Broad sheets of flame were lighting up many parts of Vesuvius; their light and brightness were the more vivid for the darkness of the night… it was daylight now elsewhere in the world, but there the darkness was darker and thicker than any night. -Pliny The Younger
Today we go way back to 79 CE to mark the anniversary of one of the most famous volcanic events of all time: The eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which led to the burial of the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Most historians believe that the eruption happened on this day in 79, but there is some debate. Namely, some have pointed to the discovery of bodies wearing warmer clothes that would be out of place in late August, which some historians say indicates that the eruption might have happened in the fall.
As both Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in ash, and there were only a handful of accounts of the eruption, including Pliny the Younger’s quoted above, the towns became forgotten over the ensuing centuries. Some people even began to suspect that the towns were just a myth like the lost city of Atlantis.
It wasn’t until 1599 that the lost towns were rediscovered when workers digging an underground channel to divert the river Sarno dug up some of the ruins. An architect (yes, an architect, not an archeologist) was brought in to help unearth some of the ruins and discovered a fresco that included a wall inscription mentioning the decurio Pompeii, “the town councilor of Pompeii”. Over the ensuing centuries, the two towns were further excavated, and countless artifacts and many surprisingly well preserved fresco were discovered, including in one house a mosaic reading “Cave canem“. Latin for “Beware of dog.” Oh, and of course the large amount of erotic and fertility themed artwork (Honestly, what else would you expect from the Roman Empire?) present in Pompeii has led some nutters to say that the eruption of Vesuvius was divine retribution.
Hopefully, we’ll never see an eruption like that of Vesuvius in our lifetimes, but just to provide some added insurance, why not make a sacrifice to Bacchus, God of Wine and Merry Making by drinking a Vesuvius Cocktail. It’s a grappa based cocktail with citric and herbal notes, a perfect drink for an Italian evening in late August.
- 1 ounce Grappa
- 1 ounce Benedictine
- 1/4 ounce Triple Sec
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
Combine in a mixing glass with ice, stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Tomorrow: Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang