Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles R. Pellegrino

Book Review by Hamilcar Barca

In his latest book combining science, archeology, religion and fantastic narrative; Charles Pellegrino recounts the timeless tale of destruction that was Pompeii and Herculaneum. Supported by the contemporary accounts of the Pliny's as well as groundbreaking forensic evidence from archeologists, Pellegrino brings the 79AD eruption vividly to life, recounting the cities final hours and movements before they were engulfed in the pyroclastic avalanche which would keep them hidden and preserved until they were unearthed in the mid eighteenth century.

Today the cities stand as monuments to the height of Roman civilization and achievement, serving as a goldmine to insights of contemporary life, culture and technology. Again, Pellegrino paints a fantastic picture of this and goes onto emphasize just how greater disaster the eruptions really were, concluding that they created a stall in Rome's epic technological progress, a stall that eventually led to decline. More so he ominously links and compares the disaster to the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in 2001, something which he explores with multiple first hand accounts latter on.

The author describes in detail the years surrounding the incident, with particular emphasis given to the persecution of Christians and destruction of Jerusalem by Titus' legions in 70AD, suggestively linking it with the destruction of the Roman cities via religious superstition. A number of other strange and eerie connections are made as Pellegrino brilliantly researches and recounts a number of seismic disasters throughout human history, which have shaped and stalled human progress as well as the very fabric of the universe itself. Throughout the book, Pellegrino's connections and uniquely interesting narrative make for a page-gripping read as the book flows easily from one point to the next in spite of the vast range of material covered.

As a Romanophile, it is very hard to be critical of a work which has been so well researched and thoughtfully put together. The only thing that raised my eyebrows was when a reference was made to Cincinnatus defeating the Gauls in 458BC.

The battle referred to - Mt. Algidus -was in fact fought against the Aequians; the Gauls had not at this point in time entered Roman history. However, given the trifling importance in the context in which this example is used, a single typo in what is an outstanding book is easily forgivable. An absolute must read for anyone with a passion for science, archeology, history or really just about anything, amateur or professional. This is truly great.

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