Naples – Surgical instruments found in Pompeii

” That’s a great shame ! ” broke out an excited voice that rang through the rooms of the museum like the blare of a trumpet. Except for the low, almost inaudible hum of voices which hardly rose to a definite and clearly perceptible sound, silence had prevailed, but the stillness was rudely broken by the exclamation of my friend. ” What’s the matter, doctor? ” I asked, in a low tone, for an attendant was rap-idly approaching us with a stern and threatening look. ” It’s all right, my dear sir,” remarked the doctor apologetically to the custodian, who had just informed us that, if such a disturbance were repeated, we should be thrust out of the building. ” It’s all right, I tell you, but it’s enough to make a man mad when, after years of study, he invents a new surgical instrument at the cost of great effort and expense, and then comes here, only to find that some antediluvian rascal had used the same thing in his practice for I don’t know how long. Why,” he continued, turning to me, ” here’s something I invented myself five years ago; that’s what I call hard luck.”

Some years after in New York an eminent physician and myself were talking of these surgical instruments here in Pompeii, and he said, ” We have more instruments and some are better, but nearly all those you saw in the entombed city are indispensable to-day.” Then going to an elegant case of the most modern and expensive surgical instruments, he opened it and duplicated each of those we have been permitted to see, only his were bright as silver and some of them less cumbersome. Among these instruments are spoons, scales, forceps, scissors, compasses, spatulae, knives, lances, etc. The hands that used them and the intelligence that directed their use have long since passed away; and yet, as these surgical tools hang there, they bring back from across that wide, deep chasm of two thousand years, as might a magician’s wand, scenes of pain and suffering, of birth and death ; and in them all, directing, soothing, helping, one figure is ever present, that of the Pompeian surgeon ; and across the ever widening centuries he seems to join hands with the vast fraternity of noble hearts and heroic lives who minister to-day to the sick and dying, and who, through cloud and sunshine, bring blessing and healing to men.

” Doctor,” I said to my traveling companion, as we were about to turn away from these instruments, ” if New York or London were buried to-day and disinterred two thousand years from now, do you think there would be any greater difference in household furniture, in implements of trade, instruments of surgery, than is evident in the last twenty centuries?” Before he could reply, for he was busy with his own thoughts just then, an intelligent, martial-looking Italian gentleman who understood English, though he did not speak it, answered in his own musical tongue, ” Chi to sa? “- Who knows? – Perhaps we are not the marvel we think we are. ” The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar,” and, perhaps, the wise man was right when he said, ” there is nothing new under the sun.” ” Chi to sa ? ” – Who knows?

Much as we should like to tarry in this wonderful museum, we cannot do so. Even picturesque Naples must not detain us longer, for outside its limits are delightful and romantic towns whose white villas are shaded by fig and orange trees and surrounded by famous vineyards. Seated on the vine-clad veranda of a cozy and hospitable inn, the traveler forgets the vicissitudes of his journey and the thousand pestilential odors that pervade a Neapolitan street ; and, as the soft summer breeze sweeps over the sunlit waters of the bay and steals in through the clusters of leaf and fruit around him, he sips the delicious ” lacrymae Christi,” and dreams of the home land beyond the seas, and, in his sense of present enjoyment, he half forgets that ever he was sad.

We are to visit one of the most picturesque of these towns, Amalfi, about twenty-five miles south-east of Naples, on the coast. The quickest route is by rail to Salerno (found on the coast to the extreme right on the map ” Environs of Naples “) and then by carriage road back to the west again along the sea. A few miles to the east of Amalfi we shall stop near Majori, where an ancient church and convent are situated.