11 Pages


Pompeii is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Europe. The thousands of people who visit the remains of this Roman city each day of the year are brought into close proximity to a past which has been preserved by the eruption of Vesuvius in ad 79. As visitors walk down the streets, the scale and nature of the remains make it easy for them to create their own idea of an urban society in the rst century ad (see Plates 1 and 2). This experience of the Roman city draws upon the physical reality of the past as it has been preserved: the forum, the houses, the brothels, the theatres, the amphitheatre and, of course, the plaster casts of the dead (Etienne 1992 and Connolly 1979 provide excellent introductions to the site for those who have not visited Pompeii). Frequently, these reconstructions are distinctly idealised. Some of these utopias nd their way into art and literature (Leppmann 1968; Wyke 1997: 165-71). Other images and experiences of Pompeii are absorbed into modern architecture and town planning (Unwin 1909), and are indirectly experienced by those living in the modern twenty- rst-century cities of Western Europe. Pompeii exists not only in the past but also in the present. The visitors to this ancient city nd it is so like their own urban experience in the modern world that they interpret what they see in the light of their knowledge of the modern city. Everything appears to be easily understood and laid out by the heritage industry.