Synopses & Reviews
When Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, the force of the explosion blew the top right off the mountain, burying nearby Pompeii in a shower of volcanic ash. Ironically, the calamity that proved so lethal for Pompeii's inhabitants preserved the city for centuries, leaving behind a snapshot of Roman daily life that has captured the imagination of generations.
The experience of Pompeii always reflects a particular time and sensibility, says Ingrid Rowland. From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town explores the fascinating variety of these different experiences, as described by the artists, writers, actors, and others who have toured the excavated site. The city's houses, temples, gardens--and traces of Vesuvius's human victims--have elicited responses ranging from awe to embarrassment, with shifting cultural tastes playing an important role. The erotic frescoes that appalled eighteenth-century viewers inspired Renoir to change the way he painted. For Freud, visiting Pompeii was as therapeutic as a session of psychoanalysis. Crown Prince Hirohito, arriving in the Bay of Naples by battleship, found Pompeii interesting, but Vesuvius, to his eyes, was just an ugly version of Mount Fuji. Rowland treats readers to the distinctive, often quirky responses of visitors ranging from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain to Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman.
Interwoven throughout a narrative lush with detail and insight is the thread of Rowland's own impressions of Pompeii, where she has returned many times since first visiting in 1962.
"When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE, its ash covered and preserved the ancient town of Pompeii and its inhabitants. One of the world's first places to be archaeologically excavated in a systematic fashion, Pompeii has captured popular imagination its lands are rich and fertile and it functions as a portal into history. Yet even before the first exploration and dig, Pompeii has been in the public mind. Rowland, a professor at the Univ of Notre Dame School of Architecture in Rome, has had a love affair with Pompeii since she was a child and here constructs an overview of Pompeii's history by collecting the opinions and work of famous figures: artists, writers, musicians, actors, and royalty, including Renoir, Mozart, Ingrid Bergman, and Crown Prince Hirohito of Japan. All of the individuals included experienced Pompeii and its environs firsthand though some, like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens, did not always see them in a positive light. Rowland's work, replete with lyrical verse and beautiful descriptions of Southern Italy, highlights potential problems with preservation, and though it lacks a coherent structure, it wistfully captures the atmosphere of a place both beautiful and dangerous." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The calamity that proved lethal for Pompeii inhabitants preserved the city for centuries, leaving behind a snapshot of Roman daily life that has captured the imagination of generations, including Renoir, Freud, Hirohito, Mozart, Dickens, Twain, Rossellini, and Ingrid Bergman. Interwoven is the thread of Ingrid Rowland's own impressions of Pompeii.
About the Author
Ingrid D. Rowland is a Professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture in Rome.
The American Academy in Rome