The Fortifications of Pompeii and Ancient Italy  book cover
1st Edition

The Fortifications of Pompeii and Ancient Italy

ISBN 9781472477163
Published September 4, 2018 by Routledge
298 Pages 16 Color & 70 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The fortifications of Pompeii stand as the ancient city’s largest, oldest, and best preserved public monument. Over its 700-year history, Pompeii invested significant amounts of money, resources, and labor into (re)building, maintaining, and upgrading the walls. Each intervention on the fortifications marked a pivotal event of social and political change, signaling dramatic shifts in Pompeii’s urban, social, and architectural framework. Although the defenses had a clear military role, their design, construction materials, and aesthetics reflect the political, social, and urban development of the city. Their fate was intertwined with that of Pompeii.

This study redefines Pompeii’s fortifications as a central monument that physically and symbolically shaped the city. It considers the internal and external forces that morphed their appearance and traces how the fortifications served to foster a sense of community. The city wall emerges as a dynamic, ideologically freighted monument that was fundamental to the image and identity of Pompeii. The book is a unique narrative of the social and urban development of the city from foundation to the eruption of Vesuvius, through the lens of the public building most critical to its independence and survival.

Table of Contents


List of Figures

List of Color Plates



1 Prolegomena to the City Walls of Pompeii

The city walls and the urbanization of Pompeii

Excavating the fortifications

2 Defense and the Genesis of the Community

The fortifications and the city

The Orthostat wall

The Altstadt as nucleus to Pompeii

Walls, gods, politics and the early community

3 A New Enceinte for a New City

Reconstructing the Samnite Circuit

Achieving an ornamental effect

Gates and towers in the first Samnite circuit

Upgrading the defenses

Emphasizing the transition through the fortifications

Reaching new heights: opus incertum and the next phase of construction

New elements to old gates

The towers

4 Establishing an Image for Samnite Pompeii

Calibrating the image of the expanding city

Building materials and the image of Pompeii

Samnite Pompeii defines its image

Fortifications and the urban network

The image of the high Samnite city

Patronage and display at the walls

Naming the fortifications

5 The Fortifications and the Roman Colony

The walls of the colony

Reconstructing the walls

The development of the gates

Change and continuity in the towers

The changing role of the fortifications

6 The Fortifications and Roman Pompeii

Adjusting the civic image

The significance of an entertainment district: the fortifications, the amphitheater, and the palaestra

Claiming public land

Fortifications and the tomb: dialogues in social order

City walls in the domestic sphere: reflections of urban and social ideals

7 The Fortifications of Pompeii in their Broader Context

Military tactics influences and design

The closest parallel to the Pompeian circuit

Masonry, fortifications, and the definition of a city

Polychrome masonry and city walls

Towers and the ornamentation of the city

Patronage and the concept of the city

8 Fortifications and Religion

The development of Venus Pompeiana

Religion, fortifications, and identity outside of Pompeii

Patronage, religion and power at the gates








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Ivo van der Graaff is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. He earned his MA in Mediterranean Archaeology from the University of Amsterdam and his PhD in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin, with a focus on Greek and Roman Art and Architecture. Dr. van der Graaff has participated in archaeological research projects in the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, and Italy. He co-directs and collaborates on projects examining the ancient Bay of Naples and Etruria.


"The book provides the reader with the evidence for Pompeii’s fortifications and the author is to be commended for undertaking the challenge of making this important feature accessible to advanced students ... there is an admirable amount of work in this book that provides a way into the subject of defences at Pompeii that – after the paved streets – were the city’s largest public monument."

- Ray Laurence, Macquarie University, Australia, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019

"The Fortifications of Pompeii and Ancient Italy is a valuable read for anyone interested in the history of ancient Italy or in that of fortification and urban planning and the architectural influences on culture and society."

- A. A. Nofi, The NYMAS Review

 "[T]he book demonstrates, in an articulated and sustained manner, the potential that walls hold for our broader understanding of an ancient town. This is one of the first book-length studies to take seriously the claim that circuit walls hold as much, if not more, civic importance as they do military. One hopes to see the volume inspire imitators."

- Seth Bernard, University of Toronto, Canada, Journal of Roman Archaeology 2019