Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/237

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VESUVIUS.

which the dissector of the human subject so soon learns to observe — almost without concern, and certainly without any thing more than commonplace curiosity—as the devastations incident to alcoholic indulgence.—Condensed from the Popular Science Review.

 
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VESUVIUS.

GEOGRAPHERS say there are some two hundred volcanoes on the surface of the earth; of these one is situated on the continent of Europe—Vesuvius. This mountain has had a remarkable history, and is now an object of renewed interest, as it has been again in profound convulsion.

Vesuvius stands about 10 miles southeast of Naples, in Southern Italy. Seen from the city it is a mountain with two summits. That on the left is the peak of Somma, 3,747 feet above the sea; the peak on the right being the volcano itself, about 200 feet higher. Between the two summits is a valley at the entrance to which, on a plateau, is situated the Hermitage and the Observatory. The mountain stands on the plain of Campania, and has a base of some 30 miles in circumference.

Vesuvius was an active volcano in very ancient times, and then was in a state of repose for a long period. This is inferred from the fact that writers before the Christian era never alluded to it as in eruption, but do refer to the igneous character of its rocks, and to its "many signs of having been burning in ancient times." It awoke to great activity A. D. 79, and from that time to the present has been the scene of about sixty grand eruptions.

The sides of the mountain, as described by Strabo, were clothed with gardens and vineyards filled with luxuriant vegetation; beautiful farms and rich woods extended to its top, which was flat, barren, and slaggy. Its dangerous character was hot suspected: villas were scattered over the sloping landscape; the cities of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabias, were planted at its base, and were fashionable resorts for wealthy Romans.

A premonition of what was coming occurred in the year A. D. 63, in the form of a violent earthquake, which overthrew many houses; but its significance was of course not understood, and the houses were rebuilt.

The first great recorded eruption of Mt. Vesuvius occurred August 24th, in the year 79, and has been described by the younger Pliny in a letter to Tacitus. His uncle, the elder Pliny, was at the time in command of the Roman fleet at Misenum, and his nephew was Avith him. From this point they first descried the eruption. Rising from the top of the mountain they saw what appeared like a column of dense, black