79 AD, when the volcano Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii, it was a very prospering and beautiful city.
A man was found in a street still holding a few gold coins in his hand. Perhaps he was a thief, or just someone who only wanted to save his money. Nobody will ever know who this man really was.
Whatever was the purpose of that small treasure, its destiny was to be buried for more than 1,500 years. That fugitive was a citizen of Pompeii – the favourite vacation site for rich Romans – a city that was to be destroyed in just one day.
It was the lunch-hour, and storekeepers were closing their shops; some boys and girls were chatting by the fountain at the street corner when, suddenly, an incredibly and violent earthquake broke the silence and the peace of the city. Loaves of bread were abandoned in the furnaces and most inhabitants escaped immediately, but the earthquake was only the first signal of a more worrisome incoming danger. Many people could not bring themselves to abandon their homes; a small group of people were at a funeral banquet, where they were found many centuries later. Others stayed behind to hide their valuables, only to be buried by the volcano together with their possessions. Many others, instead, loaded their things and their animals in carts and attempted to escape from the city, only to end up blocked in its narrow streets.
Twenty-eight hours later, when finally Vesuvius stopped erupting, Pompeii had been buried by a seven-meter deep layer of lava, together with 2,000 of its 20,000 inhabitants. Almost all of them suffocated from toxic, volcanic sulphuric gases, and the city was erased from the surface of the planet.
It was a terrible tragedy, a disaster – and yet, while Pompeii was annihilated by the fury of the volcano, at the same time, the eruption was what preserved it through the centuries.