Pompeii: Public and Private Life

Overview

The date 79 A.D. holds for some of us an eerie fascination that feels at once spiritual and— vulgar. The opulence and sophistication of the Roman city that was destroyed in that year by a smothering volcanic eruption can sometimes stand as an uncanny doppelganger to our own urbanity. At the time Pompeii was petrified by the lava and ash of the explosion from the crater of Mt. Vesuvius it was a p lace quite familiar to us: a city filled with wealth, art, theater, arcaded shopping streets, gymnasiums, and ...
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Former Library book. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. 100% Money Back Guarantee. Shipped to over one million happy customers. Your purchase ... benefits world literacy! Read more Show Less

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Cambridge, MA 1999 Hard cover Good. Glued binding. Paper over boards. 286 p. Contains: Illustrations. Revealing Antiquity, 11.

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Overview

The date 79 A.D. holds for some of us an eerie fascination that feels at once spiritual and— vulgar. The opulence and sophistication of the Roman city that was destroyed in that year by a smothering volcanic eruption can sometimes stand as an uncanny doppelganger to our own urbanity. At the time Pompeii was petrified by the lava and ash of the explosion from the crater of Mt. Vesuvius it was a p lace quite familiar to us: a city filled with wealth, art, theater, arcaded shopping streets, gymnasiums, and dynamically changing demographics. As fixed and frozen as the plaster casts of the Pompeian corpses look to us, Pompeii at the time of its demise was as complicated as any city we now know of, a juxtaposition of old wealth and the nouveau riche, of architectural decay and its transformed renewal. To see how such a comfortable city, so much like our own, with its privileged villas, its gardens, and its (yes) shopping malls wiped out so apocalyptically can stun us—in a man or particularly painful in a post-Hiroshima epoch. Even Goethe on his Italian Journey puts a finger on this pre-forensic age discomfort when he says of his visit: The mummified city left us with a rather disagreeable impression. But, just as at the scene of an accident, we can t help but look at the gory disaster.

Paul Zanker, in a trio of essays written between 1979 and 1993, offers an archeological history of Pompeii that is informed by urban studies, with an acute attention to the architecture of both public and private spaces. He gives us a number of pos sibilities for the history of a place that evolved from a prosperous Hellenic community to a first century Roman city. This is a gorgeously illustrated book, with 21 color and 55 black and white illustrations, including photographs of the famous p laster wall paintings and tile mosaics, archeological site maps and reconstructions, and a large number of the ruins it situ. In it Zanker offers a thoughtful set of suggestions about how we might interpret what is left at Pompeii after centuries of looting and grave-robbing. The possibility of a pair of devastating earthquakes only about 17 years before the volcanic disaster further complicate what we can guess about the ruins. Zanker argues very effectively that Pompeii was a town in the m idst of an economic and cultural transition in 79 A.D. His is a fascinating discussion of how the uses of both public and private space chan ged with the influx of wealthy Romans, again during their evacuation in the time of the earthquakes, and the subsequent changes that took place in the process of rebuilding.

Our imagination is naturally ignited, as it was by poor Pliny the Elder's, by the cinematic moment of sulfuric explosion and fiery lava flow, but Paul Zanker's archeological history of Pompeii is actually even more dramatic than that, because it tak es us into the interior of the city s baths, it's theater seats, and into it's bedrooms.

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Editorial Reviews

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) .
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674689664
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 12/13/1998
  • Series: Revealing Antiquity Series
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.82 (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 1
Townscapes 3
Domestic Taste and Cultural Self-Definition 9
Urban Space as a Reflection of Society 27
The Hellenistic City of the Oscans 32
The Roman Colonists' City 61
Townscape and Ideology in the Age of Augustus 78
The City's Final Years 124
The Domestic Arts in Pompeii 135
The Origins of the Roman Villa 136
Two Forms of Living Space 142
A Miniature Villa in the Town 145
A Courtyard with a Large Marble Fountain 156
A Garden as Sanctuary 160
A Parlor Overlooking Diana's Sacred Grove 163
Gardens Filled with Sculptures 168
Dining under the Stars 174
Large Pictures for Small Dreams 184
Domestic Taste and Cultural Identity 192
Abbreviations 207
Notes 209
Illustration Credits 241
Index 245
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