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surface of the ground, to which Horace (Epod. ii. 63) alludes in the following lines: Widere fessos vomerem inversum bowes Collo trahentes languido.
How pleasant it is to see the wearied oxen dragging the inverted plough with their languid neck.
Inquiring of the ploughman what he called the share, he said Gomere, which is evidently the “vomer” of the Romans. It is made with two ears jutting out, rising in the middle, with a back which he called Schiena. The wood of the plough, from the handle to the share, he called Ventale, a corruption of “dentale.”. The whole was light and easily moved, as some of the ground where he was employed was of an open texture. It was made of elm, which is very abundant in this quarter, and was so made in former days (Virg. Georg. i. 170):
Et curvi formam accipit ulmus aratri.
As I was talking to him, I saw some hurdles at the side of the road, and inquired what was the use of them. I found that they were used as we do harrows, for levelling the ground. The ground on the side of the river is in parts hard, and requires to be broken with mallets before it can be smoothed for the grain. These are the “vimineae crates,” “wicker hurdles,” of Virgil (Georg. i. 94). I do not know that the river Alento is entitled to the epithet noble, applied to it by Cicero, though it may in the winter season be swollen to a considerable stream; but at present it had not much water. There was no bridge nor boat; but as it did not seem to be deep, I plunged at once into the channel, and had no difficulty in reaching the opposite side. The road again began to ascend the valley, but as this was leading me away from a ruined tower, which I believed to be that of Castellamare della Bruca, and which I wished to examine, I struck out of the path into the fields. Here I fell in with a peasant at dinner with his wife, child, and donkey, and I could not help thinking, on looking at their miserable food, that the donkey fared the best of the party. Their dinner consisted of coarse bread and a flask of wine, which they were quite prepared to share with me. I did wrong, perhaps, in refusing to accept their offer, as the pleasure of conferring a favour makes all the world akin. From them I found that the gentleman for whom I had a letter of introduction resided about a couple of miles beyond the tower that I saw before me. The heat of the sun was now quite intolerable; and though I should have wished to have taken a glance at the ruins of Welia, which were close to the castle, it was impossible, as there was not even a tree under which I could rest. Besides, it was of no consequence, as I intended to return. I had now reached a sandy beach, of the same character as that near Paestum, and I had much difficulty in bearing up against the direct and reflected rays of the sun. I cannot express the delight I felt when I threw myself down under some antique olive-trees, which completely sheltered me. These olive-trees must be many centuries old; their trunks were completely hollowed out, and they seemed to be chiefly nourished by their bark, which was immensely thick. At last, I mustered strength to proceed forward, and reached the house of the gentleman whose hospitality I must put to the proof. Its exterior was in no way inviting, and its desolate appearance made me suppose that it was uninhabited. I ascended by a rude stair to the door, and after knocking some time I roused a boy, who had been asleep, and found that his master had gone to a neighbouring village, and would not return till evening. There was no locanda within several miles of Velia, and I was therefore obliged to take it for granted that he would be willing to receive me. I directed the boy to find some one by whom he could forward my letter, and I entered the house, which I found to consist only of two small apartments, almost destitute of furniture. , My host usually resides in Naples, and only occasionally comes down here for a few days to look after a small property which he possesses. In the lower part of the house he has a ; for extracting the juice from the olive-berries, as well as a wine-press. After a few hours' rest, towards evening I sallied forth to visit the ruins of Velia, and proceeded again along the beach which I had passed in the morning. The evening breeze was cool and refreshing, being just sufficient to make the waves break on the shore with a quiet and peaceful murmur. After leaving a few fishermen's huts I saw no one, though in former times it must have been a joyous scene of human happiness. Velia was a Greek colony, which, we are told, was founded about B.c. 540 by some Phocaeans of Asia Minor, who preferred exile with liberty to an enslaved country. In such matters, history is constantly repeating herself. The Puritans acted the same scene many thousand years afterwards, and fled their country to enjoy freedom of religious worship, which, however, they were equally unwilling to grant to others. These Phocaeans found themselves unable to resist the power of Cyrus the Elder, and took refuge at this spot, which was at that time unoccupied, as it is now. The enterprise and industry of its inhabitants soon raised the city to importance, and one of the Greek schools of philosophy derived its name from Velia. In Roman times, the balminess of the air made it the residence of invalids, and Horace seems to have visited it in consequence of some weakness of his eyes.
Quae sit hiems Weliae, quod coelum, Wala, Salerni,
Epist. i. 15, 1.
Let me know what kind of a winter and climate you have at Velia and Sa
lernum, with what kind of inhabitants the country is peopled ; for Antonius Musa, my physician, thinks that Baiae is of no use to me.
The last effort it made to attract the attention of the world was by producing the poet Statius about A.D. 61, and from that time its name is scarcely mentioned in history. I was curious, therefore, to see what time and the more destructive hand of man had left of this once-famous city. I reached the ruined castle, now called Castellamare della Bruca, evidently a fortress of the middle ages, of considerable strength before the invention of gunpowder. It must, at all times, have been the site of whatever work of defence the city possessed, as it stands on the highest ground where the hill terminates towards the sea. The city was placed behind it, partly along the top of the ridge and partly in the plain below. The walls may be traced imperfectly for a circumference of about two
miles, constructed of large squared blocks of stone, placed over each other without cement, though not in the style of what is called Cyclopian architecture. That style of architecture was a rude and gigantic form of building, where large polygonal masses of stone, unshaped by the hand of man, were fitted to each other without cement by their own superincumbent weight. In Scotland, we are in the habit of ascribing every wonderful building to the Peghts, believed by the ignorant to be some supernatural beings; so in Greece and Italy they considered the Cyclopes to be the authors of every edifice more than usually gigantic, and of whose erection they had no tradition. I looked anxiously for the remains of a temple to Ceres or Proserpine, which is mentioned by ancient writers. I saw nothing, however, to fix its position. There was, indeed, a small vaulted chamber, which I find that the peasantry called Catacombe, and which had something of the appearance of an inscription on its roof. I could trace one or two Greek letters, or what had some resemblance to them. Of the city itself nothing remains, except here and there foundations of edifices, respecting which there is no tradition. Many of the sepulchres have escaped, and the inscriptions upon them show that they are the receptacles of generations far apart. Some are inscribed with the earliest Greek characters, leading us back to the times of its foundation, while the hic jacet of another brings us down to the period of Roman dominion. I was much struck by the simplicity of a small monument raised by an affectionate parent to his beloved daughter. . It was merely a white marble slab, with two full-blown roses engraved on it, and the inscription, “To Nike, daughter of Zoilus.” This little monument had survived to bear witness to far-distant generations of love and affection, while sepulchres of far loftier pretensions had long ago mingled with the dust of those who had erected them. In the vicinity of the castle there were several buildings of a later date, and among them one which had been used as a chapel. One tower of the castle still remains, which I entered, and was proceeding to ascend a ruined staircase, when I found myself attacked in a way that makes me now laugh, though I do assure you that it was very distressing at the time. I was covered from head to foot by a host of stinging insects, and when I gave a glance at them I found them to be nothing else than fleas. You may suppose that I made a hurried retreat; but they were not to be got rid of in this way, and I found myself in a state of the utmost torture. Luckily I was within a few hundred yards of the sea, and I had no way of relieving myself except by stripping and dashing into the water. In this way I got myself put to rights, and, on inquiry, I found that the tower was made use of as a pig-fold, and that these insects are the result of the unclean state of such animals. I shall never be able to think of Velia without a shudder at the recollection of the torture I endured. This adventure put an end to my meditations, and I returned to the house, where I found my host waiting my arrival, and was received with great kindness. He apologised for not being able to give me better accommodation. I was glad, however, to find a roof under which I could put my head, however humble it might be. We spent the evening pleasantly in the open air, and were joined by several of his friends, one of them being an antiquarian, well versed in the literature and ancient state of his country. He told me that there was a small village, about two miles distant in the interior, called Catona, where the ruins of ancient buildings are found, and it is supposed to be the site of the villa of Cato, which is mentioned by Plutarch (Cat. 20). He spoke also of a hill, called Li Candidati, on the declivities of which many ancient sepulchres had been found, so much so that he was inclined to believe that the inhabitants of Velia must have buried many of their dead here. I asked him where the Portus Veliensis, or harbour, could have been, as I saw no spot where vessels could have been anchored with safety; and yet Cicero, when he was flying from Rome after the assassination of Caesar, landed here, and tells us that he found Brutus with his ships at the river Heles. . According to this gentleman, there were two ports: one close to the foot of the mountain, Lago di Castello, about a quarter of a mile from the sea; the other is called Porticello, at the mouth of the river. Close to it you see a column, in which there was an iron ring till very lately, to which the vessels had been moored. Virgil says (AEn. vi. 366), “Portusque require Velinos,” “Seek the harbours of Velia,” as if there had been several.
While we were seated, I was astonished to observe the field before us sparkle with fire from a number of small flies which were flitting about. I was unable to lay hold of any, as they appeared to lose their phosphoric light as soon as they rested on any object. They called these flies Lucciole. I have little doubt that they are the insects referred to by Pliny (xviii. 66, 4), “Lucentes vespere per arva cicendelae. Ita appellant rustici stellantes volatus, Graeci vero lampyridas,” “Fire-flies shining in the evening through the fields. This is the name given by the peasantry to the sparkling flies, called by the Greeks lampyrides.” I am aware that the cicendelae are usually considered to be glowworms; but the description of o seems more suited to these sparkling insects, with which the air appeared to be replete.
The white hellebore, which Pliny (xx, 21, 2) speaks of as excellent, and as growing among the vines at Velia, is no longer found here, but grows abundantly on Monte Stella, which I visited yesterday.
At last we parted, and, after a frugal supper of salad, toasted cheese, and sausage, I retired to rest.
IT is, perhaps, as well that these letters will not be able to reach you till you know that I am in comparative safety, as I have no doubt my friends would conjure up all sorts of dangers, that would exist nowhere except in their own imagination. All that I have seen of the people pleases me; nothing can exceed the kindness and hospitality of every one with whom I come in contact, and if I had only seen the sun set from Mount Stella I should have considered myself amply repaid for whatever fatigue I have undergone. I perceive that mental energy can sometimes supply the place of physical exhaustion, and as I am anxious to visit the remains of the cities of Magna Graecia, which were placed along the south-eastern coast of Italy, I am determined to allow nothing, except positive illness or capture by the brigands, to prevent me from putting my plan in execution. Till I actually see these much talked-of brigands, I shall believe them to be only men of buckram, and shall act as if they did not exist.
I The Italians are obliged to keep very early hours at this period of the year, as the heat is so oppressive from eleven till three that they never think of venturing out. For the first two days I paid no attention to the heat, but I see that I must make arrangements to rest several hours at mid-day. My host and myself were on foot before daybreak, and proceeded to the beach on a sporting expedition. I had observed yesterday several nets stretched from a number of poles, and had imagined that it was for the purpose of drying, though it seemed to me an unnecessary trouble. I find now, however, that it is with the view of catching quails, which come over from Africa at this period of the year in large numbers; and as they are short-sighted creatures, and tired with their long flight, they fly up against these nets, and are either shot or so entangled in the meshes that they can be caught by the hand. They make an excellent dish, as I have often found at Naples, and from the conversation of my friends I perceived that they were considered a great delicacy. You will laugh to hear that I was furnished with a gun, who had never fired a more deadly weapon than a popgun; but I thought that I should sink in the eyes of my friends if I confessed ignorance in such matters, and I resolved to be very cautious as to the direction in which I pointed my weapon, and to be in no hurry to use it. When we reached the beach we found the servants already watching, and we were all stationed at different parts, to include as large a space as possible. You may be sure that I chose as distant a point as I could well do, that if my slugs did not kill a bird (a very unlikely feat) they might run no risk of doing mischief. Here we stood, immovable as statues, for upwards of an hour, but no quails made their appearance. They say that they are always preceded by a large quail, who is their leader, and whom they seem to obey. This is the “ortygometra” of Pliny (x, 33, 2); and they observe that they are more plentiful when the south wind blows, I have nothing of the sportsman in my nature, and soon got tired cf watching. I was delighted when the overseer announced to us that we must give up all hopes this morning of having any sport, and I delivered up my gun to one of the servants with great pleasure. Quails are often caught here in great numbers, and they form an abundant article of food at this period of the year. I could not find that they suffer from this indulgence, though Pliny (x. 33, 4) assures us that quails live on poisonous herbs, probably hellebore, and that they are the only animal, besides man, who is afflicted with epilepsy —“morbus comitialis.” Many of my companions had arms, while others were prohibited from carrying them. This part of the country, it seems, was one which took an active part in the late unsuccessful revolution. An active surveillance is exercised over the inhabitants; and, what shows the little hold the government has over the country, this surveillance is over the richest and most respectable inhabitants.
Some fishermen had landed, and I proceeded with my friends to view the result of their last night's labour. They had not been very successful; and as this was Friday—un giorno magro, “a meagre day,” with all true sons of the Church—fish had a higher value than on any other day of the week. There was the same squabbling as to price that may be seen with the dealers in that article in every other country. At last a satisfactory arrangement was made between them, and I am sure that the poor fishermen had the worst bargain. The fish consisted chiefly of anchovy and sardine, called by them alici and sarde. From October to