Running away from the eruption
The casts of Pompeii are one of the most exciting things that can be seen by visiting the excavations of the ancient city. The representation of a sudden death, pain, fear and awareness of the end are the emotions that you can feel with dramatic clarity in front of this remarkable archaeological find due to the intuition of Giuseppe Fiorelli.
This archaeologist conducted the excavations during the first years after the Unit of Italy, and just in 1863, when he had the idea to pour the lime in the empty spaces that were found under the solid ash. The bodies buried by the eruption and decomposed in the time, had created, under the ash and the lapilli, some empty spaces that corresponded exactly to the shape of the dead men, and therefore they just had to fill them up with the lime for having the precise molds.
We discover therefore what we had always known or suspected: the death caused by Mount Vesuvius and its terrible eruption was unexpected and picked all the inhabitants completely off guard.
The casts show people in the phase of the escape, picked in the moment of their death, and, as said Luigi Settembrini, writer and contemporary patriot of Fiorelli, “after to have uncovered the remains and the traces of the culture, now Fiorelli has shown the human pain, that hits anyone.”
Nevertheless the signals of a catastrophe showed up some time before but they didn’t recognize them: ten years before a terrible earthquake had semidestroyed Pompeii, and in 79 a.d. the damages were still available, and many works were in restoration. But at that time it was difficult to connect the earthquake to the vulcanic eruption, also because history didn’t remember any eruption of Mount Vesuvius, since the last one was dated back to thousands of years before the 1st century a.d. So all the signs, even if well recognizable, weren’t cought. Just think that few hours before the catastrophe they were making bread, as the pieces of bread found in the furnace of Via degli Augustali show. Moreover, during the day there was a smell of sulphur, there were clouds on the mountain, there were noises and little earthquakes. When the situation became worrisome, it was too late for the inhabitants of Pompeii: almost everybody died because of the eruption, and now these imprints, the casts of Pompeii are there to stop the moment when around 13 pm an immense cloud of vapors raised from the volcano, and the escape that everybody starts going crazy with fear, proves to be an escape into death.