What I described as a dead city, Mary Beard, in her transformative study of Pompeii, The Fires of Vesuvius, reveals as a living—one might almost raucous—city of anywhere from 30,000 to 64,000 people. Beginning with the day of the eruption, August 25 79 CE, Beard takes us back to its earliest known roots, which may have been Etruscan, through various sieges and political developments which ultimately brought it into the Roman Empire.
Further, the myths we have of Roman dining, three to a couch while consuming a vast quantity of fish, fruit, and meats seems to have had little reality in Pompeii. While some houses, such as The House of the Golden Bracelet, show evidence of elegant dining (in this case, surrounding a small pool within a garden) Beard argues that most individuals were forced to eat out and even in wealthier homes eating shared more in common with fast food dining in contemporary American households, food consumed in various places throughout the house.
Los Angeles, October 22, 2009