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City of the Dead: Pompeii

Updated on October 20, 2019
Gerry Glenn Jones profile image

Gerry Glenn Jones is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, as well as scripts for theatre and film. This is a factual account.

The casts of the corpses of a group of human victims of the 79 AD eruption of the Vesuvius, found in the so-called “Garden of the fugitives” in Pompeii.
The casts of the corpses of a group of human victims of the 79 AD eruption of the Vesuvius, found in the so-called “Garden of the fugitives” in Pompeii. | Source

City of the Dead

Most cities boast about their award-winning restaurants, exquisite scenery, their hospitality and their tourist attractions, but Pompeii, Italy holds a distinction as the ultimate "City of the Dead." It is one of the few places on earth whose main tourism draw is the dead. Let's visit.

A photograph of the court within the en:basilica at en:Pompeii
A photograph of the court within the en:basilica at en:Pompeii | Source

Facts About the City

The city of Pompeii was an ancient Roman city located near the modern-day city of Naples. Pompeii is about five miles away from Mount Vesuvius and covers about 163 acres. It is also near the present city of Pompei (which is spelled with one i).

The city had an estimated population of over 20,000 people in the early first century. It was a typical Roman City of that time, with many houses and public baths. It also had an amphitheater, a palaestra, which was a Roman school for teaching sports, such as wrestling. In addition, it had a large swimming pool, and an aqueduct system that supplied water for homes, baths, and businesses. According to scholars, the amphitheater was of sophisticated design.

Temple of Apollo at Pompeii
Temple of Apollo at Pompeii | Source

Did God's Wrath Destroy Pompeii

The homes and businesses had a large number of frescoes (the art of painting on fresh, moist plaster with pigments dissolved in water). These frescoes give us an idea of what it was like living in Pompeii at that time. Some of them indicate that the culture of Pompeii was very erotic.

With everything it had going on, there was one thing its people could not control. On 24 August, AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted with a cloud of ash and pumice that rocketed 12 miles high above Pompeii and its neighboring towns. It was ironic that the celebration of Volcannalia had ended one day earlier. This festival honored the people's god of fire and forge Vulcan.

Cast of a sitting victim of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 79 CE, Pompeii, Italy
Cast of a sitting victim of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 79 CE, Pompeii, Italy | Source

The Eruption

The eruption began on August 24th, and it plunged Pompeii and surrounding areas into pitch blackness. When the eruptions ceased, Pompeii was covered with over 80 feet of ash and pumice. The population of Pompeii was killed soon after the eruption, due to poisonous gases from the volcano. Also, the towns of Herculaneum and Stabaie were destroyed in much the same manner.

Human remains at Pompeii
Human remains at Pompeii | Source

Pompeii Discovered

The Pompeii site was lost until 1500, and no major excavation was attempted until 1748, when a Spanish engineer, Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre, began digs there. He and others were amazed that objects that lay beneath the ashes and pumice had been well preserved for thousands of years due to the lack of air and moisture. It was like looking at a book of ancient pictures, except the artifacts were not pictures, but the actual objects that were covered by the volcano. They provided an amazing detail of what life was like in Pompeii and the other cities in AD 79. The artifacts were not the only thing discovered, for there were voids in the ash that were the impressions left by the bodies on that terrible day. These voids were filled with plaster, and when the ash was removed, it left the people in the positions that they died.

Pompeii after volcanic ash was removed
Pompeii after volcanic ash was removed | Source

Conclusion

If you are in Italy and have the time, Pompeii is a great place to soak up the horrific event which happened here on August 24, AD 79. Seeing the molds of the bodies lying, sitting, and squatting at the very moment of death is something you will not forget.

Be sure and watch the animated video below to discover what it probably sounded and looked like when the volcano erupted. The video is presented by Aeon.

References

  • Live Science - www.livescience.com/27871-mount-vesuvius-pompeii.html
  • National Geographic - www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/archaeology/pompeii/
    Pompeii
  • Ancient History - https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/pompeii
  • Zero One - https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=dY_3ggKg0Bc



© 2018 Gerry Glenn Jones

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