The city of Pompeii was originally a Samnite settlement, which in later years, became part of the Roman Empire. In 79 A.D., Pompeii was buried during a volcanic eruption. In years since, Pompeii has been excavated on numerous occasions, each giving us a brief glimpse into life at that time. The excavations at Pompeii are an invaluable source of information about Roman architecture, art and the way of life for Roman people in cities during that time. .
What is known about Roman lifestyle and housing comes from three main sources, Pompeii, Herculanium, and Ostia (Cootes 144). All well preserved sites. Pompeii and Herculanium were both cities on the slopes of the great Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy and were buried by its eruptions due to this. Pompeii was built on a spur formed by prehistoric lava flows about ten kilometers south of Vesuvius, and overlooked the coastline. Before the actual eruption that buried the countryside there were warnings, a good example being 63 A.D. when violent earthquakes shook the area and severely damaged buildings in Pompeii and Herculanium. People believed that the volcano was dormant however and continued with life as before, not heeding the warnings.
Mount Vesuvius erupted on August 24th, 79 A.D. around midday. At the time of the eruption it is estimated that there were roughly 20,000 people living in Pompeii (Rice 9). The eruption itself began as a series of sharp tremors and earthquakes, followed by a violent eruption at 1:00pm that cleared an old vent in the crater and shot a small jet of ash and pumice into the atmosphere twenty to twenty-seven kilometers (Cornell 202). The jet spread out in the atmosphere, blocking the sun and bringing premature darkness. Following this first eruption were a series of subsequent eruptions or explosions that sent sand and lava from the crater and other vents.
Much of what is known of the actual eruption itself comes from the eyewitness account of Pliny the Younger, which he recorded and sent to the historian Tacitus in two letters.