Make wine-must rolls as follows: moisten a bushel of wheat flour with wine-must, add aniseed, cumin, twopounds of suet, a pound of cheese and some grated bay twig; after you have shaped them, place them on bay leaves and bake.

Marcus Gavius Apitius, De recoquinaria (On cookery), first century AD

Buried for centuries under lava: The Via dell’Abbondanza in the excavated city of Pompeii

In the year AD 79, on the morning of August 24, people in Pompeii were going to market. Pompeii was a Roman city of 15,000 inhabitants, small but prosperous. People who did not feel like cooking were going to one of the many public kitchens where soups and stews were bubbling on the fire. In its shops fresh chickens, fish, eggs, olive oil, herbs and dates were being sold. A baker and his wife were selling bread and rolls fresh from their oven. They had done well and had shown it by having the walls of their house decorated with colourful frescoes. One of them was the double portrait A Baker and His Wife. The baker holds a scroll which may have borne the text of the couple’s marriage contract, his “master

baker’s certificate” or perhaps a recipe. His wife is holding a stylus for writing and a wax tablet. Perhaps it signifies that she does the books for the bakery, perhaps she is proud of her literacy. The picture was probably intended to advertise the couple’s success to future generations.

At ten o’clock in the morning of August 24, the fresco, the couple and the entire city were buried under a several-metre thick layer of ash, pumice and lava. Pompeii is situated at the foot of Mt Vesuvius, but the volcano had not stirred since the city was founded; nor was there any warning that it was about to erupt — much less that it was about to erupt in the way that it did. When Vesuvius blew the plug of its gigantic crater into the air, an apocalyptic hail of stones and millions of tons of hot ash made Pompeii as dark as night. People fled in panic into entries and cellars but there was no escape, the falling ash crushed buildings and burned through wooden floors. People passing through the forum were killed by falling columns.


The long, deathly silence
By Rossella Lorenzi
 “You could hear women lamenting, children crying, men shouting. There were some so afraid of death that they prayed for death. Many raised their hands to the gods, and even more believed that there were no gods any longer and that this was one unending night for the world.” —Pliny the Younger, circa A.D. 97 to 109

It all lasted 19 hours.

Then, there was only a long, deathly silence. DISCOVERY CHANNEL continue reading