The Destruction of Roman Pompeii
Life and Death in a Roman Town
You could read a thousand books to learn of Life in Ancient Rome - or you could look at the legacy of Pompeii. The houses and public buildings of Pompeii show us all too vividly what it was like to live, and to die, in a Roman town.
Pompeii was destroyed, completely buried, during a catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius which took over two long and terrifying days in the year 79.
The eruption buried Pompeii under 60 feet of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1,700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748.
Today Pompeii gives us an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. It tells us about the people who once ruled the known world - they were just like us.
Map of Vesuvius and Pompeii
Pompeii was a Resort Town
Pompeii was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire.
It was a popular place to live, and used by wealthy citizens as a holiday resort. The nearby Bay of Naples and the River Sarnus provided a good transport system for exporting goods to other parts of the Empire. and trade flourished here.
What Pompeii also had was extremely fertile soil created by the volcano, less than ten kilometres from the city.
The Wrath of the Gods - An eyewitness account of the destruction
It all happened so fast!
On August 24, 79 , Mount Vesuvius literally blew its top, spewing tons of molten ash, pumice and sulphuric gas miles into the atmosphere.
The volcano awakened with unimaginable force and no real warning.
A firestorm of poisonous vapours and molten debris engulfed the surrounding area suffocating the people of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. Tons of falling debris filled the streets until nothing remained to be seen of the once thriving communities.
We have eye witness accounts
Thanks to eyewitness accounts, we know a great deal about what happened the day that Pompeii was destroyed. A 17-year-old, later known as Pliny the Younger, meticulously recorded what he observed from across the Bay of Naples.
The boy was living at Misenum with his uncle, Pliny the Elder, a celebrated military leader, scholar, and historian. Pliny the Elder attempted to rescue people by sea and the notes he dictated to his scribe in the midst of the mayhem can still be read today.
The second day of the Disaster - eye witness account
Pliny the Younger
Pliny describes the second day of the disaster
"Ashes were already falling, not as yet very thickly. I looked round: a dense black cloud was coming up behind us, spreading over the earth like a flood. Darkness fell, not the dark of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room.
You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices.
People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.
Ashes began to fall again, this time in heavy showers. We rose from time to time and shook them off, otherwise we should have been buried and crushed beneath their weight.."
Pompeii : A Novel
Pompeii : A Novel is fun, interesting, and thrilling.
Just keep looking over your shoulder at the mountain, because it's going to blow.
The Crater of Mount Vesuvius - Headquarters for Spartacus
Crater of Vesuvius today
When Spartacus led the slave rebellion of 73 BCE, he found the crater on top of Vesuvius to be a huge basin a mile across, densely wooded and filled with vines. It served as a secure camp for the rebels. They hid out in the Caldera and trained for the fight with the Roman Legions. .
The modern crater of Mount Vesuvius is a huge empty bowl. It looks peaceful enough now, but this could change any tick of the clock. The last eruption was 1944.
Vesuvius looms large over the ruins of Pompeii
Terrific Acommodation in Pompei
I stayed at B and B Elena when in Pompei. I highly recommend Elena for the low-cost accommodation. Photo below.
Mount Vesuvius blows up in 1944 - Awesome footage of the eruption
How do they get footage like this? Close up and personal with molten lava advancing at the rate of 3 foot a minute. Huge lava clouds and pillars of fire, who was holding the camera?.
From newsreels of the time.
A frightening newsreel!
We saw this video at the Pompeii Exhibition - Frightening in 3D
A couple of excerpts from the 3D video at the exhibition.
I took my little granddaughter to see an exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. When we watched the video, she was fine, I was the one who panicked at the 3D effects.
Take the Quiz
Would you survive Pompeii?
We may think we're smarter than the people who lived in Pompeii in 79, but would you have survived the catastrophe?
Take the Pompeii Quiz and find out.
Pompeii TodayClick thumbnail to view full-size
Claudia goes to Pompeii
- Claudia goes to Pompeii
Who isn't awed by the dramatic story of the destruction of Pompeii? I took my small granddaughter to see an exhibition at Melbourne Museum
© 2009 Susanna Duffy