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Pompeii: The Day a City Died Paperback – March 30, 1992
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The book starts out describing the history of excavations in Pompeii. Then, we have chapters on the daily life in Pompeii, how they earned a living, the role of women in society, leisure in Pompeii, their relationship with Gods and their views on love and death. At the end there is a section called documents, which includes writings of various writers on Pompeii, including Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Stendhal.
I don't feel like I learned everything there is to know about Pompeii. For example, I am not clear on whether escape was at all possible, or whether anyone survived. The information presented was interesting, but I feel there were gaps in the way it was presented. This is probably a good thing, because it stimulates one for further reading.
My curiosity was satisfied, and then some, with this enlightening and informative book.
I enjoyed the paintings of the scenes of what happened to people on that fateful day of 24th August 79 C.E., how the ash had frozen them in time and the next of how they were discovered in those same positions when they were undug nearly two thousand years later in 1961 (to give one example).
For me, the best part was reading Pliny the Younger's letter to his friend Tacitus, written in 104 C. E., about the destruction Mount Vesuvius wrecked upon everyone that surrounded her and about how his uncle, Pliny the Elder, had died in Stabiae because of the noxious fumes that suffocated the air. You're not getting a better first-hand account than that!
The intended audience for this book is not a scholarly one, so that would explain why it's not loaded with Latin and Greek words and/or phrases. But if the text contained such words, that's why Latin and Greek dictionaries are around - to look up those words.
You'll need to look at this book a few times: One to read the text and another to just look at the pictures and read the equally informative captions. You'll learn alot.
But no matter how much I've read and watched about the city over the years, I still can't grasp why Pompeii had to suffer so much. They were way ahead of time with the everyday instruments they used (a printing press, a duplicate of which would not be made until over a thousand years later), bathing to keep diseases at bay (something that Nostradamus would rediscover fifteen hundred years later during the Black Plague). As the author points out, Pompeii had a standard of living that would not be achieved again until the 1950's. (So much for progress!)
A fantastic read.