Vesuvius and its eruptions

Vesuvius is the volcano that dominates the Gulf of Naples. It is famous for its devastating explosive eruptions. According to scholars, the explosive volcanic activity of Vesuvius began about 400 thousand years ago and has profoundly changed the entire surrounding environment. About 39 thousand years ago there was a colossal eruption called Ignimbrite Campana, which buried much of Campania under a thick blanket of tuff. After this great eruption, there were others of lesser energy which with their deposits formed Monte Somma at least up to 19 thousand years ago. Other important eruptions in prehistoric and protohistoric times were: the eruption of the Pomici di Base, which occurred 18 thousand years ago, and then that of the Pomici Verdoline dating back to about 16 thousand years ago. These were followed by the eruption of the Pomici di Mercato and that of the Pomici di Avellino, more or less four thousand years ago. This latest eruption destroyed numerous Bronze Age settlements.

The eruption of 79 AD destroys Pompeii and Herculaneum

In historical times, Vesuvius gave birth to numerous eruptions. Among these we must certainly mention the eruption of 79 AD, so devastating that it changed the volcanic building of Vesuvius itself and destroyed the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabia and Oplonti, whose ruins were brought to light in the Eighteenth century. During this eruption Pliny the Elder died, scientist and admiral of the imperial fleet of Miseno who had gone with a ship to rescue the affected populations. His nephew Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the historian Tacitus in which he remembers his uncle's death and describes the eruption of Vesuvius. The eruption of 79 AD it was called Plinian precisely because it was described by Pliny the Younger. According to Pliny, the eruption was preceded by a great roar and was characterized by the release of pumice, that is, volcanic rocks originating from a magma full of gas and ashes. Precisely these materials buried the cities that rose on the slopes of Vesuvius. Pompeii and Stabia were immediately hit by a fiery rain of ash and lapilli, while Herculaneum was hit hours later. All the inhabitants who were outside were vaporized. The eruption lasted more than 24 hours and after it there was a period of quiet. In 472 A.D. there was another terrible eruption of Vesuvius whose ashes even reached Constantinople. Up to the Sixteenth century, eruptions of lesser energy defined subplinian alternated with periods of relative quiet, during which the flanks of Vesuvius were covered with gardens and vineyards.

The eruption of Vesuvius in 1631 and the intervention of San Gennaro

After a period of quiescence, Vesuvius awoke in 1631 giving life to a terrible explosive eruption which, according to tradition, stopped only after the statue of San Gennaro, protector of the city of Naples, was carried in procession in front of the volcano. From that moment, San Gennaro was invoked by the population on the occasion of the eruptions and other plagues that hit Naples and Campania. The eruption lasted almost three weeks and mostly destroyed the cities of Portici, Resina, Torre del Greco, Ercolano and Ottaviano where more than a thousand people died.

The eruptions of Vesuvius in 1848 and 1872

During the Nineteenth century, Vesuvius gave rise to eruptions of lesser intensity which mainly destroyed the towns of Massa and San Sebastiano al Vesuvio. During the eruption of 1872, Luigi Palmieri, director of the Vesuvian Observatory, remained on the volcano for study reasons: with him there was a group of people who wanted to see the eruption up close. Some of these people lost their lives due to the volcano's fury.

The great eruption of 1906: Vesuvius strikes the Vesuvian countries

In the early months of 1906 there was another great eruption of Vesuvius which was described by the Neapolitan writer and journalist Matilde Serao. This eruption was studied by the scientist Giuseppe Mercalli who went to the places of the disaster. Among the Vesuvian villages most affected were Boscotrecase, Ottaviano and San Giuseppe Vesuviano. The ashes of this eruption also reached Puglia.

The last eruption of Vesuvius

The last eruption of Vesuvius occurred in 1944, during the Second World War. The most affected villages were Massa and San Sebastiano al Vesuvio. The images of this eruption were broadcast by American and British newsreels that followed the troops of these countries in Italy. After the eruption of 1944, Vesuvius entered a state of quiescence that lasts until today. Vesuvius is one of the most studied volcanoes in the world, constantly monitored by the Vesuvian Observatory. This is why a future eruption of the volcano will be expected well in advance.