Alfano (1924) Documentation and Discussions on the Eruptions

Documentation and Discussions on the Eruptions is part three of Alfano (1924)’s table of contents.

This article contains edited English Google Translator and Microsoft Translator translations of the original Italian: Book Link.

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Il Vesuvio dopo il 79.
Vesuvius after 79.

What the shape of Vesuvius was after the eruption of 79 will always be
a difficult topic to solve, until you’re lucky enough to find some documents of the time.

The question was long discussed with an almost identical question: what was the shape of Vesuvius before the eruption of 79. And indeed a conclusive answer was not given.

It is a question of whether the Vesuvian Grand Cone had existed or not before
79; that is, before the destruction of Pompeii the edifice of the Neapolitan volcano was formed of two concentric cones or the cone alone at present external, which was the Mount Vesuvius of the Romans.

In another unreleased work of mine I summed up the matter, and I got out of it
the conviction that the Mount Vesuvius of the ancients, before 79, it would be
of a single conical edifice (now M. Sum), which had presented at the end
a huge crater, no more, no less like so many edifices of the Flegrean volcanoes that
are a short distance away from him.

Neither, in my opinion, for the eruption of 79, was formed an intercluded cone,
started with the current Vesuvian Grand Cone. The big eruptions,
in already formed volcanic edifies, they always leave a large crater of explosion, and do not build an intercluded cone. So it was for the same
Vesuvian crater for the 1906 eruption.

For the explosion of 79 the planities described by Strabo blew up which was at the end of the mountain; perhaps even a portion of the summit collapsed along the southern side; hence the ruina montis, mentioned so briefly but so sculpturally by Plinio Cecilio.

With the activity subsequent to 79. which perhaps was very slow, given the enormous material and energy consumption in the previous explosive phase, began the constructive period that had to reach its peak, perhaps, towards 1036, when the documents for the first time tell us about lava leaking from flanks of the volcano.

Most of all I believe that the following figure expresses better than words my concept on the state of Vesuvius before and after 79.

Left: Probable form of Vesuvius before 79 as Spartico and Strabo saw it.
(Explosion crater of the eruption preceding that of 79, partially filled by the material landslides from the edges).

Right: Probable form of Vesuvius after 79 as Dione and Procopio saw it.
(Ideal vertical split of 79 explosion crater).


Il Vesuvio verso il 172.
Vesuvius around 172.

After 79, the first document concerning Vesuvius can be found in Galen.

This distinguished physician of antiquity who lived from 131 to 210, around 172
wrote his work: De Medendi Methodo; where in Chapter 12 of Book V,
speaking of the health of Campania, he says:

“Omnibus vero ventis qui ab Arcto ad aestivum occasum perflant Vesuvius collis
obiicitur; miltumque cineris ab eo ad mare usque pervenit, reliquae videlicet materiae. tum quae in eo combusta est, tum quae nunc etiam uritur. Omnia haec aerem
efficiunt siccum.”

“But certainly for all those who belong to the winds blow through the going down of the Vesuvius of the hill in a close to the summer objected; a great amount of the ashes, reached as far as to the sea, from him, the rest of the that is to say of the matter. and that it was burned, and that now it is refined. All these produce dry air.”

The phrase quae nane etiam uritur would say that in the times of Galen he saw fire at Vesuvius; perhaps it was in strombolian activity; which is very likely.

Some believe, however, that these words are a hint to the eruption of 203; which is very difficult, because in 203 Galen was 72 years old; and it does not seem that he wrote the work De Medendi Methodo at such a late age.


Eruzione del 203.
Eruption of 203.

Dione Cassius in his Roman Historia, in Lib. LXXVI, writing the life of Septimius Severus (163-211), telling of the death of the prefect Plauziano, which is believed to be in 203) says:

“Per eos dies explenduit in monte Vesuvio ignis maximus, tantique mugitus
extitere ut Capuam usque audirentur; In qua civitate ego, quoties moror in Italia, habitare soleo.”
(Cassii Dionis. Historiae Romanae quae supersunt. Hamburg, 1750,
Vol. II. p. 1272)

There is, therefore, a sure testimony of a Vesuvian eruption in 203.
This eruption was probably only explosive, because Dione speaks of splendors and mugites. The roars were heard as far as Capua, which in any case is not very far from Vesuvius:

Vesuvian writers differ on this date:
Falcone SCIPIONE (op. cit” part III refers this eruption to 200, and
he is copied by CATANTI and MACATTI (op. bit., p. 51). BRACCINI (op; cit, p. 12) reports 202. MACRINO reports 204. PARAGALLO (op. cit., p. 130), while saying that this eruption occurred under the Empire of Severus, assigns the year 243; from him CATANTI and MACATTI copied from him, enumerating another eruption beyond the already erroneous one of 200. Also the Palmieri mentions an eruption of 243.

But the mistake of Paragallo, and all those who followed him, is evident, because Septimius Severus was emperor from 163 to 211, and therefore not in 243.

However, for 203, the most accurate Vesuvian writers believe it: Mascolo,
Suarez, Della Torre Giovanni, Valencians, Auldjo, The Judge, Phillips,
Mercalli and Baratta, all relying on the authority of Dione Cassius who is the only sure testimony.


Il Vesuvio tra il 222 e il 235 (impero di Alessandro Severo).
Vesuvius between 222 and 235 (Alexander Severo’s empire).

Dione Cassius, before the mention of the eruption of 203, speaking of the eruption of 79, describes Vesuvius, between 222 and 235, that is, in the years when he wrote his Historiae Romanae. — There in Lib. LXVI, so it says:

“Vesuvius mons mare spectat ad Neapolim, habetque fontes ignis uberrimos; ac olim quidam ex omni parte aequalis erat verticis, sic ut ex medio eius ignis existeret. Nam ea parte tantum flammas alit, extrinsecus autem undequaque intactus ab igne permanet ad haec tempora. Ex quo tit, quum ignis externas partes numquam exurat, eaque quae sunt in medio, tantum concumantur igni, rediganturque in cineres, ut vertices, qui circum sunt, usque adhue veterem altitudinem habeant, pars autem inflamata, temporis progressu consumta et subsidendo concava facta sit; ita ut totus mons (si licet parva cum magnis conferre) formam habent amphitheatri. Culmina montis eius multas arbores habent, vitesque; ipse interior ambitus igni permittitur, utque fumum interdio, ita noctu flammam reddit, sic ut in
eo suffimenta plurima varii generis fleri semper videantur. Et hoc quidem ita semper aliquando intensius, aliquando remissius evenit; ad haec et cineres nonnumquam proiicit, quoties multa simul subsident, emittitque saxa, quando vis venti adigitur: tum resonat mugitque, quod minime densas, sed tenues et occultas respirationes habet. Quum igitur Vesuvius eiusmodi sit, haec in eo quotannis fere fieri solent.”


(Eruzione del 305).
(Eruption of 305).


(Eruzione del 321).
(Eruption of 321).


Il Vesuvio era attivo fra il 379 e il 395.
Vesuvius was active between 379 and 395.


Eruzione del 472.
Eruption of 472.

Various documents are in relation to this eruption. Some are from the
5th century; others from the 6th; others from the 10th, and others from the 16th century.

Of the 5th century we have:
[1] Some lessons from an ancient Office of S. Gennaro; [2] a homily also on S. Gennaro; [3] the Greek legend of Emanuele Monaco.

Of the 6th century there is:
[4] the testimony of Marcellino Conte; [5] the testimony of Procopius of Caesarea.

Of the 10th century there is:
[6] the menology of Emperor Basil, on November 6th.

Of the 16th century we have:
[7] the testimony of Sigonius.

The Testimony of the 5th century.
[1] in an ancient office of S. Gennaro in the Neapolitan Church, whose lessons begin: <<In Campania, civita Puteolana, ecc.>> at lecture 7, we read:
“Mons Vesuvius prope Neapolim, ad ultionem scelerum impiorum, vasto tremore concussus, globos igneous ultra solitum eructavit, urbesque vicinas vastavit. Neopolitani timentes, effusis lacrymis, Beati Ianuraii Ecclesiam intraverunt, non videntes coelum propter calidos cineres, qui sic terram operuerant, ut humus fere arderet. Omni solatio destituti, noete, dieque requies non dabatur; replebatur raucis vocibus masculorum et foeminarum ululatibus magnis Ecclesia; alii in pulverem terrae se jactabant, gementes peccata sua; alii genas suas unguibus lacerabant; alii manibus per plateas erectis, Del suffragia in Sancto Martyre precabantur. Sicque Sancti Martyris precibus, Vesuvii montis iguita irruptio est extincta.”


Eruzione del 512.
(Eruption of 512.)

Il Vesuvio nel 536.
Vesuvius in 536.

(Eruzione del 651).
(Eruption of 651).

Eruzione del 685.
Eruption of 685.

(Eruzione del 748).
(Eruption of 748).

(Eruzione del 760).
(Eruption of 760).

(Eruzione del 769).
(Eruption of 769).

(Eruzione del 787).
(Eruption of 787).

(Eruzione del 879).
(Eruption of 879).

(Eruzione del 893).
(Eruption of 893).

Eruzione del 968 (980, 981, 982, 983).
Eruption of 968 (980, 981, 982, 983).

(Eruzione del 980).
(Eruption of 980).

(Eruzione del 981).
(Eruption of 981).

(Eruzione del 982 o 983).
(Eruption of 982 or 983).

Eruzione del 991.
Eruption of 991.

(Eruzione del 993).
(Eruption of 993).

(Eruzione del 994).
(Eruption of 994).

Eruzione del 999.
Eruption of 999.

(Eruzione del 1000).
(Eruption of 1000).

Eruzione del 1007 (1006).
Eruption of 1007 (1006).

(Eruzione del 1013).
(Eruption of 1013).

(Eruzione del 1024).
(Eruption of 1024).

(Eruzione del 1027).
(Eruption of 1027).

(Eruzione del 1035).
(Eruption of 1035).

(Eruzione del 1036).
(Eruption of 1036).

Eruzione del 1037.
Eruption of 1037.

(Eruzione del 1038).
Eruption of 1038.

(Eruzione del 1049 o del 1050).
(Eruption of 1049 or 1050).

(Eruzione del 1137).
(Eruption of 1137).

(Eruzione del 1138).
(Eruption of 1138).

Eruzione del 1139.
Eruption of 1139.

Il Vesuvio nel 1150.

(Eruzione del 1254).
(Eruption of 1254).

Il Vesuvio verso il 1270.
Vesuvius around 1270.

(Eruzione del 1306).
(Eruption of 1306).

Il Vesuvio verso il 1347.
Vesuvius around 1347.

Il Vesuvio verso il 1350.
Vesuvius around 1350.

Il Vesuvio nel 1353.
Vesuvius in 1353.

(Eruzione del 1430).
(Eruption of 1430).

Il Vesuvio verso la metà del secolo XV.
Vesuvius in the middle of the 15th century.

(Eruzione del 1440).
(Eruption of 1440).

Il Vesuvio nel 1500.
Vesuvius in 1500.

Il Vesuvio nel 1501.
Vesuvius in 1501.

(Eruzione del 1538 !).
(Eruption of 1538 !).

MUNSTER in his Chronographia Universalis, Basil, 1552, on p. 199 in Cap. of Mount Vesuvius, reports the date 1538 as that of an eruption of Vesuvius!

The misunderstanding is the eruption of M. Nuovo of the said year which is clear, because the text says that a big fracture opened up where a plain was and a mount was built there.

(author note: the next portion of text is a quote from Munster in Latin. It is not included here.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1545.
Vesuvius in 1545.

Il Vesuvio nel 1550.
(Vesuvius in 1550.)

Monumento del Vesuvio della prima metà del secolo XVI.
(Monument of Vesuvius of the first half of the 16th century.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1558.
(Vesuvius in 1558.)

(Eruzione del 1568).
(Eruption of 1568).

Il Vesuvio verso il 1574.
(Vesuvius around 1574.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1586.
(Vesuvius in 1586.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1588.
(Vesuvius in 1588.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1595.
(Vesuvius in 1595.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1598.
(Vesuvius in 1598.)

(Eruzione del 1603).
(Eruption of 1603).

Il Vesuvio nel 1612.
(Vesuvius in 1612.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1619.
(Vesuvius in 1619.)

Il Vesuvio nel 1621.
(Vesuvius in 1621.)

(Il Vesuvio verso il 1630).
(Vesuvius around 1630).


1 – The eruptions validated by documents are in the following years: 203, 472, 512. 685, 787, 968. 991, 999, 1007, 1037, 1139.

2 – Eruptions attested to the dubious documents are those of the years: 651, 748, 1035, 1036, 1038, 1500, 1568

3 – These are reports of eruptions not validated by documents and therefore are
considered themselves to be non-existent, those relating to the years: 305, 321, 473, 474, 556, 557, 646 (?), 760, 769, 879, 980, 994, 1000, 1013, 1024, 1254, 1430, 1440.

4 – The dates are supposedly wrong for those of the years: 893, 981, 982, 983, 993, 1027, 1049, 1050, 1137, 1138, 1306, (1538!).

5 – There are reports of the activity of Vesuvius in the following years: 172, 222-235, 379-395, 536, 991, 1150, 1270, 1347, 1360, 1501, 1545.

6 – There are reports of the inactivity of Vesuvius in the following years: 1353, 1550, 1558, 1574, 1586, 1588, 1595, 1598, 1612, 1619, 1621, 1630.

These are the 71 dates discussed and their possible verdicts.


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