The end of an era
In 62 AD, a severe earthquake caused great devastation in Pompeii. This should have served as a warning of the disaster to come, but it went unheeded by the locals, who were accustomed to feeling the earth tremble and considered it the work of the gods. Instead, the city optimistically began to rebuild, and this work was still underway when Vesuvius erupted in spectacular fashion on 24 August 79 AD. The massive explosion sent a column of hot ash thousands of metres into the air, and triggered pyroclastic flows which rampaged down the mountainside at over 200 kilometres an hour, destroying everything in their path. Soon, what had been a vibrant city was completely buried under up to 10 metres of volcanic ash.
Despite the scale of the destruction, however, many of Pompeii’s residents managed to escape in the first hours of the eruption: overall, fewer than 2,000 people died. In the months that followed, the Emperor Titus offered aid to the devastated region, and survivors returned to the wasteland that had been their home. Parts of buildings still protruded through the ash, and the refugees used these to pinpoint landmarks and dig down to recover their belongings or simply to plunder what remained.