Vignette 4: Paint a literary portrait of the scene after the eruption: What does it look like? What does it smell like? What sounds does one hear? How is the natural world responding to the effects of the eruption? What are the animals doing? How is the plant life responding to the change? Think of this vignette as a bird’s-eye view of Pompeii after the eruption.
_Still more....not finished!!! *******
The sun rises as it does every morning, but the shadow it casts takes on a very different shape today. Gone are the tall buildings that had created the perfect squares and hallways of light. Gone are the walls and the fences, which had once created patterns of dark and light on the lush green grass. Gone are the feet bustling to and fro, casting the elongated shadows of their owners as they busily start a new morning.
The sun rises today to a stillness, a flatness, a grey nothingness.
The earth is silent. No noise has been made since the eruption. Insects buried themselves deep within the earth or scuttled away. Birds flew away to find new homes. Other animals fled before the eruption. The humans that didn’t escape are buried beneath feet of ash along with their domesticated animals. All plant life was destroyed when the ash rained down and heat enveloped the city. No life will be sustained here for many years to come.
In the aftermath, Vesaevus; its summit considerably changed and its slopes completely denuded of vegetation, looms silently over the desolated land. Tendrils of smoke can still be seen rising from its gaping maw. For miles around, only a thick, dusty greyness peppered with chunks of rock can be seen.
Apart from the few people who sift through the ashes looking to recover lost possesions, not a single speck of colour or movement remains to be seen. I am sure that some few of these searchers will be looters looking for things of value, anything that will turn a profit. Always there are people like this who seek to profit from the devastation of others. It turns my stomach to think of such an enormous loss of life, all life - animal, vegetetable, mineral.
To think of all those lying dead beneath the rocks and ash, surrounded by the everyday accoutrements of their lives, never more to partake of earthly delights, fills me with such a melancholia that I believe will reside in me for the remainder of my days.
As I stand here on the highest point of Pompeii, Castellum Aquae, I can see that the upheaval has also changed the course of the Sarnus River so that Pompeii is no more on the river or the coast.
[Info... The writer Statius was about 34 years old when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and may have witnessed the eruption. The landscape was already unrecognisable when he wrote, ‘Will future generations believe, when crops and these now deserted places once more thrive again, that cities and peoples are buried below and that ancestral lands have disappeared, having shared in the same fate? Not yet does the mountain-top cease to threaten death.’ (Silvae 4.4.78–85)
During the 79 AD eruption the mouth of the Sarnus River and the shallow bay to the south were filled in by volcanic deposits, which pushed the coastline of Pompeii outwards by more than one kilometre.
Similar to the Egyptians, the Pompeiians life was devoted solely to the practices of their religious beliefs, aiming to appease their many gods through offerings, rituals and sacrifices to maintain a civil and plentiful society. Vulcan, god of forge, fire and blacksmiths , was one such god whom the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum sought to appease him with the celebration of Volcanalia through the sacrifice of small fish on the 23rd of August .
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
Vesuvius has a long historic and literary tradition. It was considered a divinity of the genius type at the time of the eruption of 79 AD: it appears under the inscribed name Vesuvius as a serpent in the decorative frescos of many lararia, or household shrines, surviving from Pompeii. An inscription from Capua to IOVI VESVVIO indicates that he was worshipped as a power of Jupiter; that is, Jupiter Vesuvius]
The irony of this is that the Romans were extremely interested in predicting the future, and they had a range of ways to detect what they saw as the approaching wrath of the gods. They were adept, for example, at observing 'portents' in the shape of strange sights and sounds, or unusual births.
... there were warnings of the eruption of Vesuvius.
Even in these terms, there were warnings of the eruption of Vesuvius. Earthquakes in themselves counted as portentous, and the historian Cassius Dio, writing over a century later, reports repeated sightings of giants roaming the land. This was a bad portent indeed, given that one standard explanation for the volcanoes of south Italy was that, when the gods defeated the rebellious giants and brought peace to the universe, they buried them beneath the mountains, and that it was their stirrings that caused the eruptions.
But while the ancient imagination doubtless conjured up giants in plumes of gas from fumaroles (vents from which volcanic gas escapes into the atmosphere), the earthquakes that Pliny described so casually were more than just portents. Current thinking, however, had not yet caught up with their significance. We know this because, by an extraordinary coincidence, the philosopher Seneca, advisor to the emperor Nero, wrote a discussion of the scientific causes of earthquakes only a few years before the eruption.
Seneca's treatise on the causes of natural phenomena included an entire book on earthquakes, and at the time he was writing, the news was coming in freshly of the catastrophic earthquakes in Campania of AD 63, which caused extensive damage to both Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Seneca writes that he regarded it as likely that earthquakes in different parts of the world were interconnected, and even that they were linked to stormy weather, but he draws no link with volcanic activity. Indeed, he goes so far as to reproach the landowners who were deserting Campania for fear of further earthquakes.