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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  41,492 ratings  ·  2,857 reviews
With his trademark elegance and intelligence Robert Harris recreates a world on the brink of disaster.

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire's richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world's largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of B
Paperback, 274 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published November 21st 2003)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  41,492 ratings  ·  2,857 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Attilius's occupation is an aquarius in the Roman Empire, a job description that nowadays would be "director of waterworks operations and maintenance for the southern district of Italy." As the earth beings to swell and shake in ominous warning in advance of the tragedy that is to come, the main aqueduct cracks and fails and Attilius is sent out to repair it. So this is a historical novel and we learn of life in the Roman Empire around AD 79 at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius. Here are mast ...more
Henry Avila
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pompeii... demolished in the world's most famous volcanic eruption in A.D. 79 killing thousands at the apex of the Roman Empire, ironically the people never knew Mount Vesuvius was this a volcano; understandable since the previous significant one occurred 1,800 years before, no town existed, and the name unknown to them because the word hadn't been invented yet, but soon would... lets say by borrowing from the Roman god of fire... Vulcan... Our story unfolds when a young despondent man of 27, a ...more
Lance Greenfield
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a latter day Super Mario, an Italian plumber who overcomes very difficult challenges to fix the water supply to Napoli and surrounding areas before the local volcano erupts to ruin everything for everybody.

OK, I admit that I am grossly trivialising a tremendous story, which is really about Marcus Attilius Primus, the aquarius, or chief water engineer, who is sent to the Bay of Naples to manage the water supply to all of the towns in the area. The main artery of the supply i
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I started to read this novel after I visited Pompeii. I was impressed by the ruins of the city and its tragic history and I am a bit of a Volcanos enthusiast so I thought reading this will both help me find out more about life in that period and about the eruption. Reading a fast paced novel as I travelled was a plus. It did delivered on all aspects but it was nothing extraordinary. What made me give the novel less than 4 stars was the inappropriate language and behaviour compared to the period. ...more
Neil Pierson
May 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
It should be a Two-For-One: A suspense novel to take to the beach; and some insight into life in the Roman Empire and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. (And maybe a small tutorial in primitive plumbing.) Unfortunately, it turns into an 0-For-One.

The plot is serviceable. Marcus Attilius Primus is an engineer newly in charge of the section of aqueduct that services Pompeii. He investigates the mysterious failure of the water supply and along the way, discovers that his predecessor was corrupt. He fall
I have been a bit fascinated with the idea of Pompeii since I was a girl and the National Geographic ran photos of the people frozen in mid-flight trying to escape the horrors of the eruption of Vesuvius. Robert Harris has visited Pompeii through the story of Attilius, the engineer in charge of the aqueduct that served the area. Before the eruption, before the horror, there is a problem with the flow of the water. Attilius seeks to repair the breach in the aqueduct and this leads him to be in Po ...more
Joy D
Historical fiction about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, covering a period of four days in 79 A.D. Attilius is an Aquarius, an engineer in charge of ensuring the water supply, of the Bay of Naples region. Attilius has been sent by Rome to replace the previous Aquarius, who has disappeared. The plot revolves around the Aqua Augusta, which has been damaged by natural phenomena.

The pace is somewhat slow in the beginning but picks up pace as it proceeds. The author introduces a number of characters
Kirsten McKenzie
I've been to Pompeii twice, once in 1992, and again in 2017. And I'd go again in a heartbeat. What happened in Pompeii is a valuable lesson in listening to the scientists - which we should always do! This book was a breathless romp through the Roman aqueducts, and the life giving importance of water to the townships they served. I couldn't put it down.
If you've ever visited the ruins of Pompeii, or dreamed of visiting them, then this is the book for you. Everything is so beautifully described -
Geology meets Volcanology meets All Round Mr Nice Guy.
Having read Imperium by Robert Harris few short months ago I found that I quite enjoyed his uncomplicated writing style. I in no way mean unsophisticated or simplistic, for he is an author who can comfortably shoulder the mantle of an old fashioned storyteller.
Many authors try to be story tellers, but they over write or have not the skill and under write, or get caught up in too many tangents, thinking that everything they do has to be with
Nov 19, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: robert-harris
An enjoyable read. The main character Atticus a water engineer was well written. The slight romance not unplaced. Against the backdrop of the eruption of Vesuvius the aquarius must find and repair a blocked aqueduct.

Pompeii and the description of Roman life is interesting a class system built on slaves and obedience. Pliny was a great character and his stoicism captured well by Harris. The slave who became wealthy through corruption and belief was believable. The volcanic description and chrono
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What child isn’t intrigued with their power and scared by their force?
We don’t build major population centers around them for good reason. But in ancient times, a dormant volcano was not well understood and the resorts/trade centers of Pompeii and Herculaneum became rich and populous in the shadow of Vesuvius, and Harris writes about the consequences.

This is a novel but it has much of the science of volcanic eruption that I found in Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa https://www.goodreads.com
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A most interesting take on the well known tale. Robert Harris is a favourite author.
Sam Quixote
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
The waters have stopped flowing from the aquedect - who you gonna call? Dambusters! The water engineer heads out amid widespread corruption in Pompeii, thwarts a murder plot, finds out what happened to his predecessor, falls in love, and investigates the ominous rumbling from the nearby Vesuvius.

Sounds good no? Harris is good at building up the air of menace in the days preceding the eruption. Every action can be looked at as minor compared to the devastation coming and he really does a great j
Clemens Schoonderwoert
Read this book in 2007, and its a most splendid standalone book about the eruption of Vesuvius, and its two main witnesses, the engineer, Marcus Attilius Primus, and the scholar and commander of the navy, Pliny.

It tells the story, which is set in August, the disaster that will take place and that will set the world around Pompeii and the Roman world on fire.

With the Roman Navy at Misenum, tourists in Baiae, Herculaneum and Pompeii, and engineer Attilius, a decent and reliable man, heads towards
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was just okay for me. I liked the historical side of this. I have always found this story kind of 'sadly fascinating'. I just didn't find 'that' in this book. This wasn't particularly character driven. There was a problem with the water plaguing the area and it focused mainly on that without giving depth to the characters. There was a lot time and detail that went into this problem, but I needed that same attention to detail regarding the people. The historical part felt well done; the ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Before he wrote “Imperium” and “Lustrum”, his two magnificent novels of the Cicero trilogy (Now available “Dictator”, the third one, which I’m eager to read), Robert Harris wrote “Pompeii”, a novel based on the historical volcano eruption during the roman era. Having visited the place a few years ago I wanted to not miss this one.
Not to the great standard as the Cicero ones, “Pompeii” is nevertheless a great read, full of realistic moments about the inferno that took place on 24 August 79 AD, th
After a day in Pompeii -- my mother claims I walked through every single house: not true, some are inaccessible -- I heard people on the platform of the Circumvesuviana local train talking about this book. I was being fussy about everything else I was reading, so I grabbed this on the Kindle store and kicked back with it (once we eventually got back to Rome, anyway; I read The Map of Time on the Eurostar).

It's a quick read, and reasonably accurate to the interpretations of what happened in Pompe
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it

In a little over seven hours, one thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six years ago Mt. Vesuvius will have finished the eruption that created the tourist attractions that we know today as Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Having experienced the eruption of Mt. St. Hellen in 1980, and know first hand what the ash fall was like, as a resident in Portland, Oregon, the time sequence and statistics of the volcanic events were fascinating!

The story of the Aquarius, Attilius and the Roman water syste
I recently read classicist Mary Beard's fascinating non-fiction book on Pompeii. This novel by Robert Harris is in many ways a nice complement to that, especially since it is narrated by a Roman engineer responsible for the aqueduct that supplied water to the coastal towns on the Bay of Naples, Pompeii among them. We think of the Romans as conquerors, of building a civilization based upon conquest. But Roman engineering was as much, if not more, of a driving force, and the Romans' ability to har ...more
George Ilsley
Thought this historical fiction was pretty good until I arrived at the anomalous line about global warming.

Really jarring. Dropped a star just for that.

Note: this comment is not directed at the concept of global warming. It is aimed at the use of those words at the time of the destruction of Pompeii.
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think you have pressure at work? Consider Marcus Attilius Primus. He just received an important promotion from Rome. The young engineer is now the Aquarius, in charge of the immense aqueduct serving the entire bay of Naples. His predecessor has mysteriously disappeared. His workers are surly. The water supply is interrupted. And then he gets on the wrong side of one of the richest men around, a cruel former slave, the behind-the-scenes political boss of Pompeii. Of course, he does have a very be ...more
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Not 5 because there were one or two frankly cheesy bits!

Robert Harris brings the eruption of Vesuvius to life in this account which starts 3 days beforehand when the signs were there for anyone with sufficient knowledge to recognise. Sadly, few were in that position but thanks to Pliny's eye witness account, the knowledge was made available to future generations. This is a fascinating account of the build up to the eruption, with each chapter headed by a quote from a scientific journa
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This is a piece of historical fiction with a mix of mostly fictional but also some real historical figures set in the backdrop of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Marcus Attilius Primus is a young engineer sent to take charge of the Aqua Augusta, one of the largest and most complex aqueduct systems in ancient Rome that supplied water to nine cities. The previous aquarius, Exominius has vanished without a trace, and there are problems creeping up with the water supply, from the sulphurous ...more
Lisa Vegan
3 ½ stars

I have wanted to read this book for a decade

I’ve loved science, and particularly geology, from a very early age, and chose a science class in 5th grade that focused on volcanoes, so my interest is long standing.

I think a non-fiction book about this eruption, if it contained all the known information and conjectures, might have been an even better choice for me.

I got used the fictional story and it did provide a fairly good backdrop for the setting and happenings in that time and place.
One knows the end…then you start to read the beginning…. It’s rather challenging to craft a gripping novel based on a catastrophic historical and geological event – the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., – but amazingly Robert Harris does just that. Attilius is the aquarius – the water engineer, as his father and grandfather had been before him, for the region surrounding the Bay of Naples, including the thriving city of Pompeii. A straight-up, earnest young man, his moral compass is steadfast ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read! This seasoned author displayed excellent writing mechanics The read was smooth and clear. I was most surprised that I could understand the water duct system which Attilius, the engineer, repaired even as Vesuvius was showing signs of volcanic activity. The volcano seemed to catch the citizens of Pompeii and other bay cities unaware., which is hard for me to understand. In every account I have read about the 79 A.D. eruption, the extreme heat has been noted. Whether that extrem ...more
Aug 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Robert Harris tells a fictional story woven around the factual Vesuvius volcanic eruption in 79 AD, which destroyed the once prosperous Pompeii. The details of the events that unfolded following the eruption was fascinating and terrifying. Unlike other volcanoes,Vesuvius was completely dormant and suddenly erupted catching everyone unawares. Looking at the images of people mummified by the volcanic ash gives a new perspective of how bad this had been.
It was surprising how some managed to surviv
This just fell flat. I’m trying to figure out why.

First of all, the characters were one-dimensional. They were either all good or all bad, and not one had a personality. The writing was not great, though not horrible. I think it was all telling, no showing. There was no creativity in the writing, no clear voice. There’s sort of a romance thrown in at the end, but there is no reason for it; it is not believable.

The historical facts are rather interesting, and the timeline of the eruption is accur
Bev Walkling
I decided to read this book because my husband and I will be visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum later this year and it seemed like a good idea in preparation for the trip. I was not disappointed. The reader knows going into the story that things will not turn out well for Pompeii and yet despite that I was drawn in and hoped for survival for at least some of the characters. I really wanted to keep reading until I was done. Although this was a novel, it was very well researched including quotes fro ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In many ways this is such a subtly wonderful story.

"Men mistook measurement for understanding. And they always had to put themselves at the center of everything. That was their greatest conceit. The earth is becoming warmer - it must be our fault! The mountain is destroying us - we have not propitiated the gods! It rains too much, it rains too little - a comfort to think that these things are somehow connected to our behavior, that if only we lived a little better, a little more frugally, our vi
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ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more

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