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Apolline Project. Vol. 1, Studies on Vesuvius’ North Slope and the Bay of Naples

Apolline Project. Vol. 1, Studies on Vesuvius’ North Slope and the Bay of Naples

Edited by Girolamo F. De Simone and Roger T. Macfarlane (Quaderni della Ricerca Scientifica 14). Pp. 380, figs. 229, tables 2. Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa and Brigham Young University, Naples and Provo, Utah 2009. Price not available. ISBN 978-88-96055-00-7 (paper).

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This volume is the first of what the editors promise to be a number of publications on the results of the ongoing collaboration of Brigham Young University, the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa, and the Comune di Pollena Trocchia to explore sites on the north slope of Vesuvius destroyed by the eruption of 472 C.E. The editors describe the Apolline Project as “pushing the chronological boundaries of historical Vesuvian studies beyond traditional Pompeian research” in an attempt to produce a complete understanding of ancient Campania (19). They make a strong argument for the north slope providing evidence of the recovery from the 79 C.E. eruption, continued development of the area, and the rise of Christianity before also suffering volcanic destruction late in the fifth century C.E. As such, this is a multidisciplinary compilation of 28 papers written in Italian and English that reflect the project’s origin and initial years of study. Issues of language are presented largely in favor of an English audience: the table of contents provides the titles of articles in both languages, and while the Italian articles have brief abstracts in English, there is no reciprocal arrangement for the papers offered in English. The volume is divided into three sections covering “The Bay of Naples” (sec. 1), “The North Slope of Vesuvius” (sec. 2), and “Student Papers” (sec. 3).

The first section of the volume contains five papers that examine recent work and establish the current state of Vesuvian studies based in the more familiar areas of Pompeii, Oplontis, and other coastal areas on the Bay of Naples. These include an overview of the previous scholarship on the coastal villas (Pappalardo), an examination of the statuary recovered from the nymphaeum of Claudius’ palace at Baiae (Belli), a discussion of overall aesthetic effect of the paintings, sculpture, and landscaping of the villa at Oplontis (Ciardiello), and two papers on Pompeii—one reexamining the many arguments regarding the urban development of the city and the existence of an Altstadt (Franciosi) and one on the development of the southwestern area of city, focusing specifically on the Imperial Villa on the terrace below the Temple of Venus (Grimaldi).

The majority of the volume is dedicated to the project’s work on the north slope of Vesuvius (sec. 2), where 16 papers explore a range of archaeological, historical, volcanic, botanical, and religious topics. This begins with Macfarlane’s discussion, “Vesuvian Narratives,” from ancient to modern, both fictional and historical. One particularly interesting aspect of this overview is the continuous fascination with the volcano, as he reports that “[e]very phase of cultural history has produced a Vesuvian narrative” (111). Two papers focus specifically on the town of Nola: Bugno examines the ancient literary evidence, with a specific eye to texts that support the idea of the town as an agricultural center, while Parma uses epigraphic evidence to analyze the organization of pagi. Most of the papers focus on the archaeology of the north slope. A previously unpublished paper by Della Corte addresses Augustan (rather than Tiberian) villa construction on Capri and Vesuvius; A. de Simone provides a more general overview of the archaeological sites on the north slope; Perrotta and Scarpati discuss the preservation aspects of Vesuvius as a timeline for eruptions and abandonment of sites; and two papers by G. de Simone et al. provide an overview of previous archaeological excavation in the area and the results of the 2007 field school. Many of the remaining articles explore very specific aspects of the excavation results, such as the ceramic finds (Mukai et al.), an archaeobotanical study (Allevato and di Pasquale), metal alloys in the volcanic debris (Hunter and Keith), and the eruption history on the north slope (Scarpati et al.). The remaining papers focus on other types of textual evidence regarding place names (Abete), settlement and production practices in late antiquity (Savino), Early Christian activity (Johnson), and population movements (del Mastro).

The final section contains seven papers authored by students involved in the project. These also cover a broad range of topics, some more practical in nature, such as acquiring land for excavation work (Bacigalupi) or the government’s evacuation plan (Berger), while others address ancient textual (Lambourne on the symbolism of olives in Vergil’s Georgics) and architectural evidence (Green on the importance of inland villas). There is a specific emphasis on the importance of Early Christianity in the area, with detailed papers on the Basilica Nova, built by Paulinus in Nola (Rainey), the writings of Paulinus as a means of spreading ideology of the church (Romney), and the possible Byzantine influence on a fresco in an important shrine of Madonna dell’Arco (Wise).

There are some minor issues of copyediting—many of the papers contain typographical errors, which, while somewhat distracting, are not sufficient to detract from comprehension of the volume as a whole. Of more concern are some issues with legibility in the figures: those that rely on a grayscale key to indicate multiple phases or layers are particularly difficult to discern (fig. 2.275), are too small or blurry to read properly (figs. 1.289, 3.160), or are not labeled correctly (fig. 1.280). There are also issues with a lack of a full bibliography for all the works cited in some papers (Pappalardo is particularly negligent in this area) and the repeated inclusion of a Web address that is supposed to contain the ancient texts discussed in numerous papers that does not actually work.

As a whole, this volume truly illustrates the multi­disciplinary nature of the Apolline Project. Much of what is covered goes beyond a specific archaeological site or era and therefore will certainly appeal to a broader audience comprising those interested in southern Italy in a wider, post-Pompeian context, engaging anyone interested in the continued development of the region and its eventual Christianization prior to the sublimation of the Roman world to Byzantium in the decades following the Vesuvian eruptions that destroyed many of the north slope sites that are the focus of this study.

Virginia L. Campbell
School of Classics
University of St. Andrews
St. Andrews KY16 9AL
United Kingdom

Book Review of Apolline Project. Vol. 1, Studies on Vesuvius North Slope and the Bay of Naples, edited by Girolamo F. De Simone and Roger T. Macfarlane

Reviewed by Virginia L. Campbell

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 116, No. 4 (October 2012)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1164.Campbell

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