August 24, 79 AD (traditional date)
Mount Vesuvius erupts, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum
The Romans living near the volcano assumed it was dormant; the last recorded major eruption had occurred around 1800 BC. The areas close to the base of the mountain (close being a relative term; Pompeii was approximately 5 miles from the mountain) were chosen because of their close proximity to water sources – a valuable asset for both drinking and traveling – as well as the base being fertile land for crops as volcanic soil is rich in nutrients, with a high sulphur content and various other mineral deposits from volcanic ash ejected from previous eruptions.
On August 24, the volcano erupted, spewing smoke, ash, and debris in a cloud approximately 21 miles high. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum suffered the greatest casualties and destruction. Intense heat and blast forces killed any in the way instantly and even melting piles of coins into blobs (pictured). The body of what is believed to be a soldier (pictured) shows scorching to the bones from the heat and broken bones from the force of the blast throwing him to the ground suggesting in the time it took to be hurled to the ground his flesh had already been seared to the bone.
Though the volcano was incredibly destructive, it also preserved its victims. A huge blanket of ash covered the bodies and hardened, leaving human-shaped voids after the bodies were reduced to skeletons. These voids were filled with plaster (pictured) to give us a glimpse of the Ancient Roman citizens.
True crime stories from today:
1st Century AD: The Skinned Saint (2017)
1349: Cologne Massacre (2017)
1885: 2 children butcher third; man shot by neighbor (2017)
1903: 3 Suicides (2017)
1943: Body fished from river (2017)
2010: 2010 San Fernando Massacre (2017)
1938: Woman gouges eye out with scissors, severs hand with axe after vision from God (2018)
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Today in Horror History: August 24