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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Travel back to 79AD
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...
Published on 22 Sept. 2008 by P. Mullan

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I quite enjoyed this book
I quite enjoyed this book, but perhaps Pompeii has been too much written about and is suffering from overload, I finished it but somewhat of a struggle, could be the author's relentless style which does not give much pause for reflection
Published 9 months ago by antmo


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99 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Travel back to 79AD, 22 Sept. 2008
By 
P. Mullan "Paul Mullan" (Belfast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (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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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing views of Pompeii, 22 Sept. 2008
By 
I. G. Lennox "iglennox" (Hampshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (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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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time-travellers beware, 30 Aug. 2009
By 
Jon Chambers (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - scholarship and readability combined, 11 Dec. 2009
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beard breathes life into the long dead city of Pompeii., 24 May 2015
The perfect companion for all Roman history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

This is this generation's best book on Pompeii; it's impossible to imagine visiting the site without having read it, and although it's not a guidebook, it does have a helpful appendix called "Making a Visit" that covers what to wear, how best to arrive, and which houses you'll probably be most interested in seeing. Mary Beard is a distinguished professor of classics at Cambridge, and she writes about Pompeii as though it were her life's work. What I appreciated most about the book were the complete lack of prudishness about the town's ubiquitous, licentious artwork--the frontispiece of my Folio Society edition is a detail of a mosaic showing a slave with genitals as big as his forearms--and the way Beard always takes pains, in a graceful way, to explain what we know, what we don't know, and the various ideas about what the truth might be. A lot of the stories the guidebooks tell you are probably wrong. She sets it straight.

The book is written very casually, without footnotes or unnecessary scholarly trappings. Occasionally it has a dashed-off quality that comes from quick writing (the same word repeated too soon, and the like), but that's a quibble. This is like getting a verbal tour of the site from a very smart friend who's lived a few miles away from it for twenty years. However, it's not a tour of the buildings and monuments so much as a peek into what the people were like, what they did for work and fun and what they seemed to care about. If you've visited the site, as I did a long time ago, this will explain a lot about what you saw (did you know that the ruined state of some of the buildings is due not to age but to Allied bombing in World War II?) and if you haven't been there yet, this will certainly make you want to go.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town, 17 April 2009
This review is from: Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very easy, chatty style but deailed enough for the knowledgeable amateur - well illustrated., 28 Jun. 2013
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Mary Beard's academic standing and wide-ranging research sits lightly on her style of exposition. She is carefully critical of past and recent research, with only the very occasional flash of irritation at what she considers extravagant or slipshod deductions of evidence in the archeological studies she mentions. The city of Pompeii and its population are scrupulously and minutely revealed in all their moods, activities and foibles. For the more academic reader she supplies extensive primary and secondary sources for her assertions. The illustrations of wall paintings, graffiti, statuary and religious and domestic building design are meticulously explained. I would recommend this book to both the tourist and the student.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read for anyone even remotely interested!, 22 Dec. 2014
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I don't have a great interest in the Romans or old cities, but i found this book very interesting and amusing. I was gripped from the first chapter. It shows some of the controversy between architects and Classicists about the origins for the name of the town, what things were used for etc. It also shows the things they found when Mount Vesuvius erupted and froze the city in time. It very much shows the human element of Pompeii, and the life of the average Joe, rather than the big senators that people often hear about.

Really worth the price and a great read, even if you're not that interested in the topic, this book might surprise you. It may seem a little bit on the pricey side, but trust me, it's worth it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight, 8 July 2013
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take it with you., 2 Oct. 2014
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I bought it on my old kindle so the picture's weren't great, but then I was in Pompeii and the Archeo Museum in Napoli to see the real things, Lucky me! Kindle is not an ideal format, because I only found her helpful guide on what to look out for, and to visiting the site when I'd already been. In paper form, this would have been obvious.
This book brought what I could see on the ground so much more to life for me, and is a good summary of where the current archeological conclusions point. It does not really cover Herculaneum in the same way - not in any way a criticism, just an observation. But it definitely adds flesh to the bones of Pompeii.
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Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town
Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town by Mary Beard (Hardcover - 18 Sept. 2008)
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