Vesuvius

Vesuvius

GILLIAN DARLEY
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbss7
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  • Book Info
    Vesuvius
    Book Description:

    The cataclysm that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79 continues to fascinate nearly two thousand years later. Darley’s meditation on a powerful natural wonder touches on pagan beliefs, vulcanology, and travel writing, as it sifts through the ashes of Vesuvius to expose changes in our understanding of cultural and natural environments.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06280-1
    Subjects: History, General Science, Anthropology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[ix])
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. [x]-[x])
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-9)

    Thunder rolls, smoke billows, flame spurts from the volcanic crater. Lightning zigzags in the dark. The dramatic effects are reflected, even enlarged, in the water below. But this is not the Bay of Naples but a featureless stretch of north eastern Germany. The Vesuvius that has sat in landscape gardens at Wörlitz, near Dessau, since the late eighteenth century will never erupt without warning.

    An eruption is arranged every five years, twice on a single weekend, to impress the dignitaries from UNESCO, regional politicians and the locals. A splendid dinner is served on gondolas as the company is rowed through...

  5. 1 EARLY DAYS
    (pp. 10-32)

    Perhaps the Earth’s rumbling and fuming was less puzzling to the ancients than for us, so confident as we are of having the answers to everything and yet powerless to protect ourselves from violent natural phenomena such as active volcanoes or earthquakes. Our remote ancestors could shrug off their worries, since within polytheism volcanoes were the most obvious home of the many gods of fire and furnace. An eruption was, therefore, an expression of the gods’ pent-up fury and so, while a worrying portent, not unexplained.

    Since volcanoes were, from the viewpoint of the ancients, self-evidently caused by ever-burning fires...

  6. 2 MIRACLE OR SCIENCE?
    (pp. 33-63)

    In 37 bc Horace recorded an ancient pagan rite in southern Italy. He wrote, in Satire 1.5, of Gnatia in Apuglia, a ‘town built amidst troubled water’, where the people of the place encouraged him to believe that ‘incense placed on the sacred threshold liquefied without flame’. Horace knew the rules, as laid out by Epicurus and Lucretius: everything could be explained by reference either to natural causes or the laws of science. With their authority and a comfortably empirical stance, he confidently distanced himself from the mumbo-jumbo. But for the people of Gnatia, as for the medieval Christians in...

  7. 3 WILLIAM HAMILTON – MADE BY VESUVIUS
    (pp. 64-95)

    With the arrival of the first monarch to reside in Naples for two centuries, following a long succession of hated Habsburg viceroys, a semblance of confidence returned to the demoralised city. 1734 saw the installation of a new Spanish ruling dynasty, the Bourbons, and in 1738 King Charles VII began to build himself a relatively modest palace at Portici, bridging the road that ran south from the city, between Vesuvius and the sea. Where the king led, a suburban building boom followed. The architects of the one hundred and twenty or so villas to be built around the Golden Mile,...

  8. 4 ROMANTICS
    (pp. 96-124)

    If Vesuvius had previously served as a handy manual to the mysteries of the earth, now it offered a key to the complexities of the psyche. Vesuvius became a connecting thread running through European Romanticism. The suppressed violence of the volcano with its unpredictable (but increasingly regular) outbreaks, the source of which remained hidden and mysterious, could be seen as a metaphor for the conflicted soul as much as for revolution and radical political thought. Between each individual and the natural world now lay a vast range of possibilities, emotions to be triggered at will. The variety and complexity of...

  9. 5 MAKING VESUVIUS
    (pp. 125-150)

    Such was the fever for excitement in the landscape, it was bound to lead to extremes. The Georgian architect and landscape designer Sir William Chambers argued convincingly for the introduction of Sublime effects, what he knew to call ‘scenes of terror’ after Edmund Burke’s prescription, drawing upon his own youthful visit to China. He claimed that the Chinese concealed, high on mountain peaks, ‘founderies, lime-kilns, and glass-works’ in order that flame and thick smoke might issue forth and ‘give to these mountains the appearances of volcanoes’. This was landscape gardening con brio.

    His German friend and follower, Friedrich Wilhelm von...

  10. 6 REAL GEOLOGY, NEW FOCUS
    (pp. 151-181)

    In 1802, the great engineer James Watt’s young son Gregory, racked with consumption, climbed Vesuvius. His colleague and supportive companion in this risky venture was William Maclure, later considered the founding father of American geology. Despite a turbulent youth, Gregory Watt had already shown great vision, having persuaded his recalcitrant father to invest in the novel gas lighting system he had seen in Paris.

    In a fascinating brief episode which was to bring the worlds of romantic literature, radicalism and innovatory science together, Gregory Watt had also recommended the very young and untried Humphry Davy for his post as Superintendant...

  11. 7 VESUVIUS AND THE WIDER WORLD
    (pp. 182-215)

    Thomas Cook, ‘the Napoleon of Excursions’, led his initial tour to Rome and Naples in 1864. The first edition of Murray’s Handbook to Southern Italy had been published eleven years earlier. Many more followed, with revisions. The preface to the sixth edition alerted readers to a couple of dramatic changes – political and physical. The Neapolitan monarchy had been ‘blotted off’ the map as the editor put it, while Vesuvius itself was ‘remarkably altered by the eruption of 1868’.

    As the geologists in the new Observatory focused on the volcano and its behaviour, and southern Italy joined unified Italy, a...

  12. VISITING VESUVIUS AT HOME AND ABROAD
    (pp. 216-219)
  13. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 220-227)
  14. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. 228-231)
  15. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. 232-234)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 235-245)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 246-246)