A city six miles off was speedily rendered uninhabitable, and was destroyed by the falling stones; but two others—Herculaneum and Pompeii—which already had suffered from the down-pour of ashes, were gradually filled with a flood of water, sand, and ashes, which came down the side of the volcano, and covering them entirely.
The difference in ease of excavation is due to the following circumstance. Herculaneum being several miles nearer the crater, was buried in a far more consistent substance, seemingly composed of volcanic ashes cemented by mud; Pompeii, on the contrary, was buried only in ashes and loose stones. The casts of statues found in Herculaneum show the plastic character of the material that fell there, which time has hardened to rock-like consistency.
These statues represented Hercules and Cleopatra, and the theatre proved to be that of the long-lost city of Herculaneum. The site of Pompeii was not discovered until forty years afterward, but work there proved far easier than at Herculaneum, and more progress was made in bringing it back to the light of day.
The less solid covering of Pompeii has greatly facilitated the work of excavation, and a great part of the city has been laid bare. Many of its public buildings and private residences are now visible, and some whole streets have been cleared, while a multitude of interesting relics have been found. Among those are casts of many of the inhabitants, obtained by pouring liquid plaster into the ash moulds that remained of them. We see them to-day in the attitude and with the expression of agony and horror with which death met them more than eighteen centuries ago.
In succeeding eruptions much lava was poured out; and in A. D. 472, ashes were cast over a great part of Europe, so that much fear was caused at Constantinople. The buried cities were more and more covered up, and it was not until about A. D. 1700 that, as above stated, the city of Herculaneum was discovered, the peasants of the vicinity being in the habit of extracting marble from its ruins. They had also, in the course of years, found many statues. In consequence, an excavation was ordered by Charles III, the earliest result being the discovery of the theatre, with the statues above named. The work of excavation, however, has not progressed far in this city, on account of its extreme difficulty, though various excellent specimens of art-work have been discovered, including the finest examples of mural painting extant from antiquity. The library was also discovered, 1803 papyri being found. Though these had been charred to cinder, and were very difficult to unroll and decipher, over 300 of them have been read.