Pompeii: Disaster, Religion, and the Gods

On August 24, 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted, sending floods of ash, pumice and other debris onto the city of Pompeii, located at the volcano’s southeastern base in the Campania region of Italy. By the next day, the eruption had buried the city and its terrified inhabitants under nearly 20 feet of debris, where they would remain frozen in layers of ash for the next 1,500 years. In the time of the early Roman Empire, twenty-thousand people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Roman perspectives on cults were synergistic, seeing in new deities, merely local aspects of a familiar one. For many Romans, Egyptian Isis was an aspect of Phrygian Cybele, whose orgiastic rites were long-naturalized at Rome, indeed, she was known as Isis of Ten Thousand Names. Among these names of Roman Isis, Queen of Heaven is outstanding for its long and continuous history. Isis also became known as the new form of Venus, who was the patron God of Pompeii, and due to this allowed Isis to gain great influence in the cultural, societal, and religious life of Pompeii. With Isis gaining this prestige, the goddess overtime became the leading deity within the city and surrounding areas of Italy.

The intended argument of this (fake) paper would be that Pompeii’s religious traditions and belief in the Gods was intertwined with the populace’s response to the disaster, as well as integral in the cultural, literary, historical, and media response of the city and it’s later discovery.

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