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Mary Beard of Cambridge University published this carefully researched book in 2008 Its American title is The Fires of Vesuvius Pompeii Lost and Found It was released nearly simultaneously in the UK under the title, Pompeii The Life of a Roman Town, demonstrating once again the apparent need to change titles for books in this country so that they can easily appeal to the perceived American adolescent boy mentality In fact, the book spends relatively little time focusing on the date in 79 CE when Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, concentrating instead on what subsequent archaeological investigations have suggested about life in this first century Roman city.Beard has carefully organized her presentation, including chapters on such issues as street life, houses and homes, painting and decorating, trades and crafts, city administration, food, pleasures, games, and religion, among other topics, presenting what we can know about each based upon findings from the site in the context of what is known of the greater Roman world She is particularly careful to distinguish what are valid assumptions and conclusions from what are no than careless and unsubstantiated speculations The text is fully supplemented with maps and illustrations, and a final section on Further Readings is ample and helpful Beard s rather typical British dry wit is not intrusive and enlivens passages that might otherwise seem like laundry lists of examples.The interested reader might enjoy supplementing his or her knowledge by means of such pictorial books of artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum as Paul Roberts Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Herculaneum Art of a Buried City by Guidobaldi and Esposito, both books having excellent accompanying texts In addition, The Great Courses series has a twenty four lecture course by Steven L Tuck entitled Pompeii Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City. When people were running away from destruction in 79 AD, after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, they had no idea that 2000 years later they would be famous and the subject of fascination and speculation to many If you are one of these many, then you need to read this book Right away This book is not about Mount Vesuvius, nor is it about the destruction of Pompeii Instead, it takes a positive approach and uses the catastrophe to delve deeper into the life of ancient Pompeii Because the city was buried under the debris of the volcanic ash, it remained preserved for centuries until finally unearthed by Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748 Since then, it has been the darling of archaeologists.The book explores different facets of life in the old city of Pompeii The chapters are divided into different sections, each one dealing with a different topic So from politics to entertainment, from social lives of the people to their family lives, Mary Beard takes us through each aspect of life in Pompeii She brings out the flavour of the city as it was with ease but also manages to help you prepare for the city as it is now.Beard is not afraid to own that there are many things we do not know She discusses different viewpoints from different historians and then gives her own opinion as well She often even ends up playing the devil s advocate This book forces you to think and analyse along with Beard, and it s fun The book is chock full of information about the city just before the eruption There can be no better guidebook to Pompeii than Pompeii The Life of a Roman Town If you plan to visit the ruins of the city, then arm yourself with this book Even if you are the type who wants to enjoy a trip to Pompeii from the comfort of your armchair, look no further @Free Kindle ì The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found Ü Pompeii Is The Most Famous Archaeological Site In The World, Visited By Than Two Million People Each Year Yet It Is Also One Of The Most Puzzling, With An Intriguing And Sometimes Violent History, From The Sixth Century BCE To The Present Day Destroyed By Vesuvius In CE, The Ruins Of Pompeii Offer The Best Evidence We Have Of Life In The Roman Empire But The Eruptions Are Only Part Of The Story In The Fires Of Vesuvius, Acclaimed Historian Mary Beard Makes Sense Of The Remains She Explores What Kind Of Town It Was Like Calcutta Or The Costa Del Sol And What It Can Tell Us About Ordinary Life There From Sex To Politics, Food To Religion, Slavery To Literacy, Beard Offers Us The Big Picture Even As She Takes Us Close Enough To The Past To Smell The Bad Breath And See The Intestinal Tapeworms Of The Inhabitants Of The Lost City She Resurrects The Temple Of Isis As A Testament To Ancient Multiculturalism At The Suburban Baths We Go From Communal Bathing To Hygiene To Erotica Recently, Pompeii Has Been A Focus Of Pleasure And Loss From Pink Floyd S Memorable Rock Concert To Primo Levi S Elegy On The Victims But Pompeii Still Does Not Give Up Its Secrets Quite As Easily As It May Seem This Book Shows Us How Much And Less There Is To Pompeii Than A City Frozen In Time As It Went About Its Business On August I read a lot of this I carried it everywhere I really like Mary Beard But I could not finish it I m not sure if it was the repetition of details in a different way time and again or what, because I really did enjoy it and one day I will finish it Pompeii and ancient Greek and Roman culture interest me a lot I expect we all have books like that, ones we like but can t finish. I ve been meaning to get hold of and read this since my visit to Pompeii last September I was worried it might be quite dry and spoil the fun, since it s billed as being very sceptical and as cutting things down to the facts, but I needn t have worried It s an easy enough read despite all the detail, and Mary Beard s speculations are as interesting as anything she refutes.I actually recommend you read it before visiting Pompeii, because you ll have a much clearer understanding of what you re seeing And you won t need a tour guide, which considering the urban myths they propagate, is all to the good It might even be useful to carry around Pompeii with you to help identify and understand some of what you re seeing it s not a guide book, it is a narrative, but if you ve read it already, you could flip through to refresh your memory on details.But reading it after a visit to Pompeii works, too, or even if you don t plan to go to Pompeii at all Remembering or imagining the hot and dusty streets is easy Mary Beard is always careful to keep in touch with what Pompeii looks like now even if that is sometimes disenchanting, for example when she points out that some of the paintings have been totally restored, not always perfectly accurately, by modern work , as well as trying to imagine a time when it was a living town.Actually, that s the part I find hardest imagining Pompeii as a living town Maybe it s partially because my memories of Pompeii are often without context a random house with tumbled down walls, grass growing in the remains of an oven, the partial remains of mosaics and paintings I m not a visual person anyway, so the images of Pompeii that stay in my head are the ones I saw myself Pompeii is a hushed town, in my mind, with wind and hot sun and pumice sand in your shoes.Mary Beard does very well at speculating what it might really have been like, nonetheless, and I definitely recommend this if you have any interest in the site. I personally am attracted by the ancient Greek culture than the Roman This influences my rating I whole hardheartedly recommend choosing this book if you are curious about ancient Roman life The book is not about the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E which destroyed the town It is instead about life in the town before the event It is about life in a typical Roman town It is based on an immense amount of archaeological research carried out over the last two centuries The book distinguishes between what is conclusively known and what we can reasonably conjecture, supplying detailed supporting evidence The minutia of details does not become overwhelming in that the chapters are clearly organized by topic Topics are summarized and conclusions drawn This is helpful particularly when there is no common consensus You don t have to be an expert to read this terms are simply defined.It reads a bit like a mystery story You are given the facts and then shown how those facts can be misconstrued The point is to show what conclusions can be drawn Presenting the facts in this way keeps you thinking you analyze the known facts to see if you come close It is like a puzzle to solve Every aspect of life in Pompeii is covered food and housing and clothes and sex and religion and government and social structure and slaves and entertainment and bathing and gladiators and painting and sculpture and all the arts You name it, it is here Even toilet facilities It is totally mind boggling to see how people were living two thousand years ago The similarities between then and now astound The audiobook narration by Phyllida Nash was absolutely superb Wow, she reads slowly and pauses at all the right points I will in the future look out for any audiobook this woman narrates. I listened to this on audiobook, and the first thing worth mentioning is that Phyllida Nash was an excellent narrator clearly spoken, and with a pleasing tone that rather than grating or being soporific really got me engrossed in the book.Surprisingly, I don t have much to say about this book Let me stress, the reason for that is that it s so spot on Mary Beard comes across here the same way she does in her programmes and lectures well spoken well written in this case , lucid, intelligent, knowledgeable a true authority in her subject Moreover she s professional She s objective throughout, and thorough in her research, taking the time and care to deconstruct and debunk the untrue myths about Pompeii including the ones you ll hear from the tour guides visitors beware The book starts out by covering the practicalities the layout of the town, its history before the eruption, even going into such detail as the form and function of the streets Boring Give us the juicy stuff, you may cry But it actually isn t This whole section is kept lively by any appropriate anecdotes that can be told, and what s it enhanced my enjoyment of the rest of the book Working from that solid basis, when the personal human stories where then told, I could set them in context and understand their environment and background, which really added to my enjoyment in the second part of the book Mary Beard paints a vivid picture of life in Pompeii in the lead up to the eruption, and truly seems to bring to life the individuals again.Simply put, I recommend this book.8 out of 10 A wonderful introduction to Pompeii It gives an insight into life in a modest Roman town Much of this was utterly alien, like the way in which the gods intruded into everyday life.Mary Beard has a great knack of presenting history in a lively and infornative manner without dumbing down I also liked the way in which often she gave alternative interpretations to findings rather than pontificating about what must gave been sometimes we simply do not know for sure A rich and thoughtfully structured text Full of enjoyment and discoveries.But then a prized possession of mine when young was a mug for drinking tea for drinking wine at a young age was not cultural acceptable sadly during my childhood it was decorated in blue and black with lava swamping the neat columns of Pompeii, a legend read Pompeii 79AD Eventually the glaze was so cracked that the vessel had to be demoted to desk tidy But this must have been after many thousands of mugs of tea So I am plainly a biassed witness.This is not the kind of book to read if you like to be told a simple story this is how it was FACT Because what Beard does is point out the kind of issues which are unclear and up for debate about Pompeii and lay out some of the evidence , and she takes time to explain her statements The text is nicely organised the labels on the colour plates give page references to where in the book Beard discusses that object and at the end she has a guide to visiting Pompeii I ve never been its a bit far to walk and again when she suggests visiting certain houses she gives the pages numbers where she deals with that building It is thoughtfully integrated with lots of illustrations She points out that Pompeii isn t a pristine site it was looted in antiquity once the lava and ashes had cooled down then it was bombed in 1943 by the allies, only recently have excavations been thoroughly recorded, early restoration work particularly of wall paintings and frescos was over enthusiastic view spoiler one example of this was a painting of a man and a woman, on the verge of becoming intimate, but the restorer in an excess of eroticism has painted ropes beneath the couple s feet, as though they were circus acrobats, originally these may have simply been shadows hide spoiler Pompeii is the most famous dead city in the world In 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the Roman city beneath untold tons of volcanic ash Death is a part of life But in the case of Pompeii, her death is her legacy Pompeii exists today because she was buried It is her tomb ness that gives her immortality When we think of Pompeii, we think of the plaster molds taken of the people who died in the eruption molds that capture their postures in the last instant of life Pompeii is a mausoleum It is Death excavated by archaeologists and run for the enjoyment of tourists.How strange and refreshing, then, to read a book about Pompeii that almost entirely ignores Mount Vesuvius Despite the title of Mary Beard s The Fires of Vesuvius, there is no suffocating ash falling from the sky, no pyroclastic flows There is no darkness darker and thicker than any night, as Pliny the Younger recalled No, this is a book about the life of a city, delivered by an inimitable writer and expert on the era Mary Beard is an intellectual rock star in Great Britain She is huge That is, relative to other classicists, she is huge She is a professor she appears in documentaries she writes a blog and she takes on detractors on Twitter She is Betty White, if Betty White taught at Cambridge Not only is Beard an expert, but she s a personality When she writes and talks about ancient times, she brings it to life with sharp observations, great wit, and a sly sense of humor that tends towards the scatological Mary Beard is one of those rare historians who is always wondering I wonder where they poopedThe Fires of Vesuvius is divided into chapters that each tackle a different subject relating to Pompeii The topics include Pompeii s streets, her houses, employment, local politics, and religion This is a book I really enjoyed It is informative, learned, and also fun It is not, however, a book I blazed through Despite coming in at only 316 pages the last three pages a helpful itinerary if you re planning to visit , The Fires of Vesuvius took me a while to read The reason, I think, is because there is no central narrative Beard is not telling a traditional story with a beginning, middle, and end Instead, she is taking us on a tour Like any tour even with the best guides there will be parts you love, parts you like, and parts you can take or leave There is nothing in this book that I d call low quality Even the chapter on Pompeii s streets reveal fascinating insights into life around the time of Jesus My favorite chapters, however, revolved around you guessed it the food, the wine, and the sex When dealing with these topics, especially the latter, Beard gets to play to her ribald strengths Here, she describes graffiti found within a bar it should be noted that the asses referenced below refer to a monetary denomination and not, like, you know, asses W e find women s names written on the wall in a clearly erotic context and sometimes with a price Felicla the slave 2 asses , Successa the slave girl s a good lay , and even what has been taken to be a price list, Acria 4 asses, Epafra 10 asses, Firma 3 asses We have to be careful in interpreting this kind of material If today we were to see Tracy is a whore or Donna sucks you off for a fiver daubed up at a bar or bus shelter, we would not automatically assume that either of them was actually a prostitute Nor would we assume that a fiver was an accurate reflection of the prices charged for these sexual services in the area They are just as likely to be insults as facts So too in Pompeii This is the type of acuity I want in my history There were other sections of which I wasn t as fond The chapter on religion, for example, coming after sections on sex and sports, was kind of a letdown But that s just me Like I said, this is a tour, and different people want different things on a tour The Fires of Vesuvius is also generous in its illustrations There are black and white illustrations, diagrams, and maps interspersed throughout the book, so that when Beard is talking about a building or a work of art, there ll be a picture of it on the same page There are also two insets with glossy, full color plates One of those plates shows a man and woman having sex on a trampoline Just in case you were still on the fence about reading this Part of the trouble in dealing with Pompeii with any ancient history is that so much is lost Most of the time we re dealing with negative evidence What isn t there What don t we know What can t we prove If Beard has a shortcoming, it s that she spends too much time poking holes in other people s theories, without advancing any theories to take their place It can be wearying, after awhile, to learn all the things we ll never learn For the most part, though, Beard s chipper tone makes this a minor annoyance As a history lover, my deepest shame is that I don t like ancient Rome enough Rome, after all, is synonymous with history Every inch of it is meaningful, somehow I thought things would change when I actually visited Italy Just walk around, I thought, And it ll happen You ll be possessed One look at Trajan s Forum and you ll forget the three times you went to Gettysburg It didn t quite happen that way Yeah, Rome is wonderful You can t beat the prices on house wine, after all But something about it didn t connect It is stone Old, dead stone I found it impossible to imagine the lives that were lived within and among that stone Mary Beard is able to bridge the divide between stone and life She breathes existence into the old dead things She shows you that once upon a time, this place lived.