There is nothing in the amphitheatre of Pompeii at variance with the general description of this class of ,buildings, and our notice of it will therefore necessarily be short. Its form, as usual, is oval: the extreme length, from outside to outside of the exterior arcade, is 430 feet, its greatest breadth is 335 feet. The spectators gained admission by tickets, which had numbers or marks on them, corresponding with similar signs on the arches through which they entered. Those who were entitled to occupy the lower ranges of seats passed through the perforated arcades of the lower order; those whose place was in the upper portion of the cavea ascended by staircases between the seats and the outer wall of the building. From hence the women again ascended to the upper tier, which was divided into boxes, and appropriated to them. The construction consists for the most part of the rough masonry called opus incertum, with quoins of squared stone, and some trifling restorations of rubble. This rude mass was probably once covered with a more sumptuous facing of hewn stone; but there are now no other traces of it than a few of the key-stones, on one of which a chariot and two horses is sculptured, on another a, head; besides which there area few stars on the wedge-stones.
At each end of the ellipse were entrances into the arena for the combatants, through which the dead bodies were dragged out into the spoliarium. These were also the principal approaches to the lower ranges of seats, occupied by the senators, magistrates, and knights, by means of corridors to the right and left which ran round the arena. The ends of these passages were secured by metal gratings against the intrusion of wild beasts. In the northern one are nine places for pedestals to form a line of separation, dividing the entrance into two parts of unequal breadth.
Plan of the Amphitheatre at Pompeii.
The seats are elevated above the arena upon a high podium or parapet, upon which, when the building was first opened, there remained several inscriptions, containing the names of duumvirs who had presided upon different occasions. There were also paintings in fresco, one representing a tigress fighting with a wild boar; another, a stag chased by a lioness another, a battle between a bull and bear. Other subjects comprised candelabra, a distribution of palms among the gladiators, winged genii, minstrels, and musicians; but all disappeared soon after their exposure to the atmosphere. The amphitheatre comprises twenty-four rows of seats, and about 20,000 feet of sitting-room : it would consequently afford accommodation for something more than ten thousand people, exclusive of those who were obliged to take up with standing room.
Bronze Helmet, supposed to have been worn by a gladiator.
It may be observed that the arena of the amphitheatre of Pompeii appears to be formed of the natural surface of the earth, and has none of those vast substructions observable at Pozzuoli and Capua. It does not therefore appear capable of being turned into a Naumachia, nor indeed would it have been easy to find there water enough for such a purpose.
Having now described all the public buildings of Pompeii, it will not be out of place to say a few words on their architectural character. The city, as might be expected from its antiquity and from its change of masters, having been a Greek colony long before its subjugation by the Romans, presents us with examples both of Greek and Roman architecture, domestic as well as public. The Romans borrowed their knowledge of building from the Greeks, but they borrowed it as imitators, not as copyists. They aimed at variety by altering the details and proportions of the several orders, and what they gained in novelty they lost in beauty. Hence the Doric and Ionic of the one are immediately distinguishable from the Doric and Ionic of the other : the difference between the Corinthian orders is less perceptible, consisting chiefly in the foliage of the capital. In Greece the Doric gradually changed its character, being most robust in the most ancient examples. But the standard examples of it, built in the age of Pericles, are still robust in character, with twenty flutings, or longitudinal channels cut in the pillars. The Romans made the column more slender, and at the same time increased the number of flutings. The original was placed upon the temple floor, without even a plinth the copy was raised upon a pedestal; the capital of the former was grave and simple that of the latter was more elaborate, and enriched with mouldings. At Pompeii the most characteristic pan's of the buildings, the entablatures and capitals, are almost all destroyed. Still enough remains for us in most instances to ascertain the style of what remains, and consequently to ascribe to them something like a comparative date. Thus the columns which surround the Forum fulfill the above-named conditions of the Grecian Doric; they have no base, contain twenty flutings, and have a simple capital. Similar in style are those of the triangular forum in the quarter of the theatres; and the schools or tribunal, and the square called the soldiers' quarters are also evidently of Greek design and construction, though repaired by their last possessors. It is to be observed, however, that the Doric of Pompeii, though it preserves the Greek taste in the detail of its mouldings, is exceedingly slender, and in this respect varies materially from the most esteemed models of the order.
Another characteristic of Greek architecture, which points out its originality in a striking manner, is that the profiles of all its mouldings are drawn by hand, and cannot be mechanically described, whereas the Roman mouldings are all formed on some geometrical construction. Hence the latter are always similar, while the former admit of indefinite variety, according to circumstances which might influence the architect, though they escape our notice. The reader may see an instance of this in a capital from the Parthenon, now in the British Museum. Upon cursory examination the projecting moulding of the capital under the abacus would be taken for the frustum of a cone, whereas it is really a very delicate curve. What the object of the architect was in tracing this line, which viewed from below must have appeared a straight line, it may not be easy to determine; but without doubt in taking this trouble he was influenced by some delicate perception of beauty. It is from this peculiarity in the mouldings that we conclude the small portico, propylaeum, or entrance to the triangular forum, was de- signed by a Greek architect. It is of the Ionic order; the mouldings and the volutes or spiral horns are more elegant than in the Roman style. In addition to this the deep sinking under some of the mouldings, which the strictness of Roman rules did not allow, stamp it as a Greek work, where variety and thought were permitted.