Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Long Live Pompeii!

In preparation for a Classics Question Time panel about the survival of Pompeii in Cambridge, I've been reading Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski's Letters from Pompeii and enjoying the charming 1960's illustrations as much as anything else.

Here is a wonderful description of her first visit to the House of the Silver Wedding in Pompeii (so-called because the king and queen of Italy visited Pompeii in 1893 to celebrate their silver wedding and watched part of this particular house being excavated):

I shall never forget the first time I went into this house. It was on a very hot day – one of the hottest I have ever known at Pompeii. When we turned the key of the front door and walked into the beautiful atrium, it was very cool. It felt as if the house were air-conditioned! I was ready to move in! The ancient Pompeian architects certainly knew how to build homes that were cool in a hot climate.

She also writes this:

I well remember when I read the Last Days of Pompeii. I believe I was twelve... I remember reading all night. My father came in several times and asked me to turn off my light. But as soon as I knew he was in bed, I would turn it on again. The book was too exciting. An entire city buried by the eruption of a volcano!

The famous German poet Goethe visited the Bay of Naples in 1787. After seeing Vesuvius and Pompeii he wrote this: "Many a calamity has happened in the world, but never one that has caused so much entertainment to posterity as this one!"

Long live Pompeii!

Caroline & extended family in Pompeii in 2000

Caroline Lawrence is author of 17 full-length Roman Mysteries and two volumes of Roman mini-mysteries for kids. She is also writing a spin-off series for kids aged 6-8 called The Roman Mysteries Scrolls with "more poo and less blood".

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