The ancient city of Pompeii was home to about 20,000 Romans, who were said to have become so accustomed to the region’s frequent earthquakes that the tremors ceased to be alarming. In 62 C.E., a big quake and subsequent fires struck the city (sound familiar?), but with no knowledge of modern seismology, the residents had no idea it was an ominous signal that Mount Vesuvius was to erupt 17 years later. The explosion sent extreme heat and ash across the region. Pompeii and the neighboring city of Herculaneum, among others, were obliterated. Excavation began in the mid-1700s, sparking a wave of popular interest in Roman history, and Pompeii has remained a source of academic intrigue because of the remarkably well preserved snapshots of Roman life found there. This weekend, Bay Area academics present new findings in Pompeii & Herculaneum: Rediscovering Roman Art & Culture. The two-day series of events put on by Humanities West includes lectures on what we can glean from the cultural artifacts. Stanford’s Gary Devore discusses the city’s destruction and rediscovery, UC Berkeley’s Theodore Pea covers the economics of the time, and SF State’s Michael Anderson reveals archaeological techniques being used at the excavation sites by the Via Consolare Project, which is directed by SF State. To complement the science and math, tonight includes a musical performance honoring late-Renaissance Italian composers Alessandro Scarlatti and his son Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti. On Saturday, a panel discussion and audience Q&A takes place with all the presenters.
April 27-28, 7:30 p.m., 2012