Pyroclastic Pompeii


The ruins of Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background, sleeping.

Pompeii plaster figureThat 3D film showing the last 24 hours of Pompeii had me dodging the pumice and watching the sparks fly past my head. It was almost too realistic for my liking. I felt very glad to be safe in the modern era, more than 1900 years after that series of pyroclastic surges flowed over Pompeii, burying the city and its hapless inhabitants.

Even though the film was a brilliant reconstruction of the events in one part of the city, I think the plaster figures were more moving and distressing to see. They made it so easy to picture the last moments of the people and the animals: the slave tearing at his leg irons, the dog writhing in pain, the people clasped together in love and despair.

So let’s remember the people of Pompeii. I love their graffiti. Here’s a selection:

  • Lovers are like bees in that they live a honeyed life.
  • Atimetus has got me pregnant.
  • I hope your piles irritate you so that they burn like they’ve never burned before.
  • Nobody is gallant unless he has loved.
  • If anyone does not believe in Venus, he should gaze at my girlfriend.

Below are some fascinating facts that I learned today. See if you can add something I haven’t mentioned in a comment for others to read or, if you prefer, write a comment about what you found most interesting about the exhibition.

The bread of the rich contained yeast and therefore was soft and fluffy. The bread of the poor was unleavened (containing no yeast) and was therefore flat and hard, a little like pita bread. You see, inequality permeates even the most basic aspects of life.

People used dice in Pompeii and they were not above cheating. There were some samples of loaded dice at the exhibition; they had been weighted to fall on some numbers more often.



Pompeii - paved streetMost of the people who died in Pompeii survived for the first 22 hours or so, but were killed by the intense heat and buried by the series of pyroclastic surges between 6.30 and 7.30am on August 25, 79AD (almost 24 hours after the first explosion from Vesuvius).

Pompeii with VesuviusThe ash, pumice and sand reached a height of 4 metres, burying the city so effectively that after several years had passed people began to forget where it had once stood.

Pompeii - columnsEven though 2,000 people died, it is estimated that 10,000 people survived. They were the ones who fled from the city well before the pyroclastic surges began in the early hours of 25 August.

Pompeii courtyardPliny the Younger, who wrote the sole surviving eye-witness account of the eruption, had this type of volcanic event named after him. A “Plinian” eruption is one characterised by repeated explosions.

What can you remember? What did you find most fascinating? Write a comment to inform others.

You were a pleasure to take on an excursion, 7E. Thanks!

Ms Green.

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17 Replies to “Pyroclastic Pompeii”

  1. YAY first to comment i think.
    i learnt that a cremation jar is to store a dead persons body.

  2. I learnt that they used millstones to mill bread. The millstones were made out of volcanic rock.

  3. i thought that it was interesting how after the volcano exploded that the people that were buried had their shapes of their still preserved. SCARY!!!

  4. Hi Miss!

    Yesterday at the excursion i learnt that Mt Vesuvius erupted over lots of hours and it spread over lots of kilometres. Why would you stay back and guard your property? Its not like you can ask the volcano not to destroy everything.


  5. Hi Ms. Green!
    The excursion yesterday was very interesting for me. The part that I found most interesting was the 3D Cinema and the little clip of pompeii.

    Did you know that Earthquakes were common in Pompeii, which might’ve been part of the reason why some people hadn’t fled Pompeii right away?

  6. I found out that they milled their bread out of millstones and the millstones were made out of volcanic rock.

  7. i learnt about the casts of the people. i thought the movie of the last 24hrs was interesting.
    how many people lived in pompeii before vesuvius erupted?

  8. I leart that a specialty of some take out food shops were wine mixed with marn or hot water.
    Another thing that I learnt is that sex between a master and his (or her) slave was allowed and that sometimes the master gave gifts to the slave as well. Sometimes it could be an armband. Engraved on it could be “FROM MASTER TO HIS SLAVE”. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I think if I was living during that age I would’ve been sleeping with 2 knives. =.=”

  9. the excursion was kinda boring but i saw my old ps ther.
    i also learnt quiet a few things alredy. thank u for organising the excursion and letting us eat at melb central. xD
    it will b much better if it was free lolz.
    mason out
    cyaaa x]

  10. The excursion was really fun. it was the 2nd time id seen it.
    Before i went to the exhibition on the holidays id always pictured the city being buried by a giant wave of lava. i was interested to learn that it was really ash and pumice that covered the city.

    I also learnt that although it was a big disaster most of the people survived.

  11. i learnt that the hanging scales could measure larger objects on the larger scale and small things like gold and spice were measured on the smaller scale.

  12. i learnt that lava flows at 200 miles an hour so you have no chance of surving if you were in pompeii at the time Mt Vesuvius.

  13. i learnt that pompeii was buried in ash 4m deep! the movie was good too and it was scary the way the ash pummelted down.

  14. The excursion was pretty good especially the 3D movie
    i don’t get what was sooo scary about the moooovie o.O
    do you know?? =D

  15. Hey Ros and 7E (glad ur all commenting :),

    i was kinda sad when i went to go see the bodies which had been encased
    by the pyroclastic surge. I found it really rude and disrespectful how some other high school kids behind divya and i were laughing and joking at them.
    Well, atleast the bodies didn’t die in vain, Mt. Versuvius is now luckily being watched and moniterd.
    On the wall behind the dead men and women, it wrote something like this: “Women wailed in agony and children cried in sorrow and men shouted. There was those who were pleading with the gods, and some that said the gods didn’t exist at all, and that this was there last night on earth. by Pliny.
    (Ros i think, u’ve got the acutal words which i copyed down)
    i reckon it was kind of sexist though, to proclaim that women can wail, but men shout, oh well… Pliny was a guy, and a pretty good writer.

    Thanks for letting us come Ros, we really appreciate it, im really sorry if any of our others teachers gave u a hard time about allowing us to go.
    p.s prehaps u could add under the english phrases the latain translations.
    my favourite two are ” Nobody is gallant unless he has loved.”
    “If anyone does not believe in Venus, he should gaze at my girlfriend.”
    ha ha didn’t they believe that Venus was the planet of love or somthin..

    i thought it was brilliant and a true testiment to archelogists that they managed to recover so many of thoose items!

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