Vesuvius probably destroyed Pompeii two months later than was assumed

The Roman city of Pompeii and the nearby Herculaneum were probably destroyed two months later than was assumed for centuries. At least its what the head of the excavations in Pompeii said after the discovery of a charcoal text discovered by archaeologists.

Until yesterday, historians assumed that both cities were destroyed on August 24 in the year 79 AD by an eruption of the volcano Vesuvius.

This is due to a letter that the lawyer and politician Plinius the Younger (62 to about 113 AD) wrote to the Roman historian Tacitus years after the disaster.

Pliny says that on the morning of the eruption he was near Misenum, on the other side of the Gulf of Naples. There he saw how the disaster occurred.

“I told you honestly what I saw or what I heard immediately after the disaster,” he writes.

The accuracy of the date was always doubted, because during excavations berries had been found of a species that is only edible in the autumn. Also the conclusions after research into stoves were difficult to reconcile with an eruption in the middle of the summer.

Recently, a text was discovered during an excavation on a wall, which was probably installed there by a construction worker. There is also a date; converted to the modern calendar is that October 17 79.

Because the text is written down with charcoal, which normally disappears quickly, the researchers assume that the eruption of the Vesuvius must have taken place shortly after the application of the text. October 24 is the most likely date for the eruption, they think.

This is not to say that Pliny lied in his letter to Tacitus. His original letter has not been preserved. Historians got copies, which also include other dates, possibly as a result of mistakes in converting the date to the modern calendar. August 24 was always considered the most likely date.

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