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Herculaneum: Past and Future Paperback – 1 Nov 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln (1 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711233896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711233898
  • Product Dimensions: 25 x 2.8 x 30.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 242,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Andrew Wallace-Hadrill knows more about Herculaneum than anyone since AD 79.

Here he distils that expertise to get right to the heart of this little Roman town. It's a must-read not just for anyone who plans to visit this amazing site, but for anyone who want to understand how the ordinary Roman world worked.

(Mary Beard)

Overall, however, one could hardly ask for a clearer, more comprehensive, and better illustrated guide to Herculaneum.

(Publishers Weekly)

After 10 years as director of the Herculaneum Conservation Project, there is no archaeologist better suited to raise this city form its relative obscurity than Wallace-Hadrill. His book is filled with hundreds of new and archival photographs, panoramic views, and an invaluable foldout map of the site. The book is arranged in highly readable chapters that focus not only on the history of excavations, ancient city planning and Herculaneum's vibrant fresco paintings and mosaics, but also succeed in populating those spaces. Wherever possible, Wallace-Hadrill tells the individual stories of slaves, citizens, and the elite, using the enormous wealth of archaeological evidence Herculaneum provides - residents' names, their houses, furniture and food, even their skeletons. While its visual appeal may lead readers to believe Herculaneum: Past and Future is merely a coffee-table book, the research Wallace-Hadrill presents is comprehensive and of the highest quality. The author has filled a gap in the public's knowledge of Herculanuem.


As an insight into this historic site this book is unparalleled in its scale and scope. It also makes essential reading for anyone who's interested in the Roman way of life, and the lessons we can learn about the past from what's left behind. It is compelling in its human element - one cannot help but be moved by the skeletons of the people who were killed so suddenly by the catastrophe - and is equally fascinating for its historic and scientific aspects. A wonderful book that will draw you in and thrill you for hours on end.


A definitive overview of the archeological findings of Herculaneum, building a rich picture of the everyday lives of its inhabitants and its place in the Roman world.


4*: Till now it's largely been overlooked, dismissed as Pompeii's poor relation. This splendid book goes a long way towards redressing this injustice.


Combined with the exhaustive and beautifully presented illustrations makes 'Herculaneum' the book without competition as a record of what the city was and what the Herculaneum Conservation Project is doing now for the future.


For all its familiarity, this tale of Herculaneum's demise is a myth. A myth that is systematically destroyed in Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's latest book: the first comprehensive study of the town in 40 years. This authoritative, highly readable, and lavishly illustrated account by an acknowledged expert is not a guidebook... Wallace-Hadrill provides a vivd and enthralling glimpse of everyday Roman urban life. This book will fascinate anyone interested in Vesuvian archaeology, town life, or the Roman world.

(Current World Archaeology)

In this outstanding book, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill makes an impassioned and utterly compelling case for taking Herculaneum more seriously… [he] paints a vivid portrait, but he never extrapolates beyond the evidence. He simply relies on impressive learning and good old-fashioned scholarly caution, and the results are magnificent.


Demonstrates just how much we have yet to learn about Herculaneum and how important it is to ensure that its survival is secured for future generations.

(Art Newspaper)

Written with pell-mell enthusiasm and enviable clarity of language… this description of the high life, low life and public life that was stopped short in AD79 is impossible to put down. Tellingly illustrated, supported by a glossary, chronology, maps, diagrams and photographs of archaeologists at work, this is a book of such easy instruction that its lesons can be absorbed by the holiday visitor and applied to other Roman sites as far away as Tunisia and Turkey.

(Brian Sewell Evening Standard)

'beautifully illustrates the history of the excavations and vividly brings to life the stories of the slaves and the elite.'

(Sarah Lancashire Daily Express)

''shows how important this Roman town is to our understanding of everyday Roman life'

(Good Book Guide)

'A comprehensive and beautifully illustrated account of what we know and understand about Herculaneum'

(Sunday Telegraph)

'this is a fantastic book ... the photograph is spectacular.  Author Andrew Wallace-Hadrill has copious credentials to make him an authority on this subject making it pretty hard to beat in this area.'

Will remain the essential reference point for the study of Herculaneum for the forseeable future.

(Burlington magazine)

It would be hard to imagine a more informative study of Herculaneum.

About the Author

ANDREW WALLACE-HADRILL, OBE, was the Director of the British School at Rome and is now Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He is Director for the Packard Humanities Institute of its Herculaneum Conservation Project. His books include Suetonius: The Scholar and his Caesars (1985), Augustan Rome (1993), Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (1994) and Rome's Cultural Revolution (2008).

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There's been no end of books about Pompeii in recent years, many of them large and lavishly illustrated, not to mention all those novels, movies, mini-series and TV documentaries. Herculaneum on the other hand has languished like a wallflower in the shadow of her more glamorous sister, indeed for many years the general reader with a serious interest in this ancient city has had to make do with the concise and very monochrome work by Joseph Jay Deiss which was first published over 40 years ago. Now, at last, Andrew Wallace-Hadrill gives us the book we've all been waiting for - a handsome, lavishly illustrated tome with an accessible yet scholarly text that in my opinion is worth every penny of Amazon's discounted price.

Herculaneum lies buried at a deeper level than Pompeii and moreover the ruins are surmounted by the modern town of Ercolano. As a result only about a quarter of the city has been disinterred, compared to about three quarters of Pompeii, and important buildings such as the theatre are still buried under the modern town. But the exposed ruins are relatively better preserved than at Pompeii and indeed walking the streets of Herculaneum and peering into the houses you get the impression that the inhabitants have only just left and may return at any moment. Somehow you feel closer to the Roman world that perished between the 24th and 25th August AD79.

Or did Herculaneum perish then? The generally accepted date for the eruption is derived from Pliny's letter to Tacitus but there are corruptions in the manuscript tradition and Joanne Berry in her excellent book The Complete Pompeii adduces considerable evidence that suggests a late autumn date.
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Format: 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.
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Apart from largely out dated guidebooks there is little literature on the amazing site of Herculaneum. Until recently the site was in a terrible state, a condition that would probably have led to its closure to the public. Fortunately, thanks to Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Dr David Packard and the Italian State and Local Authorities, a programme of repair, restoration and consolidation has been implemented. Wallace-Hadrill's book, Herculaneum, not only explains how the site came to such a sad pass and how the newly-introduced programme is intended to reverse the decline, but also recounts the history of the town - its destruction, discovery and excavation - describes the public and private buildings, introduces the rich and poor inhabitants, compares the town with Pompeii, and casts an eye on the future. In the words of the author: "For our own generation, it is enough to appreciate the extraordinary value of the treasure that has already been dug up, to look after it as it merits, and to pass it on to future generations." The book is lavishly illustrated with both new and old photographs, including several that fold out to 4xpage size, and contains many useful plans and drawings. It is well written in a style that will satisfy the interested amateur as well as the academic. Given that the only other serious books on Herculaneum were written many years ago - at the beginning of the Twentieth Century by the Cambridge professor, Sir Charles Waldstein, and in 1985 by the American, Joseph Jay Deiss, one-time Vice Director of the American Academy in Rome - Wallace-Hadrill's "Herculaneum" is, without doubt, the most important account of this fascinating town ever written. It is well worth the cover price.
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