The Ve­su­vius erup­tion in 79 AD

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - Contents -

An over­view of Her­cu­la­neum, Pom­peii and the Ph­le­grean Area

O n 24 Au­gust, 79 AD, it was a lovely sunny day. Late that morn­ing, a sud­den deaf­en­ing roar emerged from the bow­els of the earth. A col­umn of black smoke rose for miles, dark­en­ing the sky over the Ve­su­vian ci­ties of Her­cu­la­neum, Pom­pei, Stabia, and the vil­lage of Oplonti. Ash and lapil­lus, roar­ing cas­cades of wa­ter and earth clods fell thick from the sky. Mor­tal gases dis­persed and in­can­des­cent lava slowly made its way down from a new vol­canic cone. In fear of their lives, the in­hab­i­tants of Her­cu­la­neum and all the other neigh­bour­hood vil­lages tried to es­cape. A few of those who fled to­wards Naples prob­a­bly made it safely. Many plunged down to the tiny har­bor in the hope of flee­ing by boat. But the seaquake drove them back, drown­ing some of them. Many sought refuge in the pas­sages of the har­bor dock. There, in the dark of night, they fell into the grasp of two surges of in­can­des­cent gas. In an in­stant they were all dead. A flow of blis­ter­ing mud, sev­eral me­tres high, in­vaded the city, hid­ing it from view. After three days, the drama was com­plete. No trace of Her­cu­la­neum re­mained. The mud so­lid­i­fied into tuff and with the pas­sage of time Her­cu­la­neum lit­er­ally van­ished from view. It was only a ques­tion of time be­fore it was for­got­ten. As to the where­abouts of the Ve­su­vian ci­ties, for many cen­turies, no one would know where they where.

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