Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
from the trenches
Books: Scenes of an Eruption Volume 60 Number 5, September/October 2007
by Eti Bonn-Muller


Ashen Sky: The Letters of Pliny the Younger on the Eruption of Vesuvius (Getty Publications, $19.95) pairs a new translation of Pliny's famous firsthand accounts of the A.D. 79 eruption with the stark black-and-white illustrations of renowned artist Barry Moser.

In his letters, Pliny describes the eruption so accurately that scientists today refer to the first of its two violent stages as the "Plinian" phase. In disturbingly calm prose, he also recalls the bone-chilling moments as people began to panic--"there were some who in their fear of dying begged for death"--and explains how ash and gases inundated Herculaneum so quickly that many residents didn't even have a chance to recoil in terror before they died. Moser's jagged images capture the eerie moments before, during, and after the eruption, from which the solidified ghosts of Pompeii's fleeing inhabitants emerged as artifacts almost 2,000 years later.

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America