BAR 36:04, Jul/Aug 2010
By Judith Harris
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan; London: I.B. Tauris, 2007), 320 pp., $35.00 (hardcover)
In 79 A.D. Mt. Vesuvius spewed some 10 billion tons of volcanic material to a height of nearly 10 miles. The resulting cloud of superheated detritus then settled back to earth, covering a swath of the coast of the Bay of Naples to a depth averaging more than 40 feet. The coast of Naples was to Imperial Rome what the Hamptons are for New York City. That is, in this lovely waterfront setting were located the summer villas of some of Rome’s most important persons, among them the villa of Flavius Vespasian, the general who nine years earlier led the suppression of the First Jewish revolt and subsequently become emperor.