Mount Vesuvius was responsible for the destruction of the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. Most everyone has heard one story or another about arguably the most well-known volcanic eruption in history, but how many of you know what really happened on that fateful day in Pompeii?
Weirdly, Mount Vesuvius isn't really that impressive in person. In terms of size, it's really more like a reasonably big hill. Of course, those with even a cursory knowledge of history or geology know that this mountain located on the west coast of Italy is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Honestly, the Vesuvius eruption is not even the most interesting part of the story of the Italian city. How much do you know about daily life before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius? Hopefully, these facts about Pompeii will shed some light on one of the most famous ancient catastrophes and natural disasters in recorded history, as well as the vibrant society that preceded it.
The Disaster Of Pompeii Coined The Word "Volcano"
When most of us hear the word “Pompeii,” our minds probably go to volcanoes and hot lava. The citizens of Pompeii themselves, however, didn’t know what a volcano was.
Before the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, there was no word for volcano. They had to come up with one right after the catastrophic eruption. The word is derived from “Vulcan," the Roman God of Fire.
Pompeii’s Citizens Had Perfect Teeth
During the 1800s, the skeletal remains found in Pompeii were cast in plaster for protection. This made research and examination impossible for scientists at the time, but, thanks to contemporary technology (more specifically, multi-layer CT scans), modern Italian scientists were able to make 3-D reconstructions of the skeletons that provided interesting insights into life in Pompeii.
One of the things that surprised researchers the most was the “Hollywood teeth” the majority of the Pompeii's citizens had. Their dental fortitude was mainly due to their good diet (rich in fruits and vegetables), as well as extremely high levels of fluorine that existed around the volcano.
The Ash Didn't Kill Everyone; The Heat Did
The estimates as to how many people were killed in Pompeii vary greatly, and the number has been a heated topic of debate among historians for decades. Regardless of how many people actually perished, it seems that we have been wrong in our belief that most of the victims died of suffocation from the ash in the air. New studies suggest that most died instantly from the extreme heat. That's right, unfortunately most of them were roasted (or boiled) alive.
People Tried To Create Makeshift Masks To Save Themselves
Although the story of Pompeii is rife with tragic elements, perhaps one of the saddest things that archeologists discovered is that the citizens had tried to save themselves, using their tunics as makeshift masks. In the 1990s, when they uncovered many of the remains, archeologists noticed that a number of the bodies had their tunics pulled up around their mouths in an attempt to ward off the unbelievably thick, smoky, and sulfurous air. Unfortunately, the high heat and reality that many were essentially boiled alive made this attempt futile.