Introduction to P and H
Pompeii and Herculaneum were thriving cities in southern Italy until they were destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD. The eruption had a devastating effect upon the economy, society and topography of the surrounding area, destroying towns, villages, villas and farms. The landscape, including the coastline and the course of the Sarnus river, were altered irrevocably.
Pompeii and Herculaneum are situated along the coast in the bay of Naples. Herculaneum sits on the northwest side of Vesuvius and Pompeii to the south.
It is difficult to imagine today what the Vesuvius area looked like prior to the eruption of 79 AD as the topography of the area was changed substantially. This is resultant of the eruption and numerous smaller eruptions that would occur later.
Tacitus - 'Capri used to look out over a very beautiful bay, before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius changed the regions appearance
Statius - 'Will future generations, believe, when the crops and these now deserted places once more thrive again, that cities and peoples are buried belo and that ancestral lands have disappeared, having shared in the same fate? Not yet does the mountain top cease to threaten death.
During the eruption, the mouth of the Sarnus River and the shallow bay to the south were filled in by volcanic deposits, which pushed the coastline of Pompeii outwards by more than one kilometre.
Introduction to Sources
Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56 - c. 117AD), Roman Historian. His surviving works are life Agricola, Germania, Histories and Annals. Tacitus wrote about the eruption of Versuvius and the death of Pliny the Elder about 25 years after the event. He wrote to his friend, Pliny the Younger, asking for an accurate description of events
'Thank you for asking me to write to you about my uncle's death so that you can pass on more accurate account to future generations' -Gaius Cornelius Tacitus
Pliny the Elder