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My voyage of curiosity has turned to courage.
August 24, 2012 6:48 PM   Subscribe

"A strange cloud is rising in the distance." A Day in Pompeii. "Live"-tweeted by Pliny the Elder.
posted by oinopaponton (43 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
oh, no, i left my inhaler at home
posted by pyramid termite at 7:21 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


When did people stop referring to each other as the "the Elder" or "the Younger"? I would love to be known as Jim the Elder. Old Jim just dosen't have the same ring to it.
posted by jimvinson at 7:40 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is my favorite thing since PepysDiary.com. Bravo!
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:41 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


WOW!! I love this :D
posted by supermedusa at 7:44 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


jimvinson, the latest "the Elder" I have encountered was the 18th century French composer Jean-Marie Leclair l'aîné. He is called that because he had a brother called Jean-Marie Leclair le jeune. I have no idea what their parents were thinking.

(William Pitt the Younger is a more recent figure than the Leclairs, but his father wasn't called "William Pitt the Elder" so much; he was already the Earl of Chatham by the time the younger Pitt made his name.)

"Pliny the Younger" is a literal translation of the younger Pliny's Latin name, which includes "Secundus" somewhere among its parts. Pliny the Elder was not called "the Elder" in his lifetime, but by later scholars who wanted to distinguish between him and his nephew.

My father knew a woman (slightly) who was called "Cobina Wright, Jr." which I think is kind of awesome. Usually women who name their daughters after themselves give them a different middle name but Cobina Wright, Sr. just went for the gusto.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:48 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


It seems all but inevitable that, as long as they are preserved, tweets will become part of the historical record. As silly and mundane as this stuff can seem in the present day, we have got to be building up an absolute treasure trove for future antrhro-histiorio-archaeologists to sift through, no? I mean we can get decent mileage out of ancient tribes' garbage; if they were tweeting *about* that garbage as they tossed it into their garbage hole? Say what you will about modern civilization but we are going to be a bitching area of study some day, if nothing else. Assuming we don't all die.
posted by passerby at 7:51 PM on August 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and the Jean-Maries Leclair had some other brothers with other names, so it wasn't a George Foreman performance art thing. The parents just really liked the name "Jean-Marie" apparently.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:02 PM on August 24, 2012


jimvinson - in this house you are now known as Jim the Elder
posted by mattoxic at 8:22 PM on August 24, 2012


Oh wow...pretty great.

Last year I was in Pompeii for a week doing an archaeology program. Among the cool bits of trivia I learned: Pliny's written description was the first ever description of volcanic activity committed to the written record, and contemporary vulcanologists consider it a foundational document of vulcanology because of its accurate, step-by-step description of the events. "

When I was in Pompeii, the museum of archaeology in Naples was oddly toothless, but that was largely because of their own renovations and this awesome exhibit which was traveling in the US with most of the treasures of Pompeiian archaeology. If you haven't seen this exhibition, go, if it's near you. It's excellent. The digital media is really good - especially the full-day timelapse image of the city, with really textured ambient sound, showing how the eruption gradually changed the sky, the smoke and ash, the rain of debris, and finally the avalanche of hot ash and dust coming at the city like a tsunami.

One of the most poignant things about the whole eruption, to me, was that most Pompeiians had absolutely no idea whatsoever that Vesuvius was a volcano. They didn't even know what a volcano was, the last eruption having been prehistoric. Can you imagine what a cataclysmic event it would seem - your mountain blowing up, when you never even knew such a thing could happen? It is no wonder people thought the gods were angered. They had no predictive understanding of what would happen.
posted by Miko at 8:25 PM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


Here's a recipe for Garum
posted by mattoxic at 8:25 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tweets are archived by the Library of Congress. They are accessible by qualified researchers. I was a pretty early user, so early that people started following me after my first tweet because I was a new person. My first tweet was "Just eating some chicken" while I feel partially responsible for twitter's rep, I also find it incredibly gratifying that my lunch that day will be enshrined at the LoC and that one day sentient robots or aliens archeologists will read my words off a holocron storage cube a million light years from earth and wonder what chicken is and what it tastes like.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it just me? The "Day in Pompeii" link just goes to a title page with nothing clickable. I'm in Chrome. Should I switch browsers? Update Flash?
posted by Miko at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


ad hominem I kind of sincerely hope in some twisted way that your chicken tweet is all they have to go on, and they start reconstructing our language and arts around the concept of chicken and it tears their whole field of man studies apart at their space conference with a terrible row and fisticuffs break out. Or rather I don't hope that it happens so much as I hope it becomes a short story.
posted by passerby at 8:36 PM on August 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


A fine beer and a finer chronicler of his times.
posted by benzenedream at 8:44 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend's roommate/tenant is Dan Elder, but I always call him Dan the Elder. Unfortunately, no one else gets why I think it's so great.
posted by sbutler at 8:44 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Nobody ever questioned my silver denarius struck in copper."
-Pliny " Dee-Jay RMoney" the Elder
posted by vozworth at 8:45 PM on August 24, 2012


Right, I'm thinking the future will be endless war. Humanity survives as biological components of hulking interstellar battle Meks. In 300,000 AOE an Old Earth Library of Confess holocron cube is found about a derilict freighter. A great convocation is called so all may be present at the accessing of the cube. Old differences are put aside as Meks travel from all corners of known space. They arrive in New Earth space is waves, some after a journey through the depths of space of 5000 years. When all the delegates have assembled the holocron cube is accessed aboard a space dock in geosynchronous orbit above New New York. "just eating some chicken", the phrase that causes humanity to plunge into another 300,000 years of war. Some maintain that the chicken was a type of the dinosaurs thus proving Old Earth was only 10,000 years old at its destruction. Some maintain that is wasn't an animal at all, but a highly processed chemical slurry formed into nugget shapes popular with humans at that time. We may never know what a chicken is, but all further holocron cubes are destroyed in sight.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:02 PM on August 24, 2012 [10 favorites]


When future historians look at Twitter it will be with techniques like culturomics (Google Ngram Viewer etc) ie. data mining. Quants are already doing it real-time to discern mood trends for investment purposes.
posted by stbalbach at 9:11 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(William Pitt the Younger is a more recent figure than the Leclairs, but his father wasn't called "William Pitt the Elder" so much; he was already the Earl of Chatham by the time the younger Pitt made his name.)

Well, if we're talking about great Prime Ministers of England, he was no Lord Palmerston.
posted by chaff at 9:12 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


A friend's roommate/tenant is Dan Elder, but I always call him Dan the Elder. Unfortunately, no one else gets why I think it's so great.

How can't they not think that's great? Though i would've gone with Dan of the Elders, personally.
posted by palbo at 9:35 PM on August 24, 2012


Miko, I can't click anything either. Nice volcano graphic, though.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:37 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I also call elderberries "berries the elder".
Well, not really, but I'm considering it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:41 PM on August 24, 2012


(if you can't click through)
posted by oinopaponton at 9:48 PM on August 24, 2012


You silly goose - everyone knows that chicken tastes like... chicken.
posted by symbioid at 9:54 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


THAT THIS THING WAS JUST A SLURRY? YOU MEAN TO EMBARRASS THE COUNCIL AT A TIME OF WAR

*alien screaming*

ORDER

ORDER

Sir, sir, I just say, we have found their communications hub, and the only thing they ever communicated was "eating some chicken." And then, before surface team lost contact, they reported their status as "covered in meatslime, the markings seem to speak of chicken, as they always do, a crude race" and then we lost contact. Sir should we not alert tacteam?

YES

YES RALLY THEM FOR SURFACEOPS

WE WILL SEE, THE RESULTS OF THESE "TESTS" *spits on the holofloor"

*whispers to righthand alien: ready the wardrop, this is going to be quite a show, i think, yes quite a show for all*
posted by passerby at 9:56 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was in Pompeii, the museum of archaeology in Naples was oddly toothless, but that was largely because of their own renovations and this awesome exhibit which was traveling in the US with most of the treasures of Pompeiian archaeology. If you haven't seen this exhibition, go, if it's near you. It's excellent. The digital media is really good - especially the full-day timelapse image of the city, with really textured ambient sound, showing how the eruption gradually changed the sky, the smoke and ash, the rain of debris, and finally the avalanche of hot ash and dust coming at the city like a tsunami.

One of the most poignant things about the whole eruption, to me, was that most Pompeiians had absolutely no idea whatsoever that Vesuvius was a volcano. They didn't even know what a volcano was, the last eruption having been prehistoric. Can you imagine what a cataclysmic event it would seem - your mountain blowing up, when you never even knew such a thing could happen? It is no wonder people thought the gods were angered. They had no predictive understanding of what would happen.


While I lived in Italy I translated two books on Pompeii... but still have never managed to visit. It's one of my biggest regrets (and one that must be rectified at some point in the hopefully not too distant future). Both books talked extensively about the daily life of Pompeiians, who were incredibly sophisticated and had highly developed scientific, political, and cultural institutions and practices. The photos of the museum artifacts were fascinating.

These were people who felt very much in control of their world, and felt they had the god-worshiping thing down to a science. As I understand it, from a religious perspective they believed they were so strongly favored by the gods they didn't worry too much about punishment, and focused more on signs to help them make decisions in their daily lives. So not only was it completely shocking that the mountain exploded (wtf?!), everyone was also confused as to why their divinities had suddenly turned on them for no apparent reason.

Literally everything about their worldview turned upside down that day. I can't even imagine.
posted by Superplin at 9:56 PM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Literally everything about their worldview turned upside down that day. I can't even imagine.

Especially because Vesuvius erupted right after Vulcanalia.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:58 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you imagine what a cataclysmic event it would seem - your mountain blowing up, when you never even knew such a thing could happen?

It would be the End of the World. I personally think that this is why ancient mythologies have world-ending catastrophies. If all you've ever known is destroyed by a tsunami, or a massive ice storm, or a once-in-10,000 year wildfire, it really is the End of the World.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:34 AM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


The walk-through of the ruins is pretty fantastic. I worked as an archaeologist there for a number of years and I consider it my academic-spiritual home, so to speak. I know Pompeii better than the town where I live now. It's pretty remarkable how quickly I was able to acclimate and navigate around as one would in a "real" city.


(I'm curious who you worked with Miko, because it's possible that I know them)
posted by Eumachia L F at 3:01 AM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The best parts of Pompeii are the puppies in the ruins.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:13 AM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tweets are archived by the Library of Congress.

My respect for the LoC increases with every new tidbit of information I learn about it. Quite forward-thinking.
posted by ersatz at 5:11 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the most poignant things about the whole eruption, to me, was that most Pompeiians had absolutely no idea whatsoever that Vesuvius was a volcano. They didn't even know what a volcano was, the last eruption having been prehistoric. Can you imagine what a cataclysmic event it would seem - your mountain blowing up, when you never even knew such a thing could happen? It is no wonder people thought the gods were angered. They had no predictive understanding of what would happen.
Well, what do you mean by most? Both Stromboli and Etna were active and relatively nearby, so the idea of volcanoes was likely known to most, even if nobody quite understood what a volcano was. Also, the volcanic nature of Vesuvius was remarked upon by several different writers, and it had erupted in historic times. The greatness and strength of the eruption must have taken everybody by surprise, but not its nature.
posted by Jehan at 5:59 AM on August 25, 2012


> jimvinson, the latest "the Elder" I have encountered was the 18th century French composer Jean-Marie Leclair l'aîné.

"J.-H. Rosny aîné was the pseudonym of Joseph Henri Honoré Boex (17 February 1856 – 11 February 1940), a French author of Belgian origin who is considered one of the founding figures of modern science fiction. Born in Brussels in 1856, he wrote in the French language, together with his younger brother Séraphin Justin François Boex under the pen name J.-H. Rosny until 1909. After they ended their collaboration Joseph Boex continued to write under the name "Rosny aîné" (Rosny the Elder) while his brother used J.-H. Rosny jeune (Rosny the Younger)."
posted by languagehat at 6:26 AM on August 25, 2012


Well, what do you mean by most?

I'm relaying from the reading and interpretation I encountered - this isn't an area I've had formal training in - but yes, though there was probably academic knowledge that such a thing existed, only a small elite would have access to and interest in that arcane and apparently not especially needful knowledge. You'd have to be someone who read 400-year-old history to have detail on Etna's most recent eruption. And after all, in Roman society, "most people," really the vast majority, weren't even included in that sort of conversation.

Vesuvius had not erupted in 1800 years, had been dormant for about 800 of that, and though people had started to see fire on the mountain and felt tremors now and then in the decades leading up to the eruption, and in fact had suffered a major and quite destructive earthquake I think about 15 years before as part of the volcano's activity, most simply had no mental schema for "top blows off mountain in massive eruption incinerating everything and then burying us all in dust."

Those who may have even known about Etna and Stromboli might not have suspected that Vesuvius was one of those mountains. Also, even had they made the equation, the types of eruption were different. Even someone who knew a lot about Etna would have pictured streams of hot lava running down the mountainside, not suffocating walls of heat and gas followed by a chalky dust. So whatever they did know wouldn't have prepared them for what actually happened. The nature of this volcano did indeed take them by surprise, because the type of eruption at Vesuvius was very different and the order of events would simply not have been something they could predict at the time, having never seen it progress before. The state of knowledge and expectation was just profoundly unequal to the unfolding of the actual events.

Something not always well known is that the majority of Pompeiians seem to have left town during the early phases of the eruption. They didn't know what was going to happen, but they knew that they wanted to retreat from the mountain because some shit was going down. Those that perished were a more blase minority who chose to sta, perhapsy to protect their property - and the servants, women, children and domestic animals who had to do what their masters decided to do.

Something from the BBC, and an exhibition review from the Smithsonian Magazine.

It does seem unbelievable that people couldn't have known. Yet we underestimate the state of knowledge transmission, too. In the years after the eruption people came to Pompeii to pick over the remains of the city. But after a few generations passed, no one even had a clear memory that it had ever been there. Farms covered it up (great soil!) and its memory was completely obliterated until the site was accidentally rediscovered during construction in the 1700s.

(I'm curious who you worked with Miko, because it's possible that I know them)

I think we might have talked about this before! I'll MeMail you. It was a simple program for volunteers, but extremely cool. I really love how the world is full of this fraternity of Pompeii people. There's an entire network of blogs about active research, ongoing excavation, and people who are in and out of there constantly on various projects.
posted by Miko at 7:19 AM on August 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's a really good one of those blogs.
posted by Miko at 7:22 AM on August 25, 2012


Also, the volcanic nature of Vesuvius was remarked upon by several different writers, and it had erupted in historic times.

Indeed. See: Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Vitruvius, and whomever wrote the poem Aetna. They knew that the "fires" raging inside the mountain spewed out lava and were responsible for hot springs, pumice stone, pozzolanic ash (used in concrete and mortar), and the fertility of the soil on volcanic slopes. Not only did they understand volcanoes, but they knew how to exploit them for fun and profit.
posted by Eumachia L F at 7:26 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This looks really cool. Sadly, it's not loading well in my browser. Here's a direct link to the twitter feed on twitter. When I load this, I get this at the bottom:

Loading seems to be taking a while.
Twitter may be over capacity or experiencing a momentary hiccup. Try again or visit Twitter Status for more information.

posted by marsha56 at 8:10 AM on August 25, 2012


Pomponianus must have been pretty annoyed once the rock fall and impossible-to-breathe stuff got started.
posted by thelonius at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2012


Oh, and the Jean-Maries Leclair had some other brothers with other names, so it wasn't a George Foreman performance art thing. The parents just really liked the name "Jean-Marie" apparently.

Of course, languagehat has the correct explanation (as he does in all things).

As an aside, my mother had two Aunt Maries, who were sisters. At the time, there were fairly established rules about naming children, that the first son was to be named after the paternal grandfather, with the maternal grandfather's name as the middle name, and the first born daughter named after the maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother, and then a more complicated order of deceased aunts and uncles and such. With those rules in effect, the one Aunt Marie was named after so-and-so's dead sister, and then another girl came along, who had to be named after some other dead sister, also a Marie. Thus, two Maries in the same family, and it all being totally expected and normal. (Granted, the second Marie was referred to by a nickname within the family, out of convenience.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:32 AM on August 25, 2012


(Which is to say if it's not languagehat's explanation, I would suspect some fairly rigid child-naming protocols.)
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:35 AM on August 25, 2012


Miko, I'm sure you are right. Just look at global warming today, people know it intellectually from the best authority, but in reality most people still behave as if it's not really coming straight at them like an unstoppable freight train. In North Carolina they tried to outlaw the ocean from rising. No one wants to hear bad news.
posted by stbalbach at 10:45 AM on August 25, 2012


A Day in Pompeii: This is an animated film used to depict the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in August, 79 AD.
posted by homunculus at 2:30 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah - that film is one that was created for the same traveling exhibit that this Twitter stream is part of. Quite effective, especially if you go see the exhibit and its widescreen version.
posted by Miko at 8:55 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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