In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted, burying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the 1980s, 300 skeletons were excavated from the ash, rock, and lava. They were identified as soldiers, and later placed on exhibit. In 2017, new research began that has now determined that one of the soldiers was a high-ranking Roman officer who was sent to Herculaneum to help rescue the victims of the eruption.
The rescue mission to Herculaneum and Pompeii is one of the most well-documented events of the period. It was led by Pliny the Elder, a historian and Roman naval officer who also died in the mission, and described by witness accounts collected in notes left by his nephew, Pliny the Younger.
A letter from Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus described the scene: “The ash already falling became hotter and thicker as the ships approached the coast and it was soon superseded by pumice and blackened burnt stones shattered by the fire.
“Suddenly the sea shallowed where the shore was obstructed and choked by debris from the mountain.”
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