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The Other Pompeii: Life and Death in Herculaneum

Mon Apr 1, 9-10pm, BBC2

Tying in with the British Museum’s blockbusting Pompeii exhibition is this rummage through the Roman remains at nearby Herculaneum, another town destroyed by the Vesuvius eruption but with just as much to tell us about the ancient world. Professor Andrew Wallace Hadrill tramps around this remarkably well-preserved conurbation (the bold colours on one particular bust are little short of extraordinary), observing how much tiny details can reveal about diets, lifestyles and morals – Herculaneum, it seems, was a town with a social conscience.

The professor is an avuncular presence reminiscent of Dan Cruickshank, to the extent that his pronouncement that ‘the king of the gods does not have a big prick’, delivered while gesturing at a statue of Jupiter, feels oddly shocking. But the key achievement of this excellent documentary (only really marred by an overbearing soundtrack) is to remind us that, for all the historic and scientific interest of Herculaneum, there were human stories at its heart. And not a reconstruction in sight, by Minerva!