How Accurate is the Pompeii Movie to Reality?

Hollywood’s newly released movie adaptation ‘Pompeii,’ is based on one of the worst catastrophes in history; the volcanic eruption that destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii. Needless to say, the movie contained flying fireballs, crumbling buildings, and fleeing crowds of extras, but how accurate was the movie to the actual historic event?

The 79 BC eruption of Mount Vesuvius

In the year 79 BC, the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the ancient city of Pompeii and a majority of its citizens. The warnings started days prior to the eruption, with small earthquakes felt frequently for four days beforehand. However, this wasn’t a concerning event to citizens, as the Romans were accustomed to minor earth tremors in the city. Vesuvius then erupted, causing a loud thunder sound that blasted a large cloud of volcanic debris into the atmosphere, estimating to be over 19 km high. The volcano then blasted pyroclastic flow waves over 32km tall of gas, ash, and rock down towards Pompeii at speeds of 700km per hour. Those who were hit by this wave were burnt alive, with temperatures gathering up to 700 degree Celsius. The waves covered streets in thick layers of ash, with rocks crashing against roofs until they collapsed. Its entire eurption time lasted a full 24 hours, slowly burring the city in the thick layer of ash and debris.

The Movie’s Adaptation

This movie follows a slave turned gladiator, who falls in love with a wealthy man’s daughter. Their forbidden relationship is the main focus until the city they love starts crashing down around them. As with any Hollywood flick that is roughly based on real events, the filmmakers had a fair amount of creative license. However, scientists have stated the reality of the actual eruption to be quite accurate. Listing how the stage sequence was correct, with the earthquakes first, followed by the main explosion, and with the pyroclastic flows coming much later. However, to make the movie more dramatic, the writers embellished some stages. For example, the tsunami in the movie was much larger than in reality, with the tsunami being quite minor and never aggressively pushing ships into the city.

Overall despite the fictional storyline of the main characters, the movies adaptation of Pompeii’s tragic demise was quite accurate. It was not a documentary to retell an exact event as the purpose of the movie was to tell a story in a historic setting.

See Pompeii for yourself on our Pompeii Tour from Rome!