Mount Vesuvius is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc.
Mount Vesuvius is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km, erupting molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 6×10⁵ cubic metres per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 1,000 people are thought to have died in the eruption, though the exact toll is unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. Vesuvius has erupted many times since, and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years.
Vesuvius has a long historic and literary tradition. It was considered a divinity of the Genius type at the time of the eruption of AD 79: it appears under the inscribed name Vesuvius as a serpent in the decorative frescos of many lararia, or household shrines, surviving from Pompeii. An inscription from Capua to IOVI VESVVIO indicates that he was worshipped as a power of Jupiter; that is, Jupiter Vesuvius.
The Romans regarded Mount Vesuvius to be devoted to Hercules. The historian Diodorus Siculus relates a tradition that Hercules, in the performance of his labors, passed through the country of nearby Cumae on his way to Sicily and found there a place called "the Phlegraean Plain" (Φλεγραῖον πεδίον, "plain of fire"), "from a hill which anciently vomited out fire ... now called Vesuvius." It was inhabited by bandits, "the sons of the Earth," who were giants. With the assistance of the gods he pacified the region and went on. The facts behind the tradition, if any, remain unknown, as does whether Herculaneum was named after it. An epigram by the poet Martial in 88 AD suggests that both Venus, patroness of Pompeii, and Hercules were worshipped in the region devastated by the eruption of 79.
Elevation: 1,281 m
Prominence: 1,232 m
Last eruption: 17–23 March 1944
Volcanic arc/belt: Campanian volcanic arc
Age of rock: 25,000 years before present to 1944; age of volcano = c. 17,000 years to present