Article Image

IPFS News Link • History

Walking the Ruins of Empire

•, by A.J. Van Slyk

Standing in the shadow of the deadly volcano Mt. Vesuvius, you are keenly aware of the danger staring down at you. We walked to the top and stared into the abyss. It's not actually that big as far as mountains go, but the horrid smell of sulfur, and the 2000 year old destroyed civilization beneath you is enough to intimidate.

The Romans who lived there knew the mountain was dangerous. They called the nearby sulfur pits the "Gates of Hell" and legend stated that it was where Aeneas and Hercules entered the underworld. But they ignored the danger. They built vineyards and villas all along its sides. Pompeii was the Roman version of Martha's Vineyard, Beverly Hills, and Camp David all rolled into one. The emperor's vacation palace was on the nearby island of Capri. The Roman elite vacationed in Pompeii and the nearby port of Herculaneum provided them all the variety of goods the empire could provide. The weather is about as good as it gets anywhere on Earth. When the slave gladiator Spartacus revolted this is where he went to raid and pillage. Just like when they asked Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is."

Tiberius, Rome's second Emperor, loved the region so much he just stopped going back to Rome to rule and sent his aides. Then the Volcano blew in 79 AD, and a sizable chunk of Rome's elites perished beneath the ash and lava. Even if they themselves survived, surely they knew someone in their country club that didn't. They had certainly been humbled by nature's God.