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.