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"BBC Documentary about Pompeii Tuesday 14 Dec 2010 21.00" Topic

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Mick in Switzerland14 Dec 2010 12:18 a.m. PST

This sounds interesting.

Pompeii skeletons reveal secrets of Roman family life

The remains of the Roman town of Pompeii destroyed by a volcanic eruption in AD79 continue to provide intriguing and unexpected insights into Roman life – from diet and health care to the gap between rich and poor.

For a start, we often imagine that the Romans, or anyone in the past for that matter, were all much shorter than we are. Well, not so these people.

In fact, on average, they are taller than the population of modern Naples.

We also imagine that the Romans would have died young. Again, this is another myth – as these skeletons show. There are plenty of middle-aged to elderly people among them.

One conclusion, if you exclude the destitute who had no support networks at all, is that both rich and poor in Pompeii had a decent diet. True, the rich may have had more elaborate dining rooms, but the poor ate decently too.



apathostic Inactive Member14 Dec 2010 12:24 a.m. PST

Well, yes, the rich and poor Romans might have. However, the slaves might have been jonesing for a burger and some fries.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2010 7:28 a.m. PST

We have this picture of an average age being thirty-something and most people dropping dead around that time.

The reality is that barring wars and epidemics, people who survived childhood had a fairly good chance of living into old age. It's the high child mortality rate that skews the curve.

I also guess that Pompeii being in the most affluent part of the empire, people would have had better standards of living than those who lived in other areas.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2010 7:41 a.m. PST


Is this a new word? What the hell does it mean?

average joe Inactive Member14 Dec 2010 9:10 a.m. PST

Cerdic, the Urban Dictionary is your friend:


I love that site.

Who asked this joker14 Dec 2010 9:40 a.m. PST

Jonesing = Craving Badly

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop14 Dec 2010 11:01 a.m. PST

Thanks for that. Set it to record.

kjones Inactive Member14 Dec 2010 11:05 a.m. PST

For viewers in Scotland this is on Friday 17th at 9pm

Mary Beard is a respected academic and very knowledgeable on the subject so it'll make a pleasant change to watch a programme where the presenter knows what they are talking about instead of rehashing other works in a more populist fashion. It'll also be good to see something which is about it's subject and not the presenter as most seem to be these days.

apathostic Inactive Member14 Dec 2010 4:37 p.m. PST

Cooper, as in keeping up with the Joneses.

DBS30315 Dec 2010 4:18 a.m. PST

Watched it last night. I have a huge respect for Mary Beard as an academic. Good general purpose documentary, if a little superficial for the knowledgable viewer: eg the abrasion on the teeth of the skeletons from grit in the flour was hardly surprising. In one sense, really deserved a short series, to explain more adequately racial and class distinctions – eg it made the point that not a huge shock to find a black African skeleton amongst the "wealthy" victims, but missed the opportunity to point out that the average slave in 79 was likely to a blonde or red-head Germanic type… The one surprise was the claim by the Italian forensic archaeologists that a pair of early teen twins showed signs of congenital syphilis 1400 years before Colombus' mucky sailors came home!

Sane Max Inactive Member16 Dec 2010 6:01 a.m. PST

I was watching that with my whole family (including two doctors and a Nurse) and when she showed the Twins Teeth I said "Congenital Syphilis!" at which point the smarty-pants medics all went "You Idiot, that came over with Columbus".

I felt awfully smug when the Italian Expert went 'Con-geneetal Seeephilis peraps?'

My wife's only comment on the show was 'If I was given the chance to make a TV show I would have dressed myself up and washed my hair'


CooperSteveOnTheLaptop18 Dec 2010 1:03 a.m. PST

I watched it last night with my 11-yr daughter, we both enjoyed it. Mary Beard does indeed need a makeover from Gok Wan. But that said she is jolly & has a good screen presence, frumpy shoes & skanky hair not withstanding. ("She NEEDS a brace" said Lyd.)

I went to Pompeii in my youth and passed by Herculaneum but didn't go in , we chose to catch the bus from Ercalano that day to go up Vesuvius instead.
I liked the helicopter footage a lot. Why haven't we found more evidence of syphylis, given how rampant it became later? I was intrigued by the divided skeletons, then it struck me that we were looking at two groups of neighbours. They weren't segregated (Like Mr Big-nose demanding to be crucified away from a Samaritan) it was just the folk who knew each other from different classes of neighbourhood were huddling together.

Did they round up all the feral dogs that roam all over the site for the sake of the cameras because they were nowhere to be seen. Its a horrible region. A friend of mine years back tried to make a film there & the curators expected bribes! Half the galleries in Napoli Museum were 'chiuso' (shut) – they only tell you this after you've paid your money. Many had been chiuso for years & years! So I never saw any of the sex paintings for example, either in the museum or site, all chiuso.

Oh Bugger Inactive Member18 Dec 2010 12:42 p.m. PST

"My wife's only comment on the show was 'If I was given the chance to make a TV show I would have dressed myself up and washed my hair"

A view which I fully share nor did I find Ms Beard's barely supressed excitement when talking about sex or using vulgar language endearing. I bet she can clear a saloon bar when she's in drink. Ms Beard I mean, not Mrs L & Mc.

But not a bad programme at all. You might have thought if the Syphylis theory had legs we might have heard about it before.

Steve I think those shoes were 'Ragged Robin' a brand beloved of 'political women' at the height of the 1980s cult of the ugly. Like Ms Beard they are survivors.

Good point on the divided skeletons.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop18 Dec 2010 3:23 p.m. PST

Someone in each group was probably a natural leader who'd rounded people up & ushered them to the perceived 'safety' of the storeroom…

kjones Inactive Member19 Dec 2010 2:44 a.m. PST

I'd like to offer a defense of Prof Beard – she was presenting a program about her subject, not a fashion item so leave her alone. She's an academic not a clothes horse. I think it made a good contrast with all the other programmes which are churned out only so that someone who knows nothing about the subject can sell their latest book which is simply regurgitated "research" taken from other writings and then dressed up to appeal to the x-factor generation. As to her use of profane language – that's what was written and she was simply interpreting it for the viewer (although I accept there was one gratuitous used of a euphemism for "drunk")

Oh Bugger Inactive Member19 Dec 2010 5:28 a.m. PST

My point is not that Ms Beard used 'profane language' but rather her unseemly excitement in doing so. Nor has Ms Beard been backward in coming forward to the media with details of her personal life. God alone knows why. This creates an atmosphere where we feel entitled to assess her on more than her considerable academic contribution.

But I do agree it was a good programme

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP19 Dec 2010 5:53 a.m. PST

I thought her excitement levels were about the same for the whole thing.

Her use of language avoided euphemism and skirting around the subject. I found it clear, concise and informative.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop19 Dec 2010 9:42 a.m. PST

I defend her language to the hilt. Visit the Bay of Naples & you'll soon be swearing too. Definitely the dirtiest, sleaziest, rudest and most obviously corrupt place I've ever been.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop19 Dec 2010 9:42 a.m. PST

OK not every academic can be Bettany Hughes but it doesn't hurt to brush your hair…

bilsonius Inactive Member19 Dec 2010 11:14 a.m. PST

Bettany Hughes may have Bettery Hair, but I seem to remember seeing her at Thermopylae mangling the Greek of Simonides' epitaph with pronunciation howlers that would have been laughed at in a first-year classics lesson…

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop19 Dec 2010 2:02 p.m. PST

Well if Mary & Bettany had a cat fight I'd back Mary. She'd fight dirtier & I bet those Ragged Robins would hurt

kjones Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 6:51 a.m. PST

OK not every academic can be Bettany Hughes but it doesn't hurt to brush your hair…

Sorry? "Bettany Hughes" and "academic" in the same sentence? You must be joking. Just trying to listen to her populist pap always has me reaching for the off switch

Sane Max Inactive Member20 Dec 2010 7:25 a.m. PST

I bet she can clear a saloon bar when she's in drink. Ms Beard I mean, not Mrs L & Mc

None taken old chap. Mrs used to play Womens Rugby, Prop Forward. She COULD clear a bar.


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