Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius on the feast of Vulcan. August 23, 79 AD.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), erupting molten rock and pulverized pumice and ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. More than 1,000 people died in the eruption, but exact numbers are unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. On August 23, Mount Vesuvius begins stirring, on the feast day of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. The Vulcanalia was the annual festival held August 23 in his honor. His Greek counterpart is Hephaestus, the god...

The death of Agrippa Postumus. August 20, 14 AD.

Agrippa Postumus was the youngest son of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder, the daughter and only biological child of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus initially considered Postumus as a potential successor and formally adopted him as his heir. In AD 6, an uprising began in the Roman province of Illyricum. Augustus sent Tiberius to crush the revolt with his army, and after a year of delayed results, he sent Germanicus in his capacity as quaestor to assist in bringing the war to a swift end. The reason, Dio says, that Germanicus was chosen over Postumus is because Postumus was of an “illiberal nature”. Postumus was known for being brutish, insolent, stubborn, and potentially violent. He possessed great physical strength and reportedly showed little interest in anyt...

Titus Begins Sole Reign – June 23, 79 AD

During the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), Vespasian was held in high esteem, allowing his son, Titus to be raised in the company of the royal court. Titus was taught along side Britannicus, Claudius’s son. They became close friends and Titus was at the dinner party at which Britannicus was fatally poisoned by Nero in 55. It is said Titus even drank some of the poison and became very ill, but recovered. Nero continued to rule, Vespasian had retired in 51 and Titus was sent to Germania. From c.57-59, Titus was a military tribune in Germania, arriving in Britannia c.60 with reinforcements after the revolt of Boadicea. Titus married twice, the first to Arrecina Tertulla, the daughter of one of Caligula’s praetorian prefects, when he returned to Rome in c.63. The were married until Tertulla’s de...

Hell on Earth – August 24, 79 AD

“Broad sheets of flame were lighting up many parts of Vesuvius; their light and brightness were the more vivid for the darkness of the night… it was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night.” –Pliny the Younger, describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the early afternoon of August 24, 79 AD, from around 18 miles away in Misenum. This is a category  titus denarius. The volcano erupted in two dramatic, and very deadly, phases. The first, an eruption which shot columns of gas, pumice and volcanic ash into the stratosphere had a shape like a pine tree, and was subsequently named after Pliny the Elder (today called Plinian eruptions). This first phase, lasting 18-20 hours, punished the area with spewing its cloud 20+ miles upwa...

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