Features of the Domenico Fontana’s Water Conduit (the Canal of Count Sarno) and the Date of Pompeii Destruction

Scientific Study, 2009
13 Pages


Features of the Domenico Fontana’s Water Conduit (the Canal of Count Sarno) and the Date of Pompeii Destruction

Dipl.-Ing. (TU) Andreas Tschurilow, Deggendorf, Bavaria, Germany


It is considered that Pompeii was destroyed in the first century and, being buried under a layer of volcanic ash and pumice-stone, it remained forgotten for more than 1500 years until in 1592 the architect Domenico Fontana, during the construction of a canal to bring water to Torre Annunziata, found in an underground passageway several inscriptions on marble plates indicating the location of an ancient city. In this paper we present arguments in favor of another hypothesis: that Pompeii came to the end of its existence after the completion of the canal which was constructed in ruined city, however, still not fully covered by the volcanic ashes. The paper brings up for discussion some results of the author’s study partially popularized on the Internet and presents his opinion that the famous Pompeii, being excavated by the archeologists in the last 200 years, in fact finally disappeared off the face of the earth as a result of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631.

Keywords: Pompeii, dating of Pompeii’s destruction, eruption of Vesuvius, Domenico Fontana


After the eruption in 79 AD, various sources testify to up to eleven eruptions in the period from 202 AD to 1140 AD. However, in the next 500 years until the eruption in December 1631, there is no credible evidence of the eruption of Vesuvius. It seems that despite its regular eruptions, the volcano suddenly calmed down and only gathered strength for the next 500 years!

The catastrophic eruption started on 16 December 1631 and the population of the nearby towns and villages stampede to Naples. Ashes and volcanic bombs showered the surroundings of Vesuvius. On the next day after the destructive pyroclastic flows, volcanic mudflows - lahars ran down to the sea. December 18th came to naught, and on December 19th evacuation of the survivors was organized by sea. According to various sources, this eruption caused the death of four to eighteen thousand persons. Starting from 1631, the year of its catastrophic eruption, Vesuvius never stopped bothering the citizens of Campania till the last eruption in 1944.

On the way from Naples to Torre Annunziata, about fifteen kilometers away from Naples, there is a monument, an epitaph on the front of the Faraone Mennella’s villa (Via Nazionale al N. 279) of the persons who died because of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631, two stone plates with some text in Latin.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1 The epitaph of the persons who died because of the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631 on the villa of Faraone Mennella in Torre del Greco

On one of these plates, the list of damaged cities, along with the quite prosperous Resina (Ercolano) and Portici contains POMPEII and HERCULANEUM, the cities that supposedly had disappeared almost two thousand years ago!!!

And this monument was not a remake as confirmed by authors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The French traveler Misson who visited Italy in 1687-1688, published a book in 1691 about his travel to Italy and there is a chapter describing his visit to Vesuvius. The Amsterdam edition of 1743 shows the Latin text of the epitaph without any translation.[1] In 1700 Domenico Antonio Parrino published a two-volume book about Naples and its surroundings, in which he described in details the coast of the Bay of Naples, the city and villas, their past and present, the location of the place and he mentions the above epitaph without any comment.[2] The book Historical and Critical Description of the Underground City found at the outskirts of the Mt. Vesuvius by an anonymous author, published in Avignon in 1748, also shows the complete epitaph in Latin without translation.[3] Another traveler, Johann Georg Keyßler, in 1751 also paid attention to this epitaph and included it in his book.[4]

Does this mean that Pompeii was destroyed in fact as a result of the eruption in December 1631?

Pompeii and Herculaneum were marked on the maps from fifteenth - sixteenth century and on the illustrations in books of the time about the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631. Besides, in his book De incendio Vesuvii excitato XVLJ. Kal. Ianuar anno trigesimo saeculi decimo septimi, Neapoli, 1633 , the author Mascolo, an eyewitness of the eruption, wrote this:

"...Everything on the way was swept away by this storm and the fire whirl. Stocks and flocks were drawn and scattered around, fields, woods, huts, houses, towers were destroyed and thrown about. Two of these fire flows were very quick, one of them vigorously ran down to Herculaneum, the other one ran to Pompeii (the cities once recovered from the ashes, I do not know if they will be alive again)... And about Herculaneum and Pompeii (this is how I call both the ancient city and the one next to it) I will tell you a little bit later."[5]

and then explains:

“What to tell about Pompeii?... Now, on the contrary, it was not only horrified by the roaring bicorn Vesuvius but was buried without a splendid burial procession under the ashes, and there is probably not [even one] eyewitness of this misery left from the city of Annunciate, as its called now . And such a great disaster did not happen during Nero when [the city] was damaged by an earthquake and when during a theatrical performance a casual argument between Nucerians and Pompeians became the reason for a bloody wrangle, first with stones and then with knives. And now the Pompeii itself looks really miserable..."[6]


[1] Maximilien Misson, Voyage d'Italie ed. augm. de remarques nouvelles et interessantes, Amsterdam : Clousier, 1743

[2] Domenico Antonio Parrino, Napoli Città Nobilissima, Antica e Fedelissima, Esposta a gli Occhi et alla Mente de’ Curiosi, diviso in due Parti - Stamperia del Parrino, Napoli, 1700

[3] Moussinot. Memoire historique et critique sur la ville souterraine decouverte au pied du Mont-Vesuve... Avignon : chez Alexandre Giroud, 1748

[4] Johann Georg Keyßler, Neueste Reisen durch Deutschland, Böhmen, Ungarn, die Schweiz, Italien und Lothringen. Theil 2. Hannover, 1751

[5] Giovanni Battista Masculi (Mascolo), De incendio vesuvi excitato XVLJ. Kal. Ianuar anno trigesimo saeculi decimo septimi, libri X cum chronologia superiorum incendiorum ephemeride ultimi ed. Roncagliolo Secondino, Napoli, 1633, 16

[6] Ibid., 34 - 36

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Features of the Domenico Fontana’s Water Conduit (the Canal of Count Sarno) and the Date of Pompeii Destruction
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Pompeii, Daiting of Pompeii's destruction, Eruption of Vesuvius, Domenico Fontana
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Dipl. - Ing. (TU) Andreas Tschurilow (Author), 2009, Features of the Domenico Fontana’s Water Conduit (the Canal of Count Sarno) and the Date of Pompeii Destruction, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/140558


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