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Vesuvius in 2012 as seen from the Gulf of Naples

Vesuvius in 2012 as seen from the Gulf of Naples

height 1281  m slm
location Gulf of Naples , Italy
Coordinates 40 ° 49 '17 "  N , 14 ° 25' 32"  E Coordinates: 40 ° 49 '17 "  N , 14 ° 25' 32"  E
Vesuvius (Campania)
Type active stratovolcano
rock Phonolitic tephrite
Age of the rock approx. 25,000 years
Last eruption 1944
particularities Active volcano in mainland Europe .

The Vesuvius ( Italian Vesuvio , Latin Vesuvius ) is an active volcano on the European continent. It is located on the Gulf of Naples in the Italian region of Campania , nine kilometers from the city of Naples .

The name “Vesuvius” is derived from the Indo-European root * aues- (“seem”) or * eus- (“burn”). It would therefore mean "the shining one" or "the burning one".

Today the mountain is 1281 m high. It consists of the remains of what used to be a much higher, older stratovolcano , the Somma , the tip of which collapsed into a caldera during its last eruption in 79 AD , and the newly formed cone of the “real” Vesuvius inside the collapse basin.

The activity of Vesuvius triggers recurring Plinian eruptions . The typical characteristic of these explosive volcanic eruptions is the rising of a kilometer- high eruption column and the rapid discharge of large quantities of volcanic material. The great Vesuvius eruptions are also accompanied by pyroclastic currents , which are among the most dangerous forms of volcanism . These major events are followed by active phases with eruptions of the Stromboli type and effusive leaks of lava . The subsequent dormant state can last for several hundred years and ends with another major outbreak.

The term "Plinian eruption" refers to Pliny the Younger . As a young man, the later Roman senator observed the last major eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, during which the ancient cities of Pompeii , Herculaneum , Stabiae and Oplontis were buried, and described these years later in his writings. Today, volcanology uses the term as a general classification feature. In the 20th century, several volcanoes erupted in Plinian eruptions, including Mount St. Helens in 1980 and Pinatubo in 1991.

Vesuvius was active for centuries after AD 79. It has been in a dormant phase since the last eruption in 1944.

Geological evolution

Vesuvius on September 26th, 2000, as seen by the Terra satellite . The ASTER measuring instrument on board records images in the range of the electromagnetic spectrum up to the thermal infrared. The altitude, surface temperature, reflectivity and emissivity of the volcano can be derived from the recording.
Aerial view of Vesuvius

Vesuvius lies over a volcanically active subduction zone between the African and Eurasian continental plates . It is part of the Romana volcanic belt , which stretches from Monte Amiata near Siena to Monte Vulture near Potenza .

The volcano, which borders the Gulf of Naples in the south and west , has a circumference of around 80 km at the foot and covers an area of ​​around 480 km². The stratovolcano, also known as the Somma-Vesuvius complex , consists of two concentric cones, of which the outer one is hardly present. The top of the original Somma collapsed in AD 79 to form a caldera about 4 km in diameter, almost entirely filled with the products of subsequent eruptions. Only the north-eastern part of the crater rim is still visible as a sickle-shaped wall. It towers over the bottom of the collapse basin by 200 m and reaches a height of 1132 m at Punta Nasone. This wall remainder of the older cone is called Monte Somma . In the caldera was created as a subsidiary of volcanic actual Vesuvius cone ( it. Also Gran Cono called = large cone). Today it is 1281 m high. Monte Somma and Vesuvius are separated by the 5 km long Valle del Gigante . The western part of this valley is known as the Atrio del Cavallo , the eastern part as the Valle dell'Inferno . The peculiarity of this volcanic formation coined the term Sommavulkan for a volcano with a summit caldera that surrounds a younger cone of land.

The base of the Somma-Vesuvius is about 1000 m below today's sea level. The cone lies on a several kilometers thick sedimentary succession of the Mesozoic and the Tertiary . Tertiary sandstones , marls and clays , limestone - xenolites of the Cretaceous and Jura , and dolomites of the Triassic are found in the volcanic extraction products . The thickness of the Mesozoic layers is given as 1500 to 1700 m each. Between the sediments and the volcanic base is a layer of gray Campanian tuff , which comes from the neighboring volcanic area of ​​the Phlegraean Fields and is around 39,000 years old.

Seismic measurements show that the roof of the magma chamber is about 5.5 km deep in the Triassic Dolomites. The geologist Alfred Rittmann came to the same conclusion after examining contact-metamorphic ejecta, since only the dolomites of the volcanic extraction products are particularly strongly changed. So you must have been in prolonged contact with the magma. According to Rittmann's calculations, the chamber volume is 50 km³, the chamber radius is given as approx. 3 km.

Eruption story

Eruption phases

Volcanic activity in the area of ​​Vesuvius began at least 400,000 years ago .

18,000 to 16,000 years ago

Since then, Plinian and Sub-Plinian eruptions have characterized events, interrupted by periods of rest. 18,300 ± 180 years ago there was a Plinian eruption, the Pomici di Base . It created a 20 km high eruption column, and its pyroclastic deposits are still 6.5 m thick at a distance of 10 km. After a series of smaller effusive eruptions, this Plinian eruption ended 16,130 ± 110 years ago with the Pomici Verdoline .

8,000 to 4,000 years ago

After the longest period of rest, around the year 6000 BC it began. A Plinian eruption, the Pomici di Mercato or Ottaviano eruption , a further phase of activity. Their deposits are still up to 50 cm thick at a distance of 30 km.

Avellino eruption

After a presumably longer period of rest, a Plinian eruption, the Pomici di Avellino , destroyed the Bronze Age settlements in the area 3780 ± 70 years ago . The extraordinarily violent eruption was accompanied by pyroclastic currents, which can still be detected at a distance of 15 km. This fourth Plinian eruption was the first eruption, the effects of which on the people living on Vesuvius can be proven by archaeological finds, and ran in a north-easterly direction over the present-day towns of Avellino , Nola and the village of San Paolo Bel Sito .

The Avellino area, about 35 km from the volcano, was covered with a 50 cm thick layer of ash . In the immediate vicinity of Vesuvius, the ash layer was even several meters thick. During the excavation of the foundations for a new motorway near Avellino, Bronze Age ceramics were first found under old layers of volcanic eruption in 1972 . During the construction of a supermarket in Nola in 2001, a buried furnace from the same era was discovered. Further excavations uncovered the remains of a small village. All the houses were buried in thick layers of ash from that time and, according to the findings of the English Bronze Age archaeologist Simon Stoddart and the Italian Giuseppe Vecchio from the Naples Archaeological Authority, the residents of the time quickly abandoned them. In the immediate vicinity there were many remains of everyday objects as well as skeletons of pets and farm animals. Because this village was hastily abandoned in the face of the Vesuvius eruption and shortly afterwards it was buried by thick layers of ash and lava and thus preserved, it is in a unique state of preservation - for Bronze Age settlements in this area. It enables a deep insight into the everyday life of the farmers who settled there at the time, but also into the social structures and property relations of this settlement.

In 1970, in nearby San Paolo Bel Sito, archaeologists discovered the skeletons of a 45-year-old man with arthritic bone deformations and a woman who was about 20 years younger, whom the Italian anthropologist Pier Paolo Petrone recognized as a victim of this eruption. Probably due to the man's age, which was comparatively old at the time, and the physical damage that the hard work on the land caused for both of them, they were no longer able to cover the long escape route quickly enough that would have saved them from the approaching masses of lava or stone.

During construction work on the new high-speed rail line between Naples and Rome , thousands of human footprints were discovered near the city of Afragola in the summer of 2004 . Geological analyzes show that the prints are from Bronze Age residents who fled the Avellino eruption.

The last day of Pompeii , Karl Pawlowitsch Brjullow, 1830–1833
Map of the eruption in 79

Pompeii eruption

The last major "Subplinian" eruption of Vesuvius occurred around 800 BC. After that, the volcano was dormant for centuries and was considered extinct. Wealthy Roman settlements, villas and country houses sprang up on the Bay of Naples, and the slopes of Vesuvius were famous for good wine and healthy air. However, there is also evidence that the destructive power was not completely forgotten: the geographer Strabo described the rock on the summit as "eaten away by fire" around AD 20, and Vitruvius reported around 25 BC. From stories of fire and flames that the mountain threw out over the fields in ancient times.

The last Plinian eruption of Vesuvius, in which the places Pompeii , Herculaneum , Oplontis and the approximately twelve kilometers distant Stabiae were completely buried under masses of dust and ash, occurred according to Pliny in AD 79. This Pompeii eruption hit the local residents of the mountain unprepared and is well documented in its course.


The date August 24, 79 comes from a letter from the Roman writer Pliny the Younger , who at the age of eighteen experienced the eruption in Misenum on the western tip of the Gulf of Naples , and is quoted in many publications. Many years later, Pliny described the death of his uncle, the scholar and prefect of the Roman fleet, Pliny the Elder, in two letters to the historian Tacitus . He described numerous details of the eruption: the rise of the eruption column, the precipitation of ash and pumice stones, tremors and the retreat of the sea level. The Pompeii eruption is the first natural disaster documented by eyewitnesses. The two letters allow an exact date to the year 79, but the current date of August 24 is controversial: a newly discovered inscription, probably from construction workers, dated October 17 (from otherwise very ephemeral coal dust), coin analyzes, finds of fresh garum ( the fish caught in the summer had to be stored for at least one to two months) and finds of autumn fruits such as pomegranates, chestnuts, nuts and olives as well as closed wine containers near Boscoreale, in which must was stored, also allow the interpretation that the eruption has only just started occurred in autumn, around October 24th. One of the numerous medieval copyists of Pliny could have made a mistake. The range of dates given in other copies is from August to the end of November. The senatorial historian Cassius Dio dated the outbreak “against autumn” in his “Roman History”.

The comparison of this written report with the stratigraphy of the volcanic deposits in the Vesuvius area shows a high degree of agreement of the information and thus allows a relatively reliable reconstruction of the eruption. However, the younger Pliny was only an "eyewitness" indirectly. He describes the events near the volcano based on the notes of his uncle, who took a ship to Stabiae to observe the natural spectacle up close and to help the residents. While the elder Pliny was killed in Stabiae, the nephew and the rest of the inhabitants of Misenum were able to get to safety in good time.


A severe earthquake on February 5, 62, which was possibly caused by the subsidence of a clod in the hearth roof or the opening of a crevice in the underground , testifies that a new phase of activity was on the horizon. But the danger of a coming eruption was not recognized. When Vesuvius erupted in 79, the restoration work in Pompeii and elsewhere was not yet finished.

As a result of the earthquake, the plug that clogged the volcano's chimney loosened . Its resistance was opposed by the enclosed rising gases and by the steady increase in pressure in the magma chamber more and more force. Presumably on August 24, 79 around 1 p.m., the internal pressure overcame the resistance of the plug, which was suddenly shattered and thrown out, whereby the tip of the volcano was blasted away.

During the hours that followed, an eruption column of hot water vapor, carbon, and volcanic ejecta rose. The 700–800 ° C hot magma moved upwards at supersonic speed . In addition to volcanic ash , pumice stones and lapilli , dolomites were also ejected from the magma chamber - evidence that the chimney was emptied several kilometers down. Then a jet of gas blew the crushed rock of the glowing chimney walls up into the stratosphere . The wind carried lighter volcanic products with a total volume of about one cubic kilometer to the southeast. In this direction were the places Pompeii, Oplontis, Stabiae and many individual country houses and villas, on which a denser precipitation of ash and pumice stones fell. Between the very fine ejecta material, which tended to trickle down, heavier boulders hit the earth at 200 km / h. After about an hour the sky was dark and visibility was severely restricted. The eruption column had meanwhile reached a height of about 20 km. Archaeological finds show that some people in the threatened locations left their homes during the eruption. How many were saved is not known; if at all, a successful escape was only possible in the first few hours.

By the afternoon, about five hours after the eruption began, Pompeii was covered with a layer of volcanic material more than 50 cm thick and the roofs of the half-abandoned city began to collapse. The empty chimney of the volcano collapsed several times and was then cleared again by violent explosions, the ash eruptions increased.

Remains of the victims of the
Herculaneum outbreak

Around midnight, about 12 hours after it began, the first phase of the eruption peaked. It was probably accompanied by violent volcanic earthquakes , the eruption column now reached a height of 30 km.

Shortly after midnight, the eruption column began to collapse. The first of the pyroclastic currents that now developed overran Herculaneum and killed people who had sought shelter in boat houses on the beach. The collapse had several phases and produced a total of six currents, some of them heavily saturated with heavy material, the force of which destroyed the houses protruding from the debris and brought the deaths of the last survivors in Pompeii. The sixth glowing avalanche ended the second eruption phase on the morning of August 25th.

The chimney and the upper part of the magma chamber had been emptied by the ejection of enormous masses of pyroclastic material, so that the roof of the chamber collapsed. The collapse of the summit region created a caldera in which the cone of today's Vesuvius was formed in the period that followed.

In the 18 hours of the eruption, the volcano had ejected more than 3.3 km³ of tephra (pumice stone, rocks and ash). The Pompeii eruption thus achieved a value of 5 on the scale of the volcanic explosion index . Ash rain and pyroclastic currents piled up a layer up to 20 meters high over the destroyed villages. The total number of fatalities is given as up to 5000. The remains of 1,150 people have been excavated in Pompeii alone. The volcanic material solidified over time into a hard, continuous mass of tufa .

Postplinian phase

The Pompeii eruption ushered in the last post-Plinian phase, which continues to this day. The volcano was active until the late Middle Ages, but the reports are in part uncertain and fragmentary, especially for the early Middle Ages. Cassius Dio mentions an eruption in 203, major Subplinian eruptions are recorded in 472 and 512. During the time of the Ostrogoth rule , a letter from King Theodoric the Great describes the activity of the mountain in great detail, and Prokopius of Caesarea also describes it in his war with the Goths. Other outbreaks, on the other hand, have only been handed down in brief annalistic information. For 1139 a chronicle from Benevento reports that the mountain threw fire and flames for eight days. From the 14th century onwards, volcanic activity subsided. In the middle of the 16th century, Vesuvius was considered extinct. In the Cosmographia of Sebastian Munster it is said that he also breathed fire before times. The places where hot vapors were still escaping were visited for therapeutic purposes.

In 1631 he awoke again with the strongest eruption after the sinking of Pompeii. It had already announced itself in July with an earthquake. From the end of November, the bottom of the crater rose and the water table changed. On the morning of December 16, the eruption began with explosive bursts of lava and clouds of ash. On the morning of December 17th, the top of the volcano was blown away. A mud stream flowed on the western slope to the sea, lava flows also emerged from cracks on the mountain flanks. The eruption, accompanied by strong earthquakes and tidal waves, lasted until December 18 and continued with smaller tremors and ash ejections until the beginning of 1632. Lava, ash fall and mud flows caused damage in Torre Annunziata , Torre del Greco , Pugliano , Portici and other places in the area, a 30 cm layer of ash covered Naples . The volcanic dust was still registered in Istanbul . Although 40,000 residents fled to Naples to seek protection, the eruption killed 4,000 people and 6,000 pets.

Eruption of Vesuvius on April 26, 1872 at 3 p.m., seen from Naples. Photography by Giorgio Sommer

From the 17th to the 20th century, Vesuvius erupted around 20 more times. These included eight major eruptions, which were associated with effusive leaks of lava, explosive ejections of lava fragments and ash, and earthquakes, and which posed a threat to local residents. On July 15, 1794, a lava flow buried Torre del Greco, and on May 28, 1858, Fosso della Vetrana , Fosso Grande and Piano delle Ginestre were flooded. On April 26, 1872, an outbreak destroyed the towns of Massa di Somma and San Sebastiano and killed 20 unwary bystanders. Following this eruption, one of the longest known periods of activity began. From 1878, lava flowed out of the flanks of the mountain and formed two 160 m high, now no longer visible, dunnage. A total of 86 million cubic meters of lava had leaked by 1899.

In April 1906 - the strongest eruption since 1631 - 105 people died in the church of San Giuseppe when its framework collapsed. The eruption, which had been preceded by slag ejections since 1904, lasted from April 4th to April 22nd and, at its peak on April 8th, produced ashes up to 1,300 m. The cone top of the mountain was cut and Vesuvius lost about 200 meters in height. In 1929 the villages of Pagano and Campitelli were completely destroyed.

The last outbreak

B-25 bombers of the USAAF happen Vesuvius during its last eruption in March 1944

Vesuvius erupted for the last time in mid-March 1944. The phase of highest activity from March 18 to 29 was accompanied by lava flows and heavy pyroclastic precipitation, a lava fountain and smaller pyroclastic flows also occurred. Despite the evacuation of 12,000 people, 26 people were killed, the towns of Massa di Somma and San Sebastiano were again almost completely buried under masses of lava. Tephra precipitation destroyed around 80 B-25 bombers of the United States Army Air Forces at the Pompeii Airfield in Terzigno . This was the largest loss of machines suffered by the 340th BG of the 12th USAAF stationed in southern Europe during World War II.

Current situation

Vesuvius has been calm since 1944, there is only fumarolic activity and slight tremors. However, the volcano is not extinct and remains dangerous. Although there are evacuation plans for the more than one million inhabitants who would be threatened in the event of an eruption like the one in 79, advance warnings from volcanologists are neither reliable nor are they early enough. The plans are based on the previously unattainable warning period of two weeks. Today there are densely populated places even on the slopes of Vesuvius, including in the area of ​​ancient Herculaneum. The city center of Naples and the new high-rise buildings in the station district are at the same distance as the destroyed Stabiae, but are somewhat protected by the Sommawall , the rest of the old crater rim.

The current evacuation plan, Il Programma Vesuvìa - la scelta possibile (The Vesuvìa program - the possible decision, 2012) of the regional government of Campania aims to greatly reduce the population in the red zone of the volcano. 600,000 people live in this 200 km² area with the highest risk level; 150,000 people are to be relocated in the next 15 years (after the plan is announced). The endangered residents are to be motivated to move with bonuses of € 30,000 per family, but so far without any resounding success. On the contrary: Although recent findings indicate that the magma chamber of Vesuvius is awakening again, according to the environmental organization Legambiente, 50,000 new houses have been illegally built in the Red Zone alone in the last 20 years.

Explanation and exploration of the volcano

Eruption of Vesuvius from December 1760 to January 1761, colored etching after a drawing by Pietro Fabri . From William Hamilton's work Campi Phlegraei , published in Naples 1776–1779, plate 12.

In ancient times, the volcanically active area on the Gulf of Naples was considered a landscape with a connection to the underworld. The Phlegraean Fields near Vesuvius were viewed as the dwellings of the giants and the fire god Vulcanus , and the neighboring Avernersee is said to have been the gateway to the realm of the dead for Aeneas . While in antiquity critical voices such as Seneca were still looking for rational explanations for earthquakes and volcanism, in the Middle Ages the volcano was also connected with the afterlife for scholars. In the 11th century, Petrus Damiani told of demons who stoke fire for the damned in Vesuvius. As a result, the mountain with its bursts of fire and sulfur vapors became visible evidence of the existence of purgatory , if not the entrance to Hell itself. For protection, supernatural forces were invoked, above all the poet Virgil, who was revered as a powerful magician in medieval Naples . Since the eruption of December 16, 1631, Saint San Gennaro assumed the role of patron saint. 100,000 people are said to have participated in a procession on December 17, 1631, during which the relics of the saint were held against Vesuvius as a weapon. After surviving eruptions in the 18th century, the residents of Naples erected votive monuments for him .

In the 17th century, however, the scientific exploration of the volcano began. The Jesuit Athanasius Kircher climbed the mountain in 1638. He summarized his observations and investigations in 1665 in the work "Mundus subterraneus" to a theory according to which the volcanic areas of the earth are connected by an underground system of fire channels. This began a series of research, at the end of which Vesuvius is considered the best-studied volcano on earth; However, Kircher's thesis could not prevail. Early modern researchers were still as convinced as ancient scholars that the earth was criss-crossed by caves filled with air and water. Their movements and storms were considered to be the cause of earthquakes and volcanism. Explosive chemical processes were also discussed. Nor the Universal Lexicon Johann Heinrich Zedler , which appeared from 1732 to 1754 made, in addition to underground winds "schwefflichten and Salpeterischen steam," the kindle itself within the earth, for the work "Fire speyender Mountains" responsible.

Even Giovanni Maria Della Torre and Giuseppe Maria Mecatti still clung to the view mineral fermentation processes triggered volcanic eruptions from. In the 18th century, after investigations and experiments on Vesuvius, the two spiritual scholars published highly acclaimed research reports, which, particularly in questions of method, are among the fundamentals of volcanology . Another attitude only began to take hold with the work of William Hamilton . The British diplomat was envoy to the court of Naples from 1764 to 1799 . During this time he explored the Italian volcanoes, his Villa Angelica near Torre Annunziata , a place at the foot of Vesuvius, served him as a starting point for his regularly conducted scientific excursions to the mountain. He also had Padre Piaggio, a learned monk, keep a diary in which the activities of the mountain were recorded in minute detail over a period of 14 years. Hamilton's work was not only important for the development of a more recent theory of the formation of the earth . He was one of the first to devote himself to a task that is still one of the main goals of volcanic research today: the prediction of eruptions and disaster control . For Hamilton, as for the other early explorers, Vesuvius and Etna were at the center of scientific research into volcanic phenomena; It was not until the beginning of the 19th century, with the publications of Alexander von Humboldt , that the perspective broadened and Vesuvius became one volcano among many. Humboldt observed an eruptive eruption in 1822. He described the collapse of the ejection cone and the changeability of the crater edges, and he proposed that volcanoes were connected to the earth's interior by a vent. In comparison with the South American volcanoes that he had explored in previous years, Vesuvius was for him only "a picturesque hill".

However, it did not lose its importance for science: From the Vesuvius observatory , which was built in 1841 on the south side of the mountain as the first volcanological observation station, its activities are intensively monitored and continuously recorded to this day. The observatory maintains a network of geodetic , geochemical and seismic measuring stations, the data of which is available to science and civil defense.

From seismic measurements in the 1990s, a three-dimensional model of Vesuvius and the volcanic areas of Campania was created, which extends up to 300 km below the surface of the earth. The series of measurements led, among other things, to the discovery of a flat magma field that lies 11–15 km below the earth's surface and spreads under the entire volcanic region of Campania. While the magma chamber located at a depth of 5–6 km is responsible for the Plinian eruptions, the deeper reservoir triggers the “Interplinian” activity. This field has been identified as the source of the 1631-1944 eruptions. It is fed by a third igneous layer, which is located at a depth of about 20 km. The seismic data are also processed into hazard scenarios; these models show the probability of being hit by a pyroclastic flow or volcanic ejection in the vicinity of Vesuvius. While the pyroclastic currents spread relatively evenly, the danger from precipitation from Tephra in the east is much higher, as westerly winds prevail in the Vesuvius area.

Classic structure

View into the crater of Vesuvius, October 2016

The "classic" structure was developed by Alfred Rittmann, who had investigated the volcano since the 1930s and laid the basis for all subsequent work. He distinguished four phases of evolution: the Ur-Somma, the Old-Somma, the Young-Somma and the Vesuvius.

The original Somma was then created through an initial breakthrough 12,000 years ago, in which the magma penetrated to the surface from a depth of about 6 km. This was followed by a volcanic lull for at least 2000 years. The roof of the partially emptied magma chamber sank, causing local ocean transgression . At the same time, the magma chamber moved about 500 m up into the Triassic Dolomites. The magma crystallized and released gases that slowly rose to the top ( H 2 O , HCl , H 2 S, etc.). These and the gases from the assimilated sediments caused the internal pressure of the hearth to rise further. As a result, a new eruption occurred 8000 years ago, and the Alt-Somma, a 1000 m high stratovolcano, formed in the subsequent 2500 year active phase. Then the chimney collapsed. The volcano was inactive for several centuries, erosion and soil formation began. The assimilation of the Triassic dolomites in the chamber continued, however, there was a renewed gas enrichment and a new eruption, which ejected the gas-rich upper part of the magma chamber in the form of pumice stones (it .: Pomici ). Thus began the activity of the Young Somma about 5000 years ago. During this period, two more major eruptions occurred, and at the end of the volcano reached a height of over 2000 m. After several centuries of dormancy, there was finally a final eruption of the Young Somma in 79 AD, near Pompeii , Herculaneum and other smaller towns were destroyed. From the 3rd century AD, the cone of today's Vesuvius was built in the summit caldera of Jung-Somma.

The classic image has not completely lost its validity. However, recent research has brought the formation of the Somma volcano forward considerably and specified the number of major eruptions and their dates.

Travel to Vesuvius

The Bay of Naples with a view of Mount Vesuvius - watercolor over pen drawing by Christoph Heinrich Kniep , Goethe's companion on the Italian journey , 1787

Since the beginning of the early modern period, Vesuvius has also attracted travelers. The earliest travelogue comes from the Spanish officer and naturalist Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo , who was in Naples in 1501. The interest of the general public only arose after the outbreak of 1631. The first excursions took place just a few months after the catastrophe. Around 1700, the mountain was part of the classic program of the Grand Tour and was included as a sight in the Italy travel guides; in the middle of the 18th century, climbing Vesuvius was a fixed item on the program of a visit to Naples. Johann Wolfgang Goethe , at its Italian trip during your stay in Naples visited the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and repeatedly climbed Mount Vesuvius in March 1787 where he even penetrated an urgent lava flow from the crater in uncomfortable proximity. On March 20, 1787, Goethe wrote:

“We tried a few more dozen steps, but the ground kept glowing; An insurmountable smoke swirled, darkening the sun and suffocating. The previous guide soon turned around, seized me, and we wriggled away from this hell-brute. "

The ascent has followed a fixed route since the second half of the 18th century, one of the first mass tourist trails. As early as 1829 Wilhelm Waiblinger complained that the mountain was overrun. The tourists made their way from Naples to the foot of the mountain with the wage carriage , from 1839 with the Circumvesuviana railway line to Resino, today's Ercolano . From there we went on by donkey, mule, horse or on foot. A well-known European attraction was the Hermitage , which existed from 1730 to 1850 on the Colle San Salvatore on the western slope of Vesuvius. At the hermit's, the travelers could eat, buy souvenirs and enter themselves in a guest book. In Germany, a scene from Jean Paul's Titan novel in particular made the hermitage famous.

The funicular Funicolare del Vesuvio ;
Stereoscopy - picture postcard No. 1355 ;
Knackstedt & Näther , collotype , around 1900

From 1880, visitors were able to take the Funicolare vesuviana cable car up almost to the summit. On the occasion of the inauguration of the cable car, the folk song Funiculì, Funiculà was composed by Peppino Turco (text) and Luigi Denza (melody). While the song is world famous today, the funicular no longer exists. In 1888, the Thomas Cook company took over the railway and expanded the volcano tourism business to include a hotel and a railway line from Pugliano near Herculaneum to the valley station of the funicular (length 7.7 km, gauge 1,000 mm, electric, partly gear system Strub) . The railway lines were damaged in the eruption of Vesuvius in 1906 and after the devastating eruption of 1944 it was decided to build a road up to 1000 meters and to replace the destroyed funicular with a chairlift (for reasons of cost). After both of them were completed in 1955, all old sections of the railway were finally shut down; only a few metal remains of the funicular can be seen at the edge of the crater. Operation of the chairlift was also discontinued in 1984 because the capacity was insufficient for the tourist rush and cross winds often prevented operation. Nowadays the crater can be reached after the end of the road at 1017 meters via a footpath.

Landscape protection

Naples, Mount Vesuvius and surrounding municipalities

The Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio was founded on June 5, 1995 in the province of Naples to maintain and preserve the Vesuvius area . It is 8,482 hectares and includes the 13 municipalities of Boscoreale , Boscotrecase , Ercolano , Massa di Somma , Ottaviano , Pollena Trocchia , Sant'Anastasia , San Giuseppe Vesuviano , San Sebastiano al Vesuvio , Somma Vesuviana , Terzigno , Torre del Greco and Trecase . The park has two protected areas: the Somma-Vesuvio and Miglio d'Oro biosphere reserve , which also includes the buried Pompeii, and the 1000-hectare Tirone Alto Vesuvio forest reserve on the crater belt.

The park area is densely populated, with buildings reaching up to a height of 700 meters. In agriculture, wine and fruit growing predominate. The slopes of Vesuvius are dry. A gray-silvery lichen, the Stereocaulon vesuvianum , prepares the ground for the settlement of further pioneer plants on the lava soil and the formation of the macchia . The Somma is more humid. There are mixed forests of chestnut, oak, alder, maple, holm oak and birch; the latter are a rarity in the Mediterranean region.

The park administration maintains a network of hiking trails and supports cultural events in the communities. In addition to maintaining cultural, agricultural and handicraft traditions, it has set itself the goal of protecting the typical cultural landscape , which has been spared the violence of the volcano since 1944.

Representation in art (selection)

The eruption of Vesuvius in 1774 , Jakob Philipp Hackert , 1774
Eruption from October 21 to 24, 1822 in a contemporary representation

Due to its fascination, Vesuvius was often artistically depicted.

“Naples, June 19, 1902. Vesuvius still doesn't smoke and I will complain to Mr. Cook as soon as I can go out. I don't ask for a direct eruption, but just to stand there like any other mountain, without the slightest column of smoke, that's definitely not enough for a generally recognized volcano with two stars in Baedeker. [...] now he really smokes, and indeed 'significantly', but it's always just clouds, and you can just as easily see them over the Kreuzberg , which has no star at all. Mr Bertolini, whom I questioned, explains that he does smoke, but 'very thinly'. Nice smoke that you can't see! It is well known that one always sees very thick smoke on the famous photographs of Vesuvius, but it seems to me that this is a feat of the retoucher. In short, I'm getting more and more skeptical. - Nevertheless we want to visit this dubious volcano, bypassing Mr. Thomas Cook with the automobile. "


  • Christof Hug-Fleck: Italy's volcanoes - Vesuvius, Campi Flegrei, Stromboli, Vulcano, Etna . CHF-Verlag 2012, ISBN 978-3-942838-05-4 .
  • Elio Abatino: Vesuvio. A volcano and its history . Carcavallo, Napoli 2002.
  • Giovanni Battista Alfano, Immanuel Friedlaender: The history of Vesuvius . Dietrich Reimer, Berlin 1929.
  • Raffaello Cioni, inter alia: Plinian and Subplinian Eruptions . in Encyclopedia of Volcanoes . Ed. Haraldur Sigurdsson, Academic Press, San Diego 2000, ISBN 0-12-643140-X .
  • Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo: The Wrath of Vesuvius. The catastrophe of the year 79 AD In: Buried from Vesuvius - The last hours of Herculaneum , Ed. Josef Mühlenbrock & Dieter Richter, Mainz 2006, ISBN 3-8053-3445-1 .
  • Hans Pichler: Collection of Geological Guides 51 - Italian Volcanic Areas I: Somma-Vesuvius, Latium, Tuscany . Borntraeger, Berlin 1970, 1990, ISBN 3-443-15061-6 .
  • Dieter Richter : Vesuvius. Stories and poems about the burning mountain . Insel Verlag, Frankfurt 1990, ISBN 3-458-32945-5 .
  • Dieter Richter: Vesuvius. Story of a mountain . Wagenbach, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-8031-3622-9 . New edition 2018 ISBN 978-3-8031-2807-2 .
  • Alfred Rittmann: The geologically conditioned evolution and differentiation of the Somma-Vesuvius magma . Z. Vulkanol. 15, 1933/34.
  • Rollo Steffens: Italy's volcanoes - The most beautiful hikes from Vesuvius to Etna . Bruckmann Verlag, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7654-3990-8 .
  • Horst-Günter Wagner: The cultural landscape on Vesuvius. An agro-geographical structural analysis with consideration of the recent changes . Hanover 1967, (Yearbook of the Geographical Society Hanover, 1966).
  • Chris Kilburn, Bill McGuire: Italian volcanoes. Classic Geology in Europe 1. Terra, Harpenden 2001, ISBN 1-903544-04-1 .
  • Horst-Günter Wagner: Innovative changes in the agricultural landscape on the Gulf of Naples. Erdkunde 44, 1990, pp. 180-192.

Web links

Commons : Vesuvius  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Journey to Vesuvius  - Sources and full texts
Wikivoyage: Vesuvius  - travel guide

Individual references and comments

  1. ^ Chris Kilburn, Bill McGuire: Italian volcanoes (Classic Geology in Europe 1) . Terra Publishing, Harpenden 2001, ISBN 1-903544-04-1
  2. ^ Antonio Sciarretta: Antonio Sciarretta's Toponymy - Ancient Toponymy. May 24, 2003, archived from the original on December 23, 2015 ; accessed on December 23, 2015 .
  3. Marc Szeglat: Vesuvius: Mount Doom in the Gulf of Naples. 2017, accessed June 7, 2018 .
  4. According to the classification of the Encyclopedia of Volcanoes , a Plinian eruption releases 10 11 to 10 13  kg of volcanic products. The height of the eruption column is 20–35 km.
  5. ^ Alfred Rittmann: Volcanoes and their activity . Ferdinand Enke Verlag Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-432-87793-6 , p. 20.
  6. a b c d e f M. Aulinas, L. Civetta, MA Di Vito, G. Orsi, D. Gimeno, JL Férnandez-Turie: The "Pomici di mercato" Plinian eruption of Somma-Vesuvius: magma chamber processes and eruption dynamics. In: Bull Volcanol. Volume 70, 2008, pp. 825-840, doi: 10.1007 / s00445-007-0172-z .
  7. a b c d e f Osservatorio Vesuviano: Summary of the eruptive history of Mt. Vesuvius .
  8. ^ D. Andronico, G. Calderoni, R. Cioni, A. Sbrana, R. Sulpizio, R. Santacroce: Geological map of Somma-Vesuvius volcano. In: Per Mineral Volume 64, No. 1-2, 1995, pp. 77-78.
  9. For dating see doi: 10.1016 / 0377-0273 (93) 90102-W : G. Rolandi et al .: The Avellino plinian eruption of Somma-Vesuvius (3760 yBP) , Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 58, November 1993, p 67-88, and doi: 10.1038 / 344534a0 : JS Vogel et al .: Vesuvius / Avellino, one possible source of seventeenth century BC climatic disturbances , Nature 344, 1990, pp. 534-537.
  10. Meredies Nola: il villaggio preistorico
  11. ^ Meredies Nola: museo storico archaelogico
  12. Strabo: Description of the Earth, V, 4, 8.
  13. ^ Vitruvius: De architectura, II, 6, 2. in the Latin-language Wikipedia
  14. G. Rolandi, A. Paone, M. Di Lascio, G. Stefani: The 79 AD eruption of Somma: The relationship between the date of the eruption and the southeast tephra dispersion. In: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 169 2007, pp. 87-98, doi: 10.1016 / j.jvolgeores.2007.08.020 .
  15. Dieter Richter: The Vesuvius, p. 19.
  16. ^ Bild der Wissenschaft, 3-2017, page 78
  17. ↑ The fall of Pompeii has to be re-dated., October 17, 2018
  18. Fall of Pompeii: digestive disorder dated Vesuvius eruption., October 18, 2018
  19. The date results from the broken bookkeeping of the banker L. Caecilius Iucundus.
  20. Vesuvius in the Global Volcanism Program of the Smithsonian Institution (English)
  21. The presentation follows Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo in: The wrath of Vesuvius. The catastrophe of AD 79 , pp. 30–36.
  22. In the late antique and medieval sources there are reports about the activity of Vesuvius in the following years: 203, 222, 235, 379, 395, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, 968, 991, 999, 1007, 1036– 1038, 1049, 1068, 1138–1139, 1150, 1270, and 1347. The 1430, 1440, and 1500 reports are very uncertain.
  23. Chronica di Falcone Beneventano, in: Giuseppe del Re: Cronisti e scrittori sincroni napoletani , Vol. 1, Naples 1845, p. 244.
  24. Sebastian Münster: From the mountain Vesuvio . In: Cosmographey, 1578, 302.
  25. In modern times, in the years 1660, 1682, 1694, 1698, 1707, 1737, 1760 , 1767, 1779, 1794 , 1822, 1834, 1839, 1850, 1855, 1858 , 1861 , 1868, 1872 , 1906 , 1926, Effusions and eruptions took place in 1929 , 1932, and 1944 (larger eruptions are highlighted).
  26. The eyewitness report of a member of the 340th Bomb Group, which was stationed in Terzigno, speaks of 88 aircraft destroyed. aerofiles puts the loss at 74 bombers.
  27. Axel Bojanowski : Future scenario: researchers simulate Vesuvius eruption . In: Spiegel Online . April 27, 2012
  28. The national disaster plan and maps of the danger zones on Vesuvius on (Italian, with subpages).
  29. earthquake. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 8, Leipzig 1734, Col. 1524-1527.
  30. Dieter Richter: The Vesuvius. Story of a mountain . Pp. 17-18, 41-47, 55-59, 124-126, 129-136, 140-145
  31. The seismic signals are recorded by 12 stations on Vesuvius. The data of the stations OVO V , BKE V and VCNE EHZ are available online .
  32. ^ G. De Natale et al .: The Somma-Vesuvius volcano (Southern Italy): Structure, dynamics and hazard evaluation. Earth-Science Reviews 74 (2006), pp. 73-111.
  33. After: Hans Pichler: Italian volcanic areas I, pp. 125-136.
  34. ^ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe : Italian Journey, March 20, 1787 in the Gutenberg-DE project
  35. ^ Otto Julius Bierbaum: A sensitive journey in the automobile . Langen-Müller, reprinted by Albert Langen - Georg Müller Verlag, Munich Vienna 1979, page 169, ISBN 3-7844-1688-8 .
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on January 20, 2008 .