Did anyone survive in Pompeii?

Back in 79 A.D., the citizens of Pompeii were met with a loud burst of smoke on top of the nearby mountaintop. Little did they know that this mountain top was, in fact, a volcano which was set to erupt and destroy the entire city. The eruption destroyed the entire city, covering the area with a thick layer of ash that hid the ruins for thousands of years. Nowadays Pompeii is merely an archaeologist site of an ancient area, with the city’s citizens, last moments etched into the remains.

The Eruption

The 79 A.D. eruption caused a devasting effect on the volcano’s nearby neighbours, with around 2,000 citizens killed by the volcano. Before the eruption even started, there were numerous tremors in the days prior, warning the area of the destruction to come. But due to the city already enduring numerous earthquakes throughout its time, most of the citizens merely brushed it off. Mount Vesuvius then blasted a large cloud of smoke which rained down ash that covered the city in a thick layer as deep as 25km. This smoke and ash created a suffocating and muggy atmosphere, with the Pompeii people wrapping tunics around their mouths as make-shift masks. The world was shaking, with numerous buildings crumbling down and hitting escaping townsfolk. But the main cause of death in the city was due to the pyroclastic gas, a hurtling hot wave of ash, toxic gas, and debris that speed down and burnt the people alive on impact, burying the city and its citizens.

Who would have survived?

Archaeologists have determined from past documents and artefacts that there were around 20,000 people living within the city at the time of the eruption. From studying the skeleton remains, they estimated it that around 2,000 people died in the eruption. With those who survived either was not in the city at the eruption time or was carried to safety in Misenum by the Roman navy. Those who did not leave early or chose to stay in the city certainly died from the pyroclastic flows, suffocation, or being crushed by falling debris.

Where do the stories come from?

The events of Pompeii’s devastating end comes from the letters of the seventeen-year-old Pliny the Younger. Pliny was with his uncle, Pliny the Elder, who was an official member of the Royal Court and was in charge of the fleet within the Bay of Naples. Sadly, Pliny the Elder died during the eruption, with Pliny the Younger recounting his death in his letter. His two letters to Cornelius Tacitus recounted the events of the eruption first hand and are the only primary source found for this particular event.

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