I’m not going to write a long review but just a brief overview of this book with a few online references for following up by myself and anyone else interested.
Pompeii starts with the falling pumice stone on the city of Pompeii on the 25th August 79CE. What book on Pompeii could start in any other way than to take you via the people trapped, and forced to witness forever to us this human tragedy 2000 years ago? Their frozen bodies at once connect us to this city in a way the buried city buildings never will. But after the introduction Mary Beard leaves the statues of the dead respectfully behind to give anyone interested a run down on the city, and what it can and can’t tell us.
Miss Beard has a good way of writing, she can summarise complicated points well and make them easily digestible, and she tries not to get too carried away, but let the actual evidence contain her assumptions.
It’s wonderful to follow the speculation forinstance about the possible one way road system or try to imagine the stench of the street / open sewer system of the town. How many people could read? How many citizens and slaves? How did the local elections work? The architecture, paintings, everything is gone over in the search for information about Pompeii and the Roman world, and through it I found myself building up a much more detailed picture than I previously had before.
The sections on making a visit and further reading make this book more than a vivid capturing of the city into the first book you should read if you are going to visit the city.
Mary Beard since writing this has produced with the BBC quite a few films including one on Pompeii, it’s below with a few other links.