(ORDO NEWS) — Pompeii has captured the attention of the world for many years, and few places have unearthed more information about the life and luxury of the Roman Empire than they do.
The latest clues, scrawled on the walls by unknown people, and others found in the ashes, change the idea of when exactly the city met its sad end from a volcanic eruption.
One day in 79 A.D. some hard worker wrote a joke on the wall of one of the buildings with charcoal: “He ate too much.” However, this commonplace joke was dated: October 17, two months after the alleged eruption of Vesuvius.
It is believed that Pompeii was buried on August 24, based on a letter from Pliny the Younger, who, while on the other side of the Gulf of Naples, observed the destruction from a safe distance.
This new date is considered fairly accurate, as the charcoal used to write the graffiti would not have lasted long in the sea air. Instead, volcanic ash preserved him.
There are other recently discovered reasons to believe that the eruption occurred at the end of the year: charred fruits from the autumn harvest, bodies buried in thick clothes for cold weather, braziers in the street still filled with firewood, sealed amphorae of wine – again from the harvest – and a coin minted no earlier than September.
Pliny’s account of the advancing ash is gruesome and helps us visualize the full force of the eruption as it spread through the region. He wrote the day after the eruption:
“On the other hand, a terrible black cloud appeared above the earth, from which flames and huge fiery tongues, similar to enlarged lightning, burst out.
Soon after that, the cloud descended and covered the sea, hiding Capri and Capo Mizenum from the eyes. Mom begged me to leave her and run with all my strength, but I took her in my arms and forced her to come with me.
The ash was already falling, but not very thick. Then I turned around and saw that a thick black cloud was advancing on the ground behind us like a flood.
“Let’s get out of the way while we can still see,” I said, “or we’ll be knocked down and trampled by the mob.”
We barely had time to sit down to rest, as darkness descended on us. But it was not the darkness of a moonless or cloudy night, but as if the lamps had been extinguished in a completely closed room.
We heard the cries of women, the cries of children and the cries of men. Some called their parents, children or wives and tried to recognize them by their voices.
Some people were so terrified of their impending death that they prayed for death. Many prayed to the gods for help, but even more imagined that there were no gods left and that the last eternal night had fallen on the world.
Only one third of Pompeii has been excavated so far. Most of the last two decades have been devoted to restoration work as part of the Great Pompeii project “There is probably still a lot to discover.
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