A couple years ago, someone posted on the cool Blogging Pompeii site that its chief contributor Jo Berry would be teaching an online course about Pompeii though Oxford University’s Continuing Ed department. Now, I like to think of Oxford the way it was depicted on “Lost” with mysterious mad geniuses tucked away in attics breaking through to other dimensions — so taking a class without setting foot there sounded ideal for me. Not long after I heard about the course, I lost my long-term “day job,” and one of the first things I did was sign up for Pompeii and the Cities of the Roman World. Hubby and I had been to Pompeii earlier that year, and I wanted to learn more about the ancient town, which — as Winnie in The Five-Day Dig notes — is “one of the most evocative places in the world.”
The undergrad-level course covers the origins of Pompeii as well as its sudden end in the year 79 eruption of Vesuvius. Between those points, there’s also plenty of info about the inhabitants’ houses, work, politics, entertainment (yes, gladiators!) and religion. Besides Pompeii, we talked about other well preserved Roman cities, like Ostia outside of Rome (which will get its own blog post another time), Leptis Magna in Libya, and Trier in Germany (where you’ll find the Roman memorial pictured on the cover of my book).
Trading thoughts about aspects of ancient life in an online forum with students from around the world was fascinating. Both the info and the ideas we bounced around helped me weave the tapestry that became The Five-Day Dig. One interesting discussion revolved around what wasn’t preserved in Pompeii; we tend to think of the town as a time capsule of the year 79 and forget to remember all the elements that didn’t survive, like clothing, linens, curtains, wooden doors, furniture, partitions, etc.
Besides course instructor Jo Berry’s involvement in Blogging Pompeii, she has an informative book on the topic packed with beautiful photos, The Complete Pompeii.Tweet this