Sponsored by: Spokane Society
Dr. Pedar Foss (Depauw University)
It has long been held, on the basis of a letter of Pliny the Younger, that Mt. Vesuvius erupted on 24 August, AD 79. But after excavators began to work at the sites of Herculaneum at Pompeii, some scholars expressed doubts, suggesting a date later in the autumn of that year. Debate has increased with recent paleo-environmental research and finds from new excavations. Scholars have divided over a topic that might appear trivial—after all, most archaeological sites never enjoy such a precise date. But it is an excellent case study for testing our methods of historical and archaeological research.
Dr. Foss has collated, for the first time, every manuscript and printed edition of Pliny’s Letters 6.16 and 6.20, which tell the story of the eruption, to track and analyze the literary tradition of the date through its surviving evidence. He has also compiled the first reconstruction of the pre-eruption landscape and coastline, and collected all recent volcanological and archaeological research. In this lecture, he will share a multidisciplinary reconstruction of what happened over the two terrifying days of the eruption, and answer the question of when Vesuvius exploded.