The Vesuvius eruption in 79 AD
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.