Concept

Pompeii (novel)

Summary
Pompeii is a novel by Robert Harris, published by Random House in 2003. It blends historical fiction with the real-life eruption of Mount Vesuvius on 24 August 79 AD, which overwhelmed the town of Pompeii and its vicinity. The novel is notable for its references to various aspects of volcanology and use of the Roman calendar. In 2007, a film version of the book had been planned and was to be directed by Roman Polanski with a budget of US$150 million, but was cancelled due to the threat of a looming actors' strike. Marcus Attilius Primus arrives in the Bay of Naples from Rome to take charge as aquarius (hydraulic engineer) of the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct that supplies water to the towns in the region encompassing the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. The nine important towns are, in order, Pompeii, Nola, Acerra, Atella, Napoli, Puteoli, Cumae, Baiae, and Miseno. Attilius's predecessor, Exomnius, has mysteriously vanished as the springs that flow through the aqueduct begin to fail, which reduces the supply of water available to the region's reservoir. Attilius is unpopular among the workers, particularly Corax, who resents the young foreigner giving him orders. Attilius's concerns about the water are heightened when he is summoned by a young, wealthy woman, Corelia, to investigate water that apparently killed her father's prized fish. Corelia's father is the former slave and land speculator Numerius Popidius Ampliatus, who came to fortune after he rebuilt Pompeii from a past earthquake. Ampliatus feeds to eels the slave he deems responsible for the fish's death for his own amusement. Attilius realises that unusually, sulfur poisoned the water. Dramatically, the flow of water then stops entirely. Attilius concludes that the aqueduct must be blocked somewhere close to Mount Vesuvius since reports claim a shutdown of the system just before Nola. That means that towns from there through Napoli and Misenum are without any water supply.
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