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Review: Last Days of Pompeii

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Last Days of Pompeii

The book “Last Days of Pompeii” by Edward Bulwer-Lytton – an English writer from the 19th century – is certainly an interesting position. The author, who worked as a writer, also dabbled in politics on a daily basis. He is remembered, however, as the author of books in which he often touched on criminal themes. The novel “Last Days of Pompeii” turned out to be his greatest work. The author has created an intriguing plot in which we find out what the life of the Pompeians could have been like just before the eruption of Vesuvius. Certainly, the idea of ​​​​creating the world of the Romans resulted from the Roman plot, which was extremely popular at that time. The 19th century is a time of advanced excavations and “excavating” the world of Pompeii, which in 79 CE engulfed the volcano Vesuvius.

The main plot of the book is the rivalry between the young handsome and rich Greek Glaucus and the mysterious Egyptian magician and follower of Isis Arbaces for the beautiful Greek woman Iona. In the book, Greek heroes very often mention the former power of Greece and negatively refer to Roman culture, which in their opinion tries to imitate the Hellenic world ineptly. The author in a very interesting way shows the everyday life of Pompeii, its inhabitants and their attitude towards the followers of the new religion – Christianity. Its main representative is Olintus, who tries to convert the followers of ancient religions. Among other things, he manages to convince Jona’s brother Apaecides, and finally the main characters Glaucus and Jona. Apaecides, being the priest of Isis, is lied to by the Egyptian magician Arbaces, deceived by his tricks and lies. However, he experiences an epiphany when he enters the Christian community. He is enchanted by the love and brotherhood prevailing in the circle of Christ’s followers.

The plot takes into account different social strata. We are dealing with gladiators, slaves, patricians, commoners, Jews, Christians, Greeks, and Egyptians – this proves how diverse the world of the Romans was. In addition to the main love thread, there are also side issues that, however, bind the fate of all the characters. The world of the Pompeians is brutally interrupted at some point by a powerful eruption of the volcano next to the city. The inhabitants, whether they are rich and powerful or poor and commoners, must fight for their lives. Only a few managed to survive, and scientists are still discovering more remains from that world to this day. The way in which the author showed the cataclysm – without much description – suggests to us how helpless people are in the face of the powerful forces of nature.

The book can certainly be recommended to fans of ancient culture. The author, writing in a specific way, gives us a more realistic view of those times. The book is short and will certainly allow the reader to spend one of the evenings in ancient Pompeii in a pleasant way in 79 CE.

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