Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Caroline Lawrence. The Pirates of Pompeii. London: Orion Children’s books, 2002, pp. 208.
In 2009 Lawrence won the Classical Association Prize for a significant contribution to the understanding of Classics.
We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.
Author of the Entry:
Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, email@example.com
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Maurice, Bar Ilan University, email@example.com
Caroline Lawrence (Author)
Born in England, Lawrence grew up in the United States of America and studied Classics at Berkeley. She won a Marshall Scholarship to Cambridge and went on to study Classical art and Archaeology at Newnham College Cambridge. Lawrence studied for her MA in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London and went on to teach Latin, French and art at a primary school in London.
Lawrence published The Thieves of Ostia, the first instalment in the Roman Mysteries Series in 2001. Lawrence has also worked on University of Reading’s educational website Romans Revealed, which presents stories about Roman Britain related to archaeological finds.
Bio prepared by Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Roman Myteries, BBC United Kingdom, 2007 & 2008
Piráti z Pompejí : záhady ze starověkého Říma
Los pirates de Pompeya
Pirati iz Pompejev Maja Ropret
Pompejin merirosvot Pekka Tuomisto
I pirati di Pompei Alfredo Belli
Los pirates de Pompeya
Sequels, Prequels and Spin-offs
The Assassins of Rome
The Dolphins of Laurentum
The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina
The Enemies of Jupiter
The Gladiators from Capua
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Fugitive from Corinth
The Sirens of Surrentum
The Charioteer of Delphi
The Slave-girl from Jerusalem
The Beggar of Volubilis
The Scribes from Alexandria
The Prophet from Ephesus
The Man from Pomegranate Street
Bread and Circuses
Trimalchio’s Feast and other mini mysteries
The Legionary from Londinium and other mini-mysteries
The First Roman Mysteries Quiz Book
The Second Roman Mysteries Quiz Book
The Roman Mysteries Treasury
From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina: Travels with Flavia Gemina
After the events of The Secrets of Vesuvius, and the eruption of the volcano, the children are staying in a refugee camp. Jonathan, one of the main characters of the series - a Jewish child who is part of the new Christian faith - is in a coma from his asthma and his father is treating the sick and injured in the spa to which the camp is adjacent. Soon the children discover that children are being stolen from the refugee camp. They discover that it is probably the man known as the Spider of Patron. After some time the Roman Emperator comes to visit the camp and one of his important advisers is Felix, who is also called Patron. Felix has a villa nearby and is very wealthy. The children contrive to be invited to his villa to find out if he is indeed the Spider.
Whilst at the villa, the children become divided and Flavia starts to treat Nubia the same way as Felix’s daughter treats her slave, being rude and impatient. Felix’s daughter beats Nubia and breaks her special flute so Nubia runs away. Whilst trying to find her, the children including Felix’s daughter are captured to be sold as slaves. Lupus manages to escape and go for help but Jonathan, Flavia and Felix’s daughter all receive beatings. With the help of Nubia and Lupus the children manage to escape their captors along with the other children who have been stolen. It is revealed that though Felix is a very important person, he is not behind the kidnappings and is in fact a good man. At the end of the novel, Flavia frees Nubia but asks her to remain part of her family.
The third instalment of Lawrence’s series, The Roman Mysteries, provides the same treasure trove of ancient factoids and trivia that the previous two books do. However, The Pirates of Pompeii takes a more moralistic tone than the previous books in the series.
Through the chaos after the eruption of Vesuvius many slaves run away, including, briefly, Nubia, Flavia’s slave. The book details what might happen to slaves when they were caught as well as providing an image of the slaves as people who just want to live their own lives. This may serve as a good talking point for the intended audience of the series, about freedom and the lack of it, both in relation to ancient notions of slavery and freedom as well as a possible launching point for discussions on the development of notions of freedom and what it means to be free or a slave today
During the course of the narrative, Flavia, Jonathan and the daughter of Felix, are subjected to whipping. This role reversal is compounded by the pirates who say that the slaves are people too. This is somewhat incongruous with the figure of the pirate who is about to sell all the children and runaway slaves (whom he has tricked into thinking he is taking to a new life) back to slave traders. However, it serves to clearly introduce the moral issue that Lawrence is putting forward for her readers. There is a clear sense that Lawrence wants her readers to think about the rights and wrongs of slave ownership in a historical context.
There is a fairly heavy focus on the character of Felix whose actions are at times questionable and who divides the central characters as they all have different feelings about him. Most notably Lupus views him as a father figure, inspiring a kind of blind loyalty. Felix serves two purposes in the narrative, to cause friction amongst the central characters but also to introduce some of the less favourable aspects of the ancient world, for example, the treatment of people and low social status or the violence used to enact punishment.
The book ends with Flavia freeing Nubia by inviting her to sit at the table. Whilst the tone of the scene perhaps smacks of wishful thinking, it sets a clear moral code for the young readers of the series. Whilst it may be more interesting to consider Flavia as a good person that the reader likes or even identifies with, in light of her keeping of slaves, it is clear that Lawrence is interested in imparting some moral compass along to her readers. And since this scene happens at the end of this book, there is plenty of opportunity to open discussions on the matter whilst things are more complicated despite Lawrence’s heavy-handed guidance of her readers. Such an interest in imparting a moral code to her readers may be connected with the way in which Lawrence seems to champion Christian morals both in this book and throughout the Roman Mysteries Series.