Pompeii

Literature: The Issues of these Sources

Literature: The Issues of these Sources

The authors Suetonius, Dio Cassius, and Statius all have issues within their ancient sources, the most prevalent being time and bias. These individuals all wrote about Pompeii in different time periods, with supposed dates that historians are still uncertain about, creating an issue about the accuracy of these sources and the events told within them. Suetonius for example, wrote his work from ten to fifty years after the eruption, leading to the problem of secondary sources and the ‘large tales’ of Pompeii. Dio Cassius in comparison wrote in the late 2nd century, as part of a roman history, and though he does only briefly mention the events, it still leads to the issue of accurate accounts and research. Statius wrote his poem less than twenty years after the eruption, one of the shortest times, however historians are still not certain if that is true due to disagreement over age.

Bias is a large issue as well, as these ancient sources could have been shaped to express opinions and details not accurate to the actual events, but instead based upon political, cultural, and social expectations of the populace. Suetonius in his work focusing on Pompeii, only refers to the action taken by Emperor Titus after the eruption as part of a collective biography of the Roman Empire’s first leaders, and the mentioning of their deeds. Due to this, the bias is the glorification of the Roman Empire and its previous leaders, a subject which would not allow Pompeii to be either studied in-depth or written without heroism and religious significance. Dio Cassius only wrote a brief description of the events in 79 A.D, however religious connotations and bias is present due to the use of ‘giants’ as the cause of the earthquake in 62 A.D and the later destruction of Pompeii by angry Gods. Statius in his work recalls cities buried by Mount Vesuvius, however he does not name these cities, and only uses Pompeii as a comparison to show the wealth and success of Italy. All three of these writers have issues with their ancient sources, bringing to question their usability and benefits within future studies, but these are the last surviving accounts of the Pompeii disaster which creates a need for their continued usage.

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