After reading the novel Pompeii by Robert Harris I notice many interesting topics and subtopics to be discussed and analyzed. I like digging deeper into the specific characters that I came across while reading and I really enjoy how they are portrayed depending on outside factors such as status (freedmen, slave, or individuals of a higher status such as Pliny) and their role and importance in the novel. Secondly, the importance of technology and more specifically aqueducts seems to be a major theme and really the driving point for this novel.
The final topic I will discuss is corruption in Rome and how it plays a key role in the novel and seems to drive many events in HBO Rome and Daily Life. I liked this suggestion in the instructions for this paper because after reading there seems to be major differences discussed when looking at life in Pompeii compared to Misenum and all other areas discovered while traveling to Pompeii. Before examining the topics of urban life and aqueducts and the importance of technology I think it is important to introduce the main characters of this novel.
Two characters that I would like to examine are Marcus Attilius, the main character. The second character that I find interesting is Pliny the Elder. I like Marcus Attilius because he is introduced on page 6 as a “practical man, he had never had much time for all these fancy handles. ” I like this about him because it really sets the scene as to what expect from him. He is the fourth generation of aqueduct engineers takes his profession very seriously. I like how in the beginning of the novel most all the people that surround him think he is crazy or too young or that he is a “pretty boy” as Corax describes him.
I like this because as we read on you see how he really is a hero and how at times when everything seems to be going wrong he follows his gut, uses his methods and detects what is the problem and follows through with what must be done to solve the problem, even when it meant attempts on his life. I had no idea that the life of an aquarius could be so difficult or that there was an under belly in the world of water. However, after reading, it makes sense because free flowing water means clean drinking water, life but most importantly to the upper class, money and lifestyle.
The second character, Pliny the Elder is my favorite throughout the book. We know from reading both Pompeii and Daily Life that Pliny is not only an admiral with immense power and standing but also contributes much knowledge about the world around them at the time as he wrote the Natural History. I like Pliny because at first I thought he was going to be a thorn in the side of Attilius but as I read on he is the key player that allows Attilius to carry out his “mission” and repair the Aqua Augusta. I think I am biased to being drawn towards Pliny as I have a military background myself and he can be compared to many respected senior officers.
I like his appetite for adventure and even as unfortunate as his death was, it was an honorable personal sacrifice. Now that we have introduced a few characters that I think are very important to this novel, we should take a look at the topic of technology and how important it is when talking about the flow of water and the Aqua Augusta. The second topic that I would like to discuss is technology and the importance of aqueducts to daily life. As we learn from Daily Life, the Roman water system was a bit different as it was a continuous flow of water and very little in the options for turning the flow off and on.
This is the main issue in the novel Pompeii, as the water supply not only has been deemed poisonous from sulfur levels rising but also because the supply that is supposed to be continuous stops all of a sudden. It really is an amazing concept to think that this huge amount of people could be provided a steady water supply all from the use of aqueducts and the advancements in engineering techniques. The third and final topic I would like to touch on is the corruption in Rome and how it is clearly visible in Daily Life, Pompeii and HBO Rome. It seems like corruption is an underlying factor in many things I have read and watched this semester.
In Pompeii the previous, deserted aquarius Exomnius is helping Numerius Popidius Ampliatus steal from the Imperial Treasury when sesterces are found at the bottom of the reservoir. In HBO Rome we see many instances of corruption or agendas playing a key role in Rome. Atia is constantly scheming and attempting to pull strings so that she can secure he position among the upper class and corruption and betrayal amongst the senate seem like an everyday occurrence. I have come to think that there were very few people to be trusted in Rome as everyone seems to have their own plan for advancement.
In Daily Life we read about Romulus killing his own brother Remus for power and to become the first king of Rome. We read that Osiris is killed by his brother Set because he is power hungry and wants to rule. These are just a few examples but it seems maybe in a more historical sense and really in a story telling sense that corruption or betrayal are used in most cases. In conclusion, the above topics are just a few of many that could have been looked further into but these are the ones that really have interested me throughout the semester.
The use of technology, power and betrayal and the significant characters of the novel Pompeii jumped out the most. Although the novel Pompeii is fictional to some degree it really provided a good sense of daily life and how certain issues arose and what had to be done to counter these issues. I really enjoyed this read and in further research will look for other books by Robert Harris to entertain me during the cold winter months. I have enjoyed this class and hope to further my knowledge of Rome in the future.