12. In the Shadow of Vesuvius: Dr Daisy Dunn (79 AD)

Early one afternoon in the year 79 AD, a seventeen year-old boy looked out from the window of his villa across the Bay of Naples. He saw a great cloud, ‘both strange and enormous in appearance’, rising from the top of a hill over the luxuriant landscape of Campania. This boy would be remembered by history as Pliny the Younger. The event he was about to witness was one of the most shocking and spectacular to ever take place in the ancient world: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The hours that followed that first observation were full of drama and tragedy. Pliny decided against joining his uncle – the naval commander and writer Pliny the Elder – as he embarked on a fateful rescue mission across the bay. He himself was caught up in the mass evacuation as panicking crowds fled the burning mountain.

In this episode of Travels Through Time, Dr Daisy Dunn takes us back to 79 AD and through the events of those days and surrounding months. While doing so she introduces us to both Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, two significant characters who together tell us so much today about life in the ancient Roman world.

Scene One: Reate, June 79 AD, the death of Vespasian, accession of Titus and introduction of Pliny the Elder

Scene Two: Bay of Naples, August/October (timing disputed) 79 AD. Eruption of Vesuvius (survival of Pliny the Younger; death of Pliny the Elder)

Scene Three: Basilica Julia, Rome, 79/80 AD Pliny the Younger becomes heir and adopted son of his uncle and embarks upon his legal career in the Court of One Hundred Men in Rome.

Dr Daisy Dunn’s website: http://www.daisydunn.co.uk

Presenter: Peter Moore

Guest: Dr Daisy Dunn

Producer: Maria Nolan