Monday, March 22, 2010

Books About Ancient Water and Disaster (Libri di Acqua Antichi e Disastri)

I've just finished reading a book called Pompeii by Robert Harris. Not *just* now, it's not like the book is still in my hand as I'm setting it down while typing this.The book was an imaginative story set in ancient Italy in the days immediately before the eruption of Vesuvius. It was extraordinarily well researched, and even though I caught two historical mistakes, the presentation of the story was very novel. Whoa is that why they call those things 'novels'?

It followed an hour by hour timeline interwoven with documented historical events from the era, which as you can imagine for me was a good read.I won't give away plot points, but there is a strong chance in this book that the volcano erupts at the end.

The main character of the story was a maintenance engineer assigned to work on the various aqueducts around the bay of Naples. I know a few things about the aqueducts, having spent some time around Pont du Gard just north of Nimes, France.

Here are some photos I took of the famous above ground part of the aqueduct. Most all of the aqueducts were below ground, except for these grand bridgey parts. The whole area around there is great, you can kayak on the river (great fun, I highly recommend Kayak Vert for both this place and Fontaine de Vaucluse) and the natural marble outcroppings are fantastic to look at.
Notice the huge shadow the 160 foot tall aqueduct casts on the river?

You can see the flow chanel for the water here, look at all the sediment buildup on the floor. I wonder in ancient Romans had 'Evian'(tm) as an alternative?

As a quick digression about the area around Pont du Gard, did you know that the town of Nimes is the namesake of the mythological 'Nemesis'? A Greek goddess who personified vengeful fate against mortals who were excessively arrogant or tried to achieve too much. Hubris / blind ambition was apparently not appreciated back then, especially by the Roman generals who retired here and patronized the Nemesis temple. Maybe their patronage was motivated by a desire to keep people below them in line?


  1. I am as fascinated by Pompeii as I am the mob so I read the book a while back. Loved it.

  2. I will be putting this on my summer reading list!

  3. Did I know? Um, no, I hope I can still be in your club though. I've been meaning to read that book, and I'll probably read it hoping, just hoping, that somehow it will all turn out OK in the end.

  4. but there is a strong chance in this book that the volcano erupts at the end. LOLOLOL!!

    I always wondered..Does that aqueduct still work? We have a much smaller one here in San Antonio and I was amazed that it actually still works.

  5. This books sounds like something I'd love! I'm going to get it.

  6. It would be worth a trip just to see the aquaducts filled with water again.

  7. I know what happens. Thanks. Sounds like a good one. Struggling through my current book, so I'll have to check it out!

  8. Oh, this sounds cool! I love dramatized history books, as long as they're well written.

    PS - Sorry I have been a terrible blog friend lately!

  9. Thank you for that insightful book review and those beautiful pictures! Sounds like a book to definitely check out.

  10. Sounds like an interesting book!

  11. If I ever save up enough to go to Europe again, can I hire you as my tour guide?

  12. Yeah, you would definitely make a great tour guide, but kayaking... I think I will pass on that one. Beautiful pictures, btw.

  13. Gwen,
    Wasn't that interesting? So do you have any books to recommend about The Camorra?

    If you like historical accounts you won't be disappointed.

    This book showcases rock solid writing, a bit of venting, and a pyroclastic ending.

    The Nemesis aqueduct doesn't. That's interesting that San Antonio has one, I need to go look at that some time.

    Get it! It's well written and easy to suspend disbelief in this if you've seen Pompeii or any of the aqueducts.

    Roman technology, where would we be today without it?

    It's not too long of a read either. Most people probably get intimidated by the historical aspect.

    Yes, you would appreciate this book I'd bet.

    Outside the Lines,
    It's fun, especially if you like ancient things.

    It was, the author really did his homework in researching the events, timeline, and technology.

    Sure, I'll even pay my own way if it's Italy.

    Dutch Donut Girl,
    Why the pass on kayaking? Thanks about the pictures, you take good ones too. :)