Arrivals & Departures Pompeii's untold story comes to Sydney

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

Discover the little-known story behind one of history’s most famous and devastating natural disasters – the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in 79AD.

A new international exhibition opens in Sydney on March 31 exploring the untold story of a dramatic rescue attempt following the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

Many know of the tragic eruption that buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserving them and their residents for 2000 years, but few are aware the Roman navy attempted to evacuate people.

The exhibition tells the story through the first-hand accounts of the Roman Navy’s fleet commander Pliny the Elder and his politician nephew, Pliny the Younger.

Pliny the Elder received word of the Mt Vesuvius explosion through the desperate message of a friend whose villa was at the foot of the mountain. He immediately sent out his largest warships, endangering himself and his crew, to rescue as many people as possible.

The exhibition brings to Australia rare artefacts from Pompeii, Herculaneum and from sites around the Bay of Naples.

It includes a short 3-D film experience and everyday objects recovered from Pompeii thousands of years later including jewellery, lamps, tableware, a mirror and even food items such as bread, wheat and figs, all preserved in the ash and debris.

Five body casts of victims of the eruption are also included, capturing their final moments.

Visitors can see a rostrum (used to ram other vessels) from a Roman warship recovered from the site of a famous sea battle, reliefs celebrating Rome’s naval victories, and objects that reflect how, by 79AD, the entire Mediterranean Sea was under the control of one state – Rome – for the first and only time in history.

Established by Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, the Roman Navy dominated the Mediterranean, guaranteeing the safe movement of goods, people and ideas and creating a maritime trade boom not seen again for a thousand years.

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