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Last Days of Pompeii, The

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John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa

General Info

Year: 1893 / 1912
Duration: c. 11:30
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: John Church
Cost: Score and Parts – Out of print

For further availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


1. In the House of Burbo and Stratonice – 3:10
2. Nydia the Blind Girl – 2:30
3. The Destruction of Pompeii and Nydia's Death – 4:55


Solo Cornet/Conductor
D-flat Piccolo/Flute
English Horn
E-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
E-flat Cornet
B-flat Cornet I-II-III/B-flat Trumpet
E-flat Horn or Alto I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Tenor Horn I-II
Euphonium I-II
Drums, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Castanets
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Orchestra Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Stone Cups
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Triangle


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Sousa often referred to this as his finest composition and programmed it more often than any of his other suites. He was particularly proud of the original descriptive effects. Perhaps, in an effort to keep these effects exclusive with the Sousa Band, he did not release the work to a publisher until nineteen years after it was written.

- Program Note from John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog of His Works

This work is based on the 1834 novel The Last Days of Pompeii by Baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873).

a) “In the House of Burbo and Stratonice” Within the room were placed several small tables;
‘ round these were seated several knots of men
drinking, some playing at dice.

b) “Nydia” “Ye have a world of light
When love in the loved rejoices,
And the blind girl’s home is the House of Night,
And its beings are empty voices.”

c) “The Destruction of Pompeii and Nydia’s Death” At that moment they felt the earth shake beneath their feet and beyond in the darkness, they heard the crash of falling roofs. A group of men and women bearing torches passed by the Tempe, they were of the congregation of the Nazarenes. The troops chanted along with the wild horror of the air, “Behold the Lord descendeth to judgment. He maketh fire come down from heaven in the sight of men! Woe to the harlot of the sea! Woe!” At that moment a wild yell burst through the air and thinking only of escape, whither they knew not, the tiger of the desert leaped among the throng, and hurried through its parted streams. And so came the earthquake. And so darkness once more fell upon the earth. In the silence of the general sleep Nydia rose gently: “Oh sacred sea! I hear thy voice invitingly. Rest. Rest. Rest.”

- Excerpts from the novel written in 1834 by Bulwer-Lytton


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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  • Bierley, P. (1973). John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog of His Works. University of Illinois Press; Urbana, pp. 84.
  • Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "John Philip Sousa." Accessed 9 October 2022.
  • Sousa, J. (1894). The Last Days of Pompeii [score]. Sousa Preservation Project, Sousa Archives for Band Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.