William Smith.

Dictionary of Greek and Roman geography (Volume 2) online

. (page 356 of 387)
Online LibraryWilliam SmithDictionary of Greek and Roman geography (Volume 2) → online text (page 356 of 387)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


minari cessat apex," Silv. iv. 4. 85). But the
next recorded eruption, and probably the next of
any magnitude, occurred in A. D. 203, and is
noticed by Dion Cassius (Isxvi. 2). This is pro-



VESUVIUS MONS.
bably the one alluded to by Galen (f/e Meth. v. 12),
and it seems certain from the description given by
Dion Cassius of the state of the mountain when he
wrote (under Alexander Severus) that it was then
in a state of occasional, but irregular, activity, much
resembling that which exists at the present day.
(Dion Cass. Isri. 21.) The only other eruption
that we find mentioned under the Roman Empire oc-
curred in A. D. 472 under the reign of Anthemins.
(Marcellin. Chron. ad ann.) A fourth, which
took place in the reign of Theodoric king of the
Goths (a. D. 512), is noticed by both Cassiodorus
and Procopius, who describe in considerable detail
the phenomena of the mountain. It appears certain
that these later eruptions were accompanied by the
discharge of streams of lava, w^hich caused great mis-
chief to the surrounding country. (Cassiod. Ep.
iv. 50; Procop. B. G. ii. 4, iv. 35.)

It would be foreign to our subject to trace the history
of the mountain through the middle ages, but it may
be mentioned that its eruptions seem to have been far
more rare and separated by longer intervals than
they have been for more than two centuries past;
and in some instances at least these intervals were
periods of perfect quiescence, during which the moun-
tain was rapidly losing its peculiar aspect. Even as
late as 1611, after an interval of little more than a
century, the sides of the mountain were covered with
forests, and the crater itself was overgrown with
shrubs and rich herbage. (Daubeny on Volcanoes,
p. 225.)

At the present day Vesuvius consists of two dis-
tinct portions: the central cone, which is now the
most elevated part of the mountain; and a ridge
which encircles this on three sides at some distance,
and is separated from it by a level valley or hollow
called the At7no del Cavallo. This outer ridge, of
which the highest point, nearitsX. extremity, iscalled
Monte Somma, was probably at one time continuous
on all sides of the circle, but is now broken down on
the S. and W. faces: hence the appearance of Vesu-
vius as viewed from Naples or from the W. is that of
a mountain having two peaks separated by a deep
depression. This character is wholly at variance with
the description given by Strabo, who tells us that
the summit was nearly level, but with clefts and
fissures in it, from which fire appeared to have for-
merly issued (v. p. 247). Hence it is probable that
the mountain was then a single truncated cone, and
that the vast crater-like hollow of which the Atrio
del Cavallo forms part, was first created by the
great eruption of A. D. 79, vrhich blew into the air
the whole mass of the then existing summit of the
mountain, leaving the present ridge of Monte Somma
standing, enclosing a vast crater, within which the
present cone has gradually formed. (Daubeny on
Volcanoes, p. 215; Lyell's Principles of Geologij,
p. 365, 8th edit.) It has indeed been frequently
assumed from the accounts of the operations of Spar-
tacus already mentioned (Flor. iii. 20; Plut. Crass. 9)
that the mountain had even then a crater, within
which that leader and his band were enclosed by the
Roman general: but it is very doubtful whether the
passages in question bear out thisinterpretation, which
seems at variance with the account given by Strabo,
whose description has every appearance of being de-
rived from personal observation.

(Concerning the history of the different eruptions
of Vesuvius see Delia Torre, 6'to?'ia del Vesuvio, 4to.,
Napoli, 1755; and the geolngical work of Dr. Dau-
beny, ch. xii.) [E. H. B.]



VETULONIA. 1285

VETERA. [Castra Vetera.]

VETTONA (/;



Online LibraryWilliam SmithDictionary of Greek and Roman geography (Volume 2) → online text (page 356 of 387)