On August 24, in the year AD 79, Vesuvius erupted in one of the most catastrophic and famous eruptions of all time.
Historians have learned about it from the eyewitness account of Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet, who was seventeen at the time, to the historian Tacitus.
He was in the proximity of Misenum ( on the other side of the Bay of Naples about 30 kilometres from the volcano) from where he observed the eruption along with his mother. His uncle, Pliny the Elder launched a rescue fleet and went himself to the rescue of a personal friend, but died. The nephew suggested that his death was due to the reaction of his weak lungs to the poisonous, sulphurous gases.
More than 1,000 people died in the eruption (but exact numbers are unknown) that buried in volcanic ash the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.
All was so quick that the site of Pompeii shows a well-preserved snapshot of life in an ancient Roman city. The site was initially discovered in 1599 and then 150 years later in 1748. The team found that, under a thick layer of dust and debris, Pompeii was mostly intact thanks to the lack of air and moisture, exactly as it had been 2,000 years before.