The Last Days of Pompeii

ISBN: 158715739X
ISBN 13: 9781587157394
By: Edward Bulwer-Lytton John Gregory Betancourt

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About this book

The Last Days of Pompeii is a novel written by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1834. Once a very widely read book, now relatively neglected, it culminates in the cataclysmic destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. The novel uses its characters to contrast the decadent culture of 1st-century Rome with both older cultures & coming trends. The protagonist, Glaucus, represents the Greeks who have been subordinated by Rome, & his nemesis Arbaces the still older culture of Egypt. Olinthus is the chief representative of the nascent Christian religion, which is presented favorably but not uncritically. The Witch of Vesuvius, tho she has no supernatural powers, shows Bulwer-Lytton's interest in the occult--a theme which would emerge in his later writing, particularly The Coming Race.

Reader's Thoughts

Erik Graff

I read this thing while taking Latin and belonging to the Latin Club at Maine Township South High School South in Park Ridge, Illinois. Although not highly regarded as literature, I, as an early teen, liked it quite a lot except for what, even then, I felt to be a rather saccharine Christianity.


This was just an adventure book with a historical setting. I think it had no blatant historical mistakes (I don't know much about Rome or Pompeii), and it was entertaining enough, but it didn't have me hooked, as I expected. I also expected more drama from the Vesubius eruption, but it had just a mild effect on the main characters' lives.What made me give this book just two stars was:1. Flat characters. Good ones were really good ones. Bad ones were evil. Good ones win without much effort and just in time and bad ones die because of God's Wrath. 2. I don't agree with Christian views most of the time. And this author introduced too much of them. It felt like being a child scolded for not loving and appreciating Christ enough. And everyone who was good was converted to the true religion (as they said in the book) and pagans were dead.However, it was still entertaining. I need some fluff books from time to time.


I read this perhaps 25 years ago, but just downloaded a copy, not remembering that I'm already familiar with it. The opening lines reminded me. Of course, being so long ago, I don't remember a lot about the reading (good reason to revisit the book,) but it did make quite an impression on me. Since I was a teenager, I've watched many documentaries that reference Pompeii, and have a fascination with volcanoes. In 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted, the top 1/3 of the mountain disappearing in a moment. I was 9 years old. We were near enough to the mountain to see it, but far enough away to make the catastrophe only a moderate inconvenience. I remember standing on my Aunt's back deck and watching the ash plume drifting east. Over the next several weeks, ash settled on everything, and our neighbors closer to the volcano had to cope with ashy air, ash in and on all of their possessions, unreliable transportation, and property damage. 57 people died - DIED, in spite of massive warnings from scientists watching the mountain's activity. Spirit Lake all but disappeared, poisoned by gas and debris, clogged with ash. It was an incredible thing to witness - especially for a 10 year old. Sometime thereafter, I found The Last Days of Pompeii at the library, and devoured it. In glancing over it again, I'm not sure how my middle school mind took in the archaic language, but having been raised on a steady diet of daily bible readings, I suspect I was more used to it than I would be now. I do remember the story being a fascinating look at the day to day lives of a somewhat decadent Greco-Roman city. There were elements of influence from other cultures and religions also, which made the story even more interesting to me as a child, steeped as I was in fundamentalism. It was a rare peek into other philosophies, couched in historical fiction. Perhaps on re-reading, it wouldn't stand up to my early experience. Still, I think I'll give it a shot.


There's not a lot of point criticising Bulwer-Lytton's overblown, excessively flowery, never-use-one-word-if-you-can-use-ten style, because that was his shtick - if that's the sort of thing you like, then you'll like this. I didn't, much, I found the characters stock, the descriptions stilted and the historical accuracy too glued on. I did get involved though once the volcano erupted (oops, hope that hasn't given away the plot), and there was one insight into crowd behaviour that is universal and topical: this is the audience for the gladiators:"Aroused - inflamed by the spectacle of their victims, they forgot the authority of their rulers. It was one of those dread popular convulsions common to crowds wholly ignorant, half free and half servile."It's a readable novel, but not much more.


It is written in an older English style than we speak nowadays. This would be hard ti understand with someone unfamiliar with this vernacular. Also it would take a lot of research to understand all of the references the author is using. In the end, it is worth a read.


Once you get past the over-the-top writing, this is pretty good.


A book I read more from seeing it referenced in other 19th century novels than for its own sake. I gave it four stars rather than three for the picture it indirectly reveals of educated British morals and tastes.


توجد هذه الرواية في مكتبتي منذ زمن لكني لم اقرأها من قبل ، وهي عبارة عن رواية عالمية من ترجمة المكتبة العالمية للفتيان والفتيات ، تتحدث بشكل شيق ومثير عن آخر أيام بومباي وهي مدينة إيطالية تعرضت للتدمير بشكل كامل بفعل الحمم البركانية في صيف عام 79 للميلاد.أسلوب المترجم والملخص " أكرم الرافعي " بسيط وسلس ، ويشرح بعض الكلمات غير المعروفة أو الدارجة.وطبعًا هذه الرواية مبسطة وموجهة للقراء الصغار " للفتية " ولكني استمتعت بقراءتها جداً ، وإذا وقعت بين يدي ترجمة " للكبار " فأكيد سوف أكرر التجربة واقرأها مرة أخرى.ملاحظة : الطبعة التي بحوزتي هي الطبعة الخامسة وقد صدرت عام 1978م ، يعني طبعة أثرية.:)

David Fulmer

A romantic historical novel inspired by a famous natural disaster in ancient times and archaeological evidence discovered in Pompeii, this novel was among the most popular works of literature in the nineteenth century though it’s now all but forgotten. ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ is a love story set in that Roman town just before the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried it and most of its citizens in ash. It draws a vivid portrait of the lifestyle of the Imperial Romans, their daily baths, symposia, and gladiatorial entertainments, their religious practices and their homes while presenting a busy plot full of decadent, diabolical seducers, religious fanatics, and glutinous parasites.The novel is written in an archaic style which distances the drama while simultaneously giving it a kind of ancient dignity. A quote to illustrate: “My eyes loathe the sight of thee!” It’s halfway between Shakespeare and Robert Graves and while it is off putting at first it grows on you and you come to feel that this mannered style is appropriate for a novel about ancient Romans at the peak of their decadence, just hours before their fall. The novel includes several set pieces which describe at length certain Roman customs and buildings. There are detailed architectural descriptions of several Roman houses with their household gods and peristyles, the Roman baths, temples, and the large stadium in which, in this novel, the Christians are thrown to the lions. Bulwer-Lytton proudly points out that the settings he used were in fact based on actual houses excavated in Pompeii which he visited, giving the events a tincture of authenticity despite the over-the-top nature of the story.The characters range from swooning lovers to mustache-twisting villains, giving the full range of the Victorian English imagination transplanted to the age of Imperial Rome. The main love story involves two Athenians living in Pompeii, Ione, an orphan, and Glaucus who falls in love with her at first sight. Their languid romance unfolds amid dinner parties and poetry readings, though they must face the impediment of Ione’s former guardian, Arbaces, a wealthy, conniving Egyptian skilled at manipulation with an arrogant belief in his own exemption from morality. Of him it is said, “the orgies of his midnight leisure are impure and polluted.” Indeed.The plot is melodramatic, dependent on coincidence, and highly structured to lead in to the climactic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This scene, featuring crumbling columns, massive clouds of ash, and desperate crowds fleeing in chaos is analogous to the disaster scenes of the modern action movie so beloved of Hollywood. In fact, this novel apparently enjoyed the same level and type of fame in the 19th century as the film ‘Titanic’ did in the 20th, and it has in common with that film a very similar portrait of an advanced and refined civilization engulfed in a deadly disaster which is also interpreted as a moral judgment on that culture as well as an actual historical incident. The scene of the destruction of Pompeii is a harrowing panoramic portrait of an upended culture in which the blind slave girl Nydia, of whom Bulwer-Lytton writes that “night to her was as day”, is able to lead the young lovers to safety when the dark ash of the volcano turns day into night and only those accustomed to the dark can find their way through the crumbling temples and ruined buildings to safety.‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ is marinated in the spirit of classicism, including a plot and character inspired by archaeological evidence that Bulwer-Lytton highlights with numerous detailed descriptions of Roman architecture. But undermining this stab at realism and authenticity is its plot which is a bit creaky and will only appeal to readers who can make allowance for the kind of highly artificial story in vogue in the early 1800s. However, give yourself up to that and I think you’ll find this novel a wonderfully entertaining indulgence in the poetic and melancholic fall of Pompeii.

Elizabeth S

3 1/2 stars. As with many classics, the beginning is yawn-worthy. But it does eventually pick up the pace and become quite exciting. Knowing that at the end the city is destroyed, one wonders who (if anyone) will survive. Which increases the intensity of the subplots, because even if the good-guys win, they may still die at the end. So one wonders if perhaps the bad-guys will win, but suffer in the final demise. Read to find out!


I liked this type of 19th-century historical fiction at one time, but now some decades later my tastes have changed. I suspect the setting was as accurate as contemporary knowledge allowed.


This was actually really good. Considering this is the same guy who famously wrote "It was a dark and stormy night...". A good historical novel, and by some accounts, the first in that genre.

حسام عادل

رواية جميلة للغاية,ملحمة من الرومانسية والخيانة والدسائس والتضحية والدم,لم أكن أعرف كاتبها قبلاً,ولا أحسب أني حتى قرأت اسمه يوماً أو اسم عمل من أعماله,ولولا المصادفة البحتة وترشيح صديق عزيز لها لما تعرفت على رواية بتلك الروعة,لن أحكي تفاصيلها حتى لا أحرق الأحداث لكن يكفيني كملخص أن أقول أن تلك الرواية كلاسيكية حديثة,بها نفس التيمات الكلاسيكية العذبة - غير المملة والتقليدية - وفي نفس الوقت تصلح كرواية حديثة طازجة الدماء جداً;باختصار هي إحدى الروايات الرومانسية التى تصلح لكل سن وكل زمن,وحتى مع معرفة أحداثها لن تمل قراءتها مرة بعد الأخرى.النهاية وحدها بكل ماتحمله من معنى فلسفي جميل وراقي تستحق نجمة وحدها.أرشحها للجميع..أعجبتني


Hard to get into but worth the effort. Of course the values of the book are anachronistic, but the creative storyline created from the ruins of Pompeii is an entertaining read. I did not expect to like this one as much as I did.

James Violand

Good read. The movies that supposedly follow this novel - do not! The reader gets to understand the motives of the personalities in a typical Roman city of the 1st century. Entertaining.

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