Vesuvius: The most famous volcano in the world

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Profile Books, May 12, 2011 - History - 194 pages
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There have been nearly thirty major eruptions since AD 79, but none has matched the cataclysm of the eruption which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum within hours. Since then Vesuvius has been speculated upon, feared and celebrated by writers and artists and hordes of visitors. It is unquestionably a Wonder of the World.

For Greeks and Romans Vesuvius was a fearsome sacred place. Spartacus launched his slave rebellion from its crater. The Enlightenment brought the serious study of the phenomenon of volcanic activity. Its famous visitors included Goethe and Mozart, Byron and the Shelleys, Madame de Stael and Lady Hamilton. Painters popular and serious (from Wright of Derby to Andy Warhol) made its exploding or dormant outline an instantly recognisable icon.

Vesuvius has remained a focus for tourism and modern life. At the last big eruption in 1944 the Allied forces assumed they were witnessing the detonation of an immense bomb. Rampant modern development means that millions could be at risk when it next erupts. As Dickens said, Vesuvius is 'the genius of the scene ... biding its terrible time'.


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User Review  - kateashenden - LibraryThing

This is a delightful work, and leaves me wanting to read more in the series of "Wonders of the Word." While starting with Pliny's observations, the most interesting parts of the book for me were the ... Read full review


Miracle or Science? 33
William Hamilton made by Vesuvius 64
Romantics 96
Making Vesuvius 125
Real Geology New Focus 151
Vesuvius and the Wider World 182
Visiting Vesuvius at home and abroad 216
List of Illustrations 228

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About the author (2011)

Gillian Darley writes widely in the arts media, mostly about architecture and landscape. She is president of the Twentieth Century Society and has written acclaimed biographies of Octavia Hill, John Evelyn and John Soane - the latter two shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. Her most recent book isIan Nairn: Words in Place (Five Leaves Publications, with David McKie). She lives in London.

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