Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City

Course No. 3742
Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
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Course No. 3742
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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.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 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

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  • 120-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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  • 120-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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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,...
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Reviews

Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 93.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extensive information! I am a docent touring the traveling Pompeii exhibit so I needed lots of knowledge fast! Most extensive information I have found to date. Loved Dr. Tuck
Date published: 2018-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pompeii I haven't finished this yet but so far I have really enjoyed it. I have been to Pompeii & really enjoyed the visit. I am enjoying the video & look forward to finishing it. (Have to schedule viewing with time my wife has available to watch with me)
Date published: 2017-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging. Visited Pompeii a couple of years ago and only wish I had viewed this course first. Professor Tuck was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the topic. You could tell he was still fascinated by the discoveries and information that the excavation of Pompeii exposed. An excellent course!
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes the past come alive Although this course can be found on Great Courses Plus, it’s worth getting for your collection. After one lecture, I knew it was a winner and just ordered the DVDs. I think this topic should appeal to those who have visited or plan to go to Pompeii. And if you happen to live vicariously in comfortable armchairs, then this is for you, too. This was a great course, with in-depth lectures covering Pompeii’s history, geography, art, religion, daily life, sporting events, housing, etc. The 24 lectures cover far more than the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Each lecture begins with a brief preview and ends with a succinct summary. The 24 lectures cover much more than the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. The liberal use of graphics was very helpful. There are so many street maps, pictures and images of murals and floors, depictions of house layouts and courtyards, videos from drone flyovers, Professor Tuck’s personal pictures, etc. Professor Tuck’s presentation is really good. He comes across as a natural speaker and frequently throws in witty anecdotes and opinions. These asides only take 5-10 seconds. I enjoy this kind of personalized presentation because I feel like you really get to know the speaker as your own private teacher.
Date published: 2017-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I really like Tuck and this course is his best I think Tuck, Harl, and Hale are the top three professors of ancient history in The Great Courses universe. I like Tuck's presentation style - I find it honest and sincere. Some people think that he rambles a bit - but I like the extra information I am a huge fan of Ancient History and can be a tough critic But I find Hale's courses on Pompeii and Rome to be both outstanding
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I really enjoy Roman history, but had a hard time finishing this course. I felt like the lectures were not well organized. Some information presented in the one lecture would have fit better in other lectures or was repeated multiple lectures. This makes the names of the lectures somewhat misleading. Other portions of the lectures dragged on and on and seemed to have no point. I felt a lot more information could have been covered in greater detail in 24 lectures than was presented. There were many recent discoveries and interesting facts about Pompeii that were not presented, but could have with better organization. There were some minor factual errors and mispronunciations, which most people will probably not notice, but I found very distracting. Despite these shortcomings I enjoyed this course and feel like I learned a great deal.
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic Liberal Arts Instruction This course caught my eye for a couple of reasons; and in particular because it didn't focus purely on political leaders or military history. The main theme of the course centers on the people of Pompeii. With each of professor Tuck's lectures I became more engaged as I developed an understanding of the parallels and contrasts between the modern world and the ancient one. The topics selected for the course and visual aids built a fascinating introduction for Pompeii that is fascinating, accessible, and relatable. My only disappointment is that there isn't a Pompeii 201 available through Great Courses.
Date published: 2017-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of illustrations? I enjoyed this course immensely! Packed full of information that personalizes life in Pompeii, it covered the routines and practices of the people who lived there -- slaves, merchants, elected officials. Of all the Great courses I've taken, this one has the best visual material -- many photographs, depictions, illustrations, charts, and maps, even animated pieces. There is also a rich use of quotations from contemporaries of that period in history. The instructor is deeply educated in this subject and draws on his knowledge of the Latin language, architecture, art, Roman history, and religion. Thorough, but not boring, easy to understand and listen to, with few witty comments, he shares his enthusiasm about the topic. I feel in some respects that I've been there and can visualize the life of the citizens of Pompeii. This course made Pompeii of the first century a living place in my mind.
Date published: 2017-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from He makes the city come alive. His enthusiasm for the subject more than made up for any lack of polish in his presentation. I did not want this course to end! The fact that this ancient city was 'frozen' in an historical instant and buried under 30 feet of debris has allowed and amazing amount of detail to be recreated. Professor Tuck brings it back to life. The DVD with animation and other advanced graphics is a great way to experience these lectures. I just wish I could ask questions, such as, "Did they have police? Was there much crime? (He mentions servants stationed in the baths to avoid petty theft.) Was there a 'jail'? Is work progressing on the third of the city yet to be excavated?
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting topic, must get a video version I enjoyed the series of lectures over the course of about a week and a half. At first I found the professor to be quite dry, but I adjusted and stuck with it. The visuals are really worth it and the explanations of the life and history of Pompeii really made the course pop. If this is available as an audio only option, don't do it. You need to visuals to understand and appreciate the content of this course!
Date published: 2017-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great tour of ancient Pompeii! I greatly enjoyed visiting Pompeii last October with a guide on a 2.5 hour tour. I bought this course, shortly after returning home, to learn more about Vesuvius and Pompeii. This course exceeded my expectations. Almost immediately, I found myself wishing I could return and see the city again. I only wish I viewed this course before my visit. I really enjoyed how Dr. Tuck brought to life the people of this ancient city.
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pompeii: Daily life in an Ancient Roman City I bought this course because we are shortly going to Rome and will visit Pompeii. This course is presented in a way that no matter your level of education you can understand the material. My wife who flunked History and hates the subject, loves it. Would recommend it to anybody, and especially to those who will travel there.
Date published: 2017-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Overall perception I am a 73 year old retired professional. Like many in my age group, I am hearing impaired and thought perhaps that the DVD acquired would support subtitles for me not to miss any content. It did not and so I cannot recommend these courses to anyone who does not have 100% hearing.
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Interesting Life in ancient Pompeii was much more organized than I had expected. Give time to learn the language, I believe that I would have been very comfortable there. The art in the homes was more extensive and related to daily life. Dr. Tuck is articulate and interesting. Very well done.
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting topic The professor is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his presentation. I watch one lecture at a time while walking on the treadmill, and the time goes by very fast as the material is made very interesting.
Date published: 2016-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding guide for a visit to Pompeii! In anticipation of a visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum several weeks ago, I purchased this course to supplement the usual tour books and maps of both locations. My wife watched the lectures as well. We hit the ground running and spent a lovely full day at Pompeii. Although several of the sites featured in the course were closed for restoration, the lectures made our time fulfilling and efficient, and I was able to get some lovely pictures of obscure areas (for example, the measurement standards behind the rostrum in the forum) that few know to visit. I can say the same about the generous half day we spent in Herculaneum, and the half day at the end of our trip visiting the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, where many items from both sites are safeguarded. The course is a "must" for anyone who wants to appreciate either site and visit it efficiently.
Date published: 2016-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great orientation to ancient life I am enjoying this course thoroughly. He presents the topics of my interest. My only gripe, Background research and cross-referencing are necessary to understand the origins of Rome and Pompei's people. I feel this should have been presented from the start, along with the geography of the region. Very interesting topic. as I am half way through.
Date published: 2016-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Course Dr. Tuck shows how the city ruins, written records, and archeology can be used to reconstruct the past. He understands his subject matter, and he presents the material in an easy to understand matter. The best history instructors are able to take things to a higher level and show how the material can be related to different theories, and Dr. Tuck's presentation does not reach that level.
Date published: 2016-08-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating Window on Imperial Roman Life Dr. Tuck is an engaging, knowledgeable speaker who can rightfully be called a subject matter expert. He covers every facet of life in what is today probably the best known city in Italy besides of Rome. Indeed, much of what we know today of Imperial Rome was gleaned through the hundreds of years of painstaking excavation by archeologists of past centuries and the present day. I found the restoration projects fascinating. The actual "death" of Pompeii by volcanic eruption is covered in only one lecture, so there's not a whole lot of melodrama in this lecture series. Only one negative note: The course guidebook is about as brief and perfunctory as any as I've seen in these Great Courses - and I've purchased over 100 of them. It is a poor companion to an otherwise excellent presentation. So if you're looking for additional source materials as well as references, try elsewhere.
Date published: 2016-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pompeii is fascinating I've been to Pompeii twice. It's a walk back through time. Dr. Tuck explained Pompeii in great detail. He was my own personal tour guide. The only negative: Dr. Tuck referred to Christianity as a cult in one of the lectures. I wish he was more sensitive to people's beliefs. Other than that, It's a great course.
Date published: 2016-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Labor of Love I was a docent at the museum when the Pompeii exhibit was here, and I learned a lot about the city getting ready for that exhibition. As much as I knew and as fascinated as I was by the exhibit, Dr. Tuck knew so much more and was so much more enthusiastic. I enjoyed this very much, not the least because of the excellent outline the professor developed and the way he showed artifacts to explain his points.
Date published: 2016-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2016-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2016-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 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.
Date published: 2016-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent information and presentation The professor enjoys talking about Pompeii. He clearly conveyed the information and covered a lot of information without leaving me feeling overwhelmed. I visited Pompeii and Herculaneum during one day back in 1997. It was an awesome experience, but I felt like I was missing the significance of much of what I was looking at. I've watched documentaries and read books on the cities in an effort to capture what I was missing that day, but only this lecture series had everything I've been looking for. This is great resource for anyone going to visit the city (or who wish they could) or who are simply interested in the details of everyday Roman life. As we get the history of the city, we visit various parts of the city through photographs and short videos. The professor pointed out the significance of what we're seeing and what it tells us about the people who lived there. He did a great job of explaining what information he used to come to various conclusions. I loved that he wasn't just "telling stories" to fill in blanks in knowledge but was using valid sources to help us understand what we really do know about what we're seeing and what life was like. I'd highly recommend this DVD lecture series.
Date published: 2014-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Window Into Another World My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed this course. Neither of us wanted it to end. It did, however, take a few lectures to get in to. It took a little while to get used to the Professor's very dry manner but once we did we liked him and his wry, subtle humour a lot. I studied Latin and Ancient History at school and have always been fascinated by Pompeii. This was a pleasant and easy way to learn more about the buildings and way of life at Pompeii. Ancient Pompeii was really brought to life for me.
Date published: 2014-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pompeii - An in depth look. I really enjoyed this course. I've taken several of The Great Courses' history courses and this one is the most graphic by far. Prof. Tuck makes liberal use of photos and graphics in this 'tour' around ancient Pompeii. By the conclusion of this study you come away with a real understanding and appreciation of everyday life in the empire of ancient Rome.
Date published: 2014-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City Absolutely Wonderful Course !!! One of my favorite. I viewed it on DVD which is essential . The Professor was totally engaging, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable as well as entertaining. I loved the personal and family experiences he shared. The graphics and expanded graphics made the course even better because the missing art work and architecture was superimposed on the remaining ruins to give the viewer a more complete view of the buildings, rooms, city and city life than you could actually get by walking through the ruins ( although this course has made me even more excited to visit Pompeii some day in the future). I learned so much and enjoyed it so much. Especially interesting was how the professor instructed on the life and work of the people of Pompeii. This included relaying a slave girl's possible daily routine, the work and workers in the tunic cleaners and i loved, the artist's home which was so very well done as well as all the tours he presented superbly throughout the city of Pompeii. All was extremely well done........the graphics, photography, research and the professor's delivery of the information . I highly recommend this course to any lover of history or travel especially. I look forward to possibly studying this professor's Tour of Rome Course some day as well. I am retired and I love this means of continuing education. Also, the visual touring courses, like this one, enable me to experience places which, most likely, my age, finances & physical stamina would otherwise prohibit me from visiting and learning about in person. It is so enjoyable to view this quality of research and expertise, in my own home, at my own pace. And, I can replay & restudy all I want . Thanks Great Courses for highlighting this professor's knowledge and love of Pompeii.
Date published: 2014-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and enjoyable! I strongly recommend the course, especially if you are planning to visit or have already visited Pompeii. The professor very knowledgeable and delivers the lectures with a nice sense of humor. The animations and photos help a lot as well.
Date published: 2014-11-28
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