Mount Vesuvius

Last updated

Mount Vesuvius
Vesuvius from Pompeii (hires version 2 scaled).png
Mount Vesuvius as seen from the ruins of Pompeii, which was destroyed in the eruption of AD 79. The active cone is the high peak on the left side; the smaller one on the right is part of the Somma caldera wall.
Highest point
Elevation 1,281 m (4,203 ft)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Prominence 1,232 m (4,042 ft)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Coordinates 40°49′N14°26′E / 40.817°N 14.433°E / 40.817; 14.433 Coordinates: 40°49′N14°26′E / 40.817°N 14.433°E / 40.817; 14.433
Native nameMonte Vesuvio  (Italian)
Muntagna Vesuvio  (Neapolitan)
Age of rock 25,000 years before present to 1944; age of volcano = c.17,000 years to present
Mountain type Somma-stratovolcano
Volcanic arc/belt Campanian volcanic arc
Last eruption 17–23 March 1944
Easiest route Walk

Mount Vesuvius ( /vɪˈsviəs/ viss-OO-vee-əs; Italian : Monte VesuvioItalian pronunciation:  [ˈmonte veˈzuːvjo; -suː]; Neapolitan : Muntagna Vesuvio [munˈdaɲːə vəˈsuːvjə] ; Latin : Mons Vesuvius [mõːs wɛˈsʊwɪ.ʊs] ; also Vesevus or Vesaevus in some Roman sources) [1] is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km (5.6 mi) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure.


The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), erupting molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 6×105 cubic metres (7.8×105 cu yd) per second, [2] ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. [3] More than 1,000 people are thought to have died in the eruption, though the exact toll is unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. [4]

Vesuvius has erupted many times since, and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living near enough to be affected by an eruption, with 600,000 in the danger zone, making it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world, as well as its tendency towards violent, explosive eruptions of the Plinian type. [5]


Vesuvius has a long historic and literary tradition. It was considered a divinity of the Genius type at the time of the eruption of AD 79: it appears under the inscribed name Vesuvius as a serpent in the decorative frescos of many lararia, or household shrines, surviving from Pompeii. An inscription from Capua [6] to IOVI VESVVIO indicates that he was worshipped as a power of Jupiter; that is, Jupiter Vesuvius. [7]

The Romans regarded Mount Vesuvius to be devoted to Hercules. [8] The historian Diodorus Siculus relates a tradition that Hercules, in the performance of his labors, passed through the country of nearby Cumae on his way to Sicily and found there a place called "the Phlegraean Plain" (Φλεγραῖον πεδίον, "plain of fire"), "from a hill which anciently vomited out fire ... now called Vesuvius." [9] It was inhabited by bandits, "the sons of the Earth," who were giants. With the assistance of the gods he pacified the region and went on. The facts behind the tradition, if any, remain unknown, as does whether Herculaneum was named after it. An epigram by the poet Martial in 88 AD suggests that both Venus, patroness of Pompeii, and Hercules were worshipped in the region devastated by the eruption of 79. [10]

Vesuvio landscape.jpg
City of Naples with Mount Vesuvius at sunset


Vesuvius was a name of the volcano in frequent use by the authors of the late Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire. Its collateral forms were Vesaevus, Vesevus, Vesbius and Vesvius. [11] Writers in ancient Greek used Οὐεσούιον or Οὐεσούιος. Many scholars since then have offered an etymology. As peoples of varying ethnicity and language occupied Campania in the Roman Iron Age, the etymology depends to a large degree on the presumption of what language was spoken there at the time. Naples was settled by Greeks, as the name Nea-polis, "New City", testifies. The Oscans, an Italic people, lived in the countryside. The Latins also competed for the occupation of Campania. Etruscan settlements were in the vicinity. Other peoples of unknown provenance are said to have been there at some time by various ancient authors.

Some theories about its origin are:


A view of the crater wall of Vesuvius, with the city of Torre del Greco in the background Vesuvius crater wall.jpg
A view of the crater wall of Vesuvius, with the city of Torre del Greco in the background

Vesuvius is a "humpbacked" peak, consisting of a large cone (Gran Cono) partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier (and originally much higher) structure called Mount Somma. [15] The Gran Cono was produced during the A.D. 79 eruption. For this reason, the volcano is also called Somma-Vesuvius or Somma-Vesuvio.[ citation needed ]

The caldera started forming during an eruption around 17,000-18,000 years ago, [16] [17] [18] and was enlarged by later paroxysmal eruptions, [19] ending in the one of AD 79. This structure has given its name to the term "somma volcano", which describes any volcano with a summit caldera surrounding a newer cone. [20]

The height of the main cone has been constantly changed by eruptions but was 1,281 m (4,203 ft) in 2010. [17] Monte Somma is 1,132 m (3,714 ft) high, separated from the main cone by the valley of Atrio di Cavallo, which is 5 km (3.1 mi) long. The slopes of the volcano are scarred by lava flows, while the rest are heavily vegetated, with scrub and forests at higher altitudes and vineyards lower down. Vesuvius is still regarded as an active volcano, although its current activity produces little more than sulfur-rich steam from vents at the bottom and walls of the crater. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano at the convergent boundary where the African Plate is being subducted beneath the Eurasian Plate. Layers of lava, ash, scoria and pumice make up the volcanic peak. Their mineralogy is variable, but generally silica-undersaturated and rich in potassium, with phonolite produced in the more explosive eruptions [21] (e.g. the eruption in 1631 displaying a complete stratigraphic and petrographic description: phonolite was firstly erupted, followed by a tephritic phonolite and finally a phonolitic tephrite). [22]


Vesuvius was formed as a result of the collision of two tectonic plates, the African and the Eurasian. The former was subducted beneath the latter, deeper into the earth. As the water-saturated sediments of the oceanic African plate were pushed to hotter depths inside the planet, the water boiled off and lowered the melting point of the upper mantle enough to partially melt the rocks. Because magma is less dense than the solid rock around it, it was pushed upward. Finding a weak spot at the Earth's surface, it broke through, thus forming the volcano.[ citation needed ]

The volcano is one of several which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Others include Campi Flegrei, a large caldera a few kilometers to the north west, Mount Epomeo, 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the west on the island of Ischia, and several undersea volcanoes to the south. The arc forms the southern end of a larger chain of volcanoes produced by the subduction process described above, which extends northwest along the length of Italy as far as Monte Amiata in Southern Tuscany. Vesuvius is the only one to have erupted within recent history, although some of the others have erupted within the last few hundred years. Many are either extinct or have not erupted for tens of thousands of years.


Procession of Saint Januarius during an eruption of Vesuvius in 1822 Procession des reliques de Saint Janvier en 1822.jpg
Procession of Saint Januarius during an eruption of Vesuvius in 1822

Mount Vesuvius has erupted many times. The eruption in AD 79 was preceded by numerous others in prehistory, including at least three significantly larger ones, including the Avellino eruption around 1800 BC which engulfed several Bronze Age settlements. Since AD 79, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly in 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500. [19] The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century (including 1779 and 1794), eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929 and 1944. There have been no eruptions since 1944, and none of the eruptions after AD 79 were as large or destructive as the Pompeian one.

The eruptions vary greatly in severity but are characterized by explosive outbursts of the kind dubbed Plinian after Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer who published a detailed description of the AD 79 eruption, including his uncle's death. [23] On occasion, eruptions from Vesuvius have been so large that the whole of southern Europe has been blanketed by ash; in 472 and 1631, Vesuvian ash fell on Constantinople (Istanbul), over 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) away. A few times since 1944, landslides in the crater have raised clouds of ash dust, raising false alarms of an eruption.

Before AD 79

Vesuvius erupting. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection. Vesuvius (erupting), Brooklyn Museum Archives.jpg
Vesuvius erupting. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

Scientific knowledge of the geologic history of Vesuvius comes from core samples taken from a 2,000 m (6,600 ft) plus bore hole on the flanks of the volcano, extending into Mesozoic rock. Cores were dated by potassium–argon and argon–argon dating. [24] The area has been subject to volcanic activity for at least 400,000 years; the lowest layer of eruption material from the Somma caldera lies on top of the 40,000 year‑old Campanian ignimbrite produced by the Campi Flegrei complex.

Fresco of Bacchus and Agathodaemon with Mount Vesuvius, as seen in Pompeii's House of the Centenary Pompeii - Casa del Centenario - MAN.jpg
Fresco of Bacchus and Agathodaemon with Mount Vesuvius, as seen in Pompeii's House of the Centenary

Several surviving works written over the 200 years preceding the AD 79 eruption describe the mountain as having had a volcanic nature, although Pliny the Elder did not depict the mountain in this way in his Naturalis Historia : [31]

Eruption of AD 79

In AD 79 Vesuvius erupted in one of the most catastrophic eruptions of all time. Historians have learned about the eruption from the eyewitness account of Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet [35] In the surviving copies of the letters several dates are given. [36] The latest evidence supports earlier findings and indicates that the eruption occurred after 17 October. [37]

The volcano ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 6×105 cubic metres (7.8×105 cu yd) per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. [3] The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by pyroclastic surges and the ruins buried under tens of metres of tephra. [3] [35]

Precursors and foreshocks

The AD 79 eruption was preceded by a powerful earthquake in 62, which caused widespread destruction around the Bay of Naples, and particularly to Pompeii. [38] Some of the damage had still not been repaired when the volcano erupted. [39] The deaths of 600 sheep from "tainted air" in the vicinity of Pompeii indicates that the earthquake of AD 62 may have been related to new activity by Vesuvius. [40]

The Romans grew accustomed to minor earth tremors in the region; the writer Pliny the Younger even wrote that they "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania". Small earthquakes started taking place four days before the eruption [39] becoming more frequent over the next four days, but the warnings were not recognized. [lower-alpha 1]

Scientific analysis

Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as other cities affected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash, pumice and cinders. Modern coast lines are shown. Mt Vesuvius 79 AD eruption.svg
Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as other cities affected by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The black cloud represents the general distribution of ash, pumice and cinders. Modern coast lines are shown.

Reconstructions of the eruption and its effects vary considerably in the details but have the same overall features. The eruption lasted two days. The morning of the first day was perceived as normal by the only eyewitness to leave a surviving document, Pliny the Younger. In the middle of the day an explosion threw up a high-altitude column from which ash and pumice began to fall, blanketing the area. Rescues and escapes occurred during this time. At some time in the night or early the next day pyroclastic surges in the close vicinity of the volcano began. Lights were seen on the peak interpreted as fires. People as far away as Misenum fled for their lives. The flows were rapid-moving, dense and very hot, knocking down wholly or partly all structures in their path, incinerating or suffocating all population remaining there and altering the landscape, including the coastline. These were accompanied by additional light tremors and a mild tsunami in the Bay of Naples. By late afternoon of the second day, the eruption was over, leaving only haze in the atmosphere through which the sun shone weakly.

The latest scientific studies of the ash produced by Vesuvius reveals a multi-phase eruption. [41] The initial major explosion produced a column of ash and pumice ranging between 15 and 30 kilometres (49,000 and 98,000 ft) high, which rained on Pompeii to the southeast but not on Herculaneum upwind. The chief energy supporting the column came from the escape of steam superheated by the magma, created from seawater seeping over time into the deep faults of the region, that came into interaction with magma and heat.

Subsequently, the cloud collapsed as the gases expanded and lost their capability to support their solid contents, releasing it as a pyroclastic surge, which first reached Herculaneum but not Pompeii. Additional blasts reinstituted the column. The eruption alternated between Plinian and Peléan six times. Surges 3 and 4 are believed by the authors to have buried Pompeii. [42] Surges are identified in the deposits by dune and cross-bedding formations, which are not produced by fallout.

Another study used the magnetic characteristics of over 200 samples of roof-tile and plaster fragments collected around Pompeii to estimate equilibrium temperature of the pyroclastic flow. [43] The magnetic study revealed that on the first day of the eruption a fall of white pumice containing clastic fragments of up to 3 centimetres (1.2 in) fell for several hours. [44] It heated the roof tiles up to 140 °C (284 °F). [45] This period would have been the last opportunity to escape.

The collapse of the Plinian columns on the second day caused pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) that devastated Herculaneum and Pompeii. The depositional temperature of these pyroclastic surges ranged up to 300 °C (572 °F). [46] Any population remaining in structural refuges could not have escaped, as the city was surrounded by gases of incinerating temperatures. The lowest temperatures were in rooms under collapsed roofs. These were as low as 100 °C (212 °F). [47]

The two Plinys

The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. [4] Pliny the Younger describes, amongst other things, the last days in the life of his uncle, Pliny the Elder. Observing the first volcanic activity from Misenum across the Bay of Naples from the volcano, approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi), the elder Pliny launched a rescue fleet and went himself to the rescue of a personal friend. His nephew declined to join the party. One of the nephew's letters relates what he could discover from witnesses of his uncle's experiences. [48] [49] In a second letter the younger Pliny details his own observations after the departure of his uncle. [50] [51]

The two men saw an extraordinarily dense cloud rising rapidly above the peak. This cloud and a request by a messenger for an evacuation by sea prompted the elder Pliny to order rescue operations in which he sailed away to participate. His nephew attempted to resume a normal life, but that night a tremor awoke him and his mother, prompting them to abandon the house for the courtyard. Further tremors near dawn caused the population to abandon the village and caused disastrous wave action in the Bay of Naples.

The early light was obscured by a black cloud through which shone flashes, which Pliny likens to sheet lightning, but more extensive. The cloud obscured Point Misenum near at hand and the island of Capraia (Capri) across the bay. Fearing for their lives, the population began to call to each other and move back from the coast along the road. A rain of ash fell, causing Pliny to shake it off periodically to avoid being buried. Later that same day the pumice and ash stopped falling and the sun shone weakly through the cloud, encouraging Pliny and his mother to return to their home and wait for news of Pliny the Elder.

Pliny's uncle Pliny the Elder was in command of the Roman fleet at Misenum, and had meanwhile decided to investigate the phenomenon at close hand in a light vessel. As the ship was preparing to leave the area, a messenger came from his friend Rectina (wife of Tascius [52] ) living on the coast near the foot of the volcano explaining that her party could only get away by sea and asking for rescue. Pliny ordered the immediate launching of the fleet galleys to the evacuation of the coast. He continued in his light ship to the rescue of Rectina's party.

He set off across the bay but in the shallows on the other side encountered thick showers of hot cinders, lumps of pumice and pieces of rock. Advised by the helmsman to turn back, he stated "Fortune favors the brave" and ordered him to continue on to Stabiae (about 4.5 kilometers from Pompeii).

Pliny the Elder and his party saw flames coming from several parts of the crater. After staying overnight, the party was driven from the building by an accumulation of material, presumably tephra, which threatened to block all egress. They woke Pliny, who had been napping and emitting loud snoring. They elected to take to the fields with pillows tied to their heads to protect them from the raining debris. They approached the beach again but the wind prevented the ships from leaving. Pliny sat down on a sail that had been spread for him and could not rise even with assistance when his friends departed. Though Pliny the Elder died, his friends ultimately escaped by land. [53]

In the first letter to Tacitus, Pliny the Younger suggested that his uncle's death was due to the reaction of his weak lungs to a cloud of poisonous, sulphurous gas that wafted over the group. However, Stabiae was 16 km from the vent (roughly where the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia is situated) and his companions were apparently unaffected by the volcanic gases, and so it is more likely that the corpulent Pliny died from some other cause, such as a stroke or heart attack. [54] His body was found with no apparent injuries on the next day, after dispersal of the plume.


Pompeii, with Vesuvius towering above Pompeii&Vesuvius.JPG
Pompeii, with Vesuvius towering above

Along with Pliny the Elder, the only other noble casualties of the eruption to be known by name were Agrippa (a son of the Herodian Jewish princess Drusilla and the procurator Antonius Felix) and his wife. [55]

By 2003, around 1,044 casts made from impressions of bodies in the ash deposits had been recovered in and around Pompeii, with the scattered bones of another 100. [56] The remains of about 332 bodies have been found at Herculaneum (300 in arched vaults discovered in 1980). [57] What percentage these numbers are of the total dead or the percentage of the dead to the total number at risk remain completely unknown.

Thirty-eight percent of the 1,044 were found in the ash fall deposits, the majority inside buildings. These are thought to have been killed mainly by roof collapses, with the smaller number of victims found outside of buildings probably being killed by falling roof slates or by larger rocks thrown out by the volcano. The remaining 62% of remains found at Pompeii were in the pyroclastic surge deposits, [56] and thus were probably killed by them – probably from a combination of suffocation through ash inhalation and blast and debris thrown around. In contrast to the victims found at Herculaneum, examination of cloth, frescoes and skeletons show that it is unlikely that high temperatures were a significant cause. Herculaneum, which was much closer to the crater, was saved from tephra falls by the wind direction, but was buried under 23 metres (75 ft) of material deposited by pyroclastic surges. It is likely that most, or all, of the known victims in this town were killed by the surges.

People caught on the former seashore by the first surge died of thermal shock. The rest were concentrated in arched chambers at a density of as high as 3 persons per square metre. As only 85 metres (279 ft) of the coast have been excavated, casualties may be waiting to be excavated.

Later eruptions from the 3rd to the 19th centuries

Eruption of 16 December 1631. Joachim von Sandrart and Matthias Merian in Danckerts Historis, 1642. Dankaerts-Historis-9322.tif
Eruption of 16 December 1631. Joachim von Sandrart and Matthias Merian in Danckerts Historis, 1642.
An eruption of Vesuvius seen from Portici, by Joseph Wright (ca. 1774-6) Joseph Wright of Derby - Vesuvius from Portici.jpg
An eruption of Vesuvius seen from Portici, by Joseph Wright (ca. 1774-6)

Since the eruption of AD 79, Vesuvius has erupted around three dozen times.

The volcano became quiescent at the end of the 13th century and in the following years it again became covered with gardens and vineyards as of old. Even the inside of the crater was moderately filled with shrubbery.

Eruptions in the 20th century

The March 1944 eruption of Vesuvius, by Jack Reinhardt, B-24 tailgunner in the USAAF during World War II Mt Vesuvius Erupting 1944.jpg
The March 1944 eruption of Vesuvius, by Jack Reinhardt, B-24 tailgunner in the USAAF during World War II

At the time of the eruption, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 340th Bombardment Group was based at Pompeii Airfield near Terzigno, Italy, just a few kilometres from the eastern base of the volcano. The tephra and hot ash damaged the fabric control surfaces, the engines, the Plexiglas windscreens and the gun turrets of the 340th's B-25 Mitchell medium bombers. Estimates ranged from 78 to 88 aircraft destroyed. [63]

Ash is swept off the wings of an American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber of the 340th Bombardment Group on 23 March 1944 after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. 340th Bombardment Group B-25 Mitchell covered with ash from Mount Vesuvius.jpg
Ash is swept off the wings of an American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber of the 340th Bombardment Group on 23 March 1944 after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The eruption could be seen from Naples. Different perspectives and the damage caused to the local villages were recorded by USAAF photographers and other personnel based nearer to the volcano. [64]


Large Vesuvian eruptions which emit volcanic material in quantities of about 1 cubic kilometre (0.24 cu mi), the most recent of which overwhelmed Pompeii and Herculaneum, have happened after periods of inactivity of a few thousand years. Sub-Plinian eruptions producing about 0.1 cubic kilometres (0.024 cu mi), such as those of 472 and 1631, have been more frequent with a few hundred years between them. From the 1631 eruption until 1944, there was a comparatively small eruption every few years, emitting 0.001–0.01 km³ of magma. It seems that for Vesuvius, the amount of magma expelled in an eruption increases very roughly linearly with the interval since the previous one, and at a rate of around 0.001 cubic kilometres (0.00024 cu mi) for each year. [65] This gives an approximate figure of 0.075 cubic kilometres (0.018 cu mi) for an eruption after 75 years of inactivity.

Magma sitting in an underground chamber for many years will start to see higher melting point constituents such as olivine crystallizing out. The effect is to increase the concentration of dissolved gases (mostly sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide) in the remaining liquid magma, making the subsequent eruption more violent. As gas-rich magma approaches the surface during an eruption, the huge drop in internal pressure caused by the reduction in weight of the overlying rock (which drops to zero at the surface) causes the gases to come out of solution, the volume of gas increasing explosively from nothing to perhaps many times that of the accompanying magma. Additionally, the removal of the higher melting point material will raise the concentration of felsic components such as silicates potentially making the magma more viscous, adding to the explosive nature of the eruption.

The area around the volcano is now densely populated. Naplesbay01.jpg
The area around the volcano is now densely populated.

The government emergency plan for an eruption therefore assumes that the worst case will be an eruption of similar size and type to the 1631 VEI 4 [66] eruption. In this scenario, the slopes of the volcano, extending out to about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from the vent, may be exposed to pyroclastic surges sweeping down them, whilst much of the surrounding area could suffer from tephra falls. Because of prevailing winds, towns and cities to the south and east of the volcano are most at risk from this, and it is assumed that tephra accumulation exceeding 100 kilograms per square metre (20 lb/sq ft)—at which point people are at risk from collapsing roofs—may extend out as far as Avellino to the east or Salerno to the south-east. Towards Naples, to the north west, this tephra fall hazard is assumed to extend barely past the slopes of the volcano. [65] The specific areas actually affected by the ash cloud depend upon the particular circumstances surrounding the eruption.

The plan assumes between 2 weeks' and 20 days' notice of an eruption and foresees the emergency evacuation of 600,000 people, almost entirely comprising all those living in the zona rossa ("red zone"), i.e. at greatest risk from pyroclastic flows. [5] [67] The evacuation, by train, ferry, car, and bus, is planned to take about seven days, and the evacuees would mostly be sent to other parts of the country rather than to safe areas in the local Campania region, and may have to stay away for several months. However, the dilemma that would face those implementing the plan is when to start this massive evacuation: If it starts too late, thousands could be killed; whereas if it is started too early, the indicators of an eruption may turn out to be a false alarm. In 1984, 40,000 people were evacuated from the Campi Flegrei area, another volcanic complex near Naples, but no eruption occurred. [67]

The crater of Vesuvius in 2012 The crater of Vesuvius in 2012 (composite photograph).jpg
The crater of Vesuvius in 2012

Ongoing efforts are being made by the government at various levels (especially of Campania) to reduce the population living in the red zone, by demolishing illegally constructed buildings, establishing a national park around the whole volcano to prevent the future construction of buildings [67] and by offering sufficient financial incentives to people for moving away. [68] One of the underlying goals is to reduce the time needed to evacuate the area, over the next twenty to thirty years, to two or three days. [69]

The volcano is closely monitored by the Osservatorio Vesuvio in Naples with extensive networks of seismic and gravimetric stations, a combination of a GPS-based geodetic array and satellite-based synthetic aperture radar to measure ground movement and by local surveys and chemical analyses of gases emitted from fumaroles. All of this is intended to track magma rising underneath the volcano. No magma has been detected within 10 km of the surface, and so the volcano is classified by the Observatory as at a Basic or Green Level. [70]

National park

Funicular cable cars on Mount Vesuvius;
stereoscopy, about 1900 Knackstedt & Nather Stereoskopie 1355 Italien. Drahtseilbahn auf den Vesuv. Bildseite.jpg
Funicular cable cars on Mount Vesuvius;
stereoscopy, about 1900

The area around Vesuvius was officially declared a national park on 5 June 1995. [71] The summit of Vesuvius is open to visitors and there is a small network of paths around the volcano that are maintained by the park authorities on weekends. There is access by road to within 200 metres (660 ft) of the summit (measured vertically), but thereafter access is on foot only. There is a spiral walkway around the volcano from the road to the crater.

"Funiculì, Funiculà"

The first funicular cable car on Mount Vesuvius opened in 1880. It was later destroyed by the March 1944 eruption. "Funiculì, Funiculà", a Neapolitan language song with lyrics by journalist Peppino Turco set to music by composer Luigi Denza, commemorates its opening. [72]

See also


  1. The dates of the earthquakes and of the eruption are contingent on a final determination of the time of year, but there is no reason to change the relative sequence.

Related Research Articles

Stratovolcano Tall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava and other ejecta

A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile with a summit crater and periodic intervals of explosive eruptions and effusive eruptions, although some have collapsed summit craters called calderas. The lava flowing from stratovolcanoes typically cools and hardens before spreading far, due to high viscosity. The magma forming this lava is often felsic, having high-to-intermediate levels of silica, with lesser amounts of less-viscous mafic magma. Extensive felsic lava flows are uncommon, but have travelled as far as 15 km (9.3 mi).

Pyroclastic flow Fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter that moves away from a volcano

A pyroclastic flow is a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter that flows along the ground away from a volcano at velocities of 100 km/h (62 mph) on average but is capable of reaching speeds up to 700 km/h (430 mph). The gases and tephra can reach temperatures of about 1,000 °C (1,830 °F).

Volcanology The study of volcanoes, lava, magma and associated phenomena

Volcanology is the study of volcanoes, lava, magma and related geological, geophysical and geochemical phenomena (volcanism). The term volcanology is derived from the Latin word vulcan. Vulcan was the ancient Roman god of fire.

Pyroclastic rock Clastic rocks composed solely or primarily of volcanic materials

Pyroclastic rocks or pyroclastics are sedimentary clastic rocks composed solely or primarily of volcanic materials. Where the volcanic material has been transported and reworked through mechanical action, such as by wind or water, these rocks are termed volcaniclastic. Commonly associated with unsieved volcanic activity—such as Plinian or krakatoan eruption styles, or phreatomagmatic eruptions—pyroclastic deposits are commonly formed from airborne ash, lapilli and bombs or blocks ejected from the volcano itself, mixed in with shattered country rock. Tephra is pyroclastic material of any clast size formed by a volcanic eruption.

Tephra Fragmental material produced by a volcanic eruption

Tephra is fragmental material produced by a volcanic eruption regardless of composition, fragment size, or emplacement mechanism.

<i>Pompeii: The Last Day</i> 2003 dramatized documentary about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD

Pompeii: The Last Day is a 2003 dramatized documentary that tells of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24 79 AD. This eruption covered the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash and pumice, killing everyone trapped between the volcano and the sea. The documentary, which portrays the different phases of the eruption, was directed by Peter Nicholson and written by Edward Canfor-Dumas.

Cerro Negro mountain

Cerro Negro is an active volcano in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range in Nicaragua, about 10 km (6.2 mi) from the village of Malpaisillo. It is a very new volcano, the youngest in Central America, having first appeared in April 1850. It consists of a gravelly basaltic cinder cone, which contrasts greatly with the surrounding verdant hillsides, and gives rise to its name, which means Black Hill. Cerro Negro has erupted frequently since its first eruption. One unusual aspect of several eruptions has been the emission of ash from the top of the cone, while lava erupts from fractures at the base.

Plinian eruption type of volcanic eruption

Plinian eruptions or Vesuvian eruptions are volcanic eruptions marked by their similarity to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which destroyed the ancient Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The eruption was described in a letter written by Pliny the Younger, after the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder.

Peléan eruption type of volcanic eruption

Peléan eruptions are a type of volcanic eruption. They can occur when viscous magma, typically of rhyolitic or andesitic type, is involved, and share some similarities with Vulcanian eruptions. The most important characteristic of a Peléan eruption is the presence of a glowing avalanche of hot volcanic ash, called a pyroclastic flow. Formation of lava domes is another characteristic. Short flows of ash or creation of pumice cones may be observed as well.

A pyroclastic fall is a uniform deposit of material which has been ejected from a volcanic eruption or plume such as an ash fall or tuff. Pyroclastic air fall deposits are a result of:

  1. Ballistic transport of ejecta such as volcanic blocks, volcanic bombs and lapilli from volcanic explosions
  2. Deposition of material from convective clouds associated with pyroclastic flows such as coignimbrite falls
  3. Ejecta carried in gas streaming from a vent. The material under the action of gravity will settle out from an eruption plume or eruption column
  4. Ejecta settling from an eruptive plume or eruption column that is displaced laterally by wind currents and is dispersed over great distances
Types of volcanic eruptions Basic mechanisms of eruption and variations

Several types of volcanic eruptions—during which lava, tephra, and assorted gases are expelled from a volcanic vent or fissure—have been distinguished by volcanologists. These are often named after famous volcanoes where that type of behavior has been observed. Some volcanoes may exhibit only one characteristic type of eruption during a period of activity, while others may display an entire sequence of types all in one eruptive series.

Phreatomagmatic eruption Volcanic eruption involving both steam and magma

Phreatomagmatic eruptions are volcanic eruptions resulting from interaction between magma and water. They differ from exclusively magmatic eruptions and phreatic eruptions. Unlike phreatic eruptions, the products of phreatomagmatic eruptions contain juvenile (magmatic) clasts. It is common for a large explosive eruption to have magmatic and phreatomagmatic components.

Pompeii in popular culture

The ancient Roman city of Pompeii has been frequently featured in literature and popular culture since its modern rediscovery. Pompeii was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Lava Molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption

Lava is molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of some planets and some of their moons. Magma is generated by the internal heat of the planet or moon and it is erupted as lava at volcanoes or through fractures in the crust, usually at temperatures from 700 to 1,200 °C. The solid rock resulting from subsequent cooling is also often described as lava.

Herculaneum Roman town destroyed by eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Herculaneum was an ancient town, located in the modern-day comune of Ercolano, Campania, Italy. The city was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD Volcanic eruption in the Roman Empire

Of the many eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, a major stratovolcano in southern Italy, the most famous is its eruption in 79 AD, which was one of the deadliest in European history.

Bridge River Vent mountain in Canada

The Bridge River Vent is a volcanic crater in the Pacific Ranges of the Coast Mountains in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. It is located 51 km (32 mi) west of Bralorne on the northeastern flank of the Mount Meager massif. With an elevation of 1,524 m (5,000 ft), it lies on the steep northern face of Plinth Peak, a 2,677 m (8,783 ft) high volcanic peak comprising the northern portion of Meager. The vent rises above the western shoulder of the Pemberton Valley and represents the northernmost volcanic feature of the Mount Meager massif.

The Mercato eruption of Mount Vesuvius refers to a Plinian eruption that occurred around 8,010 ± 40 14C yr BP . The Global Volcanism Program claims that the eruption had a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 5, while Zanella et al. (2014) estimate it had a VEI of 6. The eruption was preceded by 7000 years of rest and followed by about 4000 years of rest.

The 946 eruption of Paektu Mountain in Korea and China, also known as the Millennium Eruption or Tianchi eruption, was one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history and is classified as a VEI 7 event. The eruption resulted in a brief period of significant climate change in Manchuria. The year of the eruption has not been precisely determined, but a possible year is A.D. 946.

Campanian Ignimbrite eruption VEI 7 Volcanic eruption around 40,000 years BP

The Campanian Ignimbrite eruption was a major volcanic eruption in the Mediterranean during the late Quaternary, classified at 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI). The event has been attributed to the Archiflegreo volcano, the 13-kilometre-wide (8.1 mi) caldera of the Phlegraean Fields, located 20 km (12 mi) west of Mount Vesuvius under the western outskirts of the city of Naples and the Gulf of Pozzuoli, Italy. Estimates of the date, magnitude and the amount of ejected material have varied considerably during several centuries of investigation. This applies to most significant volcanic events that originated in the Campanian Plain, as it is one of the most complex volcanic structures in the world. However, continued research, advancing methods and accumulation of volcanological, geochronological, and geochemical data has amounted to ever more precise dating.


  1. "Definition - Numen - The Latin Lexicon - An Online Latin Dictionary - A Dictionary of the Latin Language". The Latin Lexicon. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  2. Woods, Andrew W. (2013). "Sustained explosive activity: volcanic eruption columns and hawaiian fountains". In Fagents, Sarah A.; Gregg, Tracy K. P.; Lopes, Rosaly M. C. (eds.). Modeling Volcanic Processes: The Physics and Mathematics of Volcanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 158. ISBN   978-0521895439.
  3. 1 2 3 "Science: Man of Pompeii". Time . 15 October 1956. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  4. 1 2 C. Plinii Caecilii Secundi. "Liber Sextus; 16 & 20". Epistularum. The Latin Library.
  5. 1 2 McGuire, Bill (16 October 2003). "In the shadow of the volcano". The Guardian . Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  6. CIL x.1, 3806.
  7. Waldstein 1908 , p. 97
  8. Kozák, Jan; Cermák, Vladimir (2010). "Vesuvius-Somma Volcano, Bay of Naples, Italy". The Illustrated History of Natural Disasters. The Illustrated History of Natural Disasters. pp. 45–54. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-3325-3_3. ISBN   978-90-481-3325-3.
  9. Book IV, Chapter 21.
  10. Waldstein 1908 , p. 108 re Epigram IV line 44.
  11. 1 2 Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (2010) [1879]. "Vesuvius". A Latin Dictionary. Medford, MA: The Perseus Project, Tufts University.
  12. Phillips, John (1869). Vesuvius. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp.  7–9.
  13. Charnock, Richard Stephen (1859). Local etymology, a derivative dictionary of geographical names. London: Houlston and Wright. p.  289.
  14. Pokorny, Julius (1998–2003) [1959]. "eus, awes". In Lubotsky, A.; Starostin, G. (eds.). Indogermanisches etymologisches Woerterbuch (in German). Leiden: Leiden University.
  15. 1 2 3 4 "Summary of the eruptive history of Mt. Vesuvius". Osservatorio Vesuviano, Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Archived from the original on 3 December 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  16. "Vesuvius, Italy". Volcano World. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008.
  17. 1 2 "The world's top volcanoes". Scenta. Archived from the original on 26 August 2010.
  18. 1 2 "The Pomici Di Base Eruption". Osservatorio Vesuviano, Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Archived from the original on 22 October 2006. Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  19. 1 2 3 "Vesuvius". Global Volcanism Program . Smithsonian Institution . Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  20. "Definition of somma volcano". Volcano Live. Retrieved 11 December 2006.
  21. "Vesuvius". Retrieved 29 October 2010.
  22. Stoppa, Francesco; Principe, Claudia; Schiazza, Mariangela; Liu, Yu; Giosa, Paola; Crocetti, Sergio (15 March 2017). "Magma evolution inside the 1631 Vesuvius magma chamber and eruption triggering". Open Geosciences. 9 (1): 24–52. Bibcode:2017OGeo....9....3S. doi: 10.1515/geo-2017-0003 . ISSN   2391-5447.
  23. Pliny the Younger, Letters 6.16.
  24. Guest 2003 , p. 45
  25. Guest 2003 , p. 47
  26. Livadie, Claude Albore. "An ancient Bronze Age village (3500 bp) destroyed by the pumice eruption in Avellino (Nola-Campania)". Meridie. Archived from the original on June 18, 2012. Retrieved December 8, 2006.
  27. "Vesuvius' Next Eruption May Put Metro Naples at Risk – Lesson from Katrina is need to focus on "maximum probable hazard"". State University of New York. Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  28. "Pomici di Avellino eruption". Osservatorio Vesuviano, Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Archived from the original on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  29. Stothers, R.B.; Klenk, Hans-Peter (2002). "The case for an eruption of Vesuvius in 217 BC (abstract)". Ancient Hist. Bull. 16: 182–185.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link); Punica VIII 653-655 "Aetnaeos quoque contorquens e cautibus ignes / Vesvius intonuit, scopulisque in nubila iactis / Phlegraeus tetigit trepidantia sidera vertex." (= Also Vesuvius thundered, throwing Etna-like fires from its crags, and its flaming summit, throwing rocks into the clouds, touched the trembling stars)
  30. de Boer; Jelle Zeilinga & Sanders; Donald Theodore (2002). Volcanoes in Human History. Princeton University Press. ISBN   978-0-691-05081-2.
  31. Pliny the Elder. The Natural History. Translated by Bostock, John; Riley, Henry Thomas.
  32. Strabo. "Chapter 4". Geography. Book V.
  33. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. de Architectura. Book II.
  34. "Somma-Vesuvius". Department of Physics, University of Rome. Archived from the original on 12 April 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2006.
  35. 1 2 Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew (15 October 2010). "Pompeii: Portents of Disaster". BBC History . Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  36. Lapatin, Kenneth; Kozlovski, Alina (23 August 2019). "When Did Vesuvius Erupt? The Evidence for and against August 24". The Iris. Getty Museum.
  37. "Pompeii: Vesuvius eruption may have been later than thought". BBC. 16 October 2018.
  38. Martini, Kirk (September 1998). "2: Identifying Potential Damage Events". Patterns of Reconstruction at Pompeii. Pompeii Forum Project, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), University of Virginia.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  39. 1 2 Jones, Rick (2004–2010). "Visiting Pompeii – AD 79 – Vesuvius explodes". Current Archeology. London: Current Publishing. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  40. Sigurdsson 2002, p. 35on Seneca the Younger, Natural Questions, 6.1, 6.27.
  41. Sigurdsson 2002
  42. Sigurdsson 2002 , pp. 42–43
  43. Zanella 2007 , p. 5
  44. Zanella 2007 , p. 3
  45. Zanella 2007 , p. 12
  46. Zanella 2007 , p. 13
  47. Zanella 2007 , p. 14
  48. Pliny the Younger (2001) [1909–14]. Charles W. Eliot (ed.). "Letters LXV. To Tacitus". The Harvard Classics. IX Part 4. New York: journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  49. Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) (September 2001). LETTERS OF PLINY. Letters of Pliny. Project Gutenberg. p. LXV. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  50. Pliny the Younger (2001) [1909–14]. Charles W. Eliot (ed.). "Letters LXVI. To Cornelius Tacitus". The Harvard Classics. IX Part 4. New York: journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  51. Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger) (September 2001). LETTERS OF PLINY. Letters of Pliny. Project Gutenberg. p. LXVI. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  52. "Pliny Letter 6.16". Archived from the original on 11 May 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  53. Richard V. Fisher and volunteers. "Derivation of the name "Plinian"". The Volcano Information Center. University of California at Santa Barbara, Department of Geological Sciences. Retrieved 15 May 2010.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  54. Janick, Jules (2002). "Lecture 19: Greek, Carthaginian and Roman Agricultural Writers". History of Horticulture. Purdue University. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  55. Josephus, Flavius (94). "xx.7.2". Jewish Antiquities.Check date values in: |year= (help) Also known to have been mentioned in a section now lost.
  56. 1 2 Giacomelli, Lisetta; Perrotta, Annamaria; Scandone, Roberto; Scarpati, Claudio (September 2003). "The eruption of Vesuvius of 79 AD and its impact on human environment in Pompei" (PDF). Episodes. 26 (3): 235–238. doi:10.18814/epiiugs/2003/v26i3/014. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 17, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2010.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  57. "Pompeii, Stories from an eruption: Herculaneum". Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompei. Chicago: The Field Museum of Natural History. 2007. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  58. Vesuvius Causes Terror; Loud Detonations and Frequent Earthquakes, The New York Times, 6 April 1906
  59. Vesuvius Threatens Destruction Of Towns; Bosco Trecase Abandoned, The New York Times, 7 April 1906
  60. Scandone, Roberto; Giacomelli, Lisetta; Gasparini, Paolo (1993). "Mount Vesuvius: 2000 years of volcanological observations" (PDF). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. 58 (1): 5–25. Bibcode:1993JVGR...58....5S. doi:10.1016/0377-0273(93)90099-D.
  61. Stevens, Robert (1944). Mt Vesuvius erupts near Naples, Italy in 1944 (The Travel Film Archive). Naples: Castle Films, YouTube.
  62. Giacomelli, L.; Scandone, R. (1996–2009). "The eruption of vesuvius of March 1944". Esplora i Vulcani Italiani. Dipartimento di Fisica E. Amaldi, Università Roma Tre. Archived from the original on 30 December 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  63. Kaiser, Don. "The Mount Vesuvius Eruption of March 1944". Archived from the original on 3 November 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  64. "Melvin C. Shaffer World War II Photographs". Central University Library (CUL), Southern Methodist University (SMU).
  65. 1 2 Kilburn, Chris & McGuire, Bill (2001). Italian Volcanoes. Terra Publishing. ISBN   978-1-903544-04-4.
  66. Giacomelli, L.; Scandone, R. (1996–2009). "Activity of Vesuvio between 1631 and 1799". Esplora i Vulcani Italiani. Dipartimento di Fisica E. Amaldi, Università Roma Tre. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  67. 1 2 3 Hale, Ellen (21 October 2003). "Italians trying to prevent a modern Pompeii". USA Today . Gannett Co. Inc. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  68. Arie, Sophie (5 June 2003). "Italy ready to pay to clear slopes of volcano". The Guardian . London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  69. Gasparini, Paolo; Barberi, Franco; Belli, Attilio (October 16–18, 2003). Early Warning of Volcanic eruptions and Earthquakes in the Neapolitan area, Campania Region, South Italy (Submitted Abstract) (PDF). Second International Conference on Early Warning (EWCII). Bonn, Germany. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2010.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  70. "Vesuvius". Naples: Osservatorio Vesuviano, Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Archived from the original on 2 May 2010. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
  71. "The National Park". 2001–2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  72. Smith, Paul (March 1998). "Thomas Cook & Son's Vesuvius Railway" (PDF). Japan Railway & Transport Review.