Saturday Art: End Times In Pompeii
The lava flow that ended their world for the residents of Pompeii many centuries ago in 79 A.D. must have seemed like the End Times we have had announced by another cult to be scheduled this evening at around 6 p.m. somewhere. The mountain/volcano Vesuvius still rumbles, but then it was shooting out flames, and finally the flow that swept over the resort community and snuffed out their lives and activities.
Pompeii was first occupied in the 8th century BC. The Etruscans soon dominated the region and Pompeii was no exception. The Etruscan occupation lasted throughout the 5th and 6th centuries BC. After the Etruscans came the Saminites. The Saminites turned Pompeii into a pure Greek town. Their reign ended when the Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BC. The Romans retained control over Pompeii until the end… a fateful day in 79 AD when Mt Vesuvius unleashed its fury on the 20,000 inhabitants of this thriving Roman city
The art and carving that went into decorating the villas of wealthy retreats outside the city of Naples is gradually being recovered by excavations that are careful and painstaking. It’s possible to tour the city now, walking through the frames of pillars, frescoes, carvings and city streets. What remains would not have been preserved for us, of course, without the disastrous destruction that buried it in lava until the present day.
The people and buildings of Pompeii were covered in up to twelve different layers of soil which was 25 meters deep that rained for about 6 hours. Pliny the Younger provides a first-hand account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from his position across the Bay of Naples at Misenum, in a version which was written 25 years after the event. The experience must have been etched on his memory given the trauma of the occasion, and the loss of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, with whom he had a close relationship. His uncle died while attempting to rescue stranded victims. As Admiral of the fleet, he had ordered the ships of the Imperial Navy stationed at Misenum to cross the bay to assist evacuation attempts. Volcanologists have recognised the importance of Pliny the Younger’s account of the eruption by calling similar events “Plinian“.
The eruption was documented by contemporary historians and is generally accepted as having started on 24 August 79, relying on one version of the text of Pliny’s letter. However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the city was buried about two months later; This is supported by another version of the letter which gives the date of the eruption as November 23. People buried in the ash appear to be wearing warmer clothing than the light summer clothes that would be expected in August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October, and conversely the summer fruit that would have been typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Wine fermenting jars had been sealed over, and this would have happened around the end of October. The coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include one which includes a fifteenth imperatorial acclamation among the emperor’s titles. This cannot have been minted before the second week of September. So far there is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy.
Walking through the ruins is a stroll in a city that existed historically, then disappeared. There are homes with stairs and drainpipes, as well as murals and footbaths. Shops have counters and dishes for dispensing food to passers-by, and the streets are cobbled with occasional higher passageways for keeping travelers’ feet dry. There is a famous bawdyhouse, with pictures like those above advertising the services offered.
Sadly, the excavations have been damaged due to a lack of protection from the elements after being exposed.
Some of the victims of lava were dug out after the centuries, and are in glass cases showing the ways they met their end. Animals, as well, were caught as they fled. Their world really ended, unlike the comedic exercise our cultists are carrying out today.