“This extraordinary phenomenon excited my uncle’s philosophical curiosity to take a nearer view of it. He ordered a light vessel to be got ready, and gave me the liberty, if I thought proper, to attend him. I rather chose to continue my studies, for, as it happened, he had given me an employment of that kind. As he was passing out of the house he received dispatches: the marines at Retina, terrified at the imminent peril (for the place lay beneath the mountain, and there was no retreat but by ships), entreated his aid in this extremity. He accordingly changed his first design, and what he began with a philosophical he pursued with an heroical turn of mind.”
THE VOYAGE TO STABIAE
“He ordered the galleys to put to sea, and went himself on board with an intention of assisting not only Retina but many other places, for the population is thick on that beautiful coast. When hastening to the place from whence others fled with the utmost terror, he steered a direct course to the point of danger, and with so much calmness and presence of mind, as to be able to make and dictate his observations upon the motion and figure of that dreadful scene. He was now so nigh the mountain that the cinders, which grew thicker and hotter the nearer he approached, fell into the ships, together with pumice-stones, and black pieces of burning rock; they were in danger of not only being left aground by the sudden retreat of the sea, but also from the vast fragments which rolled down from the mountain, and obstructed all the shore.
“Here he stopped to consider whether he should return back again; to which the pilot advised him. ‘Fortune,’ said he, ’favors the brave; carry me to Pomponianus.’ Pomponianus was then at Stabiae, separated by a gulf, which the sea, after several insensible windings, forms upon the shore. He (Pomponianus) had already sent his baggage on board; for though he was not at that time in actual danger, yet being within view of it, and indeed extremely near, if it should in the least increase, he was determined to put to sea as soon as the wind should change. It was favorable, however, for carrying my uncle to Pomponianus, whom he found in the greatest consternation. He embraced him with tenderness, encouraging and exhorting him to keep up his spirits; and the more to dissipate his fears he ordered, with an air of unconcern, the baths to be got ready; when, after having bathed, he sat down to supper with great cheerfulness, or at least (what is equally heroic) with all the appearance of it.