The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius and it’s importance for our knowledge of Roman everyday life.
Nazia Ahmed 12SO
The eruption of Mt Vesuvius
In the year of 79AD Mount Vesuvius violently erupted causing devastation in the surrounding area. Prior to the earthquake tremors were felt, however these warning signs were brushed off. Pliny the younger even wrote of these tremors as ”not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania”. It is thought that seismic activity heightened on the 20th August, so the four days before the erupted were littered with many earthquakes .The people of Pompeii were not even aware that Vesuvius was a volcano, there is no word in Latin for volcano. The people of Pompeii did not flee when the tremors began because they were not aware that these were the precursors to such a violent eruption
After 1500 years of being dormant, Mount Vesuvius awoke from it’s sleep on the 24th of August 79AD. At approximately 1pm Vesuvius expelled lava at supersonic speeds to form a churning column of molten rock and gas which reached 15kms into the sky just minutes after the eruption. “I can best describe its shape by likening it to a pine tree. It rose into the sky on a very long "trunk" from which spread some "branches."”. This description of the column was featured in Pliny the younger’s letters to Tacitus.
The path of the ash cloud during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD Unusual wind drove this cloud of ash to Pompeii roughly half an hour after the eruption. The boiling rock that had been propelled into the atmosphere mixed with the air, cooled, solidified, then fell as rocks. The majority of this fallout consisted of pumice, but amongst them there was also cold dense rocks torn from the inside of the volcano that fell at 200km/h. Anyone victim to a blow from one of these rocks would have met their end.
Pumice and ash sucked moisture out of air causing dehydration therefore the people of Pompeii were weakened and many chose to stay on their homes. A few hours into the eruption, falling pumice blocked doorways trapping people inside.
Pyroclastic surge similar to the ones caused by Vesuvius during the eruption of 79 AD The eruption of Vesuvius caused numerous pyroclastic surges - a fluidized mass of turbulent gas and rock fragments. The first of them did greatly affect Pompeii, it instead devastated Herculaneum. The people of this town were engulfed in the pyroclastic surge and suffered quick deaths caused by the shear heat of the surge. The second surge headed directly for the city. The surge stopped shy of the northern walls of the city. This spared the citizens of Pompeii from the instantaneous death the people of Herculaneum experienced due to the extreme temperature of the surge, it is 5 times hotter than boiling water. Instead a toxic cloud of gas from the surge filled the streets of Pompeii. The Carbon dioxi de and hydrochloric acid in this toxic cloud continued to weaken the people of Pompeii by suffocating them and burning their eyes and throat. The death of the people of Pompeii was not immediate. In their first breath they inhaled hot gas and ash filling their lungs with fluid. The second breathe mixed ash with fluid creating a wet cement in lungs and windpipe. The third breathe thickened the cement causing victims to gasp for breathe and further suffocate. This slow excruciating form of death did not mutilate the bodies which is why the casts made from the bodies were in such pristine condition.
After 18 hours the final and greatest surge travelling at over 100km/h spread through the entire bay of Naples including Pompeii. This last surge further buried the town of Pompeii. In 18 hours Vesuvius spewed out more than 10 billion tons of pumice rock and ash. This acted as a kind of seal to not only moulds of soft tissue such as people but it also preserved the architecture and...