Pompeii: The Living City Hardcover – 3 Oct 2006
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It takes a real act of imagination to recreate the life that once filled the city's streets. Ray Laurence is well qualified to make the attempt... Now he has teamed up with Alex Butterworth, a writer and dramatist to bring the city to life in a more readily accessible and attractive fashion. What the authors have done is to attempt to tell the story of the last twenty-five years of Pompeii's existence in somethng of the style of a novel... (JEREMY PATERSON LITERARY REVIEW)
This book attempts to restore meaning to the dusty ruins with notable success. The authors are an archaeologist/historian and a dramatist: Laurence contributes up-to-date research while Butterworth puts human flesh on dry bones¿ In other respects, the life of Pompeii seems startlingly contemporary... It is the great achievement of this book that we feel we know these people, and their tragedy moves us. The life and death of Pompeii is evoked with verve and authority. (OBSERVER)
Brings Pompeii startlingly alive once more (HISTORY TODAY)
the most ambitious re-creation yet of life in the city over the 20 years or so leading up to the eruption. (Mary Beard SUNDAY TIMES)
"By using the very latest archaeological and historical research, Pompeii offers a vivid portrait of a lost city during the 25 years leading up to the eruption that destroyed it. ... We find a world rich in wine, ritual, sex, political scandal and over-the-top partying. This book is a wonderfully accessible introduction to the social history of the Roman Empire as a whole." (DAILY EXPRESS)
"graphic, ambitious and utterly compelling recreation... Butterworth and Laurence paint a rich, multi-layers and utterly memorable picture of Pompeii and their book is a thumping good read." (IRISH EXAMINER)
"With Pompeii, Ray Laurence (a distinguished Pompeian scholar) and the writer Alex Butterworth have done something quite unusual... The result is the fullest and most readable account I know... Perhaps the most impressive feature is the sheer detail, and the lightness of touch in presenting it." (PETER JONES SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)
"An original and vivid recreation of unfolding events in the doomed city... The whole is written in a lively style, with nice touches of humour... a good read." (BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGY)
"a vivid portrait of place and people before the cataclysms of AD 62 and 75" (CHURCH TIMES)
"accessible, wide-ranging and evocative and makes surprisingly compelling reading." (CATHOLIC TIMES)
"For those looking to be transported back to the living city, it will be hard to resist." (OXFORD TIMES)
"... a very detailed narrative, mixture of historical fact and patches of italicised fiction, and Harris wishes that it had been available when he wrote his novel... heavily researched but readable book, which is also splendidly illustrated." (JANE GARDAM SPECTATOR)
"Wonderful facts... are laced with humour... With an excellent bibliography, note and index, Pompeii - The Living City fulfils every requirement of an erudite historical exposition, while achieving something far greater through its entertaining and well-written text... I would encourage anyone with a passing interest in ancient history to buy a copy" (TRIBUNE) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
A visceral history of Pompeii - the living city brought back to life. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The scene is set with the accession of the Emperor Nero in Rome. Nero had ties to Pompeii, not the least of which was that it was the native city of his mistress, and later wife, Poppaea. Pompeii, of course, had many natural advantages. Sitting below Vesuvius, which hadn't erupted in historical memory, granted it a productive environs. Volcanic soil is rich, the authors remind us. As a port city, Pompeii had an edge even on Rome. Luxury goods flowed in as farm produce and other goods went abroad or inland. Pompeii was noted for "garum", a fish paste produced in enormous quantities and many quality levels. However it smelled, and the authors cite opinions from several observers, it brought money to the city. Production and trade in this and other goods made Pompeii a lively place. Not the least of the dynamic was the role of freed slaves. Many of these captives might be manumitted solely to bring profit to aristocrats who didn't want their image tarnished by trading activities. Sponsoring a freed slave didn't remove their thrall, but bound them in new ways. The result was not only active trade, but also tumultuous politics, as the groups loyal to one sponsor clashed with that of another. Lawrence and Butterworth use a wealth of wall graffiti to depict the lively contests the city endured.
The buildup to the eruption is long and well detailed. Pompeii, though perched on the bay far south of Rome, wasn't isolated from either the capital's politics or social values. Nero's profligate lifestyle and the expanding of the Empire didn't leave the doomed city untouched. Nero's personal example might have been followed by some of the elite of the city, but it remained fairly provincial in social outlook. Sexual mores, always a titillating subject for those who first excavated and revealed the wall paintings in rich homes, was less of an issue among the hoi polloi. The rigours of Christianity's social norms had yet to take over, and Vesuvius interdicted that transformation.
There's risks in producing a book of this style. The addition of "speculative" segments, even based on detailed evidence, is likely to put off the professional historians and archaeologists. The "solid" evidence, on the other hand, is limited in scope, both chronologically and in geographic extent. Although there are accounts of background military and resulting political events, this is hardly a definitive work of the Roman Empire, even for a specific period. These apparent shortcomings, however, do not erode the value of what these authors set out to achieve. Their subtitle, "The Living City" declares their intention, and they have succeeded admirably in that task. This is an excellent account and serves as an excellent example of how to portray an ancient past and the people who lived in it. If there seems to be information lacking, the authors' excellent Bibliography provides the reader with sufficient resources to probe and examine the many and varied events that swirled about this scene of natural disaster. Perhaps the only thing truly missing is some account of the natural forces that destroyed Pompeii and its environs. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
For both the prospective tourist and one who has already been, the book I recommend instead is Mary Beard's Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town, which discusses what information can be gleaned about life in the town in relation to specific buildings you will see (or have seen). I bought both books before visiting, handing Ms Beard's book to my wife first whilst I read this book in the meantime. I really wish that I had done the opposite, not least because the missus was able to tell me far, far more about what was actually standing in front of us as as we stood in the ruins than I had found out from this book.
So read Ms Beard's book first, and if the subject fires your interest, by all means read this too for a somewhat different angle.
Let s them take you to the world of Ancient Rome..
Its worth every single penny
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