In a painstaking analysis of Pompeii's development from country town to city, German scholar Zanker (Classical...


POMPEII: Public and Private Life

In a painstaking analysis of Pompeii's development from country town to city, German scholar Zanker (Classical Archaeology/Univ. of Munich) draws an intimate portrait of ancient urban life. Ash from an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. blanketed Pompeii, preserving the ancient city intact, together with all traces of its earlier development. Thus, unlike other Roman sites, Pompeii is not simply a collection of ruins, but an artifact that can tell how Roman cities developed and give a sense of the way in which Romans used urban spaces. Drawing on the unique archaeological opportunity presented by Pompeii, Zanker first narrates Pompeii's growth from a culturally Hellenistic Oscan city allied with Rome to a city colonized by Roman veterans of the civil wars of the first century B.C. According to Zanker, Oscan Pompeii had characteristically Greek institutions, such as the gymnasium, baths, and theater. After Roman colonists took over the city in the wake of an ill-fated rebellion by the Pompeians around 89 B.C., a splendid amphitheater, was built, and structures with political applications, like the forum, were expanded. In particular, the temples and public places devoted to the Roman gods were renovated, a reflection of the renewal of the traditional Roman religion after the accession of Augustus as emperor. The early Augustan period also saw development of an infrastructure, including a water and sewer system, and civic pride was reflected in the tombs of the town's leading citizens, which were designed as places of rest and reflection for the residents. After an earthquake in 62 A.D. emphasis in rebuilding shifted from the political to the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment. Zanker closely analyzes the villas, paintings, gardens, and other spaces of Roman Pompeii to develop a vivid picture of private urban life, mostly devoted to esthetic and cultural pursuits but not without everyday cares, among the mostly well-to-do citizens of the city. A thoughtful and well-researched examination of everyday life in the ancient world.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0674689674

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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