This experience is optimized for Internet Explorer version 9 and above.

Please upgrade your browser

Send the Gift of Lifelong Learning!

Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City

Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City

Gifting Information


To send your gift, please complete the form below. An email will be sent immediately to notify the recipient of your gift and provide them with instructions to redeem it.

  • 500 characters remaining.

Frequently Asked Questions

With an eGift, you can instantly send a Great Course to a friend or loved one via email. It's simple:
1. Find the course you would like to eGift.
2. Under "Choose a Format", click on Video Download or Audio Download.
3. Click 'Send e-Gift'
4. Fill out the details on the next page. You will need to the email address of your friend or family member.
5. Proceed with the checkout process as usual.
Q: Why do I need to specify the email of the recipient?
A: We will send that person an email to notify them of your gift. If they are already a customer, they will be able to add the gift to their My Digital Library and mobile apps. If they are not yet a customer, we will help them set up a new account so they can enjoy their course in their My Digital Library or via our free mobile apps.
Q: How will my friend or family member know they have a gift?
A: They will receive an email from The Great Courses notifying them of your eGift. The email will direct them to If they are already a customer, they will be able to add the gift to their My Digital Library and mobile apps. If they are not yet a customer, we will help them set up a new account so they can enjoy their course in their My Digital Library or via our free mobile apps.
Q: What if my friend or family member does not receive the email?
A: If the email notification is missing, first check your Spam folder. Depending on your email provider, it may have mistakenly been flagged as spam. If it is not found, please email customer service at ( or call 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: How will I know they have received my eGift?
A: When the recipient clicks on their email and redeems their eGift, you will automatically receive an email notification.
Q: What if I do not receive the notification that the eGift has been redeemed?
A: If the email notification is missing, first check your Spam folder. Depending on your email provider, it may have mistakenly been flagged as spam. If it is not found, please email customer service at ( or call customer service at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: I don't want to send downloads. How do I gift DVDs or CDs?
A: eGifting only covers digital products. To purchase a DVD or CD version of a course and mail it to a friend, please call customer service at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance. Physical gifting can still be achieved online – can we describe that here and not point folks to call?
Q: Oops! The recipient already owns the course I gifted. What now?
A: Great minds think alike! We can exchange the eGifted course for another course of equal value. Please call customer service at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: Can I update or change my email address?
A: Yes, you can. Go to My Account to change your email address.
Q: Can I select a date in the future to send my eGift?
A: Sorry, this feature is not available yet. We are working on adding it in the future.
Q: What if the email associated with eGift is not for my regular Great Course account?
A: Please please email customer service at ( or call our customer service team at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance. They have the ability to update the email address so you can put in your correct account.
Q: When purchasing a gift for someone, why do I have to create an account?
A: This is done for two reasons. One is so you can track the purchase of the order in your ‘order history’ section as well as being able to let our customer service team track your purchase and the person who received it if the need arises.
Q: Can I return or Exchange a gift after I purchase it?
A: Because the gift is sent immediately, it cannot be returned or exchanged by the person giving the gift. The recipient can exchange the gift for another course of equal or lesser value, or pay the difference on a more expensive item
Video title

Priority Code


Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City

Course No. 3742
Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
Share This Course
Course No. 3742
Video Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

On August 24, in the year A.D. 79, Pliny the Younger looked up and saw a spectacle the world would never forget. As he later wrote down, "A cloud was ascending, the appearance of which I cannot give you a more exact description of than by likening it to that of a great pine tree, for it shot up to a great height in the form of a very tall trunk, which spread itself out at the top into a sort of branches. It appeared sometimes bright and sometimes dark and spotted, according as it was either more or less impregnated with earth and cinders."

Thus opened the sole eyewitness account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius—one of the most iconic natural disasters in the history of the ancient world.

Most people are familiar with this story. Over three harrowing days, the inhabitants of Pompeii experienced the full force of Mother Nature's fury in the form of blasts of superheated gases, rains of pumice stone and ash, and rivers of scorching mud.

Yet while the account of the eruption is compelling, Pompeii holds a much more intriguing story for historians: a tale of everyday 1st-century life, flash-frozen in time under mountains of sediment. The tragedy left a rich record of daily life as it was experienced by all strata of Roman society; housewives, slaves, merchants, and politicians were stopped in their tracks on that fateful day. Through careful excavations of Pompeii, scholars have revealed the hidden complexities of ancient life, unveiling the everyday activities of commerce, agriculture, politics, and private life otherwise lost to modern eyes.

In Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City, gain a tantalizing glimpse into this world, as eminent classicist and Professor Steven L. Tuck resurrects the long-lost lives of aristocrats, merchants, slaves, and other Roman people in this imperial city. The result is an unprecedented view of life as it was lived in this ancient culture—and your chance to discover intriguing details that lay buried for centuries. In 24 enthralling lectures, Professor Tuck unearths these everyday truths to create a full portrait of daily life in the ancient world.

In-Depth Information and Unexpected Insights

In the opening lectures of Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City, you'll consider the geology and geography of this region and learn about the area's pre-Roman settlers. Next, you'll hear how the city was rediscovered in the 1700s, and examine the cutting-edge excavation techniques used to uncover the city's buried treasures.

Then, Professor Tuck takes you on an in-depth tour of Pompeii with a side trip to neighboring Herculaneum. Finally, you'll get an account of the eruption itself, re-created from ancient writings, archaeological evidence, and the latest scientific insights.

Along the way, Professor Tuck offers surprising facts and dispels long-held misconceptions, including these interesting insights:

  • Only an estimated 5% of the residents of Pompeii perished in the eruption. Survivors can be traced as far away as Spain.
  • Despite the searing heat of Vesuvius, 1,800 carbonized scrolls were discovered in an ancient library in the nearby city of Herculaneum, and more than 50,000 bits of writing have been preserved as graffiti scattered throughout the remains.
  • The features that made Pompeii such an attractive site for human habitation—the richness of its soil, its mineral-rich hot springs—were the result of geologic forces that ultimately led to the city's destruction.
  • The preserved ruins at Pompeii display evidence of a disaster that was a precursor to the eruption in 79—a massive earthquake that rocked the town in the year 62.

"At Pompeii, the Dead Do Speak"

As Professor Tuck delves into Pompeii's archaeological riches, long-silenced voices will sound loud and clear. You'll hear them as you meet a variety of Pompeii's original inhabitants. In a series of lectures, Professor Tuck selects actual Pompeian residents and reconstructs a typical day in their lives. Here are a few of the journeys you'll take:

  • Follow Chryseis, a slave girl, as she accompanies her mistress to the public baths.
  • Trace the steps of two city officials as they survey major civic structures and carry out their duties in local government.
  • Attend the elaborate funeral procession of the exalted priestess Eumachia.
  • Visit a fullonica—the ancient equivalent of a dry-cleaner—and meet the owner, a freed slave named Stephanus.
  • Witness the rituals experienced by a young bride on the night before her wedding.

Taking the perspective of these diverse viewpoints, you'll gain remarkable insights into agriculture, commerce, civic planning, entertainment, local government, private life, and other aspects of the Pompeian experience.

Walk the Streets of an Ancient City

Professor Tuck also provides a virtual tour of the city that reflects the diverse lives of Pompeii's residents. As you visit cliff-top villas, local businesses, civic buildings, and private homes, you'll examine the intriguing clues these structures hold about the lives of everyday individuals.

Imagine, for example, the splendor of Pompeii's amphitheater, the site of gladiatorial games, and its Roman-style forum, seat of the city's government. You'll also explore commercial spaces, such as the only preserved brothel of Pompeii and the Praedia of Julia Felix, a massive rental structure housing baths, shops, and garden dining rooms.

To bring these structures to life, Professor Tuck shares exclusive photos he's taken of the surviving ruins and art, later artists' renditions of Pompeian life, videos, and remarkable computer reconstructions of these ancient structures, including the House of the Faun, home of the Roman Patron of the colony.

Your walk through Pompeii also reveals the marvels of Roman architecture and technology, as you explore the public baths, water systems, and other details of civic planning. Finally, you'll relive the cataclysmic eruption of 79 through computer reconstructions, images, and maps that trace the impact of Vesuvius on the surrounding communities.

Travel Back in Time to Ancient Pompeii

As Professor Tuck says, "The real treasure of Pompeii is how it can operate for us as a sort of time machine." You'll have no better guide than Professor Tuck. A noted scholar and expert on the classical world, Professor Tuck offers intriguing insights, allowing you to inhabit the lives of the people of the ancient Roman Empire.

Whether you're planning to visit Pompeii or you're simply curious about what ancient life was like, don't miss this rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of these Romans whose city perished nearly 2,000 years ago.

Hide Full Description
24 lectures
 |  29 minutes each
Year Released: 2010
  • 1
    Reflections on and of Pompeii
    No archaeological site in the world has such an evocative name as Pompeii. And yet, when most people hear this name, they think of destruction. In this introduction, gain an overview of the course and begin to consider why the remains of Pompeii offer more than just a story of a cataclysm. x
  • 2
    Geology and Geography on the Bay of Naples
    Both the land and humankind helped to shape Pompeii. Examine the violent geological forces that forged the distinctive region of the Bay of Naples, trace its influence on the surrounding geography, and learn about the various cultures that contributed to life in this area. x
  • 3
    The Rediscovery of Vesuvian Lands
    Archaeological finds from the area were unearthed starting around 1594—centuries after the eruption that buried them. Uncover the history of Pompeii's excavation in the 1700s, from the kings who plundered its artwork to the modern scholars who sought another kind of treasure: information. x
  • 4
    Etruscan Pompeii—5th Century B.C.
    While the last days of Pompeii have attracted popular attention, the city was a thriving cultural center centuries before its destruction. In this lecture, delve deep into Pompeii's remote Etruscan history and explore what life was like in this ancient pre-Roman settlement. x
  • 5
    Samnite Pompeii—2nd Century B.C.
    Centuries after the establishment of Etruscan Pompeii, the city was invaded by a new people, the Samnites. Witness the conquest of the city by these invaders and consider how Pompeii was redefined and expanded by its new inhabitants. x
  • 6
    Building the Roman Colony—80 B.C.
    Encounter the first Roman inhabitants of Pompeii. Learn how Pompeii became a Roman colony and take a tour of the city as viewed through the eyes of two of its chief magistrates. x
  • 7
    Villa of the Papyri and Life with Piso
    Despite its history of conquest and invasion, ancient Pompeii was not all mayhem and military occupation. See a different side of Roman elite culture by visiting one of the grandest and best-preserved private dwellings from the ancient world: the Villa of the Papyri. x
  • 8
    Marriage and Mysteries—Rites of Dionysus
    In the first of three lectures investigating women's lives in Pompeii, explore the rituals of marriage. Follow along as a Roman girl is initiated into the worship of Dionysus on the eve of her wedding, and then attend the nuptials. x
  • 9
    Eumachia, Public Priestess
    Continue your exploration of the lives of Pompeian women as you attend the funeral of a powerful priestess. Learn about her background, achievements, and aspirations, and gain insights into the roles available to women in Roman culture. x
  • 10
    A Female Slave in Pompeii
    After examining the exalted life of a priestess, move to the other end of the social scale and follow a day in the life of a slave girl, Chryseis. As she carries out her duties, gain a grasp of the role of the lowliest workers in this culture and trace the contours of everyday life in Pompeii. x
  • 11
    Governing in the 1st Century A.D.
    What made a Roman city run? Discover the answer to this question by focusing on two levels of officials in Pompeii, the duoviri (chief magistrates) and the aediles (their assistants). Follow these officials as they perform their typical tasks of government. x
  • 12
    Games and Competition for Offices
    One of the most familiar images of ancient Rome is the clash of the gladiators. Go behind the scenes with one Pompeian politician as he plans a gladiatorial spectacle to help launch his son's career. x
  • 13
    Riot in the Amphitheater—A.D. 59
    Continue your consideration of the gladiatorial games and learn about a major crisis in Pompeian life: a riot in the amphitheater that was sparked between the city's inhabitants and fans from a rival city. Trace the factors that led to this catastrophe, the event itself, and its aftermath. x
  • 14
    The House of the Tragic Poet
    Tour the house that was the setting for the famous historical novel The Last Days of Pompeii, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Trace the activities of the owner, guests, and visitors, and consider how the design and artwork of the house reflect the life of prosperous Pompeians. x
  • 15
    Pompeii's Wool Industry
    In the first of two lectures exploring the industrial life of Pompeii, enter the world of wool workers by visiting a typical fullonica—the ancient equivalent of a modern dry-cleaner. Investigate the methods, tools, and workspace used by these service people. x
  • 16
    Pompeii's Wine and Vineyards
    Continue your consideration of Pompeii's key industries with a tour of two preserved vineyards. Gleaning information from these two farms, as well as handbooks from the day, investigate the process of growing, pressing, and fermenting grapes, and storing wine. x
  • 17
    Earthquake—A.D. 62
    In a precursor to the eruption that would later bury the city in A.D. 79, Pompeii experienced a cataclysmic earthquake. Uncover evidence of this quake and look further afield at its effects, including a tsunami that crippled Rome's food supply. x
  • 18
    Rebuilding after the Earthquake
    After the destructive earthquake of A.D. 62, the officials of Pompeii undertook a remarkable rebuilding effort. Survey the structures that post-date this event, and examine what the rebuilding efforts suggest about the changing culture of Pompeii at the time of the quake. x
  • 19
    Wall Paintings in the House of the Vettii
    The House of the Vettii at Pompeii is one of the best-decorated and best-preserved domestic spaces from the ancient Roman world. Explore what the house and its wall paintings can tell us about the former slaves who built a prosperous life there. x
  • 20
    A Pompeian Country Club
    Take a tour of the Praedia of Julia Felix, a large complex that included a remarkable collection of baths, shops, and garden dining rooms, all decorated with an amazing selection of paintings, statues, inscriptions, and furnishings. x
  • 21
    Worshipping the Emperors at Herculaneum
    When Vesuvius erupted, it also buried Pompeii's neighboring town of Herculaneum. With local priest Aulus Lucius Proculus as your guide, explore the city's public spaces, including the city baths, a wine shop, and a shrine to the Roman emperor. x
  • 22
    Visiting a Villa at Stabiae
    Perched high atop the cliffs of the Bay of Naples, the spectacular villa at Stabiae offers a unique opportunity to glimpse elite life in ancient Rome. Imagine the life of the privileged residents as you trace the villa's complex architectural design and examine its decor and artwork. x
  • 23
    Pliny Narrates the Eruption of Vesuvius
    Thanks to the letters of Pliny the Younger, the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79 is the only ancient natural disaster for which we have an eyewitness account. Follow the harrowing narrative of destruction and compare the effects on Pompeii to the experience of the inhabitants of nearby Herculaneum. x
  • 24
    The Bay of Naples after Vesuvius
    The majority of Pompeians did not perish in the eruption that buried their city. Examine efforts by the imperial government under the emperor Titus to aid and resettle refugees, and follow the experiences of a family after the eruption. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 120-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 120-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Steven L. Tuck

About Your Professor

Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
Professor Steven L. Tuck is Professor of Classics at Miami University. After earning his B.A. in History and Classics at Indiana University, he received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. He held the postdoctoral Arthur and Joyce Gordon Fellowship in Latin epigraphy at The Ohio State University. An esteemed teacher, Professor Tuck received the 2013 E. Phillips Knox Teaching Award,...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Rated 4.9 out of 5 by 62 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Explosively Fun This is great fun for a fan of Roman history, and this course easily ranks among the best Great Courses I have watched so far. First, let me explain what this course is not. The course is not a 24 lecture course detailing the eruption of the volcano in 79 AD in thorough detail. Only one lecture is really dedicated to the eruption. The course also is not a 24 lecture course on the archaeological methods used to explore the city, though there is some time dedicated to this topic with a depressing description of the destruction caused by early excavation efforts. Instead, this course is fundamentally about life in a Roman city during the height of Rome's power and dominance. The professor takes the audience into houses, businesses, and public buildings to show how Romans of all social classes lived, worked, and worshiped. The professor includes significant amounts of information regarding the broader picture of Roman history without venturing too far off the topic of Pompeii. My favorite part of this course is how the professor presents the information in context. I have seen countless documentaries about Pompeii on television, but all of them focus only on the most sensational aspects of the city, such as the preserved body cavities and brothels. Consequently, these television documentaries miss the broader picture of daily life and the context of the discoveries. This course covers the famous aspects of the city but takes the time to fit them into a much broader context, walking the viewer through the entire city while explaining the importance of each area. Every lesson had something new and exciting to learn. This course is definitely worth the time to watch. May 2, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by Inspirational I have become addicted to The Great Courses and Dr. Tuck's lectures on Pompeii are just one of the reasons why. I'm really impressed with the universal appeal of the material which is appropriate to all levels of interest in the topic, Dr. Tuck's exploration of the Etruscan roots of Pompeii was so engaging I have purchased his lectures on the Etruscans. But, while he does adequately touch on the lives of the various social strata in Pompeii, it is in the art, artifacts and archaeology that he provides the meat of the lectures. The series is so compelling I am determined to visit Pompeii. For me, the highlight of the course was the lecture on The House of The Tragic Poet. Not only is the art magnificent, the theme insists that the viewer engage with it on so many levels. I admit to being dissatisfied with only a half hour lecture. I can envision a graduate paper on the topic. In the interim I have watched that single lecture several times. While I appreciated the personal photographs that Dr. Tuck included, I wish he didn't have a tendency to overexpose his pictures. Anyone who plans to visit Pompeii should take this course before going. February 1, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by KUDOS, KUDOS, KUDOS. Dr. Tuck's presentation of 24 lectures, in "Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City", make this by far the most outstanding of the numerous Great Courses that we have purchased. January 20, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by The Vivid Story of a Unique Roman Colony This intriguing course by Professor Tuck greatly expands on the popular view of Pompeii as a prosperous Roman colony of the first century AD that was suddenly and completely destroyed in a cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, yet perfectly preserved to be rediscovered a millennium and a half later. Dr. Tuck offers a far more comprehensive image of Pompeii, starting with its pre-Roman origin first as an Etruscan, then a Samnite settlement from the 5th to 2nd centuries B.C. The Roman colony enjoyed only a brief moment in history from 80 B.C. to 79 AD. Following its serendipitous rediscovery in the Renaissance period, early excavation under the kings of Naples mainly involved searching for art treasure for the personal benefit of the kings, sometimes even destroying similar artifacts to increase the value of the king’s collection. That regrettable practice persisted until the 1860s when a more enlightened scholar became director of excavation and changed the focus from the acquisition of treasure to the pursuit of information. Excavations have revealed clues about daily life ranging from villa-owning aristocrats who commissioned wall paintings and mosaics to adorn their homes, to the humble role of their slaves. Only about ten percent of villas had running water; for the rest slave girls carried buckets daily to and from communal neighborhood wells. As in other Roman cities, public baths were a major features of daily social life, as well as a hygienic necessity. Pompeii’s major economic industries were wine-making and wool, processes described in colorful detail. In the vineyards, botanists have been able to restore original plants from plaster casts of their roots, permitting live vines to grow today at these sites. The wool industry gave rise to a dry-cleaning enterprise, depicted with an illustrative model and featuring human urine as one of the main cleansing ingredients. The fame of the Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D. overshadows a massive earthquake a few years earlier in 62 A.D., which caused extensive damage in Pompeii’s five square-mile area that was still being repaired at the time of the volcanic eruption. The penultimate lecture describes the Vesuvius disaster in detail with vivid illustrations. Historians are indebted to Pliny the Younger’s eye-witness account of the tragedy unfolding over a three-day period (his uncle, Pliny the Elder, admiral of the Roman fleet, died in a rain of hot ash attempting to rescue fleeing survivors). One fascinating detail not widely known today is that the originally cone-shaped Mt. Vesuvius lost half of its majestic 6,000-foot height as a result of the eruption, reducing the silhouette of this famous mountain to a lower and rounded peak, but a still providing a dramatic backdrop to the city of Pompeii. This course is a joy to watch and to hear Dr. Tuck’s lucid and scholarly narrative. I have visited Pompeii twice 30 years apart in the late 1950s and ‘80s, duly noting the new excavations and restorations in between, as well as the later work revealed in this course. Excavations to date encompass only a fraction of the entire ancient city, leaving much more to see and learn from future archaeological study of Pompeii. January 11, 2016
  • 2016-05-23 T13:12:52.379-05:00
  • bvseo_lps, prod_bvrr, vn_prr_5.6
  • cp-1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_62, tr_62
  • loc_en_US, sid_3742, prod, sort_default
2 3 next>>

Questions & Answers

Buy together as a Set
Save Up To $201.00
Choose a Set Format