Extracts from a letter by Pliny the Younger who witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius on the 24th August AD 79 which destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii.
"A black and terrible cloud, rent by snaking bursts of fire, gaped open in huge flashes of flames; it was like lightning, but far more extensive
Soon afterwards, the cloud lowered towards the earth and covered the sea.
Ashes were already falling, but not yet thickly. When night fell, not one such as when there is no moon or the sky is cloudy, but a night like being in a closed place with the lights out.
One could hear the wailing of women, the crying of children, the shouting of men; they called each other, some their parents, others their children, still others their mates, trying to recognize each other by their voices.
It lightened a little; it seemed to us not daylight but a sign of approaching fire. But the fire stopped some distance away; darkness came on again, again ashes, thick and heavy.
We got up repeatedly to shake these off; otherwise we would have been buried and crushed by the weight.
At last that fog thinned and dissipated in a kind of smoke or mist; soon there was real daylight; the sun even shone, though wanly, as when there is an eclipse.
Our still trembling eyes found everything changed, buried by a deep blanket of ashes as if it had snowed.
Fear prevailed, since the earthquake tremors went on, and many, out of their senses, were mocking their own woes and others’ by awful predictions.
But we, even though we had escaped some perils and expected others, we did not think even of going away until we should have news of my uncle".