The Ampitheater

Ampitheater — Photographic Illustration for Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii. Facing p. 364. Scanned image and text by George P. Landow. [This image may be use without prior permisison for any scholarly or educational purpose.]

"On the upper tier (but apart from the male spectators) sat women, their gay dresses resembling some gaudy flower-bed; it is needless to add that they were the most talkative part of the assembly; and many were the looks directed up to them, especially from the benches appropriated to the young and the unmarried men. On the lower seats round the arena sat the more high-born and wealthy visitors — the magistrates and those of senatorial or equestrian dignity; the passages which, by corridors at the right and left, gave access to these seats, at either end of the oval arena, were also the entrances for the combatants. Strong palings at these passages prevented any unwelcome eccentricity in the movements of the beasts, and confined them to their appointed prey. Around the parapet which was raised above the arena, and from which the seats gradually rose, were gladiatorial inscriptions, and paintings wrought in fresco, typical of the entertainments for which the place was designed. Throughout the whole building wound invisible pipes, from which, as the day advanced, cooling and fragrant showers were to be sprinkled over the spectators. The officers of the amphitheatre were still employed in the task of fixing the vast awning (or velaria) which covered the whole, and which luxurious invention the Campanians arrogated to themselves: it was woven of the whitest Apulian wool, and variegated with broad stripes of crimson. Owing either to some inexperience on the part of the workmen, or to some defect in the machinery, the awning, however, was not arranged that day so happily as usual; indeed, from the immense space of the circumference, the task was always one of great difficulty and art—so much so, that it could seldom be adventured in rough or windy weather. But the present day was so remarkably still that there seemed to the spectators no excuse for the awkwardness of the artificers; and when a large gap in the back of the awning was still visible, from the obstinate refusal of one part of the velaria to ally itself with the rest, the murmurs of discontent were loud and general." — Book V, Chapter II.

References

Bulwer-Lytton, Edward. The Last Days of Pompeii. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, [n.d. after 1850]


Victorian Overview Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer-Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii

Last modified 4 January 2007