Lunch Club: The Vesuvian Eruption of AD 472 and Urban Developments in Fifth-Century Italy: New Evidence from the Apennines

Archaeology Center
Wednesday, April 3, 2019 12:00 PM
Archaeology Center

The 4th and 5th centuries AD were a tumultuous time in Campania. In AD 346 a major earthquake caused widespread devastation. Half a century later, the region had to contend with the Visigothic invasions, which were followed by Vandal and Moorish assaults, all leaving an indelible mark on the cities of the coastal plains, such as Nola, Calatia, Suessula, and even Neapolis. Finally, in AD 472, Vesuvius erupted, covering much of inland Campania and even northern Apulia with tephra and triggering a wave of landslides and floods. Archaeologically this eruption has left distinctive traces and by following this ash from the slopes of Vesuvius as far as the Apennines, this paper will examine what we know of this understudied event and what the deposits and structures covered by this ash reveal about the landscape of fifth-century Campania and its surroundings, and the impact that the events of the preceding century had on it. Particular focus will be placed on the city of Aeclanum, in the region of Hirpinia, where new excavations have provided important insights into the fate of an inland city and the discrepant experiences of its inhabitants in the final years of the western Roman Empire.

Ben Russell is Senior Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on Roman architecture and urbanism, sculpture, the economy, especially the supply of building materials, as well as the transition between the Roman and late antique periods. He is co-director of the excavations at Aeclanum (Campania, Italy) and co-field director of the excavations at Aphrodisias (Turkey); he is also currently directing a major Leverhulme-funded research project on earth and turf construction in the Roman north-western provinces. Ben studied at the University of Oxford, where he received his MA, MSt and DPhil in Classical Archaeology. His doctoral work was on the Roman stone trade and was completed as part of the wider Oxford Roman Economy Project. His monograph of the topic, The Economics of the Roman Stone Trade, was published in 2013. He has previously worked at the British School at Rome, the University of Oxford, Birkbeck and King’s College London.