The Fiveash Legacy Lecture Series
The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in 79 CE brings many images to our imagination: the city’s structures on fire, a rainstorm of pumice stones and ash burying the entire region, and plaster casts of the city’s residents, their arms raised to protect their faces against the inferno. Yet these flashes, ingrained in our cultural memory, only scratch the surface of what life was like in Pompeii and the Bay of Naples before this cataclysmic event. Pompeii was a lived city. While this statement seems simple and rudimentary, its implications are far reaching. Who lived the buildings that have been excavated? What were their jobs? What did they eat? Where did they socialize? By which routes did they travel through the city? Studying the city’s topography, interpreting the archaeological record, reading public inscriptions carved into monuments and tombs or graffitied on exterior walls, and even analyzing the chemical composition of deceased residents’ bones help illuminate possible answers to these queries. Pompeii offers us a chance to catch a glimpse of daily life in the Roman world. Its excellent state of preservation affords unique opportunities to understand, discover, and learn more about life in ancient cities.