[Miami University Historian Steven]Tuck's combination of history and archaeology has produced strong evidence that it is possible to trace Vesuvian refugees. He finds that many refugees settled on the north side of the Bay of Naples, and that families tended to move together and then to marry within their refugee community. These people probably "represent either those who fled at the first sign of the eruption," Tuck says, "or those who were away from the cities when the eruption occurred." But while this method seems to work for identifying reasonably wealthy citizens, Tuck knows that it is limited because it cannot help him discover non-Romans, slaves, or migrants who escaped Vesuvius.Limited or not, the correlation of evidence from so many disparate sources is impressive. I imagine a project this ambitious has only become practical in recent years as the evidence has gone into searchable digital databases.
As for how the refugees survived, note also that Pliny the Elder led a daring rescue mission into the eruption zone. He himself perished, but the rescue ships may have saved up to a couple of thousand refugees, perhaps cutting the death toll of the eruption by half.
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