Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

by Paul Roberts
     
 

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In AD 79, the beautiful Bay of Naples was rocked by the dramatic fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii and Herculaneum—and countless nearby farms, estates, and villages—were completely buried under pumice and super-heated ash. It was arguably the most widely recognized volcanic eruption in recorded history, and the ruins it left behind are our most

Overview

In AD 79, the beautiful Bay of Naples was rocked by the dramatic fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii and Herculaneum—and countless nearby farms, estates, and villages—were completely buried under pumice and super-heated ash. It was arguably the most widely recognized volcanic eruption in recorded history, and the ruins it left behind are our most valuable archaeological record of day-to-day life in the Roman empire.

This magnificently illustrated book illuminates the daily lives of the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The plaster-cast bodies of the victims are the most vivid reminders of the horrific event that made Pompeii so well-known, but who were these men, women, and children so cruelly frozen in time? Drawing on full-color photographs of more than 200 excavated objects—from a soldier's sword to a shopkeeper's blue glass storage bottle-Paul Roberts, a curator at the British Museum, lifts the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum out of the ashes and ruins of their homes and brings them back into the light. Roberts explores every room in the typical Roman home. Here are bronze busts and magnificent mosaics from an entrance area; beautiful frescoes and silver drinking cups from a dining room; a carbonized wooden cradle and birth certificate of a little girl from a bedroom and library; and bottles for fish sauce and cooking pots from a kitchen. In addition, Roberts offers an engaging discussion of the many shops founds in the two cities, ranging from bakeries to taverns, and he also reconstructs the catastrophe, drawing on the best archaeological and geological evidence, as well as the eyewitness account of Pliny the Younger.

With sharp full-color photographs of the most celebrated artifacts, including incredible recent finds from Herculaneum, this book captures the public face and private life of real Roman families.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book is an important contribution to our understanding of Pompeii and Herculaneum, for the author discusses both cities with equanimity, effectively weaving together the archaeological evidence (much of it recent) with information about Roman culture and always mindful of including the non-elites in his discussions. The illustrations, which are of consistently high quality, have been carefully chosen...All in all, this engaging text — with its , useful notes, list of exhibits, and extensive bibliography — will appeal to a wide readership, from the interested lay person to the university student. In fact, this reviewer would find it a useful text for courses on ancient cities and Roman culture." —Linda Maria Gigante, University of Louisville, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Library Journal
In August 79 CE Vesuvius famously burst forth with volcanic matter, burying for centuries the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Or so the story always went. For the British Museum's current exhibition of the same name, Roberts (curator of Roman Art, British Museum; The Ancient Romans) tells a slightly different tale that describes early excavations when the volcanic ash was hardly cold. Roberts also questions the August date derived from Pliny's famous firsthand account. Archaeological evidence suggests the harvest was already in at the time of the eruption. Could Pliny really have mistaken by two months the time of the most spectacular event he ever witnessed? Roberts's glossy, large-format catalog is full of handsome photographs of archeological sites as well as of wall paintings, sculpture, mosaics, and other decorative arts uncovered by archaeologists. VERDICT For its focus on palatial residences and lavish possessions, the book might better be called "Herculaneum and Pompeii: The One Percent." Roberts discussions of slaves and common folk generally concern their role in enabling the lives of the well-to-do. Dip into this book for a look at the belongings of the wealthier folk buried by the egalitarian Vesuvius. Collections with other major illustrated works on Pompeii should consider this one optional.—Stewart Desmond, New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199987436
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
05/01/2013
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 11.50(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Roberts is head of the Roman section in the Department of Greece and Rome, and is responsible for all of the Roman collections at the British Museum. He is an authority on the day-to-day life of the ordinary people of the Roman world.

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