Tag: Pompeii

Beware of the Dog – circa AD79

That very ancient relationship between man and dog.

The website Eye Witness to History has a lovely item on Mount Vesuvius:

On August 24, 79 Mount Vesuvius literally blew its top, spewing tons of molten ash, pumice and sulfuric gas miles into the atmosphere. A “firestorm” of poisonous vapors and molten debris engulfed the surrounding area suffocating the inhabitants of the neighboring Roman resort cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. Tons of falling debris filled the streets until nothing remained to be seen of the once thriving communities. The cities remained buried and undiscovered for almost 1,700 years until excavation began in 1748. These excavations continue today and provide insight into life during the Roman Empire.

An ancient voice reaches out from the past to tell us of the disaster. This voice belongs to Pliny the Younger whose letters describe his experience during the eruption while he was staying in the home of his Uncle, Pliny the Elder. The elder Pliny was an official in the Roman Court, in charge of the fleet in the area of the Bay of Naples and a naturalist. Pliny the Younger’s letters were discovered in the 16th century.

If you are keen to read the full article then it may be found here.

My reason for quoting those opening paragraphs is because they offer a good historical introduction to another item from the BBC News website. That item is about a dog mosaic that is back on show after its restoration at Pompeii.


Pompeii guard dog mosaic back on show

One of Pompeii's finest mosaics - a guard dog at the entrance to a villa.
One of Pompeii’s finest mosaics – a guard dog at the entrance to a villa.

A vivid Roman dog mosaic is back on show after restoration at Pompeii, despite Italy’s problems funding the historical site’s conservation.

A glass shield now protects the House of the Tragic Poet, where tourists can see the dog with the inscription “Cave Canem” – Latin for “Beware of the dog“.

Frescoes at the house’s entrance were also restored. Ash from a volcanic eruption buried Pompeii in AD79.

A staffing dispute caused long queues at Pompeii on Friday, in searing heat. Pompeii gives visitors an extraordinary insight into everyday life in ancient Rome because many buildings were protected from the elements under the thick blanket of ash from Mount Vesuvius.

The restored mosaic now has better protection.

The site, near the southern city of Naples, has suffered from funding problems for years. Staff unions at Pompeii have criticised a management reorganisation there.

The House of the Tragic Poet has some of Pompeii’s finest examples of interior decoration, including scenes from Greek mythology.

But the house’s owners remain unknown – they may have died in the eruption along with many other Pompeii citizens.


Now we all know that the relationship between dogs and man goes way, way back before Pompeii but, nonetheless, it’s rather nice to see dogs commemorated in this way from 1,936 years ago.

Mount Vesuvius

One thousand, nine hundred and thirty-two years ago, today, there was a loud bang in Italy!

On the 24th August, in the year 79 A.D. the residents of Pompeii would undoubtedly had very little time to ponder on the consequences of a volcanic eruption just five miles away.

Vesuvius as seen from Pompeii.

Indeed, as the website Classroom of the Future explains,

Try to imagine huge, billowing, gray-black clouds like those at Mount St. Helens rushing toward you at a hundred miles an hour. That is probably what the ancient Romans saw just before they were entombed by hot ash.

There is much material available for those that wish to read more about the devastating effects of that volcanic eruption, so superfluous to add much more here.  The Classroom of the Future link is as good a place to start as any.  What I would like to comment on is this – but first a picture,

Vesuvius and nearby cities

What is worth noting that in 2009 the CIA Factbook records that the population of Naples was 2,270,000 people.  Naples is very close to Vesuvius.  As WikiPedia puts it,

Mount Vesuvius (ItalianMonte VesuvioLatinMons Vesuvius) is a stratovolcano on the Bay of NaplesItaly, about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) east ofNaples and a short distance from the shore. It is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, although it is not currently erupting.

Here’s another reference,

There is a saying in Italy that goes ‘vedi Napoli e poi muori’. Translated, this means ‘see Naples and die’. The actual meaning of this refers to being overwhelmed by what a beautiful and an incredible city Naples is. (although some may argue that what it really means that Naples is such a dangerous and chaotic city that it will kill you!)

H’mmm. Get the timing wrong and that saying could have a literal meaning way beyond the ancient author’s intent!  I quote from the website Geology.com,

Starting in 1631, Vesuvius entered a period of steady volcanic activity, including lava flows and eruptions of ash and mud. Violent eruptions in the late 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s created more fissures, lava flows, and ash-and-gas explosions. These damaged or destroyed many towns around the volcano, and sometimes killed people; the eruption of 1906 had more than 100 casualties. The most recent eruption was in 1944 during World War II. It caused major problems for the newly-arrived Allied forces in Italy when ash and rocks from the eruption destroyed planes and forced evacuations at a nearby airbase.

But for all it’s power, the Vesuvius eruption of the 24th August, 79 was a squib compared to the Toba eruption some 73,000 years ago. More on that one in a few days perhaps.