Inhabitants of a small Roman town in the Gulf of Naples by the foot of Mount Vesuvius are confident about their future – the fertile soil of this place once again secured a great grape harvest. Marcus Nonius Dama, a former slave from Syria, now a full citizen of Rome, lives in one of the stone houses by the main street. He and his family are getting ready for a meal when suddenly the earth begins to shake.
Residents of Herculaneum learnt from their previous experiences and know what to expect – only 16 years ago, in 63 AD, a powerful quake destroyed the temple of Jupiter in their town. Marcus remembers the words of Seneca – why leave, if the earthquakes can happen anywhere? The temblors are becoming stronger. Some fled the town earlier, but Marcus’s family has decided to stay and is now seeking shelter in a hurry. Near the shore, there are arcades with sturdy vaults. They helped the citizens of Herculaneum survive the quakes many times before. The family hastily grabs the most valuable objects – tools, golden rings, coins. Marcus’s son takes his dog with him. However, this time the situation is much more severe. Soon after the shakes the houses get covered with a few centimeters of hot ash. Astonished men make the women and children stay in a safe place under the seaside arcades while they get out to the beach to face the new threat. A rain of ash, cloud of gases and a wave of slurry with volcanic cinder will be the last thing they ever see.
24 August 79 AD Vesuvius trapped Herculaneum under a thick layer of deadly ash and hot mud. Six subsequent surges of eruption covered the town layer by layer perfectly preserving its houses, stone tablets, fountains, colorful statues, everyday objects and around 300 inhabitants. Now all that is left of them are their skeletons. Among them – the bones of a boy cradling a dog. Everything you see in the picture was once hidden under a thick layer of soil until the 18th century, when people digging a well in the middle of the city uncovered this forgotten place. Gradually unveiled houses and treasures hidden therein allow the historians to recreate the everyday life of ancient Romans in this once thriving seaside resort. This historical treasure is preserved much better than the nearby Pompeii, where the houses literally collapsed under the volcanic ash. Volcanic mud in Herculaneum preserved the town as it was in the times of Marcus Nonius Dama. Only the sea is now 2 km further away.
You can visit Heculaneum with my help to see how ancient Romans lived, relaxed and worked until their sudden death after the eruption of Vesuvius. You just have to hire a private guide to sightsee the place. It is an unforgettable experience.
See more post
If a maritime catastrophe expert was asked about an example of one of the most interesting stories, he would probably mention the case of Vasa. In 1961, this very warship was taken out of the sea to be examined by scientists. It is known for being the most expensive and the most decorated ship in the 17th century’s Sweden. The ship that, after sailing 1,300 metres, sunk in the harbour of Stockholm. This embarrassing distance unfortunately did not live up to the expectations people had of Vasa, which was supposed to outshine all the military units on the Baltic Sea at that time.
The engineering talent of aqueduct builders from ancient Rome has always astounded me. During those times, the majority of people were happy to use the water from rivers and wells, while building aqueducts, which were supposed to provide water for enormous Roman cities, was a true challenge. Water pipes had not been yet invented, so water had to be coming down. But what if the water source was many kilometers away?