Pompeii Revived


Two thousand years ago, two cities at the heart of western civilization were made legend by ash. Imagine it.

Two thousand years ago, two cities at the heart of western civilization were made legend by ash. Imagine it. It is a day like any other, and the streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum are bustling with Roman life. Then, a cloud of ash, dark as death, rises steadily into the air above the “innocent” mountain in whose shadow you live and rains down upon your city and day is turned to night.
Escapees are trampled by other escapees as people fill the streets as thickly as the ash in the air that soon makes visibility almost impossible. Those who do manage to escape to the sea, such as the infamous Pliny the Elder, soon find that they cannot steer the boats in the raining debris that has overtaken the water. What little hope of escape you have is lost when the pyroclastic surges begin. Reaching the city in just four minutes, the surges are 415 degrees and the remaining occupants are almost instantly killed. Thousands die in agony, and your entire city is buried in up to 60 miles of volcanic debris.

This was the horror experienced by 20,000 occupants of Pompeii. September 14-January 13 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, we can step out of modern lives into a world that existed two thousand years ago, complete with historical enactors. We can learn about and imagine not only the horrifying deaths of 1000 to 2000 Romans, but also the fascinating lives that they led, like the fact that they had running water and used lead pipes.
Steve Nash, the exhibit’s curator, says that the biggest challenge that they faced in creating the exhibit was making sure everyone has a good time and can relate to the setting. He says, “How can we make this first-century time capsule into a twenty-first-century exhibit?”
Mt. Vesuvius is still active and last erupted in 1944. Despite the risk, three million people still live at the base of the mountain. The city still has not been completely excavated- about 25% is still buried under layers of ash- and they won’t dig up very much more, as the excavation process requires destroying a site. However, the part that has been unearthed is open to tourism now.
Mr. Nash says that the most important thing to remember about Pompeii is that they were just like us, just born in a different time.
Experience Rome in all its glory at the “Day in Pompeii” exhibit; live a day in the life of the ancients and see a fabulous exhibit as it makes its final appearance in the United States. “What nature destroyed, it also preserved…” And it preserved it just for us…