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Again, as at Paestum, prior to arriving in Athens, we will introduce small cities prior to getting to the big one. Mt. Vesuvius, hovering over the City of Naples and the Bay of Naples, created some shock waves in 63 C.E. and blew apart the 24th of August, 79 C.E., covering the countryside for miles, particularly Pompeii and Herculaneum. The resultant volcanic ash covered and preserved so much of antiquity, from which we will have much to learn. We will see streets lined with flat stones, curbs, sewers, sidewalks, and stepping-stones across streets. Interior-wise, there are frescoes covering so many walls; again, the integration of art with architecture. We shall encounter courtyards and atriums for practical cooking facilities, and also for light, air, and cross ventilation - natural air-conditioning!

The volcano, by the way, never sleeps. It is always moving.

Roads leading to its rim are raked daily to reestablish their position.

This is what remains of the funicular.

The funicular, which took tourists to that rim, has been wrenched out of the ground and lies tangled and torn on the outer slopes.

Tourists used to be escorted into the crater, to sit on smoking rocks for some reason, beyond my personal grasp. Well, those rocks have fallen into the crater, and the areas have been roped off. Curious to know if any tourists went with those rocks?

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), met in Naples, Italy in December of 1997 and placed the area buried by Vesuvius on the World Heritage List for the following reason:

"considering that the impressive remains of the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and their associated villas, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in C.E. 79, provide a complete and vivid picture of society and daily life at a specific moment in the past that is without parallel anywhere in the world."

On that fateful day in August of the year C.E. 79, Vesuvius became a symbol of the precariousness of human life on earth. As with so many other tragedies, however, the lesson has not been learned. A present-day danger lies in the fact that a long period of dormancy has lulled locals into an intrepid building spree closer and higher to the volcano.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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