The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius: Aug. 24 - AD 79
The Italian countryside around the Bay of Naples has always been noted for its beauty. In the days of the Roman Empire, its blue skies and magnificent scenery led many wealthy Romans to build villas there. The old and prosperous cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the quiet little town of Stabiae were among the many local summer resorts.
On Aug. 24, AD 79, these towns were destroyed, and great stretches of the countryside were laid waste.
On that morning the great volcano "Mount Vesuvius" began to belch forth steam, gases, lava, and flames. Then began a hail of pumice followed by a torrent of white ashes. For nearly two days white ashes fell like snow on the doomed cities.
The most "famous casualty" of the great eruption was Pliny the Elder. He was in command of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Naples and took ships across the bay to Stabiae in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue refugees.
When the cloud lifted it revealed widespread devastation...
The thriving cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were never rebuilt. In the course of centuries they were forgotten. Then early in the 18th century a well digger turned up a marble statue on the site of Herculaneum. The local government soon did some excavating and discovered other valuable art objects.
Since then excavations have gone on, with no interruptions, to the present.
These cities tell the story of Roman everyday life. A visitor may walk between rows of shops and houses, along street after street that still show the marks of the horses' hoofs and the ruts worn by chariot wheels in the paving blocks. On the walls may be read the scribbles of schoolboys, announcements of shops to rent and gladiatorial contests, and election notices scrawled in flaming red letters.
Many thousands of smaller objects found in Pompeii and Herculaneum were taken to the museum at Naples for safekeeping. In the museum are paintings, statues, mirrors, coins, pens and ink bottles