Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD

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.[2]

79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius
VolcanoMount Vesuvius
DateAugust 24–25 (Traditional) or c.October or November (modern hypothesis), 79 AD
TypePlinian, Peléan
LocationCampania, Italy
40°49′N 14°26′E
VEI5
ImpactBuried the Roman settlements of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae.
Deaths1,500–3,500, possibly up to 16,000[1][note 1]

In the autumn of 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius violently spewed forth a deadly cloud of super-heated tephra and gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), ejecting molten rock, pulverized pumice and hot ash at 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[3] The event gives its name to the Vesuvian type of volcanic eruption, characterised by eruption columns of hot gases and ash exploding into the stratosphere, although the event also included pyroclastic flows associated with Pelean eruptions.

At the time, the region was a part of the Roman Empire, and several Roman cities were obliterated and buried underneath massive pyroclastic surges and ashfall deposits, the best known being Pompeii and Herculaneum.[2][3] After archaeological excavations revealed much about the lives of the inhabitants, the area became a major tourist attraction, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of Vesuvius National Park.

The total population of both cities was over 20,000.[4][5] The remains of over 1,500 people have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum so far, although the total death toll from the eruption remains unknown.


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