Pompeii: The Living City
Beginning in 54 AD, twenty-five years before Vesuvius rained ash and death, Pompeii covers the life of the city through the eyes of citizens from various social strata. This allows a glimpse into the living city while also exploring the political situation in the Roman Empire. In addition to various scholarly and archaeological sources, the authors use Pompeii’s ubiquitous graffiti to introduce us to the city’s inhabitants—from the candidate for public office listing his civic virtues to the gigolo who advertises cunnilingus as his specialty and adds “Virgins accepted.” The authors have chosen an interesting approach, mixing fact with narratives (denoted by the use of italics) which read like historical fiction because they are—albeit based on historical evidence.
Those expecting the chaotic tale of families fleeing ash and toxic fumes will likely be disappointed by this book; the apocalypse of 79 AD is only covered in the last chapter. What is presented here is a much more comprehensive picture of the city, the time period in which it flourished, and the individuals who populated it. The result is a more complete understanding of what life was like in Pompeii, and an evocative portrait of a civilization long dead.