Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On This Day: Mt. Vesuvius Erupts - The Ghosts of Pompeii

August 23 in AD 79, the citizens of Pompeii, which was one of four cities that flourished at the base of the volcano Mt. Vesuvius, were celebrating the Feast of Vulcan, the god of fire with a citywide festival. The city of Pompeii, at that time, was home to approximately 20,000 people, in addition to vacationing Romans who owned holiday villas in the city. Ironically, the volcano Mount Vesuvius began to stir which may have appeared to be a sign that the god Vulcan was pleased.

The next morning, on August 24, Mt. Vesuvius started to erupt and the city once full of frivolity was now set into a frenzy trying to evacuate. The entire event took approximately 19 hours with 6 of those hours being a steady rain of tephra. The total accumulation of the tephra was 25 meters deep. The town of Pompeii had been silenced.

1,700 years later archaeologists began to uncover Pompeii and discovered many buildings, tools, and even artwork preserved under the volcanic ash. One archaeologist noticed there were large holes in the ash and realized that the holes were actually the forms of the bodies before they had decomposed. Plaster was injected into the holes, which resulted in an eerie discovery. The ash and pumice that buried the people of Pompeii preserved forever their last moments on earth and their eternal death masks.

A wide spread belief was that the Pompeii citizens died of ash suffocation, but that is not the case. The true cause of death was Thermal Shock. The people were exposed to heat at 250 degree Celsius at a distance of 10 kilometers and their death was instantaneous. No manner of shelter could protect them.
What remains are the casts of men, women, children, and animals in their last poses and facial expressions as they perished. If you believe in reincarnation, as I do, it is quite possible a few of us may be looking upon ourselves in a former life.
Kerri L. Schultz

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe there aren't any comments... Something about this has always stirred my soul. As was stated is it because somehow subconciously I know I am looking at myself, or maybe people that I once lived with? Or is it the basic human condition of fear, of the thought of holding your children knowing that death is imminent and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that you can do about it. One other tragedy has stirred these same emotions and that is the sinking of the Titanic. As I look upon these casts I realise these are people just like you and me, they were loving, flesh and blood people, with memories and thoughts and mothers and sons, feelings of hope and joy and for it to all end in terror. I would love to be able to touch one of them, maybe to try and reach out to them to let them know that they are remembered and not forgotton. And they too are our constant reminders that we are mortal and one day a new generation will be looking upon us contemplating their lives.