Sunday, October 03, 2010

Review: Pompeii and Herculaneum by Michael Grant

As part of the "Fall into Reading 2010" challenge, I decided to finally finish reading "Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum," which I started a couple of months ago and put on hiatus during a busy life period.  The book was written by Michael Grant and published in 1971 - and was reprinted later in 2005 by The Folio Society as part of it's "Lost Cities of the Ancient World" series.  It's difficult to review a non-fiction book like this, without getting into a ton of details about the eruption of Vesuvius and it's effect on the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  I'm going to point out a few things in point form, without going into detail:
  • The Samnites, not the Greeks or Italians gave Pompeii it's name
  • Pompeii was captured by Roma in 300BC
  • In 62AD, a major earthquake was recorded which decimated Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • In 79AD, Vesuvius erupted and killed nearly everyone in it's path
  • If you weren't killed by the heat, the fumes were lethal and many died of asphyxiation
  • When they excavated Pompeii, it was covered in more than 6 metres of debris: 2 metres of earth, then 2 metres of ash and then 2-3 meters of pumice
  • Herculaneum was covered in mud flows (from the steam from the eruption) which solidified into rock
The work was fairly easy to read, but contained lots of details.  I just gave a basic overview, but here are the topics presented:

1. The History of Pompeii and Herculaneum
2. Vesuvius
3. The Towns and their Meeting Places
4. Temples, Gods and Goddesses, and Philosophers
5. Private Houses in Town and Country
6. Paintings, Mosaics and Furniture
7. Farms and Trades
8. Public Life and Sexual Life

I'd recommend reading the novel, especially if you intend on taking a trip soon.  There were pictures interspersed throughout which helps you picture some of the buildings, artwork, etc as you read.  Imagination is still a huge part of the experience, and I believe that the work would be great to read before visiting the area.  I have never been, but it's on the list.

2 comments:

bibliophilica said...

Interesting post. I've read some Michael Grant but not this book. I do recall when I was a child, however, what an impression some of the photos (the ones of the 'casts' of people who died in the ash fallout of the eruption and became buried, later to deccay over the centuries leaving 'hollowed out' spaces that the original excavators filled like plaster casts, with chilling results). My parents bought pretty much every Time Life, etc. book series that came down the pike and one of them covered Pompeii/Herculaneum. Would love to visit there some day...
-Jay

La Coccinelle said...

Those books look interesting!

I'm just stopping by from the Hop. Have a great weekend!