Monday, November 11, 2013

Geopiece of the Day: Ancient city of Pompeii

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and took the city of Pompeii with it. The tragedy remains in people´s minds not only because of the magma that conserved buildings, people and items of everyday use but also because roman writer Pliny witnessed the catastrophe from nearby Misenum.

Remains in Pompeii

Pliny described the tragedy a few years later in a letter to his friend Cornelius Tacitus:

"My uncle was stationed at Misenum, in active command of the fleet. On 24 August, in the early afternoon, my mother drew his attention to a cloud of unusual size and appearance. He had been out in the sun, had taken a cold bath, and lunched while lying down, and was then working at his books. He called for his shoes and climbed up to a place which would give him the best view of the phenomenon. It was not clear at that distance from which mountain the cloud was rising (it was afterwards known to be Vesuvius); its general appearance can best be expressed as being like an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then split off into branches, I imagine because it was thrust upwards by the first blast and then left unsupported as the pressure subsided, or else it was borne down by its own weight so that it spread out and gradually dispersed. In places it looked white, elsewhere blotched and dirty, according to the amount of soil and ashes it carried with it.

Ruins of the city with the perpetrator Mount Vesuvius in the Background

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