I have not half done with Arles. The more I saw and heard in this town, the more I found was to be seen. The remains of the Roman theatre here would of itself be a sufficient proof that it was a town of great riches and importance. Among the refuse of this building they found several large vases of baked earth, which were open on one side, and which were fixed properly near the seats of the audience to receive and convey the sounds of the instruments and voices of the actors distinctly throughout the theatre, which had forty-eight arches, eleven behind the scenes of ten feet wide, three grand arches of fourteen feet wide, and thirty-one of twelve feet; the diameter was thirty-one canes, and the circumference seventy-nine; and from the infinite number of beautiful pieces of sculpture, frizes, architraves, pillars of granite, &c. which have been dug up, it is very evident that this theatre was a most magnificent building, and perhaps would have stood firm to this day, had not a Bishop of Arles, from a principle of more piety than wisdom, stript it of the finest ornaments and marble pillars, to adorn the churches. Near the theatre stood also the famous temple of Diana; and, as the famous statue mentioned in my former letter was found beneath some noble marble pillars near that spot, it is most likely La Venus d’Arles is nevertheless the Goddess Diana.
I never wish more for your company than when I walk, (and I walk every day) in the Elysian fields. The spot is beautiful, the prospect far and near equally so: in the middle of this ancient Cimetiere stands a motly building, from the middle of which however rises a cupola, which at the first view informs you it is the work of a Roman artist; and here you must, as it were, thread the needle between an infinite number of Pagan and Christian monuments, lying thick upon the surface in the utmost disorder and confusion, insomuch, that one would think the Day of Judgment was arrived and the dead were risen. Neither Stepney church-yard, nor any one in or near a great city, shew so many headstones as this spot does stone coffins of an immense size, hewn out of one piece; the covers of most of which have been broken or removed sufficiently to search for such things as were usually buried with the dead. Some of these monuments, and some of the handsomest too, are still however unviolated. It is very easy to distinguish the Pagan from the Christian monnments, without opening them, as all the former have the Roman letters DM (Diis Manibus) cut upon them. It is situated, according to their custom, near the high-way, the water, and the marshes. You know the ancients preferred such spots for the interment of the dead.
The tombs of Ajax and Hector, HOMER says, were near the sea, as well as other heroes of antiquity; for as they considered man to be composed of earth and water, his bones ought to be laid in one, and near the other.