Story Behind City of Pompeii Italy
Written By: LFG
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
The Story Behind City of Pompeii Italy
The story of Pompeii has been told and retold several times, both in films and literary works. It’s one of those events that, despite its tragic nature, is often romanticized partly due to the city’s rich cultural history.
Pompeii is situated on a coastal plateau in Naples’s beautiful province, around the Campania area, about 130 feet above sea level. Its proximity to Mount Vesuvius made it both a beautiful and terrifying place to be. Around the 8th century BC, Greek settlers arrived at the town and started their civilization. But eventually, the small town fell under Rome’s influence after becoming a tourist attraction to wealthy Romans.
Over time, Pompeii transformed into a bustling town, with luxurious villas and elegant houses sprouting around the area. Thanks to its constant influx of visitors, business establishments such as taverns, brothels, and even bathhouses were flourishing. The city’s population grew to about 10,000-20,000 people despite having an area of 170 acres.
The Fall of Pompeii
Mount Vesuvius is considered among the most active volcanoes globally, even then. Pompeii’s citizens were used to the occasional ground shaking, but no one expected a catastrophic event was looming ahead. One tell-tale warning that happened sixteen years before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was an intense earthquake that occurred in the Campania region. Unfortunately, the limitations of technology and studies on natural disasters proved to be Pompeii’s ultimate downfall.
One notable account of the eruption as that of Pliny the Younger, a writer who survived and managed to record what happened that fateful day. On August 24. 79 AD, Pliny the Younger was with his family in Misenum when his sister noticed a huge gray cloud slowly increasing by the second. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, took a boat towards Pompeii in hopes of rescuing possible survivors. According to his journals, the ashfall was growing thicker and hotter, with hot black stones falling from the sky.
The city of Pompeii was about three miles from the volcano, and as such, suffered the most damage compared to the nearby towns. The town was covered with volcanic debris to 7 meters deep, causing roofs of both houses and buildings to collapse, killing more people. Those who weren’t perished by the surging lava that went a hundred miles per hour were asphyxiated by the thick smoke that blanketed the air.
The next day, the entire area of Pompeii ceased to exist, killing thousands of its residents. Some residents who were able to escape attempted to return in search of loved ones, but the devastation left nothing to the imagination—Pompeii was no more.
For seventeen centuries, Pompeii was preserved under the rubble, and there were two instances wherein it was partially rediscovered, first in the sixteenth century and second on 148. But it wasn’t until 1860 that an Italian archaeologist named Giuseppe Fiorelli made substantial progress in digging up the old Pompeii. Fiorelli took charge of taking the deceased citizens’ body casts, and it became a catalyst for other archaeologists to take an interest in the ancient city. Everything in Pompeii was virtually intact to everyone’s shock—the same as it was before the eruption took place. Even the skeletons did not lose shape throughout the centuries. It was indeed a sight to behold and remains to be the most well-known artifact of the entire city.
By 1920, another archaeologist named Amedeo Maiuri made more progress and dug up more of the city to gain more knowledge about its history. Over the years, there were attempts to restore more of Pompeii’s structures after another earthquake occurred in 1980.
UNESCO officially declared Pompeii a World Heritage Site in 1997. This decision made it even more popular among tourists, which is why it attracts millions of visitors to Italy. To control tourism, the government encouraged people to see other neighboring attractions such as Villa Poppaea, Stabiae, and Herculaneum. The diversion worked, and this helped keep Pompeii as undisturbed as possible, considering nature has started to erode the structures.
Some scientists believe Mount Vesuvius is due to erupt again any day. No one knows when, but it’s bound to happen soon. Nevertheless, people will never forget how a cataclysmic event once destroyed a city full of life. Pompeii’s splendor will live on through its eerie ruins that stood frozen in time.
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