FROM POMPEII by Ingrid D. Rowland


The Afterlife of a Roman Town
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Rowland traces the history of Pompeii (Architecture/Notre Dame Univ.; Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic, 2008, etc.) since the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

A lifetime of trips to the ruins of that buried city have shown the author how it has changed since that time, through years of both neglect and excessive restoration. It was generally forgotten until the 16th century, when clues began to emerge as to its exact location. Artifacts from Herculaneum were found first near the wells of Resina by adventurous explorers, who were lowered 65 feet to explore the subterranean structures first hinted at by a canal dug in the 1590s. Lukas Holste’s theory that Pompeii was located beneath the hill at Cività wasn’t confirmed until the mid-1700s, and the site and city languished through the years until Giuseppe Fiorelli began top-down excavation in the 1860s. Fiorelli injected plaster into the oddly shaped bubbles to produce the casts of those who died centuries earlier. The patron saint, San Gennaro, whose blood liquefies each year on his feast day, is highly revered, and it is true that when his blood remains dry, catastrophes arrive—e.g., earthquakes, eruptions, even bombing during World War II. Bartolo Longo came in as a reformer in the 1880s and built New Pompeii with a church, schools and housing for those who lived in these “badlands.” In addition to the history, Rowland also discusses famous visitors to the site. Mozart was more affected by the castrato voices he heard in Napoli, and Freud deduced that the psyche was surely a similar archaeological site to be excavated.

Those visitors are not nearly as interesting as those who excavated it and the city itself. Rowland provides abundant photographs, but many readers will wish for more about the everyday life of Pompeii.

Pub Date: March 17th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-674-04793-8
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2014


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