Letters from Pliny the
Younger to Tacitus.
The author was 18 at the
time and living with his
uncle in nearby Misenum.
Pompeii, about 20 miles south of
Naples, is on a fertile plain, with
the Bay of Naples to the west, and
the Appenine mountains on the east.
The first settlers in the area were
likely a tribal group, the Oscans,
who may have founded Pompeii in the
8th Century BC. There are also
traces of Ionian settlements tracing
back to the same century.
Eventually, the surrounding area
came under Hellenic control, with
Pompeii and Herculaneum serving as
principal cities in the region.
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Eventually, in the 5th century BC,
the area came under the domination
of the Samnites, who, in turn, were
driven out by the Romans in the 8th
century BC. The people of
Pompeii resented and ultimately
resisted Roman rule and joined
various other tribal groups against
Rome in the Social Wars of the 1st
century BC. Pompeii was
soundly defeated in 89 BC.
Ninety years later, Mount Vesuvius
erupted, but in the interim period,
Pompeii, and the other cities and
towns of Campania, including those
along the Amalfi Coast, enjoyed a
period of prosperity. The
coastal towns in particular became
retreats and resorts for Roman
nobility and wealthy gentry.
Vesuvius was inactive up until it
erupted in August, 79 AD, although
the area suffered a series of
frequent and destructive earthquakes
beginning 17 years earlier.
The eruption was sudden and
Millions of tons of lava, stone and
ash spewed from Vesuvius and
engulfed local farms and vineyards.
Mephitic gas rolled across the
countryside, killing people
and animals in their tracks. Ash and
debris piled on Pompeii and other
nearby communities to a depth of
over 30 feet, sealing them for
During the excavation
archaelogists discovered voids in
the solidified ash, the spaces left
by decayed bodies of humans and
animals. By filling them with
plaster of paris, numerous spectral
figures, frozen in time, were cast
for those in future civilizations
living to see, and bear witness.
As you tour the ruins you will enter
the villas of the wealthy and the
homes of the less well to do.
There are several inns and
restaurants, bakeries and even a
brothel. Take a look at the
Grand Theatre is still used, the
Gladiator's Barracks and the
Amphitheatre which dates back to 80
BC and is one of Italy's oldest.
The ruins are large and to do them
justice will require a full day,
preferably with a professional tour
Other Resources about Pompeii: