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There are a lot of books about Pompeii. Huge, giant piles of them, everything from scholarly studies of the fifth painting on the left in that one house to the badly collated sets of snapshots you can get in six languages from the hucksters on the streets outside the site. I've read some of them, both for various academic reasons and out of nostalgia; my high school Latin teacher's research field was Pompeiian graffiti, which we therefore got more of than is typical in high school Latin, and as she was qualified to lead tours there she led the one for our school group when we went. I suspect the tour also contained more graffiti than is usual for that sort of thing.

Anyway. A lot of books. Most of them are either terrible or insanely specialized. This one, amazingly enough, is neither: it is a good, well-researched general overview, organized geographically, with well-labeled and comprehensive pictures, and it covers not only the history of the site and the ownership and uses of the various buildings but the history of the excavation and the various philosophies different archaeologists have had about it. It's informative without being judgmental and thorough without being pedantic. I was pleasantly surprised. I know more about individual things about the city than the book goes into (see above re: graffiti), but I don't know more about the city in all directions, which is a sign of a thorough work.

So this was pleasant to look at in a nostalgic sort of way, but also genuinely useful, in the 'here is the reference book I now know to recommend to people on x subject' direction. If this is a direction in which you need a good basic wide-ranging reference book, here you go.


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March 2017

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