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Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town [Paperback]

Mary Beard
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 6.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

16 July 2009
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. These are just a few of the strands that make up an extraordinary and involving portrait of an ancient town, its life and its continuing re-discovery, by Britain's leading classicist.

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Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town + Herculaneum: Past and Future + Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; Reprint edition (16 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861975961
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861975966
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'One of the best communicators on classics around' -- Charlotte Higgins, Guardian

`A myth-breaking expedition, grandiose in scale, vibrant in its telling' - Colin Gardiner, Oxford Times
-- Colin Gardiner, Oxford Times

`[A] witty, readable account' Philip Womack, Daily Telegraph
-- Philip Womack, Daily Telegraph

Review

`A myth-breaking expedition, grandiose in scale, vibrant in its telling' - Colin Gardiner, Oxford Times

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Travel back to 79AD 22 Sep 2008
Format:Hardcover
Professor Beard tells the tale of ancient Pompeii in a highly readable and authoritative way. Drawing from the work of historians and archaeologists present and past she transports the reader back to Pompeii's last days. Along the way assumptions are challenged about the number of brothels, or the date of the volcanic explosion which condemned the town into a memory. Wheel ruts and the rules of the road come alive. I suspect that a visit to Pompeii will never be the same again.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing views of Pompeii 22 Sep 2008
Format:Hardcover
There has always been, since the first discovery, conflict over the meaning of the archeological findings. Some texts are more rigid than others, for example the splendidly illustrated 'Complete Pompeii' by Berry. This new volume has a more laid back approach and all, or at least most, of ones long set assumptions are questioned. So, this is not a guide to carry round the site but a superb contemplation of how life in the town might have been, Like the "Triumph', Prof. Beard shakes the established ideas and stimulates. I found it hard to put down.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time-travellers beware 30 Aug 2009
By Jon Chambers TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Robert Harris' best-selling novel 'Pompeii' convincingly put flesh on the bones of the town's inhabitants. Mary Beard's historical survey does the same for the town itself.

Beard is careful to avoid distortion through over-simplification. She takes pains to stress, for example, that the reality of Pompeii's story is not the clichéd one of a town 'frozen in time' but a more complex and fascinating one altogether. First, she explains that many inhabitants upped sticks well before the fateful day in August 79, taking their treasures with them. Secondly, townspeople and looters alike had plenty of opportunity to salvage/steal valuables after the eruption. And thirdly, much of what we see today is, in fact, reconstruction - almost all of the upper levels of Pompeian buildings for a start. All of these things, together with 'aggressive restoration', Allied bombing and erosion mean that what we see today is far from the sealed capsule that time-travellers hope for.

Beard's Pompeii is an up to the minute account drawing upon much fascinating research - on studies of wheel ruts gouged into the town's shiny black-bouldered streets, for example, which indicate complex one-way traffic systems. Or of plaster casts of plant roots which help to identify crops.

Perhaps Beard's greatest gift is a no-nonsense directness that often cuts through academic over-speculation. For instance, following a discussion of what anthropologists call 'zoning' (in which sectors of a town are associated with particular functions or degrees of affluence), she concludes: 'the simple truth is that Pompeii was without the zoning we have come to expect.'

As ever, Beard's style is highly readable and her book is therefore as valuable to the general reader as to the student. Pompeii is exhilarating and unique. It has found the book it deserves.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - scholarship and readability combined 11 Dec 2009
By bookelephant TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I don't like Mary Beard's "A don's life" column and I approached this book with reluctance and a degree of negativity. However I was completely wowed by it. I am not sure that I have ever read a book where depth of knowledge has been worn so lightly or communicated so refreshingly as if there was no imbalance between reader and writer. Put it this way, the book reads as if Mary Beard wants to explain to her friends the fascinations and frustrations of trying to work out what Pompeii was like. So we get the most beautiful vignettes of life as deduced from the ruins - and a wonderfully honest explanation of just how much has to be guessed, and how other interpretations could fit the facts. These two points combined are for me the real strengths of the book. I had previously read works where the various houses and their inhabitants are described definitely, as if we could be sure who was where and what they did; and yet at the smae time the houses and the people failed to live. This book brings possible inhabitants and their interrelationships to life - but always honestly reminds you how very little about Pompeii we can know for certain. The result is that one feels that one has had the fullest possible introduction to what is known, and a sparkling picture of a likely Pompeii fixed in one's head. An absolute delight of a book.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town 17 April 2009
Format:Hardcover
This book arrived just after I had started reading another book on a World War II subject. Being hugely interested in all things Roman Empire I couldn't resist starting "Pompeii" and have not been able to put it down ever since. WWII will have to wait until I have finished it. Having visited Pompeii twice in the last few years and, armed with this newly acquired information from Mary Beard's well written tome, I cannot wait to go there again soon. She dispels a lot of myths with intelligent theories of her own. Highly recommended to fans of all things ancient Rome!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and easy to read 15 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written interesting makes me want to go to Pompeii.
Illustrations do not work well on a Kindle, which is a shame
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The greatness of Pompeii 28 Feb 2009
Format:Hardcover
A very useful introduction for the city of Pompeii. Although specific citations for each bit of information are missing, due to the fact that the book is intended for a wider audience, there is rich bibliography at the end of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight 8 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fabulous book. I recently went to the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum and have also visited Pompeii twice. Reading this really takes you behind the scenes and allows you to really imagine life in Pompeii.

Highly recommended
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read about Pompeii
Mary Beard writes with a very accessible style and includes all the details you'd want to know - I'd consider this essential reading for anyone wanting to visit Pompeii or just... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Scifisam
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent source of knowledge about Pompeii
Mary Beard is a revered expert and she wears her learning lightly with this book. I used it to prepare for a visit to Pompeii and am so glad I did - it made the visit more... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Keith Lawson
4.0 out of 5 stars Mary Beard Pompeii
This was recommended to me for an adult Education course. It is very informative and has some photos but the print is very small. Otherwise it was just what I wanted.
Published 16 days ago by Beth M
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
I love Mary Beard's stuff - books or TV (including Question Time!) she's a cut above. I only wish I'd read this book before I'd visited Pompeii. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Hominid
5.0 out of 5 stars Gift
It wasn't for me anyway - it was a gift requested by the recipient, so this is a pointless exercise.
Published 1 month ago by Heather Prydderch
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
This book brings to life a Roman town and its inhabitants. All the aspects of Pompeii are taken into consideration, no one and nothing is left behind. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Alexandra
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly readable
Mary Beard's smooth, fluent, down to earth writing style makes this book thoroughly readable. Although the material is presented in a very scholarly way, which evaluates mounds of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gordon Eldridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I'm not a huge history buff, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Unlike some history books this one is very easy to read and not weighty at all. Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. Lock
4.0 out of 5 stars pompeii mary beard
This book is a lovely addition if you have been or are going to Pompei. Great alternative perhapes more realistic narrative of the Roman site. Read more
Published 6 months ago by cs
5.0 out of 5 stars Pompeii- fiction at its best
Excellent read. Very informative. Enjoyed it. Mary Beard has a way of writing factually without being boring. Would recommend definitely.
Published 7 months ago by dee
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