crazy-ass pompeii


Being Mary Beard is a difficult balancing act. On the one side is the unrepentant scholar, trained in Latin epigraphy in the rigorous school of Joyce Reynolds, passionately determined to get things exactly right, ready to weigh probabilities judiciously, and thoroughly informed about the contents of the latest Dutch festschrift. On the other is the ardent blogger, and the writer (and TLS Classics editor) determined to communicate with audiences larger than a Roman historian or archaeologist can normally reach. Pompeii: The life of a Roman town combines these two personae, often triumphantly, sometimes a little uneasily. Beard’s knowledge of what has been written about Pompeii – a huge amount – is encyclopedic and up-to-the-minute. She knows, for example, who has argued (in a Dutch festschrift) that the wall painting which shows a man on horseback labelled “Spartaks” is not after all Spartacus with his name in Oscan, as some of us had fondly imagined and as I still believe.

more from the TLS here.