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Archaeologists find traces of Romans who fled from Vesuvius


Visualization of the eruption of Vesuvius, Alessandro Sanquirico

Archaeologist and historian Steven Tuck from Miami University presented his latest research in which he compared the collected list of Roman names with Pompeii and Herculaneum with archaeological evidence from other parts of the Empire that were not destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. The conclusions are really interesting.

The purpose of the analysis was not only to find “refugees” from two Roman cities, but also to present conclusions about who survived the eruption, where relocation took place and how the Roman social, economic and political sphere really worked during the disaster.

Steven Tuck began his work by examining numerous inscriptions on public buildings, tombstones in Pompeii or Herculaneum. Having a solid base of material, he then began to search for evidence in various parts of the Empire. He was mainly interested in:

  • the last names that were popular around Vesuvius, and also appeared far from the crash site;
  • a reference to the origin that would suggest that the person was from Pompeii or Herculaneum;
  • items that were characteristic of the area of ​​Vesuvius;
  • new infrastructure, which would prove that state authorities tried to provide refugees with good conditions.

For example, the archaeologist discovered that in present-day Naples in the 2nd century CE six people from the Caninia family lived. This family name does not appear anywhere except Herculaneum. This may prove that the family has just moved from Herculaneum.

Another example comes from Roman Dacia (present-day Serbia and Romania). An inscription dedicated to a man named Conrelius Fuscus, who came from Pompeii, lived in Naples, and commanded the Roman army in this area, was discovered on a Roman tombstone (dated 87 CE).

The researcher also came across an interesting example of a Roman woman – Vettia Sabina. A tombstone was found in Naples, which her husband erected for her at the end of the 1st century CE. The inscription on the stone contains the word “HAVE”, which comes from the Osky language and is the only find of its kind in Naples. Interestingly, the word is commonly used in Pompeii for inscriptions and graffiti. “HAVE” is an Oskiian version of the Latin word “AVE” meaning “hello” or “goodbye”, popular in southern Italy until the first century CE.

Steven Tuck’s research shows that you can try to look for traces of refugees from 79 CE. The researcher suggests that many people who survived the disaster settled mainly in the northern part of the Gulf of Naples. Families most often moved together and bonded in their groups.

Another conclusion that the scientist made was the fact that the Roman authorities did not provide immediate assistance to refugees. It was only after many residents were even in Naples that construction of infrastructure began to provide the residents with e.g. housing.

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