It was 79 AD when a mountain near the Roman city of Pompeii did something rather unexpected – it exploded into life revealing itself as a volcano.
The green slopes of Vesuvius had hidden its true nature for centuries. But in that year, a cataclysmic eruption tore it apart sending a plume of fire far into the sky.
Pompeii volcano described: “Tree with a flaming trunk”
One contemporary account described it as looking like a tree with a flaming trunk and streaks of fire and smoke high above. That whole area of Italy was plunged into darkness only lit up by thundery streaks.
Death didn’t come instantly to thousands of people living nearby and many chose not to flee straight away. Instead, the stunned citizens of Pompeii decided to stick it out. Maybe they were still overcome with a degree of incomprehension – the sight before them was too much to absorb.
What happened next was the collapse of the enormous volcanic plume sending hot gas and rubble fanning out across Pompeii, Herculaneum and other the surrounding countryside.
At temperatures over a thousand degrees celsius, people were fried where they stood, sat or lay. It didn’t matter if they sought shelter – there was no escape from the Pompeii volcano.
DISCOVER: Victorian movies from the 19th century
It took 1500 years for Pompeii to be accidentally rediscovered under many feet of solidified volcanic material. Gradually, over the centuries, streets have been uncovered as well as town houses, temples and bath houses.
By pouring concrete into the spaces left behind by vaporised human bodies, we’re even able to see the positions that people died in. Sometimes their hands are raised and you can certainly see their mouths open for one last gasp.
I just visited Pompeii and felt the need to share some great images with you. Hopefully, you will get the opportunity to travel to southern Italy and see it for yourself!