ABOUT THIS BOOK
Pompeii's tragedy is our windfall: an ancient city fully preserved, its urban design and domestic styles speaking across the ages. This richly illustrated book conducts us through the captured wonders of Pompeii, evoking at every turn the life of the city as it was 2,000 years ago.
When Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. its lava preserved not only the Pompeii of that time but a palimpsest of the city's history, visible traces of the different societies of Pompeii's past. Paul Zanker, a noted authority on Roman art and architecture, disentangles these tantalizing traces to show us the urban images that marked Pompeii's development from country town to Roman imperial city. Exploring Pompeii's public buildings, its streets and gathering places, we witness the impact of religious changes, the renovation of theaters and expansion of athletic facilities, and the influence of elite families on the city's appearance. Through these stages, Zanker adeptly conjures a sense of the political and social meanings in urban planning and public architecture.
The private houses of Pompeii prove equally eloquent, their layout, decor, and architectural detail speaking volumes about the life, taste, and desires of their owners. At home or in public, at work or at ease, these Pompeians and their world come alive in Zanker's masterly rendering. A provocative and original reading of material culture, his work is an incomparable introduction to urban life in antiquity.
Zanker has written what is destined to become a classic study. Quietly authoritative, Zanker's brief yet endlessly suggestive overview of Pompeii and its buildings puts architecture, as it ought to be, squarely in the context of the social and spiritual attitudes that produce it.
-- New York Times Book Review
The fate of Pompeii, however tragic, affords a unique opportunity to study an urban society cut short by the events of A.D. 79. Here we can see the urban fabric as it had evolved over the centuries; there the tastes and lifestyles of an urban population...Paul Zanker's book is one attempt to go beyond the obvious bricks and mortar, to produce a larger picture, in line with the increasingly rich literature of the last twenty years...This is a fascinating little book which heralds much that is now at the heart of modern debate.
-- Barry C. Burnham Classical Review
Paul Zanker has turned his sharp eye to Pompeii, focusing on the evolution of its townscape and domestic architecture as reflections of identity, both civic and civilian.
-- Michele George Phoenix
[Pompeii explains] the historical, cultural and social circumstances behind [Pompeii's] development: why certain monuments where constructed where they were, who constructed them, and how their use fit in to the cultural aspirations of the period...This is a rich and thought-provoking book that will be of interest to the students of the public and private life not only of Pompeii but of Roman cities of the early Empire in general.
-- Christopher Parslow Bryn Mawr Classical Review
This book is beautifully produced...[Understanding Pompeii is challenging because of the] ruinous state of the excavated city, dug too quickly, too long ago, and too poorly conserved ever since, [so] the success of this readable and intelligent account is all the more remarkable...Paul Zanker remains a terrific teacher of [Pompeii's] lessons, as well as an eloquent narrator of tales of the buried city.
-- Greg Woolf Times Literary Supplement
This volume describes with guidebook accessibility history's most famous ghost town...In texts and photographs, the archeologist Paul Zanker describes the evolution of public and private tastes in Pompeii, where in their homes and garden spaces the common people copied the swells and the swells copied the Greeks, or rather their own sybaritic understanding of Greek styles and values. Zanker whets our curiosity to see firsthand the remnants of arcaded shopping streets, theaters, and gymnasiums, the villas with their fabled wall paintings and lush courtyards, the evidence of the prosperous, bustling, sometimes vulgar life of this ancient city, its vitality outlasting the moment of its death for which Pompeii is more mawkishly known.
-- Amanda Heller Boston Sunday Globe
When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., Pompeii had been an established city for more than 200 years. The amazing preservative effects of the lava and ash that spewed from the volcano captured more than a day in the life of Pompeians. It preserved an ancient civilization. Now, researchers are turning their attention from the city's art and architecture to the residences and meeting places within the city. These remains beautifully reveal the cultural history of this quite sophisticated place. Advances in understanding the culture of generations of people are documented here with many photos and illustrations of the remains.
-- Science News
This guide to the ruins of the Italian city of Pompeii is refreshingly straightforward and rife with insight. Zanker approaches Pompeii from a historical perspective, offering a plausible and interesting description of what life in Pompeii was probably like in A.D. 79. He also uses viewpoints deriving from the modern discipline of urban studies...Anyone interested in how cultures continue to reinvent the wheel (the residents of Pompeii also had a sewer system) will delight in this book and in the exceptionally smooth, jargon-free translation. While a generous number of drawings, photographs and plans provide valuable visual cues for armchair travelers, this volume can also serve as an excellent guide during a visit to Pompeii.
-- Publishers Weekly
In a painstaking analysis of Pompeii's development from country town to city, German scholar Zanker draws an intimate portrait of ancient urban life. Zanker closely analyzes the villas, paintings, gardens, and other spaces of Roman Pompeii to develop a vivid picture of private urban life, mostly devoted to esthetic and cultural pursuits but not without everyday cares, among the mostly well-to-do citizens of the city...A thoughtful and well-researched examination of everyday life in the ancient world.
-- Kirkus Reviews