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The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found (2008)

by Mary Beard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2614115,448 (4.07)33
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 33 mentions

English (30)  Spanish (4)  Swedish (3)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Latvian (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Very interesting look at Pompeii by a leading scholar. It’s almost as if she walks you through each of the attractions there, giving the best of archaeological findings and scholarly opinion. I really enjoyed this one! ( )
  JohnMB69 | Jan 13, 2024 |
Very interesting look at Pompeii by a leading scholar. It’s almost as if she walks you through each of the attractions there, giving the best of archaeological findings and scholarly opinion. I really enjoyed this one! ( )
  JohnMB69 | Jan 9, 2024 |
So glad that I read this book just a few months after I got home from Pompeii. Still such a fascinating place and this book highlighted some more interesting facts about the town and people who lived there before the eruption ( )
  Moshepit20 | Oct 4, 2023 |
I didn't read a non-fiction book in nearly a year. This was not the right book to re-exercise that muscle. The Fires of Vesuvius is dense. Dr. Beard is a highly respected academic classicist and although here she tries to write to a lay audience, it is certainly an academic book (exhibit 1: that graphics are sorted into illustrations, figures and plates. Illustrations and figures are set into the text and numbered consecutively, but independently from each other. There are two sections of pages dedicated to plates. Each of these images which is referenced and cross-referenced from various places inside the book. Overall, there are over 200. You will spend much time searching for the right image.)

But despite the density, I did find the book a very interesting exploration about what life was like in Pompeii. I had no pre-existing knowledge: I had never taken a classics class, never been to Pompeii (or Italy) and my only real understanding of this time-period is from reading the talmud. In that context, also, it was fascinating to compare Roman culture with Talmudic culture (freeing slaves on a regular basis: universal! Having a set, primarily written canon for a religion: super abnormal!) There was also a lot to explore here about how Roman elections work, what people did for fun, and a lot, a lot of epistemology. How much can we trust the veracity graffiti and murals? What about when that conflicts with what seems likely to us? ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
This is a brilliant and highly readable account by the famous popular classicist, author and TV personality. She explains in detail what we have discovered in the ruins of Pompeii, what it might mean, but also just as importantly warns against jumping to conclusions based on over-interpretation of the evidence available, sometimes based on what we might like, or believe might be true, based on our impressions of Roman life from popular culture. It is a fascinating exploration of the ruins and it is surprising what we do know, for example the numerous surviving graffiti range from election posters, enabling us to reconstruct much of the political history of the town, to scurrilous scribblings equivalent to the modern day equivalents in toilet cubicles and bus stations. I was particularly struck by specific examples such as the House of the Painters at Work, where painters were interrupted on the job on the very day of the eruption of Vesuvius, and we can see exactly where they left each panel on the wall at the time when they presumably made, or tried to make, their escape from the falling pumice or lava flow. Another thing that struck me was the stuff that has been lost since it has been excavated, for example wall paintings that were pristine when uncovered in the 18th or 19th century, but which have now faded almost or completely to nothing. One of the major myths about Pompeii's destruction that she exposes is the fallacy that the interruption was unexpected - the evidence was that there had been tremors in the weeks and months leading up to the eruption and many townspeople seem to have moved possessions out of the town before the end (there had been a major earthquake 16 or 17 years earlier, so this was not uncommon). I could write a whole essay on this wonderful description, but suffice to say this is an excellent account for the general reader. ( )
  john257hopper | Aug 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (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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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

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