Today is the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii in 79 CE. It’s also my eldest nephew’s birthday, so doubly an important date for me. On this day, one of the most evocative places on earth was frozen in time for us to explore two millennia later — plus I first got to stick out my tongue at a newborn and see him mimic me (as I’d hoped). He has been a quick study ab ovo.
Vesuvius’s most famous eruption was a horrendous tragedy when it happened, but the trove of information it left us about daily life in a Roman town is invaluable — so much more fascinating than written history, which is mostly just about war. For example, the fresco here from a household shrine in ancient Pompeii apparently shows the volcano as it looked before the top blew. This is the only known depiction during the 500 dormant years that lulled the residents of the region into a false sense of safety. Some of those living on the slopes must have seen evidence of charring, steam vents and bubbling mud, but the last eruption had long passed from living memory.
The guy dressed in grapes next to the volcano is Bacchus (aka Dionysus), god of wine, present because the volcanic soil was (and is) excellent for vineyards.
If you’re curious about life in first-century Italy, please check out a fictional exploration in my time-travel romance, Templum. My contemporary mystery/romance The Five-Day-Dig also taps into the unparalleled mystique of this setting.Tweet this