Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Pompeii. Ancient southern Italian city populated by Greeks and Italians until it was occupied by Rome during the wars that united Italy under Roman rule. In the first century b.c.e., the Roman general Sulla established a colony for his veterans on land near Pompeii that he and his army had taken from his enemies during the last days of the Roman Republic. The long-term effect of the Roman conquest of the Italian peninsula was the progressive decline of local cultures as Roman customs and culture became dominant. Although remnants of Greek and other cultures are seen in the characters of this novel, the romanization of Pompeii and the peninsula was virtually complete by the first century c.e., the period in which the novel is set.

Before Pompeii’s destruction in the volcanic eruption of 79 c.e., the city was a jewel of the Roman world, featuring luxurious houses and seaside villas that were the fashionable dwellings and summer resorts of wealthy Romans. The houses, baths, streets, and temples described by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and peopled by his characters are those that had been excavated and restored when he wrote the book. For example, Glaucus’s house, the House of the Tragic Poet, is a small gem of a house that is built in the typical Roman style but adorned by artworks that reveal his Greek heritage.

The Greek temple pictured with the Triangular Forum may have been the temple in which Glaucus, a wealthy Athenian, worshiped the gods of his ancestors. Glaucus meets his friends Lepidus and...

(The entire section is 631 words.)