The best books about Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city

Virginia Campbell Author Of The Tombs of Pompeii: Organization, Space, and Society
By Virginia Campbell

Who am I?

I first visited Pompeii on a school trip when I was 17. I have a clear memory of standing in the Forum and thinking it was the most amazing place I had ever been. Decades later, that feeling remains, and the sites destroyed by Vesuvius have become the focus of my research on ancient Rome. I have excavated in Pompeii, conducted epigraphic fieldwork in Herculaneum, and taught students at multiple universities around the UK about the cities, the people who lived there, and their destruction. I am fundamentally interested in the people, how they lived their lives, and have published widely on tombs, epigraphy, and politics in Pompeii.

I wrote...

The Tombs of Pompeii: Organization, Space, and Society

By Virginia Campbell,

Book cover of The Tombs of Pompeii: Organization, Space, and Society

What is my book about?

This book offers a comprehensive overview of the tombs of Pompeii and its immediate environs, examining the funerary culture of the population, delving into the importance of social class and self-representation, and developing a broad understanding of Pompeii’s funerary epigraphy and business. Author Virginia L. Campbell demonstrates that the funerary practices of Pompeii are, in some ways, unique to the population, moving away from the traditional approach to burial based on generalizations and studies of typology.

Including an extensive catalogue of tomb data and images never before assembled or published, this collective approach reveals new insights into ancient commemoration. The Tombs of Pompeii is the first English-language book on Pompeian funerary rituals. It’s also the first in any language to provide a complete survey of the tombs of Pompeii and the first to situate Pompeian differences within a wider Roman burial context.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

The Complete Pompeii

By Joanne Berry,

Book cover of The Complete Pompeii

Why did I love this book?

Probably the best and most approachable overview of the history and archaeology of Pompeii, good for the armchair enthusiast and student alike. It is clear, concise, and well-illustrated, and unlike many such books that appeal to a more general audience, it is authored by an expert who has been working on site and teaching about Pompeii for most of her career.

By Joanne Berry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Pompeii as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This profusely illustrated volume, the latest instalment in Thames & Hudson's bestselling Complete series, is the most up-to-date, comprehensive and authoritative account of the most important archaeological site in the world. Nine chapters cover the rise and fall of Pompeii and all aspects of its life, including reconstructions of the daily lives of the town's inhabitants, the dramatic story of Pompeii's destruction through the words of Roman writers and the spectacular remains of volcanic debris and damage. It is sure to become the standard account for tourist, traveller, student and scholar alike.

Book cover of Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii

Why did I love this book?

Imagine re-creating the works of Shakespeare or Milton from the graffiti on the walls of Victorian England – impossible you’d say. But it is possible to find lines of the most famous poets of the Roman world scratched into the walls of Pompeii, and Milnor provides a systematic overview of how and why this literary re-production occurred, what it indicates about literacy and learning, and how differently the ancients viewed writing in public spaces.

By Kristina Milnor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this volume, Milnor considers how the fragments of textual graffiti which survive on the walls of the Roman city of Pompeii reflect and refract the literary world from which they emerged. Focusing in particular on the writings which either refer to or quote canonical authors directly, Milnor uncovers the influence- in diction, style, or structure-of elite Latin literature as the Pompeian graffiti show significant connections with familiar authors such as Ovid,
Propertius, and Virgil.

While previous scholarship has described these fragments as popular distortions of well-known texts, Milnor argues that they are important cultural products in their own right,…

Book cover of The Brothel of Pompeii: Sex, Class, and Gender at the Margins of Roman Society

Why did I love this book?

Women in the ancient world is a topic that is typically met with some level of preconception and misinterpretation due to modern judgements creeping in, even more so when discussing sex workers or enslaved women. Levin-Richardson strips all that away, re-investigating the material from what is arguably the most famous brothel in the world by examining the evidence for what it is rather than where it was found. This shouldn’t be an innovative approach, but it is, and one Pompeian (and women’s) studies needs.

By Sarah Levin-Richardson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Brothel of Pompeii as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book, Sarah Levin-Richardson offers the first authoritative examination of Pompeii's purpose-built brothel, the only verifiable brothel from Greco-Roman antiquity. Taking readers on a tour of all of the structure's evidence, including the rarely seen upper floor, she illuminates the subculture housed within its walls. Here, prostitutes could flout the norms of society and proclaim themselves sexual subjects and agents, while servile clients were allowed to act as 'real men'. Prostitutes and clients also exchanged gifts, greetings, jokes, taunts, and praise. Written in a clear, engaging style, and accompanied by an ample illustration program and translations of humorous and…

Resurrecting Pompeii

By Estelle Lazer,

Book cover of Resurrecting Pompeii

Why did I love this book?

More often than not, people forget that the Vesuvian sites are, as gruesome as it sounds, large mass burials – not just of the cities themselves, but of people. The human remains of Pompeii (and by extension, Herculaneum) have been ignored or treated like some kind of circus attraction for centuries. What Lazar does is open your eyes to just how much information there is to be found from the casts and skeletons, and the potential to learn so much more about people and life in the first century. Her work is groundbreaking.

By Estelle Lazer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Resurrecting Pompeii as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Resurrecting Pompeii provides an in-depth study of a unique site from antiquity with information about a population who all died from the same known cause within a short period of time.

Pompeii has been continuously excavated and studied since 1748. Early scholars working in Pompeii and other sites associated with the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius were seduced by the wealth of artefacts and wall paintings yielded by the site. This meant that the less visually attractive evidence, such as human skeletal remains, were largely ignored.

Recognizing the important contribution of the human skeletal evidence to the archaeology of…

Book cover of Discovering the Gardens of Pompeii: Memoirs of a Garden Archaeologist

Why did I love this book?

It’s difficult to imagine any discussion of Pompeii (or Roman gardens) without mentioning Jashemski. She quite literally wrote the book(s) on gardens, and her archaeological approach to plant remains revolutionised how botanical evidence is collected. This book, published after her death, is a memoir more than anything, detailing her work, her travels, and her vast experience of working in Pompeii. It is, in many ways, a love letter to the place that somewhat unexpectedly became the focus her life.

By Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Discovering the Gardens of Pompeii as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These memoirs, illustrated with over 400 photo­graphs, will delight anyone interested in gardens or in the Roman world. They tell the human and the scientific story of how a woman from a small town in Nebraska learned more about the gardens of Pompeii than anyone thought possible. A master raconteur, professor of ancient history and teacher of a popular general humanities class at the University of Maryland, Wilhelmina Jashemski will fascinate both the Pompeian expert and the newcomer to the subject.

She set out in 1955 with her husband, Stanley Jashemski, to explore the gardens of the Roman empire with…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Pompeii, Italy, and brothels?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Pompeii, Italy, and brothels.

Pompeii Explore 19 books about Pompeii
Italy Explore 351 books about Italy
Brothels Explore 32 books about brothels