Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

Oxford Univ. May 2013. 320p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199987436. $45. HIST
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.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing