The 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the Italian Peninsula has had a major influence on our lives thanks to the utter destruction it caused to the ancient city of Pompeii. Located just 9 kilometers from Vesuvius, the city was completely buried by the flurry of ash and lava from the volcano’s eruption, making it one of the most iconic examples of human tragedy brought on by a natural disaster. But just how close is the crater of Vesuvius to the ruins of Pompeii?
The location of Vesuvius to Pompeii can be traced by two methods. In terms of the classic Bird’s Eye View, Vesuvius is approximately 9 kilometers (5.6 miles), due east of the city of Pompeii. The point of reference lies precisely at the midpoint between Torre del Greco and Pompeii, providing an exact idea of the distance of the volcano.
Alternatively, by mapping the terrain between the ruins and Vesuvius, the distance measures an approximate 5 hour walk from one to the other, making them achievable on foot. This is considering that the first 3 kilometers or so of the journey is an uphill walk, and the final stretch of the route is a 9 kilometers descent – along a steep incline – toward the city of Pompeii.
Experts in the field have further studied the geology of the area, attempting to understand why Vesuvius was situated relatively close to one of the most populated areas of the Roman Empire. As one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, Vesuvius has caused destruction over the past centuries on multiple occasions, with an eruption over 1631 more recently taking place in this very same century.
Practically speculating, experts opine the decision of the Romans to allow settlements so close to the volcano, thus putting their lives at risk, is likely due to the abundance and quality of the plantation present in the area. As it was one of the few inhabited regions offering an access to the fresh water and greenery, it was at the same time a desirable location as well as a potential risk.
Subsequently, successive generations thereby developed a synergy between them and their environment and despite the destruction brought on by past eruptions, failed to recognize the threat of Vesuvius and lived near its base.
Predominantly, the city of Pompeii had to face the wrath of Vesuvius whose eruption killed up to 2000 individuals in the 11 hours that it lasted. The city was enveloped with intense sheets of pumice and ash which eventually obliterated it from the face of the planet.
Can You Visit Pompeii and Vesuvius?
Yes. An intrepid traveler can easily visit both the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii and the volcano site at Mount Vesuvius. It’s a very popular trip, especially with those who want to explore the history of the Italian peninsula. There are many companies that offer guided tours to both sites and there are plenty of ways to explore them independently as well.
When visiting Pompeii, travellers can expect to see the awe-inspiring ruins of the city’s past. Although unchanged since the 79 A.D. eruption, the ruins hide the secrets of the ancient city, the public forums, plazas, and the back streets of the market.
While on the other hand, a visit to Vesuvius is truly a unique experience, as it is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. Despite the fact that it has not erupted since March of 1944, it has remained the primary focus of intense scientific research. It is forbidden to climb the volcano since it is an active volcano and a popular tourist destination, but visitors are able to ascend to the Torre del Greco and the Vesuvius Forest Park.
Political Tensions Regarding Mount Vesuvius
Unfortunately, with the ever-increasing population, Vesuvius is located in an increasingly crowded place, so when experts and politicians make decisions about its future, it is important that these decisions adhere to the best available science and are based on sound geological knowledge. This can be seen in the most recent political spat between the governments of Campania and Lazio, which revolved around the control of the territory in the event of a catastrophic volcanic eruption.
Politicians have declared that if a major eruption were to take place, during a two year span of time, alternate shelters would result in mitigating the internal territorial claims of each district, Italy’s Campania and Lazio region. This would ensure that both the citizens of the two regions would receive the necessary assistance they require in the event of a natural disaster.
Consequently, the political tensions in the region surrounding Vesuvius demonstrate the ongoing effects of the volcano on the Italian peninsula, however far away in time the 79 A.D. eruption usually feels.
Are There Any Plans to Secure Pompeii from Further Damage?
Yes. UNESCO is currently leading the charge in preventing further damage to the city of Pompeii. Through a Security Plan, the preservation of the area can be dramatically improved in order to support the history and tourism of the region. Measures such as introducing surveillance robots and filming, seismic monitoring stations, and other content-protection measures have already been taken to this end.
In fact, researchers are convinced the city could be safeguarded from further destruction by adopting a hands-on approach. They, however, stress upon the importance of identifying the location of hidden and uncatalogued artefacts in order to preserve them, and access them further in the future.
In spite of the lack of attention during the past century, the ruins of Pompeii have brought an ever-growing visitor base to the area, collectively making it record-breaking in terms of tourism. Several universities including the Sapienza University of Rome, have provided countless travel packages just to explore the ruins, such as the famous House of the Faun, which was discovered in 1825 when the area was excavated.
What Are the Alternatives to Visiting Pompeii and Vesuvius?
There are a few alternatives that visitors wanting to explore the history of Vesuvius and Pompeii could consider. Before they can visit the city and the crater, they could pay a trip to the National Park Museum in Naples, Italy. The museum is home to many artefacts recovered from the eruption, as well as items related to the Ancient Roman Empire.
Furthermore, the archaeological museum in the nearby town of Torre Annunziata houses a few artefacts related to the excavation process as well as busts and carvings related to the eruption itself.
Additionally, travellers may visit the ruins of Herculaneum, which was the sister city of Pompeii and the site of other catastrophic destruction. As one of the few preserved cities from the Roman Empire, Herculaneum contains many of the monuments and city structures that represent the significance of the time period in which it was erected.
What Are the Modern-Day Health Consequences of the Eruption?
The long-term health consequences of the Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 A.D. are still being studied today. While much of the region is now equipped with safety measures such as early warning systems and sophisticated evacuation plans to protect the nearby cities, it’s still unclear how the volcanic materials dispersed into the environment during the eruption have continued to affect the people and communities in the region.
There are reports of higher risks of cancer and an increase in the frequency of respiratory allergies, particularly in the lower region of the Taburno-Camposauro National Park, which was an area heavily affected by the amount of ash produced by the volcano.
In addition, researchers have noted the presence of cadmium, a pollutant by-product from the eruption, in soil samples and underground water sources, which has the potential to poison the food chain. Another worry is the release of carbon monoxide gases, which can cause permanent damage to the lungs and can even be fatal. It may take years before the full extent of these health consequences are known.
How Is the Eruption of Vesuvius Represented in Art and Literature?
The catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. is considered one of the most famous tragedies in history, and has been portrayed in various forms of art and literature throughout the centuries. One of the most famous examples of such is the painting titled ‘The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum’ by French neoclassical painter, John Martin, who displayed the full fury that the volcano had unleashed on the cities.
Additionally, the event has been referenced in plays such as ‘The Wonders of the Volcano’ by Pierre de Marivaux and musical works such as Masartzi’s ‘Echoes of Vesuvius’. In recent times, it has been revisited as a major theme in books such as ‘Farewell, My Orange’ by Irina Muravyova and ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ by Edward Bulwer Lytton.
Overall, the eruption of Vesuvius has had a lasting legacy and has been the focus of countless artworks and literature pieces. While it has been the source of many sorrows, the tragedy of 79 A.D. has been turned into inspiration for the generations to come.