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did anyone survive Pompeii?
Yes, many did survive from Pompeii and Herculaneum. In fact, it now seems that the majority from both communities did survive.
That’s because between 15,000 and 20,000 people lived in Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the majority of them survived Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption. One of the survivors, a man named Cornelius Fuscus later died in what the Romans called Asia (what is now Romania) on a military campaign.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, the volcano’s molten rock, scorching debris and poisonous gases killed nearly 2,000 people in the nearby ancient Italian cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
But not everyone died. So, where did the refugees, who couldn’t return to their ash-filled homes, go?
Given that this was the ancient world, they didn’t travel far. Most stayed along the southern Italian coast, resettling in the communities of Cumae, Naples, Ostia and Puteoli, according to a new study that will be published this spring in the journal Analecta Romana.
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Ejecting molten rock and gases at 1.5 million tons per second, it’s to imagine how anyone could escape the clutches of Mount Vesuvius. Was it possible that people managed to survive the infamous 79 AD eruption?
Back in 79 A.D., the citizens of Pompeii were met with a loud burst of smoke on top of the nearby mountaintop. Little did they know that this mountain top was in fact a volcano which was set to erupt and destroy the entire city. The eruption was fast and sudden raining down on the city with volcanic debris, toxic smoke and meters of ash. Like a thick blanket, the ash hid the ruins for thousands of years. Hidden and soon forgotten, the city was rediscovered in the 18th century much to the surprise of budding archaeologists.
Today Pompeii remains one of the most popular archaeological sites of an ancient area in the modern world. The buildings and homes of the city remain preserved, with the final moments of Pompeii’s citizens etched into the remains.
The 79 A.D. eruption had devasting effects on the volcano’s nearby neighbours, with around 2,000 citizens killed in 24 hours. Before the eruption even started, there were numerous tremors in the days prior, warning the area of the destruction to come. But due to the city already enduring numerous earthquakes throughout its time, most of the citizens merely brushed it off. Mount Vesuvius then blasted a large cloud of smoke which rained down ash that covered the city in a thick layer as deep as 25km.
This smoke and ash created a suffocating and muggy atmosphere, with the Pompeii people wrapping tunics around their mouths as make-shift masks. The world was shaking, with numerous buildings crumbling down and hitting escaping townsfolk. But the main cause of death in the city was due to the pyroclastic gas, a hurtling hot wave of ash, toxic gas, and debris that sped down and burnt the people alive on impact, burying the city and its citizens.
Who would have survived?
Archaeologists have determined from past documents and artefacts that there were around 20,000 people living within the city at the time of the eruption.
From studying the skeleton remains, they estimated that around 2,000 people died in the eruption. With those who survived either not in the city at the
time of the eruption or carried to safety in Misenum by the Roman navy. Those who did not leave early or chose to stay in the city certainly died from the pyroclastic flows,
suffocation, or being crushed by falling debris.
Scholars have also studied events following the eruption that seem to confirm people’s survival. For example, if your home was just destroyed where would you go?
Scholars concluded, that even in the patchy state of historical records, there would be some evidence to support the existence of survivors and where they might have gone
following their escape of the eruption. Given that this was the ancient world, the newly refugees didn’t travel far,
with most staying along the southern Italian coast and resettling in the communities of Cumae, Naples, Ostia and Puteoli.
To identify which of these resettlers were originally from Pompeii scholars took to carefully combing through records looking for any signs of unique Pompeiien culture,
such as their religious worship of Volcanus, god of fire, and family names distinct to Pompeii. One survivor who we have a record of was Cornelius Fuscus,
he joined the army. Such a move is supported by the public infrastructures that sprung up around the time following the eruption in nearby towns close to Pompeii,
probably to accommodate for the sudden influx of refugees.