or infamous, by taking up his residence, A.D. 27, for the last ten years of his life on it. It was here that he gave himself up to the unrestrained practice of the grossest debaucheries, which have rendered his name scarcely less notorious than his cruelties. The heat prevented me from venturing to ascend to Anacapri, the western portion of the island, rising to a height of sixteen hundred feet above the sea, and approached by a flight of more than five hundred steps. It was here that General Church made a narrow escape of being taken prisoner by the French, and the place by which he fled is pointed out. , I rowed round the southern part of the island, and was amply repaid by a magnificent view of that bold and bluff scenery which renders Capri so conspicuous an object at a distance. Its peaked rocks, abrupt precipices, and large grottos hollowed out by the ceaseless dashing of the waves, render this island well worthy of a visit. I had still five or six hours at my command, and as the breeze seemed to be setting in from the south I determined to hoist sail, and make for the promontory of Misenum, on the opposite side of the bay, if my boatmen could be bribed to undertake the passage. I did not expect that there would be any difficulty with the police, as Englishmen are allowed to visit all these ancient sites near Naples without annoyance about passports. My boatmen told me that if the breeze left us we would be far in the night before we could make land, and this I was aware would be the case. This, however, was not a matter of consideration, as I have become so case-hardened that it makes little difference whether I spend the night in their open boats or in one of their abominable locandas. Of the two, the last was, perhaps, the least desirable. We hoisted the lateen sails at once, and the breeze continued to freshen, bearing us on gallantly, to my great joy, and cooling the air so deliciously, that I seemed to be wafted through a very paradise of delights after the hot and suffocating oven of this morning. The entrance to this bay is thought to be one of the finest in the world, the palaces of Naples rising in tiers one above the other in a kind of amphitheatre, Vesuvius smoking in the foreground, and behind the lofty range of the Apennines, shooting off through Monte S. Angelo, past Sorento, till it lowers itself at the promontory of Minerva and Capri, which I had just left. To the north lay the islands of Ischia and Procida, with the bluff promontory of Misenum, towards which we were steering. The small bay of Baiae begins soon to show itself, along which the proud aristocracy of Rome used to have their summer residences. I reached the promontory of Misenum, forming the northern boundary of the Bay of Naples, in time i. ascend to its summit and examine the ruins scattered over the headand. Its shape is somewhat in the form of a pyramid, being joined to the mainland by a narrow strip of lowland, beyond which is a small inlet forming the port of Misenum. You look down on the Mare Morto, a large stagnant pool, which communicated with the outer port by a narrow entrance. It was here that Augustus established a fleet for the defence of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and it continued to be the naval station throughout the empire. The elder Pliny was in command of this fleet at Misenum when the memorable eruption of Vesuvius broke out, in which he perished, A.D. 79, and of which his nephew has given us so interesting an account. The ruins on the summit of the promontory are not very extensive; towards its foot inland there are vast substructions and subterraneous galleries, which no doubt formed part of the villa which belonged to Lucullus, the splendour and magnificence of which was marked even in that luxurious age. It came afterwards into the possession of the Emperor Tiberius, who often made it his residence during the earlier part of his reign, and where he ultimately died the 16th of March, A.D. 37. Long after this we find the last Emperor of the West, Romulus Augustulus, confined to this villa after his deposition by Odoacer, A.D. 476. The villa was placed in a commanding situation, and must have enjoyed a cool breeze from whatever direction it blew. The view, too, was striking, overlooking the palaces of the Roman nobility scattered along the shore of Baiae, and stretching away to Vesuvius and the high range of Monte S. Angelo, with the islands of Capri and Ischia.
I lingered on the promontory, where so many of the most illustrious Romans must have enjoyed the same scene which now greeted my eyes, and as the sun sank beneath the horizon, rushed down to my boat, and directed that they should hasten forward through the Bay of Baiae to Puteoli, the modern Pozzuoli, which was the nearest point where I could find shelter for the night. The wind had now gone down, and all was silent except the sound arising from the measured splash of the oars. The bay is now little frequented, though it was otherwise in ancient times. Many a gay scene had passed on its water. Horace exclaims (Epist. i. 1, 83):
Nullus in orbe sinus Baiis praelucet amoenis'
“There is no more lovely bay in the world than Baiae" And Martial
“Though I should celebrate in a thousand verses Baiae, the golden shore of Venus, Baiae—the most pleasing gift which Nature could bestow in her most liberal mood—I should fail to do justice to Baiae.” The scenes, however, were not always of this pleasing character, as it was on this very spot over which I was now passing that the monster Nero had attempted to drown his mother, and though she escaped the danger, she fell shortly after a victim to his malignity in one of the neighbouring villas. We reached Pozzuoli long after sunset, and on approaching the shore were hailed by an officer, who demanded whence we came. I called out that I was an Inglese, who had been benighted off the point of Miseno, and that I wished to pass the night at Pozzuoli if he could find me lodgings. I knew that if I placed myself in his hands no difficulties would be started. He seemed delighted to have got hold of me, and at once said that he would take me to a friend's house, where I could lodge,
if I would be satisfied with such accommodation as he could afford. To this I acceded, and paying off my boatmen, accompanied him to a private house, where I found a clean bed and a hearty welcome. I asked him to engage a mule and guide for next day to visit Patria, the ancient Liternum, where the ruins of Scipio's tomb are placed.
Pozzuoli is one of the usual places for sight-seers to visit, and I shall, therefore, not say a word on the subject, as the ancient remains have been often described, merely reminding you that it was the place where St. Paul landed on his way to Rome, and where he remained for seven days before he set forward on his journey along the Appian Way (Acts xxviii. 13). I was anxious, however, to see the spot where St. Januarius, whose blood liquefies every year in the Cathedral of Naples on the 6th of May, had been beheaded in the fourth century. This took place where the chapel of the Capuchins now stands, on the hill above the town. Here I was shown the stone on which his head was cut off, and the old priest assured me, with all solemnity, that every year spots of blood reappear at the very moment it liquefies at Naples. The following legend, however, prevails among unbelievers, and is given as the origin of the superstition. When St. Januarius was made a saint, his statue was placed in this chapel at Pozzuoli, and a small lamp was kept constantly burning before it. An old woman was appointed to feed the lamp with oil, and on her bottle the monks had inscribed the letters E.O.S.G.-i.e. Ex oleo sancti Gennarii. In course of time the O was nearly obliterated, and, when the old lady died, the bottle came into the possession of her relations, who gave out that it contained the blood of the saint, and that the letters were E.S.S.G.—i.e. Ex sanguine sancti Gennarii. With this pretended blood they made the ignorant people believe that they could work miracles, and drew a large revenue from their folly. The priests, as in the case of the late miracle at Ajeta, thought it too valuable a prize to remain in the hands of laymen, and, while affecting to disbelieve its being the blood of St. Januarius, they agreed to put it to the proof by carrying it to Benevento, to which town the body of the saint had been conveyed when he was beheaded. They affirmed that, if it were really the blood, some symptoms of recognition would take place on approaching its former master. Accordingly they proceeded to Benevento, and, when the bottle was presented to the body, such joy was evinced, that the blood had nearly burst from the bottle. Of course this put an end to all doubt on the subject, and ever since the bottle has remained in the possession of the canons of the cathedral.
I proceeded on my onward journey, paying a farewell visit to the Academia, or Puteolanum, a villa of Cicero, which was situated on the cliff above the road leading to the Lucrine lake. The ruins are found at the spot now called Lo Stajo, and here Cicero, no doubt, composed the philosophical dissertations which bear that title. Pliny (xxxi. 3, 2) describes the situation of the villa, and tells us that a warm spring burst forth in the grounds a short time after Cicero's death possessing medicinal properties for diseases in the eye. The villa then belonged to
C. Antistius Vetus, who was consul B.C. 30, in the reign of Augustus. The spring no longer exists, but the earthquakes and eruptions, to which the whole of this part of Italy has been subject during the last eighteen hundred years, has caused great changes. Nothing now remains of this celebrated villa but a few brick walls and subterraneous apartments. Passing on, you come to Monte Nuovo, which was thrown up on the night of the 29th September, 1538, by a sudden eruption, which destroyed part of Pozzuoli, and lessened the size of the Lacus Lucrinus by half. I climbed up to the edge of the crater and descended to the bottom, a depth of two hundred feet, nearly perpendicular. The volcano has long been extinct, and its bottom is thickly covered with reeds and even with grass. Though there is no appearance of fire, yet I imagined that I could perceive a strong smell of sulphur; and this might very well be the case, as I was at no great distance from the Solfatara, the ancient Forum Vulcani, so called from the number of holes upon its surface, all emitting smoke and a sulphureous stench. It is this that must have suggested to Horace the idea so powerfully expressed in one of his odes (ii. 1, 5) addressed to Asinius Pollio, who was writing a history of the civil wars, which had lately taken place. He warns him that he is treading on ground undermined by subterraneous fires, which may at any moment break forth: Incedis per ignes Suppositos cineri doloso.
You incautious tread
- On fires with faithless embers overspread.
The Lucrine lake, which in former times supplied the Romans with exquisite oysters, was so destroyed by the eruption of 1538 that it has ceased to supply fish. Oysters, of course, still abound on this coast, and they are now found more particularly at the Lago di Fusaro, the ancient Acherusia Palus, on the other side of the ridge, about three miles from this spot, where the Neapolitans make pic-nics to enjoy them in the greatest perfection. The road to Baiae lies between the sea and the Lucrine lake, being in fabulous history said to have been constructed by Hercules on his return from Spain as a passage for his cattle. Close to the shore are two caves, at one time employed as baths, though long neglected. If you scrape the sand you find it quite hot. The hill at this place closes upon the sea, and the passage is so narrow that you have scarcely room to pass. In looking over the precipice you see the remains of ancient buildings at the bottom of the sea, and this confirms the statement of Horace (Carm. ii. 18, 17):
Marisque Baiis obstrepentis urgues
And, though the waves indignant roar,
Turning back, I proceeded along the banks of the Lacus Avernus,