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Representation of Pompeii & Herculaneum over time - page 5 / 30





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Bulwer-Lytton, E. (1834). The last days of Pompeii. Bulwer-Lytton's story is by far the most famous novel set in Pompeii. However, his story isn't really concerned with Roman people, in spite of the Pompeii setting. His hero and heroine were Greek; his villain was Egyptian; only a few relatively minor characters were Roman. The evil priest Arbaces schemes to win the beautiful Ione by destroying his romantic rival Glaucus; events reach a climax when Vesuvius erupts and only the blind girl Nydia, who is also in love with Glaucus, can find her way through the darkness. There have been numerous film versions; many of them have little in common with the novel except for the title. This is a novel in the grand Victorian tradition; the language is vividly descriptive. Bulwer-Lytton based many of the details of his story on information obtained from the excavations. The sight of the preserved skeletons in Pompeii inspired him to write the novel. He structured the novel like a crime story -- as an account of people's last moments of life, based on deductions about their activities from the physical evidence (and a substantial dose of imagination, of course). He was particularly impressed by a skull which he identified with his fictional character Arbaces; according to Leppman, Bulwer-Lytton kept this skull on his desk.

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