Death of People in Pompeii

As a pyroclastic flow races toward Pompeii, people in the town fear for their lives.  Thousands of years later, when excavators began to uncover what had happened in Pompeii, residents' bodies were found - positioned just as they had died.

Their deaths were not instantaneous:

The first breath inhales hot gas and ash, causing the lungs to fill with fluid.  It's like swallowing fire.  The second breath mixes ash with the fluid, creating a wet cement in the lungs and windpipe.  The third breath thickens the cement, causing the victims to gasp for breath - and suffocate.

Vesuvius continued to rage after Pompeii was buried.  After eighteen hours of eruptions, the bottom section of the column spectacularly gave way.  Pliny the Elder, watching from Stabiae, was overcome (likely by the gases) and died.

The plume of death even traveled across the Bay of Naples.  Pliny the Younger, and his mother, knew they had to escape - or die.  

The final pyroclastic surge also killed thousands who had escaped to the countryside.

Note:  The story of Julius Polybius and his family is based on a discovery, in Pompeii, of skeletons in the House of Julius Polybius.  Among the skeletons discovered was one of a heavily pregnant girl who appeared to be surrounded by her family.  The girl's body was found on a bed.  The bones of her fetus were also found.

See, also:

People of Pompeii

Pompeii and Vesuvius

The Last Day of Pompeii

Pompeii - While Vesuvius Erupts

Final Moments of Pompeii

Media Credits

Clip from "Pompeii:  The Last Day," a docudrama produced by the BBC (in association with TLC/NDR) and co-produced in association with France 2.  Original air date, on BBC One, was October 20, 2003. 


Copyright BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.


The film is based, in part, on Pliny the Younger's letters about the Vesuvius eruption.  It uses computer-generated images to recreate what the eruption must have been like for the residents of Pompeii.  Online, via BBC's Channel at YouTube.

Written by:    
Edward Canfor-Dumas

Peter Nicholson

Alisdair Simpson

Tim Pigott-Smith (Pliny the Elder)
Alex Furguson (Pliny the Younger)
Katherine Whitburn (Julia)
Jim Carter (Polybius)


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Death of People in Pompeii" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Oct 15, 2019.
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