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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Passion and Politics in Pompeii

Think archaeology and many of us immediately think of Pompeii. As a city it lay buried for 1700 years, but in 1748 the first discoveries were made. We have chosen a couple of books that will take you back in time, to the drama of the Vesuvius eruption and give you insight into the build up of events as they began to unfold. Smell the ash, meet the people, feel the tension rise. And if you are a modern day visitor to Pompeii, don't forget to pop over to Ercolano (Herculaneum) which is quieter and also has lots to see.  Click on the covers to find out more and buy a copy.

On mountain slopes south of Pompeii a group of Roman citizens flees the doomed city, leaving their footprints in a layer of volcanic ash. Two thousand years later the footprints are rediscovered, and a joint Anglo-Italian dig is set up. Just when the project is making progress, eminent Oxford archaeologist Professor Julian Lockhart vanishes mysteriously. English detectives Nick Roberts and Lucia Fabri go out to assist the Italian police with the investigation, unaware of the sinister forces - both human and natural - that lie in wait for them. Their subsequent race for survival sweeps them up in an eerie re-enactment of historical events.

No virtual trip to Pompeii can be complete without a few words from Britain's 'best communicator on Classics around'... Pompeii explodes a number of myths - from the very date of the eruption, probably a few months later than usually thought; the hygiene of the baths which must have been hotbeds of germs; and the legendary number of brothels, most likely only one, to the massive death count which was probably less than ten per cent of the population. Street Life, Earning a Living: Baker, Banker and Garum Maker (who ran the city), The Pleasure of the Body: Food, Wine, Sex and Baths, these chapter headings give a surprising insight into the workings of a Roman town. At the Suburban Baths we go from communal bathing to hygiene to erotica. A fast-food joint on the Via dell' Abbondanza introduces food and drink and diets and street life. "A glorious insight into Roman life"

And finally from master storyteller, Robert Harris, comes this great novel. A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome's richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world - the mighty Aqua Augusta - has suddenly ceased to flow. Through the eyes of four characters - a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist - Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.

Early readers working on a review for TripFiction

If you know of any other Pompeii set books that you feel conjure up the era and the place, then please share the details in the Comments Box. As always we love to hear from you.


  1. Thank you for this! I'd really like to read the Mary Beard book.

    I'm so annoyed that I missed the Herculaneum when I visited Italy in the summer. Paying the British Museum exhibit a visit may compensate a little!

  2. Hi Lucy
    Thank you so much for leaving a comment on our blog. Herculaneum next time!! MB's book is great if you get a chance to read it. Have a great Easter!