The city of Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many smaller places around the Bay of Naples, were Roman municipalities destroyed during an eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79.
The eruption was described by Pliny the Younger, whose uncle Pliny the Elder died after travelling across the bay with a flotilla of naval vessels to save some of those trapped in the seaside towns.
The town was founded in the 7th century BC by the Osci, a people of central Italy, on a hill near the mouth of the Sarno River, already in use as a safe port by Greek and Phoenician sailors.
The inhabitants of Pompeii, as those of the area today, had long been used to minor tremors and wisps of gas from Mt. Vesuvius, and in 65 AD there had been a series of earthquakes serious enough to cause structural damage to houses in town; and in early August of 79 AD, all the town's wells dried up; but the warnings were not sharp enough, and the Roman world was stunned when on August 23 a catastrophic volcanic eruption of the volcano buried the city and obscured the sun on a mild afternoon.
Coincidentally, the date was that of the Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire.
The only reliable eyewitness account of the event was recorded by Pliny the Younger in a letter to the historian Tacitus.
Pliny saw a strange phenomenon occurring over Mt. Vesuvius: a large dark cloud shaped rather like a pine tree emanating from the mouth of the mountain.
After some time the cloud rushed down the flanks of the mountain and covered everything around it, including the surrounding sea.
The "cloud" that Pliny the Younger wrote about is known today as a pyroclastic flow, which is a cloud of superheated gas, ash, and rock that erupts from a volcano.
Pliny stated that several earth tremors were felt at the time of the eruption and were followed by a very violent shaking of the ground.
He also noted that ash was falling in very thick sheets and the village he was in had to be evacuated.
Also, the sea was sucked away and forced back by an "earthquake", a phenomenon which modern geologists call a tsunami.
His description then turned to the fact that the sun was blocked out by the eruption and the daylight hours were left in darkness.
His uncle Pliny the Elder had already taken several ships to investigate the phenomenon.
Thick layers of ash covered two towns located at the base of the mountain, and eventually their names and locations were forgotten.
The city was lost for 16 centuries.
Herculaneum was rediscovered in 1738, and Pompeii in 1748.
These towns have since been excavated to reveal many intact buildings and wall paintings.
The towns were actually found in 1599 by an architect named Fontana, who was digging a new course for the river Sarno, but it took more than 150 years before a serious campaign was started to unearth them. Until that time, Pompeii and Herculaneum were assumed to be lost forever.
The town offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st century.
This moment in time shows that Pompeii was a lively place before the eruption, and evidence abounds of literally the smallest details of everyday life.
Pompeii's well-preserved frescoes offer an unparalleled insight into the culture of an ancient city.
At the time of the eruption, the town could have had some 20,000 inhabitants.
Many services were found: the Macellum (great food market), the Pistrinum (mill), the Thermopolia (sort of bar that served cold and hot beverages), the cauporioe (small restaurants), and an amphitheater.
Pompeii served as the background for the historic novel The Last Days of Pompeii and the British television series Up Pompeii, and Robert Harris' recent novel, Pompeii, a fictional account focused on aquarius (engineer) Marcus Attilius who must repair a fault in the largest aqueduct in the world, the Aqua Augusta, which has failed somewhere around Mount Vesuvius.
For a more information about Pompeii see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompeii) December 2005
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in December 2005. E. & O.E.
During 1978, Sarolta, my daughter and I had a fairly extensive look around in Italy, many of it's cities, architectural, monumental, artistic and natural treasures.
We did enjoy our tripping around.
In 2004 Hui Chin and I visited Pompeii while we were travelling around Italy and some of their beautiful islands.
Well, what can I say?
We had a good look around.
You can click on these photos for an enlargement.
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