But even at Misenum there was danger, though Vesuvius is distant no less than fourteen miles. The earth was shaken with repeated and violent shocks, ‘insomuch,’ says the younger Pliny, ‘that they threatened our complete destruction.’ When morning came, the light was faint and glimmering; the buildings around seemed tottering to their fall, and, standing on the open ground, the chariots which Pliny had ordered were so agitated backwards and forwards that it was impossible to keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones. The sea was rolled back upon itself, and many marine animals were left dry upon the shore. On the side of Vesuvius, a black and ominous cloud, bursting with sulphurous vapours, darted out long trains of fire, resembling flashes of lightning, but much larger. Presently the great cloud spread over Misenum and the island of Capre?. Ashes fell around the fugitives engineering innovation.

On every side176 ‘nothing was to be heard but the shrieks of women and children, and the cries of men: some were calling for their children, others for their parents, others for their husbands, and only distinguishing each other by their voices: one was lamenting his own fate, another that of his family; some wished to die, that they might escape the dreadful fear of death; but the greater part imagined that the last and eternal night was come, which was to destroy the gods and the world together.’ At length a light appeared, which was not, however, the day, but the forerunner of an outburst of flames. These presently disappeared, and again a thick darkness spread over the scene. Ashes fell heavily upon the fugitives, so that they were in danger of being crushed and buried in the thick layer rapidly covering the whole country. Many hours passed before the dreadful darkness began slowly to be dissipated. When at length day returned, and the sun was seen faintly shining through the overhanging canopy of ashes, ‘every object seemed changed, being covered over with white ashes as with a deep snow dermes.’

that Pliny makes no mention in his letter of the destruction of the two populous and important cities, Pompeii and Herculaneum. We have seen that at Stabi? a shower of ashes fell so heavily that several days before the end of the eruption the court leading to the elder Pliny’s room was beginning to be filled up; and when the eruption ceased, Stabi? was completely overwhelmed. Far more sudden, however, was the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

It would seem that the two cities were first shaken violently by the throes of the disturbed mountain. The signs of such a catastrophe have been very commonly assigned to the earthquake which happened in177 63, but it seems far more likely that most of them belong to the days immediately preceding the great outburst in 79. ‘In Pompeii,’ says Sir Charles Lyell, ‘both public and private buildings bear testimony to the catastrophe. The walls are rent, and in many places traversed by fissures still open.’ It is probable that the inhabitants were driven by these anticipatory throes to fly from the doomed towns. For though Dion Cassius relates that ‘two entire cities, Herculaneum and Pompeii, were buried under showers of ashes, while all the people were sitting in the theatre,’ yet ‘the examination of the two cities enables us to prove,’ says Sir Charles, ‘that none of the people were destroyed in the theatre, and, indeed, that there were very few of the inhabitants who did not escape from both cities. Yet,’ he adds, ‘some lives were lost, and there was ample foundation for the tale in all its most essential particulars Neo skin lab.’