Pompeii Destroyed - And now, the weather

Channel VII Evening News, August 24, 79 A.D.

{Intro: Exciting graphics of a spiraling Roman numeral VII along with images of Roman Empire scenes - Pantheon, Colosseum, Roman Forum, etc - and with energetic, heart thumping music ... Da Da Da Du-u-u-m!}

Voice over: Channel VII news. Your Number One news source for the Roman Empire.  


The last days of Pompeii filmed by Ch. VII brave crews.

Male News Anchor: Good evening. Our top story - The city of Pompeii was destroyed today when Mount Vesuvius erupted in a violent fit of sulfur and ash, suffocating the surrounding population with poisonous gas and covering the buildings under several meters of volcanic debris. {Turns to cue female news anchor}

Female News Anchor: But first, let's check out the evening commute. Hank, how's it looking out there?

Hank the Traffic Guy (yelling above the drone of the helicopter): Traffic is heavy. We have a chariot breakdown, which is causing some delays. And further up, a large chunk of volcanic rock or something has come crashing down on a donkey cart carrying olive oil, which is causing a curiosity delay. Once passed that it's smooth sailing all the way back to Naples. That's all from the Sky VII Copter. Back to you in the studio.

Female News Anchor: Thanks, Hank. {Turns to male news anchor} Olive oil all over the highway at rush hour - That must be some slippery mess.

Male News Anchor {shaking his head}: I hope they have enough bread on hand to sop it up. {He chuckles, she laughs mechanically on cue} Before we get to our top story, let's have a look at the weather.

{Banter is exchanged with the female meteorologist, with the male news anchor providing woeful unfunny commentary, causing the female news anchor to smile nervously at her colleague's attempts to appear humorous and charming in front of the young meteorologist. While all this is going on, how about if I provide more from my Italian travel journal. In past entries, we've visited Rome, the Vatican, Naples, the Isle of Capri, and the port city of Pozzuoli. In this entry we will take a quick tour of Pompeii.}

***

Of course, we all know the story of Pompeii - a thriving Roman city snuffed out upon one disastrous day when pyroclastic forces set in motion a reign of destruction that blanketed her inhabitants beneath meters of volcanic ash, hidden from sight for nearly two millennia. Today, Pompeii exists as a time capsule of an ancient time with streets and buildings and temples and statues depicting her as she appeared at the very moment of her destruction.

 

From my travel journal:

Walking the ancient streets of Pompeii is truly a surreal experience. One could just as well be walking along the streets of some long-ago extinct Martian city. To think that people lived here two thousand years ago doing many of the same things we do today, only to see their world ended upon one day in catastrophic fashion caused me to ponder what our own plight might be.

Homes, shops, eateries, businesses, temples, baths, a  brothel, an entertainment district, an entire way of life made extinct by the power of Mount Vesuvius - a god mightier than their own gods of Apollo and Jupiter.

The ancient relics and ruins of Pompeii are astonishing - too overwhelming to recount here (see link below) - from grand temples built to honor their gods, to an amphitheatre for showcasing gladiatorial contests, to artistic and erotic frescos in chambers of some of the richer dwellings, to the simple rock walls that formed the homes of the average citizens.

This frozen snapshot of Pompeii proves that life has changed little for Homo sapiens over the past two thousand years. Then as now, there were those who possessed wealth and those who did not, and there were those who existed somewhere in between. Yet, against the wrath of Vesuvius, they were all powerless, they were all mortal, and even their stone gods were useless against such forces.

*

Arriving back in Pozzuoli, later that evening we walked to a family residence for a wonderful Italian feast of various cheeses, zucchini, pasta, bread, vegetables, and wine. At one point, while asking for bread in Italian - the word I was searching for was "pàne" - apparently my mispronunciation sounded as if I was referring to male anatomy, which drew quite a laugh from the dozen folks around the table, and which caused a bit of embarrassment for me when I realized my mistake.

After dinner the men of the group visited a nearby apartment to watch a soccer game on television. Unfortunately, the Napoli team lost the contest 3-1, drawing cries of "Mamma Mia" from those seated around me.

The next day being a travel day for Rome, goodbyes were exchanged with family members and then we made the short walk along the shore road back to our apartment.

*** 

 

Interestingly, Pompeii began to crumble shortly after my visit as mentioned in an article entitled "While Pompeii Crumbles" by Francis X. Roca in the January 12, 2011 edition of the Wall Street Journal: "The scandal over conditions at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii has yet to die down since a structure known as the ‘School of the Gladiators' collapsed there in early November. At least three other major collapses occurred in the past two months...experts and activists say that the city's perilous current state is just one dramatic example of a widespread national emergency. "

I swear - it wasn't my fault! I didn't touch a single stone while I was there!!

Jack Sheedy

 

PS: Check out the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei website for information on Pompeii:

http://www.pompeiisites.org/index.jsp?idProgetto=5&idLinguaSito=2

 

PPS: For something closer to home, pick up my book Cape Odd (with Jim Coogan) at your nearest CLAMS or OCLN library. It is full of strange and unusual anecdotes and sketches about this narrow land, including stories of earthquakes and tornadoes witnessed by Cape Codders years ago, oddities that residents of our state have experienced in recent months. 

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