Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Caroline Lawrence. The Secrets of Vesuvius. London: Orion Children’s books, 2001, pp. 224
In 2009 Lawrence won the Classical Association Prize for a significant contribution to the understanding of Classics.
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Author of the Entry:
Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, email@example.com
Lisa Maurice, Bar Ilan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
Roman Mysteries, BBC United Kingdom, 2007 & 2008
Les secrets de Pompeii Amélie Sarn (French)
Los Secrets del Vesubio (Spanish)
Das Rätsel des Vesuv Dagmar Weischer (German)
Tajemný Vesuv : záhady ze starověkého Říma (Czech)
Skrivnosti Vezuva Maja Ropret (Slovenian)
Vesuviuksen Salaisuudet Pekka Tuomisto (Finnish)
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
In this second volume in the Roman Mysteries Series, after the danger experienced by the children in The Thieves of Ostia, Flavius father decides to send Flavia and Nubia to his brother’s farm near Pompeii. He invites Lupus and Jonathan as well as Jonathan’s sister and father to join them. Whilst swimming one day, the children save the life of Pliny, and in thanks he gives them a riddle and sends them looking for a blacksmith named Vulcan. By solving the riddle the four friends discover that the blacksmith Vulcan is really the long-lost son of the people who own the villa next to Flavia’s uncle’s farm. Throughout the book Jonathan suffers from nightmares, as his father did whilst they were being persecuted as Christians before they managed to escape. It seems that Jonathan is being warned that Vesuvius will erupt. The four friends manage to escape from the worst of the volcano’s eruption but they do lose some of their other friends during the eruption, including Pliny.
The second instalment of Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries series contains some similar kinds of facts to the first book. However, the information about Roman life is more focused than in The Thieves of Ostia. Where the first book reads like a discovery book for children about life in the ancient world, the second book focuses on Pliny and the myth of Vulcan.
Lawrence includes details about food, transport and the arrangement of farms through the continued explanation of the surroundings to Nubia the African slave and Lupus the orphan who has lost his tongue. However, there are considerably fewer of these instances. Whilst Lawrence includes some information about mythology through the mention of Castor and Pollux in the first book as well as Cerberus, she goes into some detail on the myth of Vulcan in the second book, giving a closer look into how mythology functioned in Roman life. She retells much of the myth surrounding the god, from his birth, to being raised under the sea to his reinstatement to Olympus. Lawrence goes into the roles of the god, including connotations with fire and water and his role as the divine blacksmith.
The mythology surrounding Vulcan is reflected in the blacksmith who the children meet, who has a club foot, and is referred to as Vulcan. He has also been raised by people who are not his true parents, and he is on a mission to discover who they are. This drawing of parallels between mythology and a character in the book might help encourage imaginative thinking in young readers, inviting them to think about what might happen to the boy as the story progresses in light of what they have learnt about the god of the same name.
Lawrence creates an amusing and well-executed character in Pliny and weaves in historical facts with the story of Flavia and her friends. This kind of expansion upon historical facts may encourage young readers to undertake further reading on the historical figure of Pliny. By describing his death, she potentially provides motivation for independent learning on the matters as well as stimulus for class discussions not only about the historical figure of Pliny but about the creative writing technique of fictionalising historical characters.