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 Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.
But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta's sixty-mile main line--somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
Attilius--decent, practical, and incorruptible--promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work--both natural and man-made--threatening to destroy him.
With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
Marius Primus is worried. Rome's richest citizens are escaping the August heat by relaxing by the Bay of Naples, but Marius has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta and knows that somewhere along the line, near the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, something is impeding the water flow. The celebrated author of Enigma and Fatherland, reimaginings of World War II, has certainly gone far afield. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Loved the story and depiction of the times
Posted January 17, 2011 by mickalous , Syracuse, NYI am and engineer and loved the description of the auquaduct and how it worked. I am an engineerwent to europe later and rememberd the book.
2 . Delivers reader to pompei in the time of the Romans
Posted December 19, 2008 by J Madden , Newport Beach, CAA fast read form the start. From the perspective of a Roman engineer, this book delivers the reader to ancient Rome in the seaport town of Pompeii immediately prior to the eruption of Vesuvius. Harris' ability to describe the surroundings, local politics and realistic characters works wonderfully in this historic novel.
December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Pompeii by Robert Harris
22 August Two days before the eruption
CONTICINIUM [04:21 hours]
A strong correlation has been found between the magnitude of eruptions and the length of the preceding interval of repose. Almost all very large, historic eruptions have come from volcanoes that have been dormant for centuries. -JACQUES-MARIE BARDINTZEFF, ALEXANDER R. McBIRNEY, VOLCANOLOGY (SECOND EDITION)
They left the aqueduct two hours before dawn, climbing by moonlight into the hills overlooking the port--six men in single file, the engineer leading. He had turfed them out of their beds himself--all stiff limbs and sullen, bleary faces--and now he could hear them complaining about him behind his back, their voices carrying louder than they realized in the warm, still air.
"A fool's errand," somebody muttered.
"Boys should stick to their books," said another.
He lengthened his stride.
Let them prattle, he thought.
Already he could feel the heat of the morning beginning to build, the promise of another day without rain. He was younger than most of his work gang, and shorter than any of them: a compact, muscled figure with cropped brown hair. The shafts of the tools he carried slung across his shoulder--a heavy, bronze-headed axe and a wooden shovel--chafed against his sunburned neck. Still, he forced himself to stretch his bare legs as far as they would reach, mounting swiftly from foothold to foothold, and only when he was high above Misenum, at a place where the track forked, did he set down his burdens and wait for the others to catch up.
He wiped the sweat from his eyes on the sleeve of his tunic. Such shimmering, feverish heavens they had here in the south! Even this close to daybreak, a great hemisphere of stars swept down to the horizon. He could see the horns of Taurus, and the belt and sword of the Hunter; there was Saturn, and also the Bear, and the constellation they called the Vintager, which always rose for Caesar on the twenty-second day of August, following the Festival of Vinalia, and signaled that it was time to harvest the wine. Tomorrow night the moon would be full. He raised his hand to the sky, his blunt-tipped fingers black and sharp against the glittering constellations--spread them, clenched them, spread them again--and for a moment it seemed to him that he was the shadow, the nothing; the light was the substance.