Three lesser-known sites in Rome show Pompeii destroying volcanos explosive might

September 1st, 2008 - 4:56 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 1 (ANI): Three lesser-known sites in Rome, are providing the maximum proof of the annihilation of Pompeii, an ancient roman city that was destroyed by the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that began on Aug. 24, 79 A.D.

The sites are the lesser-known Herculaneum, which is closer to Vesuvius, and Oplontis and Stabiae, two sites recently uncovered and still relatively unknown to tourists.

In these places, several of which are still being excavated, the eruptions consequences are more visible.

Pompeii was buried over a period of hours by a prolonged shower of rock, ash and pumice, and then only up to the height of several stories. Nothing was ever built on top of the ruins, which meant that eventually most of the city could be uncovered without superhuman effort.

Today, about 80 percent of Pompeii is open to the sky; it looks like an abandoned city, not a buried one. From many points, one can barely see the volcano that put paid to its existence.

But, its a different story at Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae - closer to Vesuvius, and between it and the bay.

They were buried quickly by a superheated flow of gas, lava and mud that subsequently solidified into dense black rock that not only filled all the buildings but buried them deep underground.

The magnitude of this inundation is dramatically apparent from the terrace of a villa in Herculaneum and another in nearby Oplontis.

In 79 A.D., the owners of these luxury pleasure domes enjoyed an unobstructed view of the Mediterranean Sea. Today, that view is blocked by imposing black walls that were deposited by the flow.

At Herculaneum and Oplontis, the old settlements are so deep that eventually new towns were built on top.

Nearby, Stabiae, a cluster of opulent villas built on the Varano plateau overlooking the bay, has been partially built over, but the development is much less dense.

The site overlooks the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia. Like Pompeii, Stabiae was buried by volcanic rocks blown from Vesuvius, but to a much shallower depth, perhaps 25 feet on average.

Because much of it lies under modern construction, Herculaneum, originally only a third the size of Pompeii, is less than one-half excavated.

An aerial view of the town reveals a massive depression surrounded right up to its rim by houses and apartment buildings.

The same is true at Torre Annunziata, where a villa once thought to have been owned by Emperor Neros second wife, Poppaea, is the main attraction. Here, too, excavation is constrained by the fact that much of the ruin extends under the modern town. (ANI)

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