First-Hand Account of the Destruction of Pompeii // Pliny The Younger, Primary Source

published on July 31, 2020

you'll request that I would send you an account of my uncle's death in order to transmit a more exact relation of it to posterity deserves my acknowledgments for if this accident shall be celebrated by your pen the glory of it I'm well

Assured will be rendered forever illustrious and notwithstanding he perished by a misfortune which as it involved at the same time a most beautiful country in ruins and destroyed so many populous cities seems to promise

Him an everlasting remembrance notwithstanding he has himself composed many and lasting works yet I am persuaded the mentioning of him in your immortal writings will greatly contribute to render his name immortal

He was at that time with the fleet under his command at Messina on the 24th of August about 1:00 in the afternoon my mother desired him to observe a cloud which appeared of a very unusual size and shape he had just taken a turn in

The Sun and after bathing himself in cold water and making a light luncheon gone back to his books he immediately arose and went out upon a rising ground from whence he might get a better sight of this very uncommon appearance a cloud

From which Mountain was uncertain at this distance but it was found afterwards to come from Mount Vesuvius was ascending the appearance of which I cannot give you a more exact description now by likening it to that of a pine

Tree for it shot up to a great height in the form of very tall trunk which spread itself out at the top into a sort of branches occasioned I imagine either by a sudden gust of air that impelled it the force of which decreased as it

Advanced upwards or the cloud itself being pressed back again by its own weight expanded in the manner I've mentioned it appeared sometimes sprite and sometimes dark and spotted cooling as it was either more or less

Impregnated earth and cinders this phenomenon seemed to a man of such learning and research as my uncle extraordinary and worth further looking into he ordered a light vessel to be got

Ready and gave me leave if I like to accompany him I said I'd rather go on with my work and it so happened he himself given me something to write out as he was coming out of the house he received a note from rectina the wife of

Bassist who was in the utmost alarm at the imminent danger which threatened her for her Villa lying at the foot of Mount Vesuvius there was no way of escape but by the sea she earnestly entreated him therefore to come to her assistance he

Accordingly changed his first intention and what do you begun from a philosophical he now carries out in a noble and generous spirit he ordered the galleys to be put to sea and went himself on board with an intention of

Assisting not only rectina for the several other towns which lay thickly strewn along that beautiful coast hastening then to the place from whence others fled with the utmost terror he

Steered his course direct to the point of danger and with so much calmness and presence of mind as to be able to make and dictate his observations upon the motion and all the phenomena of that dreadful scene he was now so close to

The mountain that the cinders which grew thicker and hotter the nearer he approached fell into the ships together with Pumas stones and black pieces of burning rock they were in danger too not only of being a ground by the sudden

Retreat of the sea but also from the vast fragments which rolled down from the mountain and obstructed all the shore here he stopped to consider whether he should turn back again to which the pilot advising him fortune

Said he favors the brave steer to where Pomponio nurses pompon Yanis was then its star be a separated by obey which the see after several insensible windings forms with the shore he'd already sent his baggage

On board for though he was not at the time in actual danger yet being within sight of it and indeed extremely near if it shouldn't at least increase he was determined to put to sea as soon as the wind which was blowing dead in shore

Would go down it was favourable however for carrying my uncle to pompon yarnís whom he found in the greatest consternation he embraced him tenderly encouraging him and urging him to keep up his spirits

And the more effectually to soothe his fears by seeming unconcerned himself or with a path to be got ready and then after having bathed sat down to supper with great cheerfulness or at least what is just as heroic with every appearance

Of it meanwhile broad flames shone out in several places from Mount Vesuvius which the darkness of the night contributed to render still brighter and clearer but my uncle in order to soothe the apprehensions of his friend assured

Him it was only the burning of the villages which the country people had abandoned to the flames after this he retired to rest and it is most certain he was so little disquieted as to fall into a sound sleep for his breathing

Watch on account of his corpulence was rather heavy and sonorous was heard by the attendants outside

The court which led to his apartment being now almost filled with stones and ashes if he had continued there any time longer it would have been impossible for him to have made his way out so he was awoke and got up feeling too anxious to

Think of going to bed they consulted together where there would be most prudent to trust the houses which now rocked from side to side with frequent and violent concussions as though shaken from their very foundations or fly to

The open fields whether calcined stones and cinders though light indeed fell in large showers and threatened to destruction in this choice of dangers they resolved for the fields the resolution which while the rest of the

Company were hurried into by their fears my uncle embraced upon cool and deliberate consideration they went out then having pillows tied about their heads with napkins and this was their whole defense against the storm of

Stones that fell round them it was now day everywhere else but there was a deeper darkness prevailed and in the thickest night which however was in some degree alleviated by torches and other lights of various kinds they thought

Proper to go farther down upon the shore to see if they might safely put out to sea but found the waves still running extremely high and boisterous there my uncle laying himself down upon a sail cloth

Which was spread for him called twice for some cold water which he drank when immediately the flames proceeded by a strong smell of sulphur dispersed the rest of the party and obliged him to rise he raised himself up with the

Assistance of two of his servants and instantly fell down dead suffocated as I conjecture by some gross and noxious vapor having always had a weak throat which was often inflamed

As soon as it was light again which was not till the third day after this melancholy accident his body was found in tyre and without any marks of violence upon it in the dress in which he fell and looking more like a man

Asleep than dead during all this time my mother and I who were at Miss enum but this has no connection with your history and you did not desire any particulars besides those

Of my uncle's death so I will end here only adding that I have faithfully related to you what was either an eye witness of myself or received immediately after the accident happened and before there was time to bury the

Truth he will pick out of this narrative whatever is most important for a letter is one thing history another it is one thing writing to a friend another thing writing to the public farewell

you

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