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A review of the ancient roman history in the book pompeii by robert harris

Plot summary[ edit ] Marcus Attilius Primus arrives in the Bay of Naples from Rome to take charge as aquarius hydraulic engineer of the Aqua Augustathe aqueduct that supplies water to the towns in the region encompassing the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.

Under the volcano

Attilius' predecessor, Exomnius, has mysteriously vanished as the springs that flow through the aqueduct begin to fail, lowering the supply of water available to the region's reservoir. Attilius is unpopular among the workers, particularly Corax, who resents the young foreigner giving him orders.

Attilius's concerns about the water are heightened when he is summoned by a young, wealthy woman named Corelia to investigate water that apparently killed her father's prized fish.

Corelia's father is the former slave and land speculator Numerius Popidius Ampliatus, who came to fortune after rebuilding Pompeii from a past earthquake. Ampliatus feeds the slave he deems responsible, for the fish's death, to eels for his own amusement. Attilius realizes that, unusually, sulfur poisoned the water.

Then, dramatically, the flow of water stops entirely. Attilius concludes that the aqueduct must be blocked somewhere close to Mount Vesuviussince reports claim a shut down of the system just before Nolameaning that towns from there through Napoli and Misenum are without any water supply. With aid from Pliny the Elderwhose fleet is docked at Misenum, Attilius assembles an expedition to travel to Pompeii, the closest town still being supplied with water, and then on to the blocked section of the Aqua Augusta.

While Attilius' expedition is there, he becomes embroiled as part of a plot by Ampliatus. Ampliatus is planning to offer a cheap water supply to Pompeii, which Exomnius had helped him do while stealing from the imperial treasury. Though Ampliatus tries to persuade Attilius to fill in Exomnius's role, he refuses.

See a Problem?

Attilius' questions and studies make Ampliatus suspicious, and the latter makes arrangements for Attilius to be assassinated.

Attilius begins to suspect Ampliatus of bribery, suspicions supported by what Pliny the Elder and his nephew later discover: Corelia gets Attilius the proof he needs from her father's written records when he is performing repairs to a collapsed section of tunnel in the region around Vesuvius. Attilius also discovers that Exomnius was investigating the phenomena around Vesuvius, having recognized some of them from his hometown of Catania after an eruption of Mount Etna. While exploring Vesuvius on his own, Attilius discovers Exomnius's corpse in a pit of earth choked by noxious fumes, which also kills Corax, who has come to assassinate Attilius.

Attilius risks his life and comes back to Pompeii to find Corelia. A deranged Ampliatus refuses to evacuate and holds first his family and then Attilius captive, believing that he will become even richer and more powerful by rebuilding the city once more after it is destroyed.

Attilius rescues Corelia, but is pursued by Ampliatus and his men even as pyroclastic flows begin to descend on Pompeii.

A blast from the past

Ampliatus, the rest of his family, and the remainder of the expedition is killed by the overwhelming heat of the pyroclastic flow, and Pliny dies from the effects of the fumes when he tries to evacuate the citizens.

Pompeii is buried underneath rocks, pumice, ash, and volcanic material, leaving few survivors. The last sentence of the novel reports a local legend that a man and woman had emerged from the aqueduct after the eruption -- implying that Attilius and Corelia likely survived the trip up the aqueduct.

The incident of Ampliatus feeding a slave to his eels is based on the actual historical case of Vedius Pollio.

Comparison with the United States[ edit ] The novel's motto combines two quotes, from Tom Wolfe 's Hooking Up and from the Natural History of Pliny the Elder who, as noted, is a central character in the book itselfwith both writers speaking in nearly identical terms of the preeminence of, respectively, the present United States and the Roman Empire, over the rest of the world.

The theme of comparing ancient Rome to the contemporary United States is repeated in throughout the book, for example in the deliberate use of typically American terminology, [1] as when Attilius regards Pompeii as "a hustling boomtown" while Ampliatus boasts that "I am the man who runs this town.

  1. While exploring Vesuvius on his own, Attilius discovers Exomnius's corpse in a pit of earth choked by noxious fumes, which also kills Corax, who has come to assassinate Attilius. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples.
  2. Readers of Enigma 1995 knew that his hero would have to be successful in breaking the German codes or we would be living in the triumphant Nazi empire that he hypothesised in Fatherland 1992. I liked a lot of things about this book.
  3. Obviously, since everyone knows what happened to Pompeii and Herculaneum, everyone will realise he cannot be in time to do anything about those disasters, but can he be in time to avert others? Robert Harris prefaces each chapter with a quotation describing the geophysics going on in the volcano at the time, and his account of events matches what I know of the science.

Cancelled film adaptation[ edit ] In 2007, Harris wrote a screenplay based on Pompeii for director Roman Polanski. Harris acknowledged in many interviews that the plot of his novel was inspired by Polanski's film Chinatownand Polanski said it was precisely that similarity that had attracted him to Pompeii.

The film was cancelled in September 2007 as a result of a looming actors' strike.