20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A book I have long waited for,
This review is from: Herculaneum: Past and Future (Hardcover)
I know Herculaneum quite well having visited the site several times, and I prefer it in many ways to Pompeii - although the two sites are complementary. The trouble is that since JJ Deiss wrote his book (which I love) decades ago, there has been nothing knew that discusses the more recent discoveries and repair to damage of the site.
Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's book is not only a joy to hold and to look at, but is full of fascinating and up-to-date information. It is a lavish volume, fullof wonderful photos and panoramas that will be a valuable reference source for years.
Last time I visited the site the deterioration was such that I came away more than a little dispirited. This book demonstrates that a huge amount of work has gone on to arrest that decay and to restore buildings to a wonderful state - the great marble hall of the House of the Telephus Relief, for instance, has been roofed. It was not accessible on any of my visits (going back to the 80s) and now looks as though it might be. But more - that wing of the house is now seen as a "tower" and there is evidence of a blocked up level beneath the eruption level surface, that provides evidence about the retreat and advance of the sea (a reflection of bradyseism) in Roman times. Fascinating stuff!
A leading family in Herculaneum before the eruption was that of the Balbi. Marcus Nonius Balbus was the town's patron and several statues of him were put up. A mounted version and a togate standing sculpture have long been in Naples Museum. I have long yearned to see the head from the statue erected near his tomb (adjacent to the Suburban Baths" which he may have had built) which was found a few years ago. There is an excellent picture here, along with another of a nude "heroic" statue of which I was previously unaware. So the book more than meets my desire for information and illustrations on recvent discoveries.
We are given fresh analyses of the development of the sea front, and its interasction with a sea level that changed in cyclical patterns. There is material on the excavations at the famous Villa of the Papyrii, its possible ownership (by Caesar's father-in-law); and a new interpretation of the so-called hall of the Augustales (now potentially the towns curia or council chamber).
Wallace-Hadrill has some interesting comments on the work of Maiuri(the great populariser of the buried towns from the 20s to the 60s) and his creation of "myths" about the town that are now being dispelled.
If you have never been to Herculaneum but like Roman history, this book will take you there and provide a feast of material for the imagination. If you like archaeology this book provides past and present comment on that subject with many excellent examples and illustrations.
If you have visited the ruins, this book will probably inspire you to go again - its has me! - to follow up the new ideas and new suggestions offered by the author and simply to renew acquaintance with an old friend.
To conclude, a sumptuous book, well worth its price that will be an adornment for your shelves for years to come.
I am told there is a companion volume on Pompeii which I am now searching for.
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Initial post: 17 Jun 2011 09:57:56 BDT
Simon Davis says:
Wonderful review!! FINALLY a great new book on Herculaneum which I wasn't even aware had been published until today. Your terrific review has inspired me to not only buy the book (can't wait to place it among my Ancient Rome themed books!) but also go back and see the site which I haven't had the pleasure of visiting yet.
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