Aug 24 2010

On This Day in History: August 24

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

August 24 is the 236th day of the year (237th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 129 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted burying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in nearly thirty feet of ash and pumice. The toxic gases killed at least 2200 people who remained in Pompeii after the evacuation.

After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., this pleasure and prosperity came to an end when the peak of Mount Vesuvius exploded, propelling a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere. For the next 12 hours, volcanic ash and a hail of pumice stones up to 3 inches in diameter showered Pompeii, forcing the city’s occupants to flee in terror. Some 2,000 people stayed in Pompeii, holed up in cellars or stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption.

A westerly wind protected Herculaneum from the initial stage of the eruption, but then a giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down the western flank of Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all who remained. This lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock, burying the city.

The people who remained in Pompeii were killed on the morning of August 25 when a cloud of toxic gas poured into the city, suffocating all that remained. A flow of rock and ash followed, collapsing roofs and walls and burying the dead.

Plaster Citizens of Pompeii

Those that did not flee the city of Pompeii in August of 79 AD were doomed. Buried for 1700 years under 30 feet of mud and ash and reduced by the centuries to skeletons, they remained entombed until excavations in the early 1800s.

As excavators continued to uncovered human remains, they noticed that the skeletons were surrounded by voids in the compacted ash. By carefully pouring plaster of Paris into the spaces, the final poses, clothing, and faces of the last residents of Pompeii came to life.

n the only known eye witness account to the eruption, Pliny the Younger reported on his uncle’s ill-fated foray into the thick of the ash from Misenum, on the north end of the bay:

“. . .the buildings were now shaking with violent shocks, and seemed to be swaying to and fro as if they were torn from their foundations. Outside, on the other hand, there was the danger of failing pumice stones, even though these were light and porous; however, after comparing the risks they chose the latter. In my uncle’s case one reason outweighed the other, but for the others it was a choice of fears. As a protection against falling objects they put pillows on their heads tied down with cloths. ”

And then:

“You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.”


49 BC – Julius Caesar’s general Gaius Scribonius Curio is defeated in the Second Battle of the Bagradas River by the Numidians under Publius Attius Varus and King Juba of Numidia. Curio commits suicide to avoid capture

79 – Mount Vesuvius erupts. The cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae are buried in volcanic ash.

410 – The Visigoths under Alaric begin to pillage Rome for three days.

1200 – King John of England, signee of the first Magna Carta, married Isabella of Angouleme in Bordeaux Cathedral.

1391 – Jews massacred in Palma de Mallorca.

1456 – The printing of the Gutenberg Bible is completed.

1572 – St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: On the orders of king Charles IX of France, a massacre of Huguenots (French Protestants) begins.

1215 – Pope Innocent III declares Magna Carta invalid.

1349 – Six thousand Jews are killed in Mainz after being blamed for the bubonic plague.

1391 – Jews massacred in Palma de Mallorca.

1456 – The printing of the Gutenberg Bible is completed.

1815 – The modern Constitution of the Netherlands is signed.

1821 – The Treaty of Cordoba is signed in Cordoba, now in Veracruz, Mexico, concluding the Mexican War of Independence from Spain.

1831 – Charles Darwin is asked to travel on HMS Beagle.

1857 – The Panic of 1857 begins, setting off one of the most severe economic crises in U.S. history.

1858 – In Richmond, Virginia, 90 blacks are arrested for learning.

1875 – Captain Matthew Webb became first person to swim English Channel

1572 – St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: On the orders of king Charles IX of France, a massacre of Huguenots (French Protestants) begins.

1608 – The first official English representative to India lands in Surat.

1662 – Act of Uniformity requires England to accept the Book of Common Prayer.

1682 – William Penn receives the area that is now the state of Delaware, and adds it to his colony of Pennsylvania.

1690 – Calcutta, India is founded.

1814 – British troops invade Washington, D.C. and burn down the White House and several other buildings.

1891 – Thomas Edison patents the motion picture camera.

1892 – Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, one of the world’s first purpose-built football grounds, opens.

1909 – Workers start pouring concrete for the Panama Canal.

1912 – Alaska becomes a United States territory.

1914 – World War I: German troops capture Namur.

1929 – Second day of two-day Hebron massacre during the 1929 Palestine riots: Arab attack on the Jewish community in Hebron in the British Mandate of Palestine, resulted in the death of 65-68 Jews and the remaining Jews being forced to leave the city.

1932 – Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly across the United States non-stop (from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey).

1937 – In the Spanish Civil War, the Basque Army surrenders to the Italian Corpo Truppe Volontarie following the Santona Agreement.

1942 – World War II: The Battle of the Eastern Solomons. Japanese aircraft carrier Ryujo is sunk and US carrier Enterprise heavily damaged.

1944 – World War II: Allied troops start the attack on Paris.

1949 – The treaty creating NATO goes into effect.

1950 – Edith Sampson becomes the first black U.S. delegate to the UN.

1954 – The Communist Control Act goes into effect. The American Communist Party is outlawed.

 1963 – Buddhist crisis: As a result of the Xa Loi Pagoda raids, the US State Department cabled the US Embassy in Saigon to encourage Army of the Republic of Vietnam generals to launch a coup against President Ngo Dinh Diem if he did not remove his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu.

1963 – The 200-metre freestyle is swum in less than 2 minutes for the first time by Don Schollander (1:58).

1967 – Led by Abbie Hoffman, a group of hippies temporarily disrupt trading at the NYSE by throwing dollar bills from the viewing gallery, causing a cease in trading as the brokers scramble to grab them up.

1968 – France explodes its first hydrogen bomb, thus becoming the world’s fifth nuclear power.

1981 – Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for murdering John Lennon.

1989 – Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose is banned from baseball for gambling by Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti.

1991 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

1991 – Ukraine declares itself independent from the Soviet Union.

1992 – Hurricane Andrew hits South Florida as a Category 5 Hurricane.

1994 – Initial accord between Israel and the PLO about partial self-rule of the Palestinians on the West Bank.

1995 – Computer software developer Microsoft releases their Windows 95 operating system.

1998 – The Netherlands is selected as the site for the trial of the two Libyan suspects of the 1988 Pan Am bombing.

2000 – Argon fluorohydride, the first Argon compound ever known, is discovered at the University of Helsinki by Finnish scientists.

2007 – Air Transat Flight 236 runs out of fuel over the Atlantic Ocean (en route to Lisbon from Toronto) and makes an emergency landing in the Azores.

2004 – Eighty-nine passengers die after two airliners explode after flying out of Domodedovo International Airport, near Moscow. The explosions are caused by suicide bombers (reportedly female) from the Russian Republic of Chechnya.

2006 – The International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefines the term “planet” such that Pluto is considered a Dwarf Planet.

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    One of the most effective ways to overcome anxiety is to try to shift the focus of attention away from self and toward others.

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