Read CHAPTER XX. of Among the Brigands , free online book, by James De Mille, on

The Glories of Naples.-The Museum.-The Curiosities.-How they unroll the charred Manuscripts exhumed from Herculaneum and Pompeii.-On to Rome.-Capua.-The Tomb of Cicero.-Terracina.-The Pontine Marshes.-The Appii Forum.

The party remained in Naples some time longer, and had much to see.  There was the Royal Museum, filled with the treasures of antique art, filled also with what was to them far more interesting-the numerous articles exhumed from Herculaneum and Pompeii.  Here were jewels, ornaments, pictures, statues, carvings, kitchen utensils, weights, measures, toilet requisites, surgical instruments, arms, armor, tripods, braziers, and a thousand other articles, the accompaniments of that busy life which had been so abruptly stopped.  All these articles spoke of something connected with an extinct civilization, and told, too, of human life, with all its hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows.  Some spoke of disease and pain, others of festivity and joy; these of peace, those of war; here were the emblems of religion, there the symbols of literature.

Among all these, nothing was more interesting than the manuscript scrolls which had been found in the libraries of the better houses.  These looked like anything rather than manuscripts.  They had all been burned to a cinder, and looked like sticks of charcoal.  But on the first discovery of these they had been carefully preserved, and efforts had been made to unroll them.  These efforts at first were baffled; but at last, by patience, and also by skill, a method was found out by which the thing might be done.  The manuscripts were formed of Egyptian papyrus-a substance which, in its original condition, is about as fragile as our modern paper; the sheets were rolled around a stick, and were not over eight inches in width, and about sixteen feet in length.  The stick, the ornaments, and the cases had perished, but the papyrus remained.  Its nature was about the same as the nature of a scroll of paper manuscript would be after passing through the fire.  Each thin filament, as it was unrolled, would crumble into dust.  Now, this crumbling was arrested by putting over it a coating of tough, gelatinous substance, over which a sheet of muslin was placed, the gelatinous substance acting also upon the charred sheet in such a way as to detach it from the rest of the scroll.  In this way it was unrolled slowly and carefully, two inches at a time, and on being unrolled a facsimile copy was at once made.  Of course there was no attempt to preserve the manuscripts; they were, too perishable; and after a short exposure, just long enough to admit of a copy being made, they shrank up and crumbled away.

There were other places of attraction in this beautiful city-the Villa Reale, the chosen promenade of the Neapolitans, which stretches along the shore, filled with trees, and shrubbery, and winding paths, and flower-beds, and vases, and statues, and sculptures, and ponds, and fountains, and pavilions.  There was the Castle of St. Elmo, with its frowning walls; the Cathedral of San Francisco, with its lofty dome and sweeping colonnades; and very many other churches, together with palaces and monuments.

But at last all this came to an end, and they left Naples far Rome.  They had a carriage to themselves, which they had hired for the journey, and the weather was delightful The road was smooth and pleasant, the country was one of the fairest on earth, and as they rolled along they all gave themselves up to the joy of the occasion.  They passed through a region every foot of which was classic ground.  Along their way they encountered amphitheatres, aqueducts, tombs, and other monuments of the past, some in ruins, others still erect in stately though melancholy grandeur.  Capua invited them to tarry-not the ancient Capua, but the modern, which, though several miles distant from the historic city, has yet a history of its own, and its own charms.  But among all these scenes and sights which they encountered, the one that impressed them most was Cicero’s tomb.  It is built on the spot where he was assassinated, of immense stones, joined without cement.  In shape it is square, but the interior is circular, and a single column rises to the vaulted roof.  Of course whatever contents there may have been have long since been scattered to the winds; no memorial of the great orator and patriotic statesman is visible now; but the name of Cicero threw a charm about the place, and it seemed as though they were drawn nearer to the past.  The boys expressed their feelings in various ways, and David, who was most alive to the power of classical associations, delivered, verbatim, about one half of the first oration of Cicero against Catiline.  He would have delivered the whole of it, and more also, beyond a doubt, had not Frank put a sudden stop to his flow of eloquence by pressing his hand against David’s mouth, and threatening to gag him if he didn’t “stop it.”

On the afternoon of the second day they arrived at Terracina.  This town is situated on the sea-shore, with the blue Mediterranean in front, stretching far away to the horizon.  Far out into the sea runs the promontory of Circaeum,-familiar to the boys from their studies in Homer and Virgil,-while over the water the white sails of swift-moving vessels passed to and fro.  The waves broke on the strand, fishing-boats were drawn up on the beach, and there were wonderful briskness and animation in the scene.

Terracina, like all other towns in this country, has remains of antiquity to show.  Its Cathedral is built from the material of a heathen temple, probably that of Apollo, which was once a magnificent edifice, but is now in ruins.  But it was the modern beauty of the town, rather than this or any, other of its antiquities, that most attracted the boys,-the sea-beach, where the waters of the Mediterranean rippled and plashed over the pebbles; the groves and vineyards, that extended all around; the wooded hills; the orange trees and the palm, the thorny cactus and the aloe; and above all, the deep, azure sky, and the clear, transparent atmosphere.  To the intoxication of all this surrounding beauty they gave themselves up, and wandered, and scrambled, and raced, and chased one another about the slumberous town.

They slept soundly that night, lolled to rest by the long roll of the Mediterranean waters, as they dashed upon the beach, and on the following morning resumed their journey.  The road now passed through the Pontine Marshes, and they all entered upon this part of their journey with strong feelings of curiosity.

The district which goes by the name of the Pontine Marshes is one of the most famous places in Europe.  It is about forty-five miles long, and varies in breadth from four to eleven miles.  The origin of these marshes is not known.  In the early ages of the republic of Rome numerous cities are mentioned as existing here.  But all these gradually became depopulated; and now not a vestige remains of any one of them.  From a very remote period numerous efforts were put forth to reclaim these lands.  When the famous Appian Way was constructed through, them, they were partially drained.  Afterwards a canal was formed, which ran by the road-side; and of this canal Horace speaks in the well-known account of his journey to Brundusium.  Julius Cæsar intended, among other great works, to enter upon the task of reclaiming them; but his death prevented it.  Under various successive emperors, the attempt was made, and continued, until at last, in the reign of Trajan, nearly all the district was recovered.  Afterwards it fell to ruin, and the waters flowed in once more.  Then they remained neglected for ages, down to modern times.  Various popes attempted to restore them, but without success, until at last Pope Pius VI. achieved the accomplishment of the mighty task in the year 1788, ever since which time the district has been under cultivation.

The road was a magnificent one, having been built on the foundations of the ancient Appian Way.  It was lined on each side with trees, and was broad and well paved.  It is considered one of the finest in Europe.  Along this they rolled, the blue sky above them, on the right hand the mountains, on the left the sea.  The air was damp and chill; but at first they did not feel it particularly, though Uncle Moses complained of “rheumatics,” and took precautionary measures against his insidious enemy by wrapping himself up warmly.  As they went on they saw crowds of peasants coming to work in the fields.  These peasants lived in the hill country on the right, and had to walk a great distance to get to their place of labor,-for to live on the marshes was impossible.  Men, women, and even children were there; and their pale, sickly faces and haggard looks showed how deadly were the effects of the noxious exhalations from this marshy soil.

At about midday they reached an inn, which stood about half way over the marshes, by the road-side.  David speculated much as to whether this place might or might not be the Forum Appii mentioned in the book of Acts as a stopping-place of St. Paul on his way to Rome; but the others were too hungry to take any interest whatever in the question.  They remained here nearly two hours, got something to eat, and then resumed their journey.