Destruction of Pompeii Timeline 79 CE

Vesuvius from Pompeii - Pompeii Destruction Timeline

Pompeii Destruction Timeline

Pompeii was first established in 700 BCE and became a thriving city in Ancient Rome. It lies in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano. Pompeii and neighbouring Herculaneum were badly damaged following an earthquake in 63 CE. Both cities were totally destroyed and buried following the eruption of Vesuvius in August 79 CE.

Note: Some historians believe the event to have occurred in October or November 79 CE rather than August. This timeline uses the August date.


79 CE (20th August)
A small earthquake was felt in Pompeii. This was followed by more tremors for the next four days.
79 CE (24th August – 8 am)
Mount Vesuvius began spewing ash and pumice.
79 CE (24th August – 9 am)
The volcano erupted with a small explosion. An ash cloud covered Pompeii.
79 CE (24th August – 1 pm)
A large explosion emitted a large ash cloud from Vesuvius. Ash and pumice began raining down on Pompeii. Buildings in Pompeii began to be covered with red hot pumice and ash.
79 CE (24th August – 1 pm)
Roman writer, Pliny the Younger, nephew of an Admiral in the Roman Fleet, was visiting Misenum, a city located south east of Naples, about 20 km from Herculaneum and 25km from Pompeii (as the crow flies). He and his parents first noticed the ash cloud above Vesuvius.
79 CE (24th August – 3 pm)
Admiral, Pliny the Elder sailed his fleet across Naples Bay to Stabiae to rescue any survivors.
79 CE (24th August – 5 pm)
Buildings in Pompeii began to collapse under the weight of ash on their roofs. Volcanic rocks (lithics) began falling on the city. Residents began to flee the city for the harbour at Stabiae 5 km away.
79 CE (24th August – 6 pm)
The ash cloud was so dense that it blocked out sunlight.
79 CE (24th August – 6.45 pm)
Pliny the Elder’s fleet was showered with hot ash and pumice but he ordered the ships to continue to Stabaie.
79 CE (25th August – 1 am)
The huge ash cloud over the volcano collapsed. Two separate pyroclastic surges caused the total annihilation of Herculaneum, Boscoreale and Oplontis. There was much destruction in Pompeii and it was covered with ash and debris.
79 CE (25th August – 6.30 am)
A third, more violent and hotter pyroclastic surge caused further destruction to Pompeii. The heat was so intense it melted pots made out of an alloy of lead, tin and silver. Anyone still alive was instantly killed by heat shock.
79 CE (25th August – 6.45 am)
Conditions at the port of Stabiae worsened making it impossible to sail away. Pliny the Elder and his men were forced to flee over land.
79 CE (25th August – 7.30 am)
Two further pyroclastic surges caused further destruction.
79 CE (25th August – around 7.45 am)
Pliny the Elder died from asphyxiation after inhaling ash and debris.
79 CE (25th August – 8 am)
A sixth pyroclastic surge caused further destruction and totally buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the surrounding area.


Published Oct 22 2022 @ 2.51 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for Pompeii Destruction Timeline:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2022). Pompeii Destruction Timeline 79 CE. Last accessed [date]


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