Pompeii & Herculaneum: Rediscovering Roman Art & Culture | April 27 and 28, 2012

April 27 and 28, 2012
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

Listen to audio from this program

At the height of the Roman Empire in 79AD, a massive volcanic eruption from long-silent Mount Vesuvius tragically destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, creating an archaeological snapshot of everyday life in two very different towns. Buried, lost, and forgotten for centuries, the ruins of the bustling city of Pompeii and the nearby seaside resort of Herculaneum were accidentally rediscovered in the eighteenth century, triggering a wave of popular excitement about Roman art and culture and providing an inexhaustible resource for archaeological research. Ongoing scientific excavations and art historical investigations continue to offer fresh insights into ancient daily life and culture, the nature of Roman urbanism, how we understand the distant past, and how that past influences the modern world.

Presented in collaboration with Consul General of Italy, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Center for Modern Greek Studies and the Classics Department, San Francisco State University.

Friday, April 27, 2012, 7:30 to 10:00 pm

Introductory Remarks. Patricia Lundberg and Michael Anderson

The Re-Discovery and Excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Gary Devore (Classics, Stanford University). The history of excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum is the history of the Italian nation, and also of the discipline of archaeology. The ruins of the cities destroyed in 79 CE by Mount Vesuvius were discovered and explored by antiquarians whose groundbreaking work contributed to the development of modern scientific excavation techniques. As evocative examples of daily life in the Roman Empire, Pompeii and Herculaneum also became important symbols for the recently unified Italian nation in the 19th century. Dr Devore will give a short account of the destruction and rediscovery of both ruined cities, and show how developments in archaeological methodology and nationalistic goals united to elucidate this unique insight into the ancient Roman world.

Double Performance.

The Scarlattis.
Anne-Kathryn Olsen (Soprano), Danielle Reutter-Harrah (Mezzo-Soprano), Susie FongHarpsichord), Hallie Pridham (Violoncello).

Cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti, Founder of Neapolitan School of Opera
(Naples, 1660-1725). Introduced by Kip Cranna.
Sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti (Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti) (Naples, 1685 – Madrid,1757). Arranged by the Italian Cultural Institute and introduced by Luciano Chessa.

Saturday, April 28, 2012, 10:00 am to noon and 1:30 to 4:00 pm

The Economic Life of Pompeii.
Theodore (Ted) Peña
(Classics, UC Berkeley). Pompeii provides far and away the richest body of evidence regarding the complex set of structures that characterized economic life in the Roman world.  After providing an introductory overview of what we know about the economy of Pompeii, Professor Peña focuses on three topics chosen to illustrate some of the more important aspects of economic activity in the town and its surrounding territory. These include the large-scale production of wine for the export market, as evidenced by the Villa Regina and Villa B at Oplontis, the production of craft goods for local consumption, as evidenced by the Porta di Nocera pottery workshop, and finance, as evidenced by the archive of business records detailing the activities of the banker Caecilius Iucundus.

Ongoing Archaeological Research in Pompeii and Herculaneum: Perspectives from the Via Consolare Project.
Michael Anderson (Classics, SFSU). Such is the wealth of information at Pompeii and Herculaneum that significant questions yet remain to be answered, and the sites continue to be the focus of numerous international projects of archaeological research. Interest has recently centered on sub-surface excavation undertaken to explain how these sites developed and changed throughout their histories. Professor Anderson presents an overview of current archaeological research at Pompeii and Herculaneum, especially from the perspective of recent results of the Via Consolare Project in Pompeii, a project run from San Francisco State University, designed to augment and interconnect ongoing research by means of targeted excavation and architectural analysis at either end of one of the most important Pompeian thoroughfares.

Lunch Break 12-1:30

Stephanie Pearson (UC Berkeley) introduces us to The House of Julius Polybius in Pompeii: the Altair4 Reconstruction. The House of Julius Polybius comes to life again thanks to an elaborate process of visual restoration achieved by Alessandro Furlan and his team at Altair 4 Multimedia of Rome for Professor Masanori Aoyagi of the University of Tokyo. Tens of alfrescos were digitally restored and the house reconstructed virtually, with the dynamics of the Vesuvius eruption and its impact on the house enhanced. A tridimensional technique leads the spectator to discover the rooms of the house, in all their details, including the exact position of everyday objects, precisely as they were found. The visitor experiences a house that is still “alive”, just a minute before the catastrophe. Some rare historical pictures showing the house at the moment of its rediscovery have been superimposed and then taken away from the corresponding virtual images: this leap in time allows for the understanding and confronting of what has really remained of the house and what has been virtually reconstructed.

If These Walls Could Speak: The Paintings of Pompeii. Lisa Pieraccini (Art History, UC Berkeley). From the Villa of the Mysteries to the House of the Vetti, Pompeian painting reveals a rich world of interior décor that speaks to us not only of fashionable painting styles and popular myths, but of the very owners who commissioned the paintings. Close examination of the interior decoration of Pompeian homes and villas shows how home owners expressed their personal beliefs and social aspirations through the subject matter chosen to decorate their walls. Likewise, public buildings and tombs provide examples of paintings used to advertise not only one’s business, but ultimately, one’s social status and social aspirations.  Professor Pieraccini provides an analysis of a select group of both private and public paintings that reveal the competitive and intricate world of”display” in Pompeii.

Panel Discussion with all Presenters and written questions from the Audience.


Michael A. Anderson (PhD, Cambridge) is Assistant Professor of Archeology in the Classics Department at SF State University and Director, Via Consolare Project, Pompeii. He has more than 15 years of experience in archaeological research, having worked as Field Director of the University of Bradford’s excavations (2002-2006), and has also worked on Pre-historic Malta and Iron-Age Scotland with the University of Cambridge (2004-6), and in Egypt with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (1998). His research interests include urban life of early Roman Empire; ancient domestic space, Roman material culture, architecture and art, excavation methodology and practice, geographical information systems (GIS), archaeological survey and the application of digital and computing technologies to archaeological research. His publications include The Casa del Chirurgo (VI i, 9-10.23). AAPP Final Reports Volume 1 (with D. Robinson) (In Preparation); “Disruption or Continuity? The Spatio-Visual Evidence of Post Earthquake Pompeii” in Pompeii: Cultural Standards, Practical Needs (In Press); “Putting the Reality in Virtual Reality: New Advances through Game Engine Technology’ in Layers of Perception (2008), and “Houses, GIS and the Micro-Topology of Pompeian Domestic Space” in Proceedings of the 14th Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (2005).

Luciano Chessa (SF Conservatory, PhD musicology, UC Davis; DMA piano and MA composition, Conservatory of Bologna). As a composer, conductor, pianist, and musical saw/Vietnamese dan bau soloists, Luciano Chessa has been active in Europe, the US, and Australia. Recent compositions include A Heavenly Act, an opera with video by Kalup Linzy commissioned by the SFMOMA and premiered by the Ensemble Paralléle. As a music historian Chessa completed Luigi Russolo Futurist. Noise, Visual Arts, and the Occult, the first monograph on the Futurist Russolo’s Art of Noise, out on UC Press in March 2012. Chessa’s Futurist expertise resulted in an invitation from New York’s PERFORMA to direct/conduct the first reconstruction of Russolo’s earliest intonarumori orchestra. The production was hailed by The New York Times as one of the best events in the arts of 2009; in March 2011 Chessa presented it in a sold out concert for Berliner Festspiele-Maerzmusik Festival; in December 2011 Chessa conducted it with the New World Symphony as part of Art Basel | Miami Beach.

Gary Devore (PhD, University of Bradford, UK) is a Fellow in the Humanities and teaches at Stanford University.  He spent over fifteen years excavating in Pompeii.  From 2005-2009 he was a co-founder and co-director of the Pompeii Archaeological Research Project Porta Stabia, a project revealing the dynamic structural and social history of an entire working-class city block of Pompeii.  He is now a co-director and principal investigator of new excavations starting in the UK at the Roman fort and town of Binchester (County Durham).  His research interests include Greek and Roman archeology, history, and cultural studies, particularly of the subaltern. His latest publication is “The Fifth Season of Excavations at VIII.7.1-15 and the Porta Stabia at Pompeii: Preliminary report” (2010).

Susie Fong (Harpsichord) is active as a harpsichord soloist and continuo player and has participated in such festivals and workshops as the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, American Bach Soloists Summer Academy, Vancouver Early Music Festival, and SFEMS. She has performed regularly as part of the SFCM Baroque Ensemble, including its concert version of Handel’s Alcina in 2011. Susie has an MM in Harpsichord Performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Corey Jamason, and received her BA in Music at UC Berkeley, where she studied harpsichord with Laurette Goldberg and played in the Collegium Musicum. Susie is also an accomplished solo and chamber pianist, having studied with Audrey Grigsby and Robert Rios in Southern California. She currently performs in the Bay Area as part of Liaison as well as The Vinacessi Ensemble, and teaches harpsichord both privately and in the SFCM Preparatory and Adult Extension Division.

ALTAIR4 MULTIMEDIA was organized in 1986 by Alessandro Furlan, Pietro Galifi, and Stefano Moretti, who conceived the studio as an actual workshop where various technological and artistic disciplines would interact in a coordinated and rewarding dialogue. In multimedia technology, Altair4 found a new and more organic means of communication, where the fusion of different methodologies and disciplines such as art, architecture and archaeology lead to the formulation of new “synthesis” languages and a new understanding of the work in which we live. Altair4 has produced a wide range of 3D archaeological reconstructions, from Ancient Egypt and Greece and Pompeii to the Renaissance era, for use in Museums, Television Production, Internet, Interactive DVD-VIDEO/ROMs, Ipod and VideoMobile..WWW.ALTAIR4.COM

Anne-Kathryn Olsen (Soprano) has performed in Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, and in Hungary as a soloist with the Desert Spring Chorale, performing Mozart’s Credo Mass. She performed as a soloist at the 2011 Toronto Summer Baroque Institute in Charpentier’s Messe des Morts and also at Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Ballet, American Bach Phoenix, Phoenix Early Music Society, Arizona State Baroque Ensemble, and Academy of Baroque Opera in Seattle. Locally she has appeared with Voices of Music (as a winner of the Young Artist Competition,) San Francisco Choral Artists, Oakland Civic Orchestra, Opera San Jose, and Starlite Vineyard Chamber Music Series. Her operatic credits include Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare and Oberto in Alcina with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Baroque Ensemble, as well as Lucy in Telephone and The Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel. She is a member of Liaison, a chamber group specializing in French baroque repertoire. Her Bachelor’s is from the Herberger School of Fine Arts at Arizona State University and Master’s from San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Stephanie Pearson (History of Art, UC Berkeley) completed her M.A. on the sculptural technique of ancient Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan) and is currently writing her dissertation on Roman wall painting and its artistic borrowings from Hellenistic Greece and Egypt. Questions of cross-cultural interaction and artistic technique and process count among her main research interests. Alongside her own studies, Stephanie has enjoyed the opportunity to assistant-teach courses on various topics (including Roman painting and Etruscan art and archaeology) and to conduct field work around the Mediterranean — most importantly at Pompeii, where she has worked with the Via Consolare Project for four years. She is very active in the Archaeological Institute of America, having chaired sessions and presented papers in a number of the annual conferences and now in professional service at the national level as well as in the San Francisco Chapter.

J. Theodore Peña (PhD, University of Michigan) is Professor of Classics at UC Berkeley. His research interests include Roman archaeology, the ancient economy, material culture studies, and pottery analysis. He has participated in the direction of archaeological excavations at Statonia, a small Etrusco-Roman town in the Tiber Valley, and on the Palatine Hill, in downtown Rome. He is currently in the initial stages of a long-term research project that will investigate aspects of the life history of artifacts at Pompeii. He is perhaps best known as the author of Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record(2007), a book-length essay that reconstructs the life cycle of pottery in the Roman world with a view to helping archaeologists better understand how Roman pottery came to be incorporated in archaeological deposits. Some of his recent publications on Pompeii include “The production and distribution of pottery at Pompeii: a review of the evidence. American Journal of Archaeology 113.1:57-59, 113.2:165-201 (with M. McCallum, 2009), and “A reinterpretation of two groups of tituli picti from Pompeii and environs: Sicilian wine, not flour and hand-picked olives.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 20:233-254 (2007).

Lisa C. Pieraccini (PhD, UC Santa Barbara) (History of Art, UC Berkeley) has taught at Stanford and now teaches at UC Berkeley. She is a classical archaeologist who has spent many years teaching and conducting research in Italy. Her research interests include Etruscan and Roman material culture; Pompeii’s early development and cultural relations with neighboring peoples; the rediscovery of Pompeii in the 18th century, as well as Etruscan and Roman wall painting. Active at the Etruscan site of Cerveteri north of Rome, her publications include Etruscan burial customs, ceramic workshops and international trade. Her book, Around the Hearth: Caeretan Cylinder-Stamped Braziers (2003) is the first comprehensive study of a unique class of over three hundred and fifty Etruscan braziers. Her analysis examines different aspects of origin, production, iconography, style, chronology and distribution.

Hallie Pridham (Violoncello) graduated from Idyllwild Arts Academy in 2005 where she was principle cellist and won their 2005 concerto competition. At the San Francisco Conservatory of Music she studied modern cello with Jean-Michel Fonteaneau and baroque cello and viola da gamba with Elisabeth Reed. In 2007, Hallie performed with other members of the SFCM Baroque Ensemble at Kennedy Center in Washington DC for a broadcasted concert. In 2010, she won the SFCM Baroque Ensemble Concerto Competition and received the outstanding achievement award. Hallie received a scholarship to attend the American Bach Soloists Academy for the second year in summer 2011 and performed at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2011 with Early Music America’s Young Performers Ensemble. Hallie performs with Liaison and The Vinacessi Ensemble, the San Francisco Bach Choir and is house concert manager for San Francisco Early Music Society.

Danielle Reutter-Harrah (Mezzo-Soprano) hails from Portland, Oregon, and is an avid performer of baroque and early music. Recent performances include Lotti’s Mass for Three Choirs and Bach’s Magnificat for American Bach Soloists and Bach’s Mass in B Minor with San Francisco Bach Choir. Danielle has been featured in Handel’s Messiah, Duruflé’s Requiem, Fux’ Requiem, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Bruckner’s Requiem and other works. Recently she performed the role of Ruggiero in Handel’s Alcina at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and she performed the lead role in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas with the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado. She has sung with Musica Sacra, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir, and Opera San Jose and is currently a member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver and a master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Resource Materials

Are you wanting to learn more about Pompeii and Herculaneum, but don’t have a lot of time to spare? Here are some suggestions in a wide variety of formats and styles that might help.

Pompeii: The Day a City Died by Robert Etienne (1992, 215pp) is part of the excellent Discoveries series. It is compact, clearly written, beautifully illustrated, and includes a selection of ancient and modern documents about the topic.

The dramatic nature of the destruction and rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum has inspired many attempts to dramatize and visually recreate the events. Among the better examples areSecrets of the Dead: Herculaneum Uncovered (DVD, 2007, 60 min., available on Netflix), which focuses on the lesser known, but better preserved, town near Pompeii, and Pompeii: Back from the Dead (Discovery Channel, DVD, 2011, 43 min., available on Netflix), which covers some of the most recent archaeological research.

David Macaulay’s Roman City (DVD, 1994, 60 min., available on Netflix) uses the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum to illustrate how the Roman “culture of city builders” used techniques for urban planning and infrastructure engineering that were unsurpassed for 1500 years. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy Robert Harris’ Pompeii: A Novel (2005, 304pp, also available in Kindle and audio formats), which recreates the atmosphere leading up to the famous eruption.

Beard, Mary. The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost & Found. (2010).

Berry, J. Ed. Unpeeling Pompeii. (Electa, 1998).

Bulwer Lytton, Edward. The Last Days of Pompeii. (1834).

Nappo, SC. Pompeii: Guide to the Lost City. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998).

The Pompeii Forum Project  (Photographs and a street tour of Pompeii can be found under “Notes for Teachers and Students”)

Peña, Theodore. Roman Pottery in the Archaeological Record. (2007).

Pieraccini, Lisa. Around the Hearth: Caeretan Cylinder-Stamped Braziers. (2003).

Photographs of Pompeii.

Pompeii Food and Drink.

Viewing Pompeii. Visual Resources for The Pompeii Forum Project. Prepared by the Digital Media Lab, University of Virginia.

Wallace-Hadrill, A. Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum (Princeton University Press, 1994).

Recommendations below are from the NGA Workshop Site for Students and Teachers


Joanne Berry, The Complete Pompeii (2007). The title says it all: information about all aspects of the town, its people, and history. Copiously illustrated.

James M. Deem, Bodies from the Ash (2005). Learn more about what happened in Pompeii and Herculaneum by “reading” the bodies. More interesting—and less creepy—than it sounds! Written for young audiences but with wide appeal.

Joseph Jay Deiss, The Town of Hercules: A Buried Treasure Trove (1995). Why should Pompeii get all the attention? Because of the circumstance of its burial, Herculaneum preserves wood, papyrus, and other materials not found in its more famous neighbor. Written for young people, but useful for all audiences.

Robert Harris, Pompeii: A Novel (2003). Historical fiction set in the days before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. An engineer in the city water works investigates mysterious natural phenomena and man-made corruption.

Web Sites

The Web site of the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei features virtual tours, a feature for kids, news, and a lot more. Includes Pompeii and other sites. English and Italian.

Access to two classic works on Roman life and history, a detailed genealogy of the gods, and more.

The Internet Ancient History Sourcebook — a trove of texts (in English and Latin), images, and links to a wide range of topics.

See what Vesuvius and other volcanoes worldwide have been up to from the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program.

Learn more about Roman art from the Web sites of museums with outstanding ancient collections, including the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Presented with support from Grants for the Arts/SF Hotel Tax fund; George and Judy Marcus Family Foundation; Bank of the West; Stanford Humanities Center; the UC Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies, USF Center for the Pacific Rim; Marines Memorial Theatre; Asian Art Museum, and individual donors.

In cooperation with American Decorative Arts Forum Northern California; California Academy of Sciences; Center for the Art of Translation; Commonwealth Club of SF; Docents Council, Fine Arts Museum of SF; Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning; Humanities Department, SF State University; Mechanics’ Institute; Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), UC Berkeley; SF and Oakland Unified School Districts; Stanford Arts Initiative; Stanford University Libraries; Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley