Pompei, Herculaneum, Vesuvius
Pompeii is undoubtedly one of the world’s best known archaeological sites. Its fame comes from its dramatic destruction and extraordinary preservation as a result of an eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
On August 20, A.D. 79, Pompeii was rocked by more earth tremors, although they do not seem to have been as severe as the 62 earthquake. Springs in the area dried up. The ancient Pompeians did not recognize that these were signs of the imminent eruption of Vesuvius. Therefore when the volcano went off between noon and 1pm on August 24, it caught everyone by surprise. According to Pliny the Younger, a 12-mile high cloud of ash and rock was thrown into the air, blocking out the sun. By chance, the wind was blowing from the northwest, so when the volcanic matter began to fall, it was blown in the direction of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and other sites to the southeast. The eruption produced total darkness, as well as electrical discharges from atmospheric disturbances. Ash, pumice, and rock fell, initially with a low density.This piled up in streets, on rooftops, and fell in through every open space such as windows. Some roofs collapsed under its weight and falling debris may also have caused injury.
This phase of the eruption continued for the rest of the day. People wandered around in darkness, pushing their way through pumice and debris, which was piling up. Some may have tried to escape, while others decided to wait it out. Surely no one had experienced such a catastrophe before so they did not know what to expect from it.
Herculaneum, said to have been founded by Hercules, is a remarkably well-preserved Roman town.Built some time between 80 and 70 B.C., it was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.Unlike Pompeii, however, Herculaneum was not buried by lava and lapilli (burning fragments of pumice stone), but was submerged by thick mud which then solidified into soft tufa rock, thus preserving the many frescoes and artefacts you can still admire today.The town was discovered in 1709 and excavation work since has brought to light sumptuous villas, baths, theatres and even a villa thought to have belonged to the father-in-law of Julius Caesar.
Mt. Vesuvius is the best known volcano on earth; it dominates the Bay of Naples with its characteristic cone. It is a typical example of a volcano in a volcano made by an outer broken cone, Mt. Somma (1133 metres) with a crateric belt most of which is destroyed. In it there is a smaller cone, the Mt. Vesuvius (1281 metres), divided by Valle del Gigante (Giants Valley), a part of the ancient caldron where in a later period, perhaps during the 79 A.D. eruption, the Gran Cono (Great Cone) or Mt. Vesuvius arose.
The last eruption of Vesuvius began on 18th March 1944 during the occupation of the allied troops. This concluded a period of minor eruptions from the central crater which began in 1914.