What Killed The People Of Pompeii

“Volcanic Eruption That Killed Pompeii”

It was an ordinary morning in 79 A.D. when the people of Pompeii began their daily activities, unaware of what was about to unfold. Tragically, they’d become the victims of a natural disaster no one could have predicted: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. For centuries the mountain had been dormant, and the people of Pompeii had grown accustomed to its peaceful presence. In a matter of hours, Vesuvius transformed from their peaceful neighbor to a deadly volcano eruption that would take the lives of almost 2000 people, and burry remarkable artifacts for about 1700 years.
The destruction of Pompeii is often thought to be down to the volcanic eruption alone; however, a range of factors played a role in the destruction and death of the cities inhabitants. To fully understand what happened that fateful day, it’s important to explore the context of the eruption, the sheer force of the eruption, and various other events and factors that led to the destruction of the city.

The Build-up to the Eruption

It is estimated that the volcano eruption was preceded by days and weeks of unusual activity, including frequent earthquakes and other phenomena that would have worried the population. How many people chose to flee the city before the eruption is a matter of speculation, but archaeological evidence has shown that many of the bodies found in the city showed no signs of trauma. This suggests that some of the people of Pompeii may not have been aware of the impending eruption, and were potentially killed when the heat, ashes and toxic gases of the eruption overwhelmed them unexpectedly.

The Force of the Eruption

At the time of the eruption, Mount Vesuvius was one of the most powerful volcanoes in the world. Experts believe the explosion unleashed a plume of volcanic matter 30 kilometers into the sky, which was sent rolling in all directions. The ashes that fell from the sky were so hot and powerful, they could quickly break through roofs and windows and enter homes, leaving people with no time to escape.
In addition to hot ashes and air, the eruption sent out hot pumice, volcanic glass and mudflows called pyroclastic flows. Once Pompeii was shrouded in ashes of more than five meters deep, it quickly became virtually inaccessible, trapping inhabitants inside.

Tsunami and Landslides

Another factor that contributed to the destruction of the city was a tsunami triggered by the explosive impact of the eruption. After the eruption caused the sea level to drop, tsunamis with waves up to 12 meters high rapidly swept the shore. The intense pressure caused by the tsunami and the eruption is thought to have caused many sudden collapses and sent landslides rolling down the slopes of Mount Vesuvius at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

Inaccurate Predictions

One problem the people of Pompeii were likely to have encountered was the inaccurate predictions of scientists at the time. Ancient science and knowledge was far more limited than modern science, and they were unable to accurately predict natural disasters when they happened. This often resulted in countless deaths that could have been prevented.

Lack of Technology

The technology of Ancient Rome was also quite limited compared to modern technology, meaning it was nearly impossible for the people of Pompeii to evacuate in an orderly fashion. The technology available to them at the time made it difficult for them to communicate or travel quickly.

Circumstances of the Day

The people of Pompeii were subject to the circumstances of life in the region that day. The weather was incredibly hot for the time of year; given the lack of air conditioning or fans, people’s homes were likely to have been stuffy even before the volcanic eruption. This, combined with a lack of technology, poor road infrastructure and disease-ridden water, likely contributed to the number of fatalities.

Political Atmosphere

The people of Pompeii also had to deal with the political atmosphere around Mount Vesuvius. The Roman Empire had recently been expanding, leading to unrest and rebellion among the people of Pompeii and surrounding cities. It was possible that the imperial government was not in the best position to respond to the impending eruption, making it difficult to evacuate people, assist those in need, and coordinate a clean-up effort.


Despite these contributing factors, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius remains the primary cause of death of the people of Pompeii, and serves as a reminder of the unpredictability and power of nature. Pompeii is filled with life, frozen in time and left for us to explore today. Through its preservation we are given a unique insight into the lives and death of the people from the Ancient Roman era, ensuring that the legacy of the fiery mount is remembered for generations to come.

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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