Herculaneum – The Roman Town Buried by Mount Vesuvius

Related Articles

Related Articles

Herculaneum is an archaeological site and ancient Roman town, located in the present-day comune of Ercolano in South-West Italy.

Like the nearby city of Pompeii, Herculaneum was destroyed during the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, burying the town under thick layers of ash and pumice.

According to the Greek historian Strabo, the first settlers of Herculaneum were the Osci, an Italic people who spoke the Oscan language and inhabited the modern region of Campania.

 

The town later came under the control of the Greeks (renamed Heraklion) and functioned as a trading post for ships in the Gulf of Naples.

Image Credit : Becc Repper

By the 4th century BC, the town was controlled by the Samnites (historically a confederation of Italic tribes) who were eventually assimilated into the Roman Republic, with Herculaneum becoming a Roman municipium in 89 BC as a seaside retreat for the Roman elite.

The town consisted of a classical street layout, separated into blocks (insulae) that was defined by the intersection of the east–west (cardi) and north–south (decumani) streets. Major public buildings included a Central Thermae (bath houses), forum, temples, theatre, and various high-status villa complexes and dwellings.

Based on letters by Pliny the Younger (a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Rome), Mount Vesuvius began erupting at around 1:00 pm, which scientists predict would have released a deadly cloud of super-heated tephra and gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), ejecting molten rock, pulverized pumice, and hot ash at 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings.

Image Credit : Becc Repper

The initial prevailing winds blew to the southeast, causing volcanic material to fall on the city of Pompeii and the surrounding countryside, but leaving Herculaneum relatively unscathed during the first phase of the eruption.

The following day, pyroclastic surges (consisting of a super-heated mixture of ash and hot gases) struck Herculaneum, burying the town in thick pyroclastic material, preserving the structures in situ and carbonising organic materials.

The town was supposedly rediscovered when wells excavated into the volcanic material revealed ancient statues and works of art. This resulted in Prince d’Elbeuf purchasing land in 1709 in search of statues that led to the discovery of the town’s theatre.

Major excavations continued throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th century, with ongoing excavations and preservation works ongoing to the present day.

Header Image Credit : Xtreambar

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

LATEST NEWS

Château Gaillard – Richard the Lionheart’s Castle

Construction of the castle began in 1196 by King Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart - who ruled as King of England and held the Dukedom of Normandy, as well as several other territories.

Geoscientists Discovers Causes of Sudden Volcanic Eruptions

Tiny crystals, ten thousand times thinner than a human hair, can cause explosive volcanic eruptions.

Specimens From Ice Age Provide Clues to Origin of Pack-Hunting in Modern Wolves

Wolves today live and hunt in packs, which helps them take down large prey. But when did this group behavior evolve?

Remnants Ancient Asteroid Shed New Light on the Early Solar System

Researchers have shaken up a once accepted timeline for cataclysmic events in the early solar system.

Chromium Steel Was First Made in Ancient Persia

Chromium steel - similar to what we know today as tool steel - was first made in Persia, nearly a millennium earlier than experts previously thought, according to a new study led by UCL researchers.

Artaxata – “The Armenian Carthage”

Artaxata, meaning "joy of Arta" was an ancient city and capital of the Kingdom of Armenia in the Ararat Province of Armenia.

New Funerary & Ritual Behaviors of the Neolithic Iberian Populations Discovered

Experts from the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Seville have just published a study in the prestigious journal PLOS ONE on an important archaeological find in the Cueva de la Dehesilla (Cádiz).

The Great Wall of Gorgan

The Great Wall of Gorgan, also called the "The Red Snake" or “Alexander's Barrier” is the second-longest defensive wall (after the Great Wall of China), which ran for 121 miles from a narrowing between the Caspian Sea north of Gonbade Kavous (ancient Gorgan, or Jorjan in Arabic) and the Pishkamar mountains of north-eastern Iran.

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.