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Robert Harris

Robert Harris, the bestselling author of Fatherland, Enigma and Archangel talks to Melvyn Bragg about how he went about tackling the world of the Ancient Romans in his latest thriller, Pompeii.

While his three novels to date were all set in the 20th Century, this time Harris has had to cast his mind back 2000 years to 79AD, four days before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The South Bank Show takes Harris back to Pompeii, one of the worlds greatest archaeological sites and also to the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

To this day, the sophistication of ancient Roman life in Pompeii continues to capture public interest.

By talking to several volcanologists and historians, this film provides an intense taste of a specific moment in history.

Harris uses events and eminent characters from the period to provide the backdrop to his story and through the book’s hero, an engineer, he specifically explores the technological brilliance of the era.

He also looks at the links between past and present at a time when interest in Ancient History has never been so strong, making associations between the world domination that epitomise both Ancient Rome and modern day America.

It is these factors that form the basis of the narrative, swiftly driving the plot towards a natural disaster that no superpower could have controlled.

Says Harris: ‘The thing that I like doing the most is creating a world.

"That is the brilliant thing about Pompeii – it is there, we know what it was like and the pleasure is bringing something real to life’

Produced and Directed by Aurora Gunn Edited and Presented by Melvyn Bragg

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