Pompeii Volcano: Mount Vesuvius

Welcome to this article on the Pompeii Volcano: The infamous Mount Vesuvius. We’ve all heard the tales regarding this prime example of nature’s wrath! Some of you may have seen the film, perhaps you’ve just got an interest on Pompeii, and then again you may never have heard anything about Vesuvius before. The volcano itself is most famous for buying the town of Pompeii in 79AD. If you need a reminder, head over to your history guide or our creepy facts page. Well this article will hopefully provide you with some knowledge through facts and figures about the mighty Vesuvius and tales of the Pompeii Volcano!


Prior to 79 AD

Interestingly enough, Pompeii and the surrounding area that was buried in 79AD wasn’t the first…and quite possibly wasn’t the last. While Pompeii is the most famous excavation in terms of the areas destroyed by the Pompeii volcano, there are much older sites as well. Around 3,800 years ago several bronze-age settlements were buried by an erupting Vesuvius which suggests that history has repeated itself in terms of Vesuvius claiming its victims. Interestingly, the vent was actually 2km West of Vesuvius’s current location.

Since 79 AD

So you may be wondering when this destructive power last had a major eruption. The answer is 1944. This was during WW2 and interestingly, a faction of the US Airforce was based near-by when the eruption occurred. Several villages were destroyed much like Pompeii and the Airforce lost around 80 planes due to ash and smoke damage. There hasn’t been an eruption since, although there have been a few close calls and emergency evacuations.

The Sleeping Pompeii Volcano

While there hasn’t been an eruption since 1944, that’s not to say we can just kick back and relax at the foot of the volcano without a care in the world. The truth is Vesuvius remains the only active volcano within mainland Europe! Many experts have come forth and expressed fears that the Pompeii Volcano is due for another disastrous eruption. In January, 2017 there were some tell-tale tremors similar to those on the run up to the 79 AD eruption. Things seemed to have calmed down (for now) but the sayings “calm before the storm” is certainly one that can be applied to Vesuvius. We’ll just have to cross our fingers that the evacuation plans are in order.

The God Volcano

Until the mighty eruption of 79 AD, there was no word for volcano. The word ‘volcano’ actually comes from the God Vulcan. Vulcan was a mighty blacksmith of the Roman Gods. Interestingly in the case of Vesuvius, its name is also believed to have derived from Gods: The Greek Gods. There are of course many different stories and tales but one which stands most true is that of Zeus and Hercules. There is already a nearby town to the Pompeii volcano called Herculaneum. This town was buried in the same 79 AD eruption the buried Pompeii.

Interestingly, Zeus (the famous Greek God) was known by many names. One of these names was Ves, in relation to his influence on rains and morning dews. When you look through mythologies such as that of Norse mythologies or the Greeks, you find that all famous people have their fathers mentioned. For example, you have Thor, son of Odin. Similarly, you have Hercules, son of Zeus. The key difference being that if you use his other name: Son of Ves which would be worded as Vesouvios. That is how we ended up with the name Vesuvius. You may remember the hit Disney film Hercules. No? Well there is a scene where the Titans (enemies of the Gods) are released, one of which is portrayed as being a lava Titan.

Stamina of a God

Speaking of Gods, when we look at the famous eruption of 79 AD, Vesuivius has the stamina of a God. While some eruptions are over as quickly as they started, this wasn’t the case here. The eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum lasted for 24 hours! So you can see why people viewed it in a God-like manner. How else would you expect the Gods to display their wrath?

Land Ahoy!

There is a reason that Pompeii remained hidden for so long after the 79 AD eruption. Usually when a town or city is damaged by a natural disaster, there is an effort made to rebuild. There are two main reason why this wasn’t the case for Pompeii.

1) The death toll is estimated to have been about 13% of the local population. During the confusion and panic many trying to escape actually ran into the on-coming wave of death. The Pompeii volcano wiped the surrounding area from the map, which takes us to the next point.

2) Pompeii was known for being a port. Due to this fact, when people tried to find the town again, they looked next to the sea (obviously). Little did they know that the sheer impact and ejection of lava, rocks and ash from Vesuvius had added a significant amount of land mass onto the coast: Meaning that Pompeii was no longer next to the sea it was in fact 2km away from it.


Designed to Kill

Those who have lived around Vesuvius throughout the years have been rolling dice with Gods. It’s interesting to note that you get varying types of volcano. Vesuvius happens to be one of the most dangerous. It is known as a stratovolcano (and a complex one at that). Due to their steep nature at the summit and more gentle slopes at the base, they become more pressurised at the top. Compared to other types of volcano, they are more explosive and are known for their pyroclastic flows. These flows are what killed the villagers of Pompeii. They are giant waves of hot air that travel down the volcano at incredible speeds. These can be as high as 999oC.