Pompeii: Public and Private Life

Pompeii: Public and Private Life

Paperback Revealing Antiquity

By (author) Paul Zanker, Translated by Deborah Lucas Schneider

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  • Publisher: HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 286 pages
  • Dimensions: 147mm x 218mm x 18mm | 680g
  • Publication date: 1 February 1999
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge, Mass
  • ISBN 10: 0674689674
  • ISBN 13: 9780674689671
  • Illustrations note: 113 line illustrations, 15 color illustrations
  • Sales rank: 441,238

Product description

Pompeii was preserved, its urban design and domestic styles captured when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. This volume presents the history of Pompeii, tracing the urban images that marked Pompeii's development from country town to Roman imperial city. It explores Pompeii's public buildings, its streets and gathering places, the impact of religious changes, the renovation of theatres and expansion of athletic facilities and the influence of elite families on the city's appearance. The private houses of Pompeii prove eloquent, their layout, decor, and architectural detail speak volumes about the way of life, taste and desires of their owners - whether at home or in public, at work or at ease.

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Author information

Paul Zanker is Professor of Classical Archeology, University of Munich, and Director of the German Archeological Institute in Rome. He is the author of Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity and The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus.

Review quote

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

Editorial reviews

In a painstaking analysis of Pompeii's development from country town to city, German scholar Zanker (Classical Archaeology/Univ. of Munich) draws an intimate portrait of ancient urban life. Ash from an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. blanketed Pompeii, preserving the ancient city intact, together with all traces of its earlier development. Thus, unlike other Roman sites, Pompeii is not simply a collection of ruins, but an artifact that can tell how Roman cities developed and give a sense of the way in which Romans used urban spaces. Drawing on the unique archaeological opportunity presented by Pompeii, Zanker first narrates Pompeii's growth from a culturally Hellenistic Oscan city allied with Rome to a city colonized by Roman veterans of the civil wars of the first century B.C. According to Zanker, Oscan Pompeii had characteristically Greek institutions, such as the gymnasium, baths, and theater. After Roman colonists took over the city in the wake of an ill-fated rebellion by the Pompeians around 89 B.C., a splendid amphitheater, was built, and structures with political applications, like the forum, were expanded. In particular, the temples and public places devoted to the Roman gods were renovated, a reflection of the renewal of the traditional Roman religion after the accession of Augustus as emperor. The early Augustan period also saw development of an infrastructure, including a water and sewer system, and civic pride was reflected in the tombs of the town's leading citizens, which were designed as places of rest and reflection for the residents. After an earthquake in 62 A.D. emphasis in rebuilding shifted from the political to the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment. 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)

Table of contents

Preface Townscape and Domestic Taste Townscapes Domestic Taste and Cultural Self-Definition Urban Space as a Reflection of Society The Hellenistic City of the Oscans The Roman Colonists' City Townscape and Ideology in the Age of Augustus The City's Final Years The Domestic Arts in Pompeii The Origins of the Roman Villa Two Forms of Living Space A Miniature Villa in the Town A Courtyard with a Large Marble Fountain A Garden as Sanctuary A Parlor Overlooking Diana's Sacred Grove Gardens Filled with Sculptures Dining under the Stars Large Pictures for Small Dreams Domestic Taste and Cultural Identity Abbreviations Notes Illustration Credits Index