'Pompeii, The West Side of the Street of Tombs...', 1841.
© National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A daguerreotype of the Street of Tombs at Pompeii, Italy, by Alexander John Ellis. Romans were forbidden to bury their dead inside a town. Tombs were therefore placed beside the roads leading out of a town. At Pompeii these tombstones line the road leading from the Herculaneum Gate. Pompeii, a prosperous Roman city on the Bay of Naples, was destroyed by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Preserved beneath volcanic ash the city was rediscovered in 1748, its excavation sparking the late eighteenth century interest in Classical design. Ellis made eight daguerreotypes in Pompeii between April 21 and May 12, 1841, also making daguerreotypes in nearby Paestum at the same time. The full title of the daguerreotype is 'Pompeii, The West Side of the Street of Tombs with the remains of the Ancient Inn'. Ellis toured Italy in 1841, taking daguerreotype panoramas, landscapes and architectural views. In Rome, he worked with Achille Morelli and Lorenzo Suscipi, acquiring 45 daguerreot