From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town

Ingrid D. Rowland. Harvard/Belknap, $28.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-674-04793-8
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, its ash covered and preserved the ancient town of Pompeii and its inhabitants. One of the world’s first places to be archaeologically excavated in a systematic fashion, Pompeii has captured popular imagination—its lands are rich and fertile and it functions as a portal into history. Yet even before the first exploration and dig, Pompeii has been in the public mind. Rowland, a professor at the Univ of Notre Dame School of Architecture in Rome, has had a love affair with Pompeii since she was a child and here constructs an overview of Pompeii’s history by collecting the opinions and work of famous figures: artists, writers, musicians, actors, and royalty, including Renoir, Mozart, Ingrid Bergman, and Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan. All of the individuals included experienced Pompeii and its environs firsthand—though some, like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, did not always see them in a positive light. Rowland’s work, replete with lyrical verse and beautiful descriptions of Southern Italy, highlights potential problems with preservation, and though it lacks a coherent structure, it wistfully captures the atmosphere of a place both beautiful and dangerous. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/13/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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