|Watercolor Journal - Pompeii|
Fallen man encased in ash and pumice from Mt. Vesuvius eruption 79AD
by jojo sabalvaro tan, 2012
The painting above of one of the ash and pumice encased victims in Pompeii of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption is from my watercolor travel journal. We visited Pompeii on a land tour when we cruised the Mediterranean on Celebrity Constellation's 2nd voyage. This was one of the highlights of our trip and the one I was most excited about. Having learned about Pompeii in my history classes and seen a number of PBS specials, movies, books and accounts about the devastation of Mt. Vesuvius's eruption on Pompeii in 79AD, this site was high on my list of must see places. Pompeii was buried under almost 20 feet of pumice and ash and was lost for almost 2 millennia until it was uncovered in 1748. It was a major commercial town and served as a conduit of goods between Southern Italy, the sea and Rome. The excavations offered a well-preserved picture of Roman life during the 1st century, with the forum, baths, many houses and villas found relatively intact.
I loved walking through the homes and villas with their murals, frescoes and mosaics. Suddenly, instead of seeing ruins, my mind was transported to lush gardens, sparkling fountains and other sights and sounds prior to the eruption.
for entire account)
Pliny the Younger describes what was happening during the eruption: " You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore."
I was very touched and impacted by scenes of the victims encased in ash and pumice as they died in situ. Even though, what we are actually seeing are plaster casts made by the archeologist from voids they found in the excavation containing human remains, it is still so horrific to see what havoc nature can wield at anytime, anywhere.
A half day in Pompeii was certainty not enough time to visit but it is better than not seeing it at all. I do hope I get to go back someday with more time to wander aimlessly through the site. The best part of traveling to a historic area for me is being able to place myself in the shoes of the others that walked there before me. And from what I can tell, the folks at ancient Pompeii lived life to the fullest. A lesson for all of us, for life can be taken from us at a moment's notice,
"In these matters, the only certainty is nothing is certain." Pliny the Elder (23-79AD)