In the National Geographic documentary Pompeii: Buried Alive, narrator Leonard Nimoy describes the horrific circumstances of the Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii is revealed to be a normal Roman city, if not one of its cultural centers, with public baths, ornate art, and coliseums. The volcano erupted in the middle of the day, catching most people unawares; as volcanic ash and magma spewed into the air, it quickly reached Pompeii, suffocating and burning its people who did not have the ability to escape.
Much of the documentary focuses on the efforts of archaeologists to unearth Pompeii’s secrets; focusing on the work of scientists and computer technicians to recreate ancient Pompeii using computer models and excavations. These are the most interesting parts of the documentary, as it takes viewers through the nuts and bolts of what modern scientists are doing to make discoveries about this ancient civilization. The discovery of Roman artwork in Pompeii, some of which are copies of artwork found in ancient Greece, is evidence of the synchronicity both cities enjoyed, and provides further insight into how important Pompeii was as a Roman institution.
Many different aspects of Roman culture are unearthed within the documentary, including the contentious relationship between fathers and sons in Roman culture – sons must obey their fathers at all times, says the experts in these works, lest they be killed (regardless of their individual success). It is these insights and discoveries, combined with the visual evidence of Roman artwork and architecture, that makes this documentary such a compelling insight into the basics of Roman culture, and how the doomed city of Pompeii fits into them.
“Pompeii: Buried Alive.” National Geographic.