Were There Survivors Of Pompeii


On August 24, 79AD, a catastrophic volcanic eruption destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii. Famed for its ‘Kingdom of the Dead’, the city of Pompeii has become a powerful symbol of the danger of nature, with the ruins standing as reminders of a tragedy whose death toll has been estimated to have been around 10 thousand. Despite the immense destruction and death that the eruption caused, it appears that some of the inhabitants of Pompeii did, in fact, manage to survive.

Background of the Disaster

The Vesuvius erupted with a massive force, triggering catastrophic pyroclastic flows and floods of lava that rapidly consumed the bustling city and its more than 16,000 inhabitants. The ash and debris that swept over the inhabitants was said to be so thick that it almost buried some houses entirely. People were reported to have been overcome by the thick clouds of ash, and whole households were smothered.

Theories on Possible Survivors

In the centuries since the disaster, reports of possible survivors have surfaced, with some sources suggesting that some of the inhabitants managed to escape by sea, even whilst the city was still engulfed in smoke, ash, and heat. This theory was supported by the discovery of frescoes at the sanctuary of Issis and Neptunos, which depicted figures escaping by boat.

However, archaeologists have found evidence that suggests some of the survivors took shelter in underground shelters or basements, some of which remained hidden and unaffected by the pyroclastic flow and lava. In fact, the remains of their outdoor ovens, food, and other objects were found, which suggests that the sheltered inhabitants did attempt to carry out everyday tasks, but failed to leave for unknown reasons and were eventually buried by the ash and debris.

Archaeological Evidence of Survivors

Aside from the possible evidence of survivors escaping by sea, archaeologists have also uncovered physical evidence of those who may have escaped being consumed by the disaster. For example, an intact skeleton of a woman was in a chest in her home, suggesting that she had taken shelter beneath the chest, and may have survived the eruption. There were also multiple pieces of furniture and workers tools that showed no signs of damage, suggesting that the affected homes had been taken by surprise. These findings have fuelled the theories that some of the inhabitants managed to survive the Pompeii disaster.

Rescue Efforts by the Survivors

Speculation of survivors at Pompeii is further supported by the rescue attempts that were recorded by Pliny the Younger in his letters to the Roman Emperor Trajan, reporting that the survivors risked their own lives by transporting food to the remaining victims of the disaster. There is also evidence of chains of survivors that had formed in order to exchange goods and services with one another, which may have been an indication of a few survivors that had managed to outlive the initial disaster.

Possible Implications of Surviving Pompeii

The potential implications of surviving Pompeii are immense. The survival of some of the city’s inhabitants could greatly alter the way we understand the consequences of one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history. For example, we could gain deeper insights into the daily life and struggles of the people of Pompeii, giving us a better understanding of what it was like to live during this time. It may also provide insight into the resilience and resourcefulness of a society that has since been lost to time.

Unexplained Stories of Survivors

Other survivors of Pompeii have been documented in the writings of Arrian and Diodorus Siculus. In the writings of Arrian, he recounts the story of a woman who survived the eruption by hiding beneath the bed in her room. Although her entire house collapsed in the disaster, it was said that she emerged completely unscathed and only covered in dust. In the writings of Diodorus Siculus, he recounts the story of two slaves who were able to survive the disaster by taking refuge in an underground bathhouse, which then formed a “fugitive’s camp”, where they were able to gather food and other items in order to survive.

Comparisons Between the Survivors and Casualties

With the discovery of these accounts of survivors, a comparison can be drawn between those who survived, and those who perished in the disaster. Studies have suggested that a number of factors, such as social class, age and gender, may have been determining factors in who was able to find refuge and ultimately survive. It has also been suggested that the places that survivors sought refuge aided in their chances of survivability. For example, those who were able to locate shelters that provided adequate protection from the ash and heat of the eruption, such as underground bathhouses, were more likely to survive.


The devastation of Pompeii has been well documented, but the debate on the number of survivors has been less extensively studied. Even today, the question of whether some of the inhabitants were able to survive the disaster still remains a mystery. Yet with further archaeological discoveries, and a deeper analysis of reports by contemporary witnesses, this mystery may soon be revealed, potentially uncovering stories of resilience and courage that have so far remained hidden in the ashes and debris of Pompeii.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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