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Pompeii: The Life of A Roman Town (2008)

by Mary Beard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9062716,523 (4.07)31
Destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 CE, the ruins of Pompeii offer the best evidence we have of life in the Roman Empire. But the eruptions are only part of the story. In The Fires of Vesuvius, acclaimed historian Mary Beard makes sense of the remains. She explores what kind of town it was -- more like Calcutta or the Costa del Sol? -- and what it can tell us about "ordinary" life there. --from publisher description… (more)



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» See also 31 mentions

English (18)  Swedish (3)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (2)  Latvian (1)  French (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Lots of detail about Pompeii, focusing on life in the town before it being engulfed by Vesuvius. Nicely illustrated. A few pointers at the end about visiting the site.
The author's writing style is interesting. She is very candid about our lack of certainty of many things, and casts a skeptical eye over many 'established facts'. ( )
  robeik | Feb 14, 2020 |
In Pompeii: Life of a Roman Town, Cambridge Don Mary Beard presents exactly that - a description of what life was (probably) like in a provincial seaside town in the Roman Empire.

Using archaeological evidence, both from Pompeii and from the wider Empire, along with written sources from contemporary (including the town's own signwriters) and modern authors, Beard builds up a picture of how the town's inhabitants went about their daily lives. Everything is covered, from what, how and where they ate and drank, slept, washed, to how the town was governed, from the bars, brothels and gaming to religion. This is achieved through discussion both of individuals - the garum maker, or the banker, for instance, and also through a wider view, not just of Pompeii but of similar towns elsewhere in the Roman Empire.

Beard's style of writing is very similar to her television presenting style - conversational, informative, engaging and inclusive. Unlike other works (Time Team, I'm looking at you), Beard does not make the assumption that her audience will accept things at face value - dar I say that some works seem to assume their audience is ignorant? Where there is doubt over an interpretation of evidence, she presents this, making it clear that while there is much we can glean about the way of life in a Roman Town, we can never be 100% certain.

In essence, Pompeii: Life in a Roman Town is an excellent guide to both Pompeii and an informative presentation on current academic thinking on Roman life, presented in a highly readable format.

A thoroughly recommended book ( )
  TheEllieMo | Jan 18, 2020 |
Like much of Mary Beard's work, this points out almost as much about what we don't know - or what we think we know but have in fact constructed for ourselves - as what we do know about Pompeii. It is an enjoyable and enlightening stroll through the archaeology and social history of Pompeii, and although it is not organised as a companion to a visit it would make a good preface or coda to one. It captures highlights rather than being a systematic survey, and is written for the generalist who already has some classical background but is not an expert. ( )
  jsburbidge | Aug 23, 2017 |
A fascinating "insider" look on the real Pompeii by Mary Beard, a Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, that unwraps some of the mysteries of the city covered in ash in 79 CE. (I confess I only picked it up from a library shelf because it was at the height of the Icelandic volcano explosion that is spewing ash over Europe, and I thought it might be an interesting book to read -- much like I re-read Camus' The Plague at the height of the SARS epidemic, but anyway....) This book de-myths Pompeii and tells the story of the city as you've probably not read or heard it before. It is full of fascinating facts and stories, often illustrated by the graffiti of the city, or other telling remnants. It strips bare some of the nonsense local guides like to tell of Pompeii; informs us that the days of previous tremors had already caused many of its inhabitants to flee; that it is likely that a lot of the missing goods of the city were long ago pried from their hiding places by early looters; and that frankly, much we've been told has been pure conjecture or mythologizing. Fifteen pages in, I simply couldn't put it down. (Also fascinating in terms of how much the science of archaeology has improved over the past few decades.) ( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
I listened to this rather than reading it and I really enjoyed it. I thought the reader did a really good job and delivered the writer's work very well.
As for the book itself I liked the fact that for the most part the writer did not claim that she knew for certain that this was what life in Pompeii was like, instead she wrote that this is what she believed or what she thought had happened based on her interpretation of the evidence found during the many digs that have occured at Pompeii. ( )
  KarenDuff | Jun 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
"Aside from the melodramatic and misleading American title (there’s a minimum of volcanology or disaster drama; in Britain, the title is aptly “Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town”), this is a wonderful book, for the impressive depth of information it comfortably embraces, for its easygoing erudition and, not least, for its chatty, personable style."

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Beardprimary authorall editionscalculated
de Lozoya, TeófiloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klynne, AllanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rabasseda, JuanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verheij, BoukjeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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En las primeras horas del 25 de agosto de 79 d.C., la lluvia de lapilli que caía sobre Pompeya empezó a escampar.
In the early hours of 25 August 79 CE, the rain of pumice falling on Pompeii was easing off. - Introduction
Down a quiet back street in Pompeii, not far from the city walls to the north and just a few minutes' walk from the Herculaneum Gate, is a small and unprepossessing house now known as the House of the Etruscan Column - Chapter One
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This work was published in the UK as Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town and in the US as The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found.
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