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Pompeii—the name of this anci­ent city, once buried by the forces of our pla­ned, has beco­me a syn­onym for this type of cata­c­lys­mic dest­ruc­tion. E.g. the buried Hou­ses on Hemaey in Ícland are cal­les »Iceland’s Pom­peii«.

The sci­ence behind the vic­tims of Pom­peii

The Ridd­le of Pom­peii (DSC, 2001)

In AD 79 the legen­da­ry vol­ca­no Vesu­vi­us erup­ted in one of the dead­liest vol­ca­nic erup­ti­ons of all time, des­troy­ing the town of Pom­peii. For 400 years archaeo­lo­gists have stu­di­ed the anci­ent bodies found buried bene­ath lay­ers of ash and rock. The explana­ti­on for the vic­tims’ deaths has always been that they were kil­led by fly­ing rocks and boi­ling lava. This is the inter­pre­ta­ti­on still given to tou­rists who visit the site at Pom­peii today…


Out of the Ashes – Reco­vering the Lost Libra­ry of Her­cu­la­ne­um (PBS, 2003)

In 1752, an anci­ent libra­ry was dis­co­ve­r­ed at Her­cu­la­ne­um, buried bene­ath the ashes of Mount Vesu­vi­us. Asto­nis­hin­gly, near­ly 2000 car­bo­ni­zed papy­rus rolls were pre­ser­ved, though some were so bad­ly bur­ned they loo­ked like pie­ces of char­co­al. While some texts from the phi­lo­so­phi­cal libra­ry have been published, many of the papy­ri have yet to be unrol­led or read.

OUT OF THE ASHES: RECOVERING THE LOST LIBRARY OF HERCULANEUM fol­lows attempts over 250 years to unroll and deci­pher the­se pre­cious manu­scripts…


Pom­peii: Life and Death in a Roman Town (BBC, 2010)

Pom­peii: one of the most famous vol­ca­nic erup­ti­ons in histo­ry. We know how its vic­tims died, but this film sets out to ans­wer ano­t­her ques­ti­on – how did they live? Glea­ning evi­dence from an extra­or­di­na­ry find, Cam­bridge pro­fes­sor and Pom­peii expert Mary Beard pro­vi­des new insight into the lives of the peop­le who lived in the shadow of Mount Vesu­vi­us befo­re its cata­c­lys­mic erup­ti­on. In a dark cel­lar in Oplon­tis, just three miles from the cent­re of Pom­peii, 54 ske­le­tons who didn’t suc­cumb to the tor­rent of vol­ca­nic ash are about to be put under the micro­scope…


Pom­peii: Rebirth of a City (HST, 2010)

Archaeo­lo­gy, as we under­stand it, didn’t exist in 1758 when Johann Joa­chim Winckel­mann made his way from the roy­al libra­ry in Dres­den, Ger­ma­ny, to visit ano­t­her pri­va­te collec­tion. He wan­ted to see the King of Naples’s muse­um of sta­tu­es, sal­va­ged from cru­de digs at the cities of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­ne­um, 1700 years after their dest­ruc­tion in the erup­ti­on of Vesu­vi­us in AD79. The king’s guards refu­sed him ent­ry…


Pom­peii: The Myste­ry of the Peop­le Fro­zen in Time (BBC, 2013)

One-off dra­ma docu­men­ta­ry, pre­sen­ted by Dr Mar­ga­ret Mount­ford. The city of Pom­peii uni­que­ly cap­tures the public’s ima­gi­na­ti­on; in 79AD a legen­da­ry vol­ca­nic dis­as­ter left its citi­zens pre­ser­ved in ashes to this very day. Yet no-one has been able to unra­vel the full sto­ry that is at the heart of our fasci­na­ti­on: how did tho­se bodies beco­me fro­zen in time?



The Other Pom­peii: Life and Death in Her­cu­la­ne­um (BBC, 2013)

Pro­fes­sor Andrew Wal­lace-Hadrill pres­ents a docu­men­ta­ry fol­lo­wing the sci­en­ti­fic inves­ti­ga­ti­on that aims to lift the lid on what life was like in the small Roman town of Her­cu­la­ne­um, moments befo­re it was des­troy­ed by a vol­ca­nic errup­ti­on. The inves­ti­ga­ti­on, based arround the dis­co­very of 12 arched vaults, reveals in gre­at detail the lives of the ill-fated town’s resi­dents, and uni­que aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy gives a behind-the-sce­nes look at the town from the ski­es…


Pom­peii: New Secrets Revea­led (BBC, 2016)

With unpar­al­leled access to Pom­peii and fea­turing cut­ting-edge modern tech­no­lo­gy, Mary Beard gui­des us through this ama­zing sli­ce of the anci­ent world. For the first time ever, CT scan­ning and x-ray equip­ment bring new light to the secrets of the vic­tims of the 79 AD erup­ti­on. Mary unpacks the human sto­ries behind the tra­gic figu­res – gla­dia­tors, slaves, busi­ness­wo­men and child­ren. She goes behind the sce­nes of the Gre­at Pom­peii Pro­ject, whe­re res­to­ra­ti­on teams have gra­dual­ly remo­ved the lay­ers of time and dete­rio­ra­ti­on from the fres­coes and mosaics of hou­ses clo­sed to the public for deca­des. And with the help of point-cloud scan­ning tech­no­lo­gy, Pom­peii is seen and exp­lai­ned like never befo­re. Mary has unpre­ce­den­ted access to hid­den storerooms and archaeo­lo­gi­cal labs packed to the hilt with items from dai­ly life: plum­bing fit­tings, potte­ry, paint pots, food­s­tuff and fishing nets. As she pie­ces it all toge­ther, Mary pres­ents a film that is a cele­bra­to­ry and uni­que view of life in this extra­or­di­na­ry town.



Pom­peii: The Last Day (BBC, DSC, 2003)

On 24 August AD79, the slee­ping giant Mount Vesu­vi­us erup­ted with hor­ri­fy­ing force, des­troy­ing the pros­pe­rous Roman cities Pom­peii and Her­cu­lene­um. Their inh­a­bi­tants were sub­jec­ted to 24 hours of untold hor­ror. Four mil­li­on ton­nes of pumice, rock and ash rai­ned on the towns, suf­fo­ca­ting the life out of the cities, and bury­ing alove tho­se who had been unab­le to flee.

Pom­peii – The Last Day recrea­tes that momen­tous day, and shows first hand the hor­ror of Pompeii’s last hours. Fac­tu­al cha­rac­ters based on his­to­ri­cal and foren­sic evi­dence uneart­hed in Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­ne­um, as well as extracts from Gauis Pli­ni­us Monor’s account of the dis­as­ter, help bring to life one of the most noto­rious dis­as­ters in histo­ry.

Using stun­ning visu­al effects, the film recrea­tes each sta­ge of the 24 hour erup­ti­on and explo­res the deva­sta­ting impact on the main cha­rac­ters; Juli­us Poly­bi­us, wealt­hy baker and aspi­ring poli­ti­ci­an; Ste­pha­nus, a cloth worker and soci­al clim­ber and his wife For­tu­na­ta Cela­dus the cele­bri­ty gla­dia­tor; Pli­ny the elder, in char­ge of the res­cue mis­si­on; and, final­ly, Pli­ny the youn­ger, who docu­ments the hor­rors of the tra­ge­dy.

The hig­hest ever rated histo­ry docu­men­ta­ry on the BBC at the time of its release in 2003, it was repor­ted­ly wat­ched by more than 10 mil­li­on peop­le.


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