Pompeii: date of destruction to be revised

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
The date of Pompeii's destruction by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is set to be revised, after graffiti was found that showed people were still alive there 2 months after the city was supposed to have been buried by volcanic ash:

Pompeii's destruction date could be wrong

There has long been some speculation that the eruption happened later than August, particularly centred around evidence of autumnal fruits and heating braziers discovered in the ruins.
The previously accepted date of 24 August 79 AD was provided by Pliny the Younger in a letter to Tacitus, but:

His letter to Tacitus was written some 20 years after the eruption in 79 AD. And the original copies have not survived the intervening 1,939 years.

Instead, our modern reading of the text is based on translations and transcriptions made over the centuries. In fact, various copies of the letters have contained dates ranging anywhere from August to November - though 24 August has long been accepted.

The differences between the texts could easily have been influenced by confusion over the ancient and modern systems of counting days.
It now appears that October 24th will become officially recorded as the fateful day.

EDIT: And underlines the need to not simply accept even primary historical sources as fact, but instead insist that they are supported by evidence - and where other evidence contradicts it, re-evaluate accordingly. (Something I thought should be common sense, actually.) :)

Which, interestingly enough, relates to what Wikipedia states Mary Beard is apparently known for: Mary Beard (classicist) - Wikipedia

  • she insists that ancient sources be understood as documentation of the attitudes, context and beliefs of their authors, not as reliable sources for the events they address
  • she argues that modern histories of Rome be contextualised within the attitudes, world views and purposes of their authors.
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Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
Feb 9, 2007
Colorado, U.S.A.
Every time I see things like this, I wince, as many natural events, like volcanic eruptions, can last for from several days to years and include multiple clouds of ash or other events (floods, mudflows, pyroclastic flows etc.)..
Personally; I would think that a range of dates which includes the existing data, along with appropriate foot notes, would provide the best picture of what may have happened...