Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found Hardcover – 15 Dec 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

See all formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Hardcover
"Please retry"
£35.93 £22.67
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
click to open popover

Special Offers and Product Promotions

Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.




Product details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1st Edition edition (15 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674029763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674029767
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,508,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

As Mary Beard shows in "The Fires of Vesuvius", her marvelous excavation of Pompeii's history, the city is rarely what it is billed to be. A leading historian of Roman culture, a prolific essayist and an irrepressible blogger, Beard punctures conventional pieties about history and culture with formidable scholarly authority, always paying keen attention to the layering effects of the passage of time...With "The Fires of Vesuvius", Beard has produced a lusciously detailed, erudite account of life in ancient Pompeii...The challenge of "The Fires of Vesuvius" rests in the way that its portrait of Pompeii overturns longstanding conceptions about the empire to which the city belonged. Most important is Beard's depiction of the chaotic diversity of Pompeian life--the sheer variety of its religious experience, its linguistic multiplicity, its class tensions--which raises far-reaching questions about the nature of cultural and political identity in the imperial Roman context...With its focus on labor, education and religion, "The Fires of Vesuvius" is a testament to how much Roman studies has to offer the contemporary political imagination. Well-informed in the latest research in demography, the history of Roman politics, architecture, ancient economics, feminist and post-colonial studies, Beard probes the experience of men and women, free and slave, rich and poor...The point that permeates Beard's work, along with much of the best of classical cultural and literary studies, is that part of the job of studying the past is to examine the assumptions of each storyteller and the effect each of their stories has, ripple-like, on the rest. Beard's depiction of Pompeii manages to do justice to all its alien strangeness while prompting us to reflect on the significance of felt resemblances between its experience and our own--in the formation of cultural identity, habits of consumption, political nepotism, religion, sexuality, violent entertainments and much more. -- Joy Connolly "The Nation" (11/09/2009)

In the "The Fires of Vesuvius", [Beard] gives us a wonderfully comprehensive picture of the city that has long fascinated historians, archaeologists and classicists...For a historian such as Beard, drawing on the latest archaeological findings, it is possible to write with authority how people of the first century ate their meals and lighted their homes, earned a living, governed themselves and attended to their bodily needs. For her--as she shows in this book--Pompeii is not a dead but a living city.--David Walton"Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" (12/20/2008)

[A] wry, recondite and colorful story of what is known and what is conjectured about life in Pompeii before the fall...Like a canny cook making a banquet from scant means, Beard creates a living Pompeii for the reader from the hard evidence at her disposal. Though she is a skeptic, never pretending to ingredients she doesn't have in her larder, she knows how to take the gaudy razzmatazz of a building's facade or the messy amalgam of workaday shops jumbled with mansions, and make them do a little singing for the reader...This is a lively piece of work, with an easy familiarity and obvious pleasure in the subject, wearing its knowledge lightly, and not above some mischievous poking at Pompeii's many controversies.--Peter Lewis"San Francisco Chronicle" (12/21/2008)

It is the long vanished life of Pompeii that Mary Beard evokes in all its detail and complexity in her new book...She gives us Pompeii itself, with its smells and swill, its sex and superstition, its poverty and pathos. It is a wholly successful evocation, pieced together from a deep knowledge of a frighteningly large bibliography.--G. W. Bowersock"New Republic" (05/06/2009)

In "The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found" Mary Beard cheerfully dismantles as many assumptions about what we are looking at in the city's remains as she constructs hypotheses. She shows conclusively that the city was not entirely taken unawares by the eruption.--Katherine A. Powers"Boston Globe" (12/28/2008)

Pompeii may still confuse and challenge, but Beard's informative reappraisal vividly evokes the way it was. And travelers will welcome her practical advice on making a visit.--Judith Chettle"Richmond Times Dispatch" (03/01/2009)

In "The Fires of Vesuvius", Cambridge University classics professor Mary Beard restores Pompeii in all its bustling everydayness...But as vivid and detailed a depiction as Beard is able to provide, what is equally fascinating about Pompeii is how much we do not know...Beard calls this the "Pompeii paradox," the fact that "we simultaneously know a huge amount and very little about life there." That's also what makes this learned but lively account a rather haunting read. Oddly familiar images of daily life two millenniums distant are juxtaposed with a sense of impenetrable mystery. "A visit to Pompeii almost never disappoints," Beard insists. To read this book is to agree.--Marjorie Kehe"Christian Science Monitor" (01/01/2009)

In a survey that encompasses Pompeians' religion, diet, and even traffic patterns, Beard sets out to correct many of the misimpressions that countless guidebooks--and guides--have foisted on tourists...More than two centuries of tourism and excavation have left a legacy of assumptions that cloud our understanding of the site--and, since Pompeii contains some of the best evidence about daily life in the Roman world, about Rome itself. "The Fires of Vesuvius" lays out decades of specialist debate in clear, reader-friendly prose.--Andrew Curry"Wilson Quarterly" (05/01/2009)

Engrossingly mischievous...Beard takes cheeky, undisguised delight in puncturing the many fantasies and misconceptions that have grown up around Pompeii--sown over the years by archaeologists and classicists no less than Victorian novelists and makers of "sword and sandal" film extravaganzas. While many scholars build careers through increasingly elaborate reconstructions of the ancient world, Beard consistently stresses the limits of our knowledge, the precariousness of our constructs and the ambiguity or contradiction inherent in many of our sources. "There is hardly a shred of evidence for any of it" serves as her battle cry, and it's a noble one...This is a wonderful book, for the impressive depth of information it comfortably embraces, for its easygoing erudition and, not least, for its chatty, personable style.--Steve Coates"New York Times Book Review" (03/15/2009)

[Fires of Vesuvius] offered me a wealth of riveting information on the vanished city, written with clarity, wit and a detective's eye for solving conundrums.--Alberto Manguel"Times Literary Supplement" (11/27/2009)

In the "The Fires of Vesuvius," [Beard] gives us a wonderfully comprehensive picture of the city that has long fascinated historians, archaeologists and classicists...For a historian such as Beard, drawing on the latest archaeological findings, it is possible to write with authority how people of the first century ate their meals and lighted their homes, earned a living, governed themselves and attended to their bodily needs. For her--as she shows in this book--Pompeii is not a dead but a living city.--David Walton"Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" (12/20/2008)

In "The Fires of Vesuvius," Cambridge University classics professor Mary Beard restores Pompeii in all its bustling everydayness...But as vivid and detailed a depiction as Beard is able to provide, what is equally fascinating about Pompeii is how much we do not know...Beard calls this the "Pompeii paradox," the fact that "we simultaneously know a huge amount and very little about life there." That's also what makes this learned but lively account a rather haunting read. Oddly familiar images of daily life two millenniums distant are juxtaposed with a sense of impenetrable mystery. "A visit to Pompeii almost never disappoints," Beard insists. To read this book is to agree.--Marjorie Kehe"Christian Science Monitor" (01/01/2009)

As Mary Beard shows in "The Fires of Vesuvius," her marvelous excavation of Pompeii's history, the city is rarely what it is billed to be. A leading historian of Roman culture, a prolific essayist and an irrepressible blogger, Beard punctures conventional pieties about history and culture with formidable scholarly authority, always paying keen attention to the layering effects of the passage of time...With "The Fires of Vesuvius," Beard has produced a lusciously detailed, erudite account of life in ancient Pompeii...The challenge of "The Fires of Vesuvius" rests in the way that its portrait of Pompeii overturns longstanding conceptions about the empire to which the city belonged. Most important is Beard's depiction of the chaotic diversity of Pompeian life--the sheer variety of its religious experience, its linguistic multiplicity, its class tensions--which raises far-reaching questions about the nature of cultural and political identity in the imperial Roman context...With its focus on labor, education and religion, "The Fires of Vesuvius" is a testament to how much Roman studies has to offer the contemporary political imagination. Well-informed in the latest research in demography, the history of Roman politics, architecture, ancient economics, feminist and post-colonial studies, Beard probes the experience of men and women, free and slave, rich and poor...The point that permeates Beard's work, along with much of the best of classical cultural and literary studies, is that part of the job of studying the past is to examine the assumptions of each storyteller and the effect each of their stories has, ripple-like, on the rest. Beard's depiction of Pompeii manages to do justice to all its alien strangeness while prompting us to reflect on the significance of felt resemblances between its experience and our own--in the formation of cultural identity, habits of consumption, political nepotism, religion, sexuality, violent entertainments and much more.--Joy Connolly"The Nation" (11/09/2009) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

A professor of classics at Cambridge University, Mary Beard is the author of the best-selling The Fires of Vesuvius and the National Book Critics Circle Award nominated Confronting the Classics. A popular blogger and television personality, Beard gave the Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books. She lives in England. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
1
4 star
0
3 star
1
2 star
0
1 star
0
See both customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Please don't make the mistake I made and buy this book and Pompeii The Life of a Roman Town as they are the same book but with a different title! This is not made at all clear by Amazon who even suggest you buy both books to save money!
3 Comments 84 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent tour of Pompei by Mary Beard. I used it on a recent visit to the ruins and found it very helpful. i would it to anybody with is interested in thr history of Rome.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x894e6414) out of 5 stars 55 reviews
106 of 107 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x894e2f54) out of 5 stars The Dirt on Pompeii 8 Dec. 2008
By J. Moran - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Beard holds a chair in Classics at the University of Cambridge (UK) and has published several books on ancient history for the general reader. "Fires of Vesuvius" is in the nature of a summary or handbook of what the excavations and other scholarly efforts at Pompeii have to tell us about life there (and by extension in similar towns in Italy and perhaps elsewhere in Rome's empire). The book has separate chapters on the major aspects of life in Pompeii, from religion to sex, from daily commercial life to "fun and games." While relating what scholars have concluded about Pompeii, Beard casts a questioning and frequently skeptical eye at the evidence that supposedly supports their positions, often finding it ambiguous or thin or both.

A book of this sort can often be as dry as dust. This one is interesting throughout, thanks to Beard's well-honed and fluid style. The overall approach is that of an overview rather than a deeply detailed study. The tone is civilized but relaxed, and the writing is both clear and well-paced, occasionally laced with quiet humor. The very numerous illustrations are well-integrated with the narrative. Beard's "further reading" section, as with other books of hers that I have read, is fairly extensive. This is a good up-to-date summary for readers who are already familiar with Pompeii and an excellent introduction for those coming new to the subject.

The book is slightly marred by minor errors of diction or style that should have been caught in the editing process, something that doesn't seem to happen today even at "prestigious" imprints such as the Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press. Such blemishes, indeed, have occurred in each of the last two or three Harvard Press books that I have read. This should be unacceptable at such a house. Veritas.
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x894e2ed0) out of 5 stars A Vibrant View of Pompeian Life and Mysteries 14 Feb. 2009
By Rob Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, sending hot gases, pumice, and rivers of bubbling mud through the city of Pompeii. Over a thousand of the victims were preserved within the ash, as were buildings and artworks. Since it was first excavated centuries ago, Pompeii as "frozen in time" has had a real tourist appeal. You can walk the streets feeling that you are experiencing something close to what the Pompeians did two thousand years ago; such feelings are not baseless, but Pompeian life was drastically different from our own, and the clues the ruins give us about the people's lives are significant but often mysterious and even more often incomplete. Classicist Mary Beard is the perfect guide to the city, as it is now and as best as we can understand it before the eruption, and in _The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found_ (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press), she has written a delightful, sometimes irreverent, guide to the city. Sure, it has plenty of scholarship attached; ancient texts and modern reports are referenced, and there is an amazing range of evidence (bones of humans, skeletons of animals, oyster shells, bracelets, spilled paint, and traffic barriers), but she writes in a relaxed, almost chatty way that ensures readers will enjoy the fun of the often strange details she has included.

Even those who have been to Pompeii themselves will have to adjust their imaginary pictures of life there. For instance, take Beard's description of the baths. We think of the baths as promoting the sort of cleanliness that we ourselves value, but if you find yourself time-machined back to Pompeii, you might want to avoid this sort of "cleanliness". There was, of course, no chlorination, and not even any proper filters. The water was not always replaced, and wounds bathed in them could turn gangrenous. Beard concludes that the baths "may have been a place of wonder, pleasure, and beauty for the humble Pompeian bather. They might also have killed him." The baths also had a seamy reputation; they were, after all, a place where people got nearly naked and pursued pleasure. The more famous site for sex was the brothel, one particular house in downtown Pompeii that everyone acknowledges as having been a brothel, but there may have been many others. One sign that some categorizers (and some tour guides within the city) proclaim as a mark of a brothel is a phallus pointing to it, but in Pompeii there are phalluses everywhere. The famous picture of the god Priapus weighing his hefty organ in scales against a money bag, Beard says, used to have a curtain over it, not in the Roman days, to be sure, but in the seventies when she first visited the place. You could ask for the curtain to be withdrawn; perhaps, now that there is no such curtain, moralists will say that we are descending into pagan immorality. But there would have to be a lot of such curtains: "There are phalluses greeting you in doorways, phalluses above bread ovens, phalluses carved into the surface of the street, and plenty more phalluses with bells on - and wings." Beard points out that we can't really be sure what all these wands were for, but that thinking of them as lucky charms (something like a horseshoe on a wall) might make them less naughty, but they still cannot avoid being sexual tokens.

Throughout, Beard illustrates the "Pompeii paradox": "We simultaneously know a huge amount and very little about ancient life there". We don't know much about the upper stories of buildings, since their ground floors and foundations survived while the upstairs did not. Did they keep their bedrooms up there, and where did the children stay, and how many lived in a house? We can tell that Pompeians played lots of different board games, and we have rulebooks for none. One game was called _latrunculi_, and of the many election posters reviewed here, one said that a candidate had the support of the _latrunculi_ players; was this sarcasm? Everyone who has visited Pompeii has seen the bars with large jars set in the counter, and guides give the impression that there was a bartender who ladled wine from them, but the jars are porous. They may have been filled instead with dry goods, like fruit or chick peas, so were they for bar snacks? And then there are the mysteries of the creedless Roman religion, which allowed hundreds of gods and goddesses, and accepted new ones regularly, and was based on animal sacrifice. Wandering the streets of Pompeii, one can feel that this is a livable town, almost like a modern one; but Beard's book provides the useful service of showing that however much we appreciate the recovered art and architecture of the ancient city, we have to appreciate also how vastly the culture differed from ours, and how difficult it is to interpret the archeological evidence that is available.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8956b294) out of 5 stars Engrossing Survey of Pompeiian Daily Life 10 Mar. 2009
By Barry Bedrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This terrific and absorbing book discusses all aspects of life in Pompeii before the eruption in 79 CE. Beard synthesizes what we know of family life, making a living, entertainment, worship, ceremony, religion, civic life, etc.

As an interested amateur, I have no basis for judging her conclusions, but I find them convincing if only because she is so cautious: she is skeptical about a lot of the claims made by other scholars based on what she says is scant or non-existent evidence. When she speculates, she makes explicit that is what she is doing, and when we don't know and can only guess, she says so clearly. Another reviewer was disappointed that she rejects some of the tales told by guides, but to me her insistence on relying only on the evidence or lack thereof is one of the great virtues of the book.

The book is clearly written and entirely accessible to a non-scholar. Beard sometimes resorts to English demotic to great and occasionally shocking effect, both for translations and for her own observations. It is well-illustrated with both color plates and black-and-white illustrations placed in close proximity to the accompanying text and with helpful captions. (I wished on occasion that the illustrations were larger so that I could see better the detail she describes, and that cross-references to illustrations were by page number rather than illustration number.)

In short, this book is among the very best popular histories (I don't intend that adjective to be denigrating, rather an acknowledgment of the book's broad appeal beyond academia) I've ever read.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89951cb0) out of 5 stars Best introduction 22 Jan. 2009
By Richard Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best single book on Pompeii that I now own, even given (he sniffs) her annoying abuse of the comma. This is my first Mary Beard book, and quite different than all the other over 400 Roman books that I own. In a style that is almost scolding of our preconceptions, she presents a wonderful overview of the state of knowledge of Pompeiian culture and times. She synthesises all the current research on Pompeii from all angles and presents a very convincing description of what Pompeii was like not only at the time of the eruption but in the decades and centuries leading up to it.
This will be recommended reading in our Roman reenactment group. It might be interesting for her to know that she can get a reproduction of that "engaging jug in the shape of a cockere" since I've had it commissioned in the thermopolium of Asellina.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x89b2fa80) out of 5 stars Archaeological Writing at Its Best 31 Mar. 2009
By C. Pellegrino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My own area of research in forensic archaeology (which in this case focuses primarily on the physical effects of the Vesuvian surge clouds) has brought me up close and personal with Pompeii and Herculaneum. Yet, even to someone who works professionally in the ruins, Mary Beard's wonderful book has many new lessons to teach.

"The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found," has a rare quality of being accessible to an intelligent Junior High School student with an interest in the subject - yet, simultaneously it is so full of new details about individual homes and public buildings as to be endlessly fascinating even to professional scientists and classicists already quite familiar with the cities of Vesuvius.

- - Charles Pellegrino
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback