Perhaps the most famous historical eruption took place in A.D. 79 in Italy.
On the hot summer afternoon of August 24, the citizens living near the volcano went about their daily business.
Vesuvius had been considered dormant or even extinct for generations. Suddenly one side of the volcano exploded.
One observer, Pliny the Younger, described the ground shaking and tidal waves dashing the shores. A huge cloud of smoke hid the volcano’s top. Pliny, who was about 18 miles (28 kilometers) away, could see flashes of lightning and flames.
Explosion followed explosion. The inhabitants of the cities of Pompeii and Stabiae had no chance to escape as ash and steam rained down on them. Many were buried in midstride as they ran for protection, suffocated by the mounting debris.
The city of Herculaneum was engulfed by waves of boiling mud. Lava, however, was strangely absent.
The ruins of Pompeii were discovered by archaeologists in 1740, and artifacts from this once beautiful and prosperous city can be found in museums worldwide.