Pompeii in popular culture

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[1]The ancient Roman city of Pompeii has been frequently featured in literature and popular culture since its modern rediscovery.

Audio productions

  • Rexford (Rex) Phillips, a.k.a. "Rexino Mondo", wrote, sang, narrated and produced a 210-minute audiobook entitled Messenger From Pei, in 1992.[citation needed]

Books and other printed works

Pompeii served as the background for the historic novels The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (since adapted for film and TV), Arria Marcella (1852) by Théophile Gautier, The Taras Report on Pompeii (1975) by Alan Lloyd. Pompeii also appears in Shadows in Bronze (1990) and other novels in the Marcus Didius Falco series.


There have been several movies based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1834 book, The Last Days of Pompeii:

Productions using Pompeii as a story backdrop include:

  • 1958 – Curse of the Faceless Man
  • 1971 – Up Pompeii a comedy which followed the eponymous TV series (see below), culminating in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
  • 2007 – Pompei – an Italian historical drama directed by Giulio Base (TV mini series, 180 min.) [1]
  • 2014 – Pompeii a German-Canadian film set during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Allusions to Pompeii

  • Vesuvius is the name of the fictional glam metal band in the 2008 comedy The Rocker, which produces a hit song called "Pompeii Nights", depicting a glorified but grim version of the disaster.






  • In 1988 Heavy metal band Virgin Steele produced a song about the city called The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii) in their Album Age of Consent
  • Giovanni Pacini's opera L'ultimo giorno di Pompei (1825) is noted for its special effects portraying the eruption of Vesuvius.
  • E.S. Posthumus produced a musical track titled "Pompeii", which was used in the film Planet of the Apes (1968) and many others;[which?] it is included in the Unearthed album (2001).
  • In October 1971, the band Pink Floyd performed at the vacant 2,000-year-old amphitheater in Pompeii, to an audience composed of film crew including camera operators. This performance, including some exterior shots of the ruins, was released as part of a movie entitled Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972). In 2017, band guitarist David Gilmour returned to perform a concert in the amphitheatre for about 3,000 people.[5]
  • Polish singer, songwriter, poet and author, Jacek Kaczmarski wrote two songs about Pompeii. The first, "Pompeja" (1978) depicts the last moments of Pompeii and later excavations of it, but allegorically also refers to Polish cities like Warsaw or Gdańsk, and talks about ignorance of warning signs and voices in times of crisis. Kaczmarski actually wrote this song before seeing Pompeii, which he visited a year later after winning a trip to Italy in the Students' Song Festival in Cracov in 1978 (or 1979?).[citation needed] The second song, "Pompeja Lupanar" (or just "Pompeja II") (1980), talks about live of various peoples in Pompeii before the Vesuvius eruption.[6]
  • The Siouxsie and The Banshees single "Cities in Dust" (1985) was inspired by the destruction of Pompeii.
  • Last Days of Pompeii (1991) is a rock opera by alternative rock band Nova Mob.
  • The German progressive rock band Triumverat produced a concept album, "Pompeii" (1977), telling the story of both the 62 and 79 AD eruptions of Vesuvius.
  • "American Pompeii" is the eighth track on the Anthrax album Stomp 442 (1995).
  • "This Was Pompeii" is the name of a song by Dar Williams about the city, on the album Mortal City (1997).
  • "Pompeii" is also the title of a song by indie-rock trio Sleater-Kinney off of their fifth album, All Hands on the Bad One (2000).
  • The Mars Volta band mentions the city of Pompeii in the song, "Cicatriz Esp" from the album Deloused in the Comatorium (2003).
  • "Pompeii" is a song by Seattle-based progressive rock band Gatsbys American Dream. It is the second track of Volcano (2005), and is based loosely around the story of Pompeii.
  • "Pompeii am Götterdämmerung" is a song by the band The Flaming Lips on their album At War with the Mystics (2006). The song narrates the tale of a couple who, in reaction to their families' rejection of their love, commit suicide together by simultaneously jumping into a volcano.[citation needed]
  • Frank Ticheli composed a song entitled "Vesuvius" (2007), which depicts the last days of Pompeii.[7]
  • The Decemberists' song "Cocoon", on the album Castaways and Cutouts (2009), is about the victims of Vesuvius who were encased in volcanic ash.
  • Gordon Downie, the lead singer of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, refers to a dying family member as "the rock-plug for all of us" and says, "in the conduit of Vesuvius you were far more unifying than you know" in the song "Toronto #4" (2010).[8]
  • Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice (2010), the seventh studio album by the Finnish rock band HIM, features a song entitled "Like St. Valentine" in which one line reads: "Like the couple from Pompeii, our drama's put on display".
  • The British band Bastille released a single named "Pompeii" (2013) with lyrics that reference the destruction of the city. It reached number two on the UK Singles Chart.[citation needed]


Pompeii is featured in many television biographies and documentaries. It is also featured in ABC's television series called Roman Mysteries.


  • Pompeii was supposedly fueled with supernatural energy. The paranormal reality tv show Destination Truth feature this historic land to prove a paranormal presence roams the ancient city.


  • It was the setting for the British comedy television series Up Pompeii!, the 1971 movie of the series Up Pompeii, and its two one-off specials Further Up Pompeii! (1975) and Further Up Pompeii (1991). Only in the movie does Mount Vesuvius actually erupt.
  • The Last Days of Pompeii (Italy/UK/U.S.) is a television miniseries from 1984 based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton's book The Last Days of Pompeii.
  • In The Simpsons episode The Italian Bob the family visits the remnants of Pompeii where Lisa refers to the numerous victims whose bodies were preserved by the ash in the position they were in the moment they died. One group of plaster cast victims include a family exactly resembling the Simpsons with a Homer look-alike strangling a Bart look-alike. The couch gag from "Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words" is also a reference to Pompeii.
  • Pompeii featured in the second episode of the fourth series of revived BBC drama series Doctor Who, named "The Fires of Pompeii", where it transpires that the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble caused the eruption in order to save the world from an alien invasion.[9]
  • "The Fires of Vulcan" - Doctor Who audio drama in the city just before the eruption with the Seventh Doctor.
  • Within the universe of the Highlander franchise, immortals are not allowed to take heads on holy ground. According to the character Joe Dawson in the episode Little Tin God, there is a story that tells of how two immortals engaged on holy ground resulted in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
  • In the television series Forever Knight, vampire Lucien Lacroix was a Roman general who returns home to Pompeii to find his daughter Divia has become a vampire. He is turned into a vampire by his daughter during the fall of Pompeii.
  • Apocalypse Pompeii (2013) TV film - Mount Vesuvius erupts when a family visits Pompeii. A Former Special Ops commando visits the ancient city on business with his wife and daughter and become trapped as Mt. Vesuvius erupts with massive force. While his family fights to survive the deadly onslaught of heat and lava, he enlists his former teammates in a daring operation beneath the ruins of Pompeii.


  • Ancient Mysteries: Pompeii: Buried Alive (1996), an A&E television documentary narrated by Leonard Nimoy.[10]
  • In the Shadow of Vesuvius (1997), a National Geographic special that explores the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, interviews archaeologists, and examines the events leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius.[citation needed]
  • Pompeii: The Last Day (2003), an hour-long drama produced for the BBC that portrays several characters (with historically attested names, but fictional life-stories) living in Pompeii, Herculaneum and around the Bay of Naples, and their last hours, including a fuller and his wife, two gladiators, and Pliny the Elder. It also portrays the facts of the eruption. It is heavily influenced by Edward Bulwer-Lytton's book The Last Days of Pompeii (see Pompeii in popular culture#Books and other printed works), which – while being responsible for the popularization of Pompeii in Western culture – has been dismissed for its lack of historical credibility. To give some historical reality to the characters, the death throes of the characters portrayed are based on actual skeletons and bodies found during excavations in the 18th century, while Pliny the Elder's death is shown as based on the accounts of how he actually died. Although in the story the narrator uses reports that Pliny the Elder died from inhaling the fumes of the final and greatest pyroclastic surge, as many reports have found, he most likely had suffered a heart attack or stroke.[citation needed]
  • Pompeii and the 79 AD eruption (2004), a 120-minute Tokyo Broadcasting System 120’ documentary.
  • Pompeii Live (June 28, 2006, 8 pm), a Channel 5 production featuring a live archaeological dig at Pompeii and Herculaneum[11][12]
  • Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time (2013), a BBC One drama documentary presented by Dr. Margaret Mountford.[13]

Visual art

Art exhibitions


Other uses

  • The theme park Busch Gardens Williamsburg features an attraction entitled "Escape from Pompeii", which carries riders through the city as flaming ruins topple around them, ending in a 50-foot plunge.[17]
  • Pompeii is the title of an Aristocrat Mark VI slot machine. It features a volcano wild symbol which erupts, as well as a free games scatter feature sounding "Veni, Vidi, Vici!"[citation needed]
  • English comedian Al Murray's running gag about Italy's being lazy includes him saying, "Pompeii, clean up for God's sake!"[citation needed]
  • Pompeii!! is an original vaudeville-style musical in two acts, written by Max Hartman, Michael Federico, and Cameron Cobb that premiered at Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, Tx.


  1. ^ Entertainment, SeaWorld Parks &. "Escape from Pompeii". seaworldparks.com. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. ^ Classics at RGSW Archived May 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "'The Dog of Pompeii' and study guide" (PDF). Sandersfeld.
  4. ^ "We Are Pompeii". ReverbNation. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  5. ^ "David Gilmour live at Pompeii – a photo essay". The Guardian. July 14, 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  6. ^ "Pompeja". Kaczmarski Art. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013.
  7. ^ Ticheli, Frank. Vesuvius by Frank Ticheli: Concert band. Suitable for high school, community, and college bands. Grade 4. Conductor score and set of parts. Duration 9:00. Manhattan Beach Music (MH.0-931329-15-9). ISBN 0-931329-15-9.
  8. ^ "Toronto #4". The Tragically Hip. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  9. ^ BBC - Doctor Who - News - Rome Sweet Rome
  10. ^ "Ancient Mysteries: Season 3, Episode 22". A&E. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  11. ^ Shelley Hales; Joanna Paul (2011). Pompeii in the Public Imagination from Its Rediscovery to Today. Oxford University Press. p. 367. doi:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199569366.001.0001. ISBN 9780199569366. The recent UK Channel 5 programme, transmitted live from Herculaneum on 29 June 2006...
  12. ^ pompeii live | revealed | five.tv Archived June 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time". BBC. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  14. ^ "Guests Can Spend A Day in Pompeii When New Exhibition Opens at Discovery Place" (PDF). Discovery Place. June 24, 2008.
  15. ^ Alma Tadema and the longing for the antique
  16. ^ Eugenia Querci, Stefano De Caro, Alma Tadema e la nostalgia dell'antico (Milan 2007) 312 p., ISBN 978-88-370-5336-9.
  17. ^ Entertainment, SeaWorld Parks &. "Escape from Pompeii". seaworldparks.com. Retrieved April 21, 2016.

External links

  • Romano-Campanian Wall-Painting contains chapters on: The Neoclassicising of Pompeii; Tourism, Romanticism and Pompeii; and Roman Wall-Painting and Film Culture
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