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Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum Paperback – 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix Press; First Edition edition (2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1898800456
  • ISBN-13: 978-1898800453
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,101,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Erick Franz P. Vergara on November 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book still leaves something to be desired (colour illustrations, for example), but overall, it's a must for anyone interested in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Michael Grant has built up a well-deserved reputation as a popular historian, chiefly on his excellent use of the English language as a medium for communicating with a wide audience; by this I mean that his writing is as close to colloquial as possible without sounding unprofessional. "Cities of Vesuvius" benefits from this as much as from his expertise as a classical historian.
The book is shorter than one might expect (barely 170 pages from cover to cover), but it packs a lot of information about Roman life in 79 AD as explained within the context of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the subsequent destruction of surrounding communities. Detailed maps of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as floor plans of major buildings, make it easier to put everything in its proper place. What makes the text even more interesting is the inclusion of quotations from the graffiti scrawled all over the walls of both cities (including a brief but scathing remark from a customer about his inn-keeper's wine). Unfortunately, the material in this book is vintage 1971 -- the copies for sale are of a 2001 reprint -- and I could only hope that a new edition, incorporating the latest discoveries and scholarship, will come out soon.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David E. Blair on February 27, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Grant is one of the truly accessible Classicists and historians of Roman History. His production is remarkable and generally rises to a very high level of scholarship. The book under consideration is no exception. Although, Roman History is a major reading area for me, I had no particular plans to read this book. However, I will be going to the Pompeii Exhibit 2005-06 in a few days. It seemed to be a good idea to have some background. So, I purchased this book because I knew it would be very readable.

Grant's first chapter covers the history of the Campania area of Italy from Greek colonization through the Social Wars and into the mid First Century CE. This is a history of the area and its relationship with Greece and Rome. This construction is laid out before the reader effortlessly in nine pages. This is Grant at his best, totally relaxed with an easy mastery of the material to be covered. Subsequent chapters on the mountain, towns and meeting places, religion and philosphers, rural and urban residences, and three more topics are rolled out. This book was a fun read considering that the topics are approached in a scholarly fashion. Very rarely does the book lack the necessary level of detail. I know there are newer books on the subject, and there are certainly more specialized studies of Pompeii. However, in my case I learned a lot. And I enjoyed doing it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Wallace V. French III on September 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Easily the best book on the subject. In typical Grant style he brings yet another ancient history topic to the masses. This book is easy to read and has a pretty good black and white photo insert. The outlines and graphs of the various homes in Pompeii and Ercolano are very well done. Grant goes into detail about the history of the region around southern Italy (not just Pompeii) which is helpful in understanding the urban development of ancient cities like Pompeii. He sheds light on every day life in Pompeii including chapters on the layouts of homes, the importance of gardening in ancient Italy, religious life, political life, and sports. He mixes primary and secondary sources very well. Primary sources include letters written by witnesses of the great eruption including a very important one written by someone witnessing everything from a ship on the sea. A great book by a great historian.
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By gormenghast on January 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
Michael Grant is a British historian who has written extensively about the ancient world. His books were assigned reading when I was a Classics major in college. They often have a dry, textbook-y quality to them, but "Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum" is accessible and absorbing.

Vesuvius erupted on August 24, 79 AD, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum as well as seven other towns or villages. Pompeii and Herculaneum have been partially excavated. Grant convincingly recreates the day of the disaster, explaining how the residents of the two cities succumbed to different fates: many people in Pompeii had no time to escape, killed by poisonous gases or falling debris where they stood, their bodies frozen in place in perpetuity as pumice stone and ash hailed down; Herculaneum, in contrast, was consumed by a slow but steady flow of mud-lava, which buried the city but allowed the residents time to escape. In both places, the bodies of people and animals as well as thousands of objects were miraculously preserved, carbonized by the mud and ash. Even eggshells in a cupboards of Pompeii and Herculaneum remain intact. Grant explains the method by which the bodies were removed from the hardened ash that encased them, and he discusses the various (and sometimes disastrous) excavation efforts that have been made over the centuries.

Detailed descriptions of the cities - their physical layout, public and religious buildings, baths and public lavatories, cemeteries, and private houses - are provided.
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