In Italy’s western region, near the Bay of Naples, lies a region called Campania. Within Campania is Pompeii, a Roman city that has been destroyed and buried. The city was buried due to the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the eruption was so powerful that it lasted for two days.

Campania is a region comprised entirely of flat, fertile land. There is not a lot that is known about Campania’s first settlers, except that they were probably hunters, gatherers, and fishing men and women. An Italic group of people known as the Oscans, came to the area in the eighth century and founded Pompeii. Also during this time, the Ionians settled into the area.

For the first few centuries, Pompeii was a sight of much turmoil. Although it began as a place for small trading posts, it soon became a place of much civilization. Due to the fact that Pompeii and the city of Herculaneum, which was close by to Pompeii, were in the heart of Greek occupation, they remained under Hellenic control. It wasn’t until the fifth century BC that a group of fighters from Samnium, which was just above Campania, invaded Pompeii and took it over. Rome however, drove the Samnites out and claimed Pompeii as their own at around 290 BC.

Although those living in Pompeii were forced to live under Roman rule, they were allowed to keep their language and their own culture but they were not considered to be a part of the Roman Empire. Therefore, they were required to do as the Romans wanted but could not partake of any of the benefits from being considered Roman citizens. It wasn’t until the Social War in 90 BC that they saw a chance to break away from the Roman Empire and they joined with others that were fighting the Romans. The two sides fought for two years, until Rome eventually defeated Campania and with General Surra. He then took Pompeii and Herculaneum in the year 89 BC.

Even though they had lost to the Romans, the side of the rebels was now considered to be Roman citizens. To prevent any thoughts of breaking free again however, they were no longer allowed to take their own culture or language. Work was begun to help turn Campania into a Roman area.

Because the land was so fertile and there were so many natural resources, trade was very prosperous and the quality and standard of living was increased considerably. For this reason, there was not much resistance from those living in Campania when they were forced to live as Romans. Those that were rich and lived in Rome began to view Campania as a wonderful place for vacationing and the coast of the Gulf became a very popular destination to many who wielded power including emperors and Roman aristocracy. The land of Pompeii was finally at peace.

That was the case until February 5, AD 62. It was on this day that a loud noise shook the town. Because they didn’t know of the danger that Mt. Vesuvius posed, no one in the town knew where the noise originated from or what it was. It wasn’t long after the noise when the ground started to shake and buildings started to topple down. In an effort to escape, many people started to flee from the town and the buildings that were collapsing. They however sadly would be engulfed in huge chasms that were opening in the ground and literally ripping it to pieces. Floods also started to happen because the shaking had caused the town’s reservoir to be destroyed. This lasted for about an hour and the ground then returned to normal. This caused hope in the residents that had managed to survive thus far but tremors continued at random times until nightfall.

The quakes eventually stopped and the town of Pompeii underwent major rebirth and rebuilding for the next seventeen years. The region of Campania became a prosperous area once again and the people living there became especially successful at maritime trading. However at the beginning of August AD 79, the earth began once again to shake. This time though, it was a significantly smaller degree and few gave it any attention as there wasn’t even any damage to the town. Another sign of bad things to come was that wells and springs dried up. This was thought of in ancient times as a sign that the gods were angry.

On August 20th, the major eruption started to take place. The earth moved and even broke in places, and the sea, which was generally quite calm, erupted into huge waves. Animals such as horses, cattle, and birds showed signs of unrest. It was on the morning of August 24th that that the volcano finally erupted with a great loud crack. Debris such as mud, smoke, flames, and burning stones, erupted out of the top of the mountain and started to flow rapidly down the sides. As it reached the bottom of the mountain and the surrounding territory, the debris swallowed farms, orchards and villas as it sped along its destructive path. The eruption also caused ash and rock to fall down around the entire region. It wasn’t just the debris and ash that the people needed to be worried about though. The eruption also included poisonous fumes, which caused those who breathed them to become delirious before suffocating to death.

The people of the area tried to protect themselves in a number of different ways. Some tried to run from the area, while others decided to wait until there was more room to move around the streets before fleeing. Some sealed themselves in their houses, thinking that they would not be harmed there. Those who did not run from the territory in time were killed by the falling buildings, the poisonous fumes, or the ash that continued to rain down from the eruption. The town and the bodies that remained there were completely covered in ash. The town of Pompeii eventually came to rest below a thirty-foot layer of the volcano’s mineral deposits.

Many years later, the story of Pompeii became known as a legend. It wasn’t until the Renaissance period that evoked interest in all things ancient. Famous writers began to write about the town of Pompeii and in the eighteenth century, a pheasant began to dig a well and found remains of the town and the people. Excavations still take place today as the town and the people that lived there, still hold much interest for researchers and historians. 



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