Exploring the threshold of death - Mount Vesuvius

The description of Pompeii as a world heritage site, an ancient Roman city in southern Italy would fall short if its existence near the doorstep of Mount Vesuvius- the infamous volcano is not mentioned.

When I started for Pompeii from Rome, on a chilly December morning in 2010, the wanderlust in my soul was excited to explore and witness the volcano.

This was one of the journeys I have done so far, where I went through different realizations while witnessing the scary ruins of the city. It was surprising and frightening. I was apprehensive in the beginning and eventually ended up in despair -  accepting that we human beings are indeed vulnerable in front of the forces of nature.

Mount Vesuvius, a composite volcano, erupted in A.D 79 and decimated almost instantaneously thousands of people in the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. It has not erupted since March 1944. 

Whenever I looked towards Mount Vesuvius while walking through the ruins of Pompeii, I realized that nearly 4 million people, now living around the mountain are still at the mercy of this volcano. It may erupt any day, any time. The big giant stands alone and threatens life every moment!

Beneath the tranquil mountain top, there is a heaving sea of molten fire, which could engulf the city within seconds and the lively city would cease to exist.

The dilapidated houses, ram-shackled amphitheater, a basilica, thermal-baths, a market, a public fountain etc all give us a hint that Pompeii was one of the most attractive resorts for the most distinctive citizens of Rome at that time. The once busy city is now just a memory. Today's well preserved ruins are the only gateway to know and perceive yesterdays Pompeii.

The city of catastrophic fate has been conserved in detail and hence gives us an unprecedented opportunity to travel back in time and experience the lives of people two thousand years ago. The city was frozen in time. Archaeologists have discovered hollows in the volcanic ash where the victims' bodies fell and eventually decayed. They have filled these cavities with plaster to see the outline of their final places of repose.

I felt that our technical advancements, revolutionary theories and path breaking discoveries can only give us a pseudo certainty of life; it may minimize some uncertainties but the final call will be taken by nature. The earthquake in 2011 in Japan is a major proof to this.

The ceramic floors, one piece marble fountain and well decorated interiors of houses almost two thousand years ago, all bore the same fate.

We human beings are just a part of this vast universe, limited in time and space and have very little to do when such catastrophic events occur.

At the end of the journey, I stood still and silently uttered to the frighteningly beautiful land "Good bye fiery world and bid you adieu Pompeii - the land which once intended to last but alas"!!

Before I end my blog post, I would like to ask you which one of the photographs about Pompeii you liked the most and why?

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