"He may be," [dig director Francesco] Sirano explained, "an officer of the fleet that took part in the rescue mission launched by Pliny the Elder to help the people in the towns and villas nestled on this part of the Bay of Naples". A navy soldier who came to rescue the desperate people of Herculaneum, crammed in their hundreds for hours on the beach and inside the 'fornixes' or storing containers which were normally used for stowing nets and fishing equipment. A man who didn't make it, he too was killed in a few devastating instants by the pyroclastic surges that swept down from Vesuvius and here engulfed houses, people and things at a speed of 80-100 kilometres per hour, also pushing dozens and dozens of bodies into the sea.The evidence for this sounds pretty good.
The story is also covered in two articles that are behind subscription walls:
Hero of Herculaneum: skeleton may be saviour sent to defy the volcano. (Nick Squires, The Telegraph)
Clue that ancient Romans were close to being saved from Vesuvius (Tom Kington, London Times).
Both the Telegraph and the Times allow you to read a limited number of articles with free registration.
For many PaleoJudaica posts on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE and its destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, start here and follow the links. For more on Pliny the Elder's daring naval rescue mission follow the links there. Pliny himself perished while undertaking scientific observations during the mission, but the mission itself may have saved as many as a couple of thousand people. Pliny's body may (or may not) have been recovered in a mass grave on the shores of the town of Stabiae. For more on the pyroclastic surge during the eruption, see here and follow the links. For many posts on Herculaneum and its famous library carbonized during the eruption, see here and links.
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