The Complete Pompeii by Joanne Berry
( I wrote this review for Amazon UK. If interested the book can be viewed and purchased here)
I ordered my copy of The Complete Pompeii from Amazon as it was a recommended textbook on an online course I am taking later this year on Pompeii and the Archeology of Roman cities. True to its title the book gives a complete overview of Pompeii- starting with its destruction, to its discovery and excavation over various centuries and insights into the various aspects of life if the city.
The book is lavishly illustrated and well laid-out both aesthetically and thematically. In fact the feel of the book and the way it is structured may deceive one into thinking there is not much in terms of information but nothing could be farther from the truth. The lay out of the book does not intimidate a reader who is new to the subject of Ancient Roman civilisation and Pompeii at the same time providing the kind of detailed information that would also be of interest to a scholar.
The book starts with some context setting for the region and then chronologically charts its way through the eruption of Vesuvius and then the modern discovery of the city and the excavations. It then goes back to the historical development of the city and the life of the people in the town focusing on what we can learn from discoveries in the area. It is indeed quite tragic that the early excavations of the region in the 18th and 19th centuries were quite chaotic leading to valuable loss of details that could go a long way in furthering our knowledge of life in an ancient Roman town. Yet it is heartening to know that much can be learnt from what remains and that the situation is not hopeless.
What was fascinating for me was how life as we imagine it in Pompeii was not quite so different from life in small villages and towns a few decades ago (at least in the Asian subcontinent) and even today (especially with things like election propaganda material).
The book provides a robust bibliography for further reading and even tips for the visitor to the site.
In all a great book- not just as a source of information for the scholar or historian but also as a coffee table book.