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Vesuvius (Wonders of the World) Hardcover – January 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


The terrifying meditations on our own mortality are compensated by the vivid lives that have unfolded for so many centuries on the mountain's slopes (most of them lives in which Vesuvius has been threatening but not fatal). As a book, Vesuvius promises to be just about irresistible. (Ingrid Rowland, University of Notre Dame)

It's brave to write a longue durée history of anything, and here it has been done magnificently. There was much in every part that was new to me. (Martin Rudwick, author of Bursting the Limits of Time)

Most readers will enjoy this attractive little book as an armchair travel guide to Vesuvius along the paths of history. (David Keymer Library Journal 2012-03-02)

A lively biography of the mountain best known for swallowing Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D....Vesuvius is an entertaining guide to the volcano's impact on European culture, ranging over its influence on religion, science, philosophy, art, literature, and music. (Amy Henderson Weekly Standard 2012-06-11)

About the Author

Gillian Darley is a writer, broadcaster, and architectural journalist.

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Product Details

  • Series: Wonders of the World (Book 14)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674052854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674052857
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 4.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,716,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There are plenty of volcanoes around the world to thrill and frighten us. None of them have caught the literary, artistic, historical, or scientific imagination like Mount Vesuvius. Part of its attraction is that it is the only active volcano on the European mainland (there's Etna, but it is in Sicily). Part is that it sits majestically over the picturesque Bay of Naples. Part is its role in destroying, and preserving, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Part is that at irregular and unpredictable intervals it endangers an area which people have otherwise found attractive and livable. Vesuvius has been written about for millennia, but now in Harvard University Press's "Wonders of the World Series" is a handy summary volume, _Vesuvius_ by Gillian Darley. Darley has written a scholarly view with a fine bibliography, but the subject is inherently fascinating, and her lively account looks at all the different and important facets of the irrepressible mountain.

Vesuvius has been dormant since its last big eruption of 1944. Recent excavations have found that there was a huge eruption around 1600 BCE with a pyroclastic surge (the forceful flow of lethally superheated gases and volcanic matter) that would have reached where Naples is now. Since ancient times, the eruptions have been thought to be the work of supernatural beings, and even now the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, is venerated for his ability to protect against the mountain, even though such ability seems to be imperfect. One of the most important personalities in this history is Sir William Hamilton, who is much less famous for his association with Vesuvius than he is for being cuckolded by Admiral Nelson. He was smitten forever by the volcano once he saw a small eruption in 1765.
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