Secrets Of Pompeii

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

"What Vesuvius did, essentially, was to freeze, tragically, one single instant in the time-space continuum in which the long-ago residents of Pompeii lived. We can make out a few of their secrets--but, inevitably, the larger part of their world eludes us, destined to remain as mysterious and inscrutable as, probably, every human life and every one of its adventures. The sense of victory over death, present in every corner of the city, is also illusory...The most important lesson Pompeii can teach us is to see life and death, like love and death, as a pair in which one is impossible without the other."

Thus writes Emidio De Albentiis in SECRETS OF POMPEII--EVERYDAY LIFE IN ANCIENT ROME, a 200-page hardcover book published by J. Paul Getty Museum. With its 170 color illustrations (by photographer Alfredo Foglia), maps and drawings, the book is the next-best thing to an actual visit to Pompeii, the city that was destroyed in A.D. 79 by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The rediscovery of Pompeii at the end of the 18th century was "an entirely human victory over nature's tragic unpredictablity." Many of the temples, houses, squares, theatres, markets, brothels, bars and workshops that were preserved by the fiery ash that blanketed Pompeii have been immortalized in Albentiis' book. Broken down into nine sections, it yields treasure on every page. The photographs of architectural remains, the details from a vast range of artworks (including wall paintings, mosaics and carved reliefs), offer a spellbinding and miraculous glimpse into a lost world.