Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City by Steven L. Tuck

book cover
Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City
by Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.

DVD & Paperback book
24 lectures
29 minutes per lecture
Publisher: The Great Courses

Source: Bought through the publisher catalog. (The DVD format can get as low as $59.95 when on sale.)

DVD Description, Modified from Website:
While the account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 is compelling, Pompeii holds a much more intriguing story for historians: a tale of everyday 1st-century life, flash-frozen in time.

In the opening lectures, 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 reconstructs a typical day of Pompeian residents, including:

-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.

You'll gain remarkable insights into agriculture, commerce, civic planning, entertainment, local government, private life, and other aspects of the Pompeian experience. 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. 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.

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.

My Review:
Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City is a set of DVD lectures on daily Roman life and Pompeii throughout its history. The DVD set came with a course book that summarized and covered the highlights of each lecture. 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 would have liked more time to simply "be" in the houses and streets and really look at everything. 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.

If you've seen this lecture series, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion in the comments.

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