HistoryVesuvius: between myth and history

The origins of the name

Mount Vesuvius is located in the Gulf of Naples and is one of the most dangerous active, or rather at rest, volcanoes in the world.

The name Vesuvius has many origins. It is said it has Indo-European origins or that it was consecrated by the hero Hercules. The most accredited hypothesis, however, is that of a popular tradition according to which the name Vesuvius comes from the Latin “Vae Suis” which means “Woe to his own”, as the various eruptions occurred in the past were always preceded by catastrophic events for the city of Naples and the Campania region.

The eruptions that went down in history

The eruption of 79 A.D. was the main eruptive event in the history of Vesuvius which destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

According to sources the eruption occurred on 24th August with an explosion that caused the release of a pyroclastic cloud which buried the city of Pompeii. During the night, the densest part of the gas column descended along the sides of Vesuvius creating a burning cloud that reached the city of Herculaneum, killing any life form. The eruption was so strong that it changed the morphology of Vesuvius, which took a more conical shape, and led to the birth of Mount Somma.

After 79 A.D., other eruptions took place until 1631 where there was a violent explosive activity which involved Portici, Herculaneum, Torre del Greco, and Torre Annunziata.

Vesuvius’ last eruption was in 1944 and it destroyed Massa di Somma and San Sebastiano and covered Ottaviano and the whole Southern Italy with ashes.

The buried city of Pompeii

After the eruption of 79 A.D., Pompeii remained buried until 1860 when the first explorations began and brought to light almost the entire ancient city. Among the main monuments discovered, there are the Forum, the Temple of Jupiter, and the Basilica.

The most important discovery was the finding of the remains of the bodies, well preserved thanks to the solidification of the ash on their body which created a cast.

Today the archeological finds are kept in the Archeological Museum of Naples.

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