Pompeii: Public and Private Life

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Overview

Pompeii's tragedy is our windfall: an ancient city fully preserved, its urban design and domestic styles speaking across the ages. This richly illustrated book conducts us through the captured wonders of Pompeii, evoking at every turn the life of the city as it was 2,000 years ago.

When Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. its lava preserved not only the Pompeii of that time but a palimpsest of the city's history, visible traces of the different societies of Pompeii's past. Paul Zanker, a noted authority on Roman art and architecture, disentangles these tantalizing traces to show us the urban images that marked Pompeii's development from country town to Roman imperial city. Exploring Pompeii's public buildings, its streets and gathering places, we witness the impact of religious changes, the renovation of theaters and expansion of athletic facilities, and the influence of elite families on the city's appearance. Through these stages, Zanker adeptly conjures a sense of the political and social meanings in urban planning and public architecture.

The private houses of Pompeii prove equally eloquent, their layout, decor, and architectural detail speaking volumes about the life, taste, and desires of their owners. At home or in public, at work or at ease, these Pompeians and their world come alive in Zanker's masterly rendering. A provocative and original reading of material culture, his work is an incomparable introduction to urban life in antiquity.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Zanker has written what is destined to become a classic study. Quietly authoritative, Zanker's brief yet endlessly suggestive overview of Pompeii and its buildings puts architecture, as it ought to be, squarely in the context of the social and spiritual attitudes that produce it.
Classical Review

The fate of Pompeii, however tragic, affords a unique opportunity to study an urban society cut short by the events of A.D. 79. Here we can see the urban fabric as it had evolved over the centuries; there the tastes and lifestyles of an urban population...Paul Zanker's book is one attempt to go beyond the obvious bricks and mortar, to produce a larger picture, in line with the increasingly rich literature of the last twenty years...This is a fascinating little book which heralds much that is now at the heart of modern debate.
— Barry C. Burnham

Phoenix

Paul Zanker has turned his sharp eye to Pompeii, focusing on the evolution of its townscape and domestic architecture as reflections of identity, both civic and civilian.
— Michele George

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

[Pompeii explains] the historical, cultural and social circumstances behind [Pompeii's] development: why certain monuments where constructed where they were, who constructed them, and how their use fit in to the cultural aspirations of the period...This is a rich and thought-provoking book that will be of interest to the students of the public and private life not only of Pompeii but of Roman cities of the early Empire in general.
— Christopher Parslow

Times Literary Supplement

This book is beautifully produced...[Understanding Pompeii is challenging because of the] ruinous state of the excavated city, dug too quickly, too long ago, and too poorly conserved ever since, [so] the success of this readable and intelligent account is all the more remarkable...Paul Zanker remains a terrific teacher of [Pompeii's] lessons, as well as an eloquent narrator of tales of the buried city.
— Greg Woolf

Boston Sunday Globe

This volume describes with guidebook accessibility history's most famous ghost town...In texts and photographs, the archeologist Paul Zanker describes the evolution of public and private tastes in Pompeii, where in their homes and garden spaces the common people copied the swells and the swells copied the Greeks, or rather their own sybaritic understanding of Greek styles and values. Zanker whets our curiosity to see firsthand the remnants of arcaded shopping streets, theaters, and gymnasiums, the villas with their fabled wall paintings and lush courtyards, the evidence of the prosperous, bustling, sometimes vulgar life of this ancient city, its vitality outlasting the moment of its death for which Pompeii is more mawkishly known.

— Amanda Heller

Science News
When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., Pompeii had been an established city for more than 200 years. The amazing preservative effects of the lava and ash that spewed from the volcano captured more than a day in the life of Pompeians. It preserved an ancient civilization. Now, researchers are turning their attention from the city's art and architecture to the residences and meeting places within the city. These remains beautifully reveal the cultural history of this quite sophisticated place. Advances in understanding the culture of generations of people are documented here with many photos and illustrations of the remains.
Classical Review - Barry C. Burnham
The fate of Pompeii, however tragic, affords a unique opportunity to study an urban society cut short by the events of A.D. 79. Here we can see the urban fabric as it had evolved over the centuries; there the tastes and lifestyles of an urban population...Paul Zanker's book is one attempt to go beyond the obvious bricks and mortar, to produce a larger picture, in line with the increasingly rich literature of the last twenty years...This is a fascinating little book which heralds much that is now at the heart of modern debate.
Phoenix - Michele George
Paul Zanker has turned his sharp eye to Pompeii, focusing on the evolution of its townscape and domestic architecture as reflections of identity, both civic and civilian.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review - Christopher Parslow
[Pompeii explains] the historical, cultural and social circumstances behind [Pompeii's] development: why certain monuments where constructed where they were, who constructed them, and how their use fit in to the cultural aspirations of the period...This is a rich and thought-provoking book that will be of interest to the students of the public and private life not only of Pompeii but of Roman cities of the early
Empire in general.
Times Literary Supplement - Greg Woolf
This book is beautifully produced...[Understanding Pompeii is challenging because of the] ruinous state of the excavated city, dug too quickly, too long ago, and too poorly conserved ever since, [so] the success of this readable and intelligent account is all the more remarkable...Paul Zanker remains a terrific teacher of [Pompeii's] lessons, as well as an eloquent narrator of tales of the buried city.
Boston Sunday Globe - Amanda Heller
This volume describes with guidebook accessibility history's most famous ghost town...In texts and photographs, the archeologist Paul Zanker describes the evolution of public and private tastes in Pompeii, where in their homes and garden spaces the common people copied the swells and the swells copied the Greeks, or rather their own sybaritic understanding of Greek styles and values. Zanker whets our curiosity to see firsthand the remnants of arcaded shopping streets, theaters, and gymnasiums, the villas with their fabled wall paintings and lush courtyards, the evidence of the prosperous, bustling, sometimes vulgar life of this ancient city, its vitality outlasting the moment of its death for which Pompeii is more mawkishly known.
Kirkus Reviews
In a painstaking analysis of Pompeii's development from country town to city, German scholar Zanker (Classical Archaeology/Univ. of Munich) draws an intimate portrait of ancient urban life. Ash from an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. blanketed Pompeii, preserving the ancient city intact, together with all traces of its earlier development. Thus, unlike other Roman sites, Pompeii is not simply a collection of ruins, but an artifact that can tell how Roman cities developed and give a sense of the way in which Romans used urban spaces. Drawing on the unique archaeological opportunity presented by Pompeii, Zanker first narrates Pompeii's growth from a culturally Hellenistic Oscan city allied with Rome to a city colonized by Roman veterans of the civil wars of the first century B.C. According to Zanker, Oscan Pompeii had characteristically Greek institutions, such as the gymnasium, baths, and theater. After Roman colonists took over the city in the wake of an ill-fated rebellion by the Pompeians around 89 B.C., a splendid amphitheater. was built, and structures with political applications, like the forum, were expanded. In particular, the temples and public places devoted to the Roman gods were renovated, a reflection of the renewal of the traditional Roman religion after the accession of Augustus as emperor. The early Augustan period also saw development of an infrastructure, including a water and sewer system, and civic pride was reflected in the tombs of the town's leading citizens, which were designed as places of rest and reflection for the residents. After an earthquake in 62 A.D. emphasis in rebuilding shifted from the political to the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment. Zankerclosely analyzes the villas, paintings, gardens, and other spaces of Roman Pompeii to develop a vivid picture of private urban life, mostly devoted to esthetic and cultural pursuits but not without everyday cares, among the mostly well-to-do citizens of the city. A thoughtful and well-researched examination of everyday life in the ancient world. (21 color, 55 b&w illustrations, not seen) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674689671
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Series: Revealing Antiquity Series , #11
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 286
  • Sales rank: 813,775
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Zanker is Professor of Classical Archeology, University of Munich, and Director of the German Archeological Institute in Rome. He is the author of Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity and The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Townscape and Domestic Taste

Townscapes

Domestic Taste and Cultural Self-Definition

Urban Space as a Reflection of Society

The Hellenistic City of the Oscans

The Roman Colonists' City

Townscape and Ideology in the Age of Augustus

The City's Final Years

The Domestic Arts in Pompeii

The Origins of the Roman Villa

Two Forms of Living Space

A Miniature Villa in the Town

A Courtyard with a Large Marble Fountain

A Garden as Sanctuary

A Parlor Overlooking Diana's Sacred Grove

Gardens Filled with Sculptures

Dining under the Stars

Large Pictures for Small Dreams

Domestic Taste and Cultural Identity

Abbreviations

Notes

Illustration Credits

Index

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