Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vesuvius: 23rd August 79 AD

Today in the year 79 AD was the day of Vulcan, God of Fire, and Vesuvius began it's fateful rumble that would herald the two day obliteration of Pompeii and Herculanium with the deaths of tens of thousands.

Earlier in the month the springs and wells had dried up and they'd been experiencing earth tremors - but this was nothing new and the volcano had been growling in its sleep for something like twenty years before the big day.

They hadn't realised that these smaller signs were portents of a cataclysm and they continued their lives in the shadow of the volcano, unaware that when their doom came they'd have little to no chance to flee.

Pliny the Younger, whose uncle died in the disaster commanding a fleet that went to the rescue of the area, witnessed the eruption at the tender age of seventeen and he described how ash and stones rained down as sheets of fire leaped out of the volcanoes maw and the sky was covered with thick, black, poisonous smoke.

This wasn't the last time Vesuvius has erupted either. Apparently it has awoken dozens of times in spectacular fashion, including during the Second World War although the Allied forces had captured the area at this point (1944) so sadly the eruption hampered the Allies rather than the fascists' war effort.

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