It may seem strange that so dangerous a neighborhood should be inhabited. But so it is. Though Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae lie buried beneath the mud and ashes belched out of the mouth of Vesuvius, the villages of Portici and Revina, Torre del Greco and Torre del Annunziata have taken their place, and a large population, cheerful and prosperous, flourishes around the disturbed mountain and over the district of which it is the somewhat untrustworthy safety-valve.
It is thus that man, in his eagerness to cultivate all available parts of the earth, dares the most frightful perils and ventures into the most threatening situations, seeking to snatch the means of life from the very jaws of death. The danger is soon forgotten, the need of cultivation of the ground is ever pressing, and no threats of peril seem capable of restraining the activity of man for many years. Though the proposition of abandoning the Island of Martinique has been seriously considered, the chances are that, before many years have passed, a cheerful and busy population will be at work again on the flanks of Mont Pelee.
On the eastern coast of the Island of Sicily, and not far from the sea, rises in solitary grandeur Mount Etna, the largest and highest of European volcanoes. Its height above the level of the sea is a little over 10,870 feet, considerably above the limit of perpetual snow. It accordingly presents the striking phenomenon of volcanic vapors ascending from a snow-clad summit. The base of the mountain is eighty-seven miles in circumference, and nearly circular; but there is a wide additional extent all around overspread by its lava. The lower portions of the mountain are exceedingly fertile, and richly adorned with corn-fields, vineyards, olive-groves and orchards. Above this region are extensive forests, chiefly of oak, chestnut, and pine, with here and there clumps of cork-trees and beech. In this forest region are grassy glades, which afford rich pasture to numerous flocks. Above the forest lies a volcanic desert, covered with black lava and slag. Out of this region, which is comparatively flat rises the principal cone, about 1,100 feet in height, having on its summit the crater, whence sulphurous vapors are continually evolved.
The great height of Etna has exerted a remarkable influence on its general conformation: for the volcanic forces have rarely been of sufficient energy to throw the lava quite up to the crater at the summit. The consequence has been, that numerous subsidiary craters and cones have been formed all around the flanks of the mountain, so that it has become rather a cluster of volcanoes than a single volcanic cone.