Mount Vesuvius is a midget as volcanoes go --only 1281 meters. No one even suspected it was a volcano until it surprised the people of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae on August 24, 79 AD. Although it has erupted over one hundred times since then, the last time in 1944, the initial explosion has not been equalled since. It blew off the top of the mountain, leaving two peaks, with the main fissure in between. It did not include much lava, but it buried Herculaneum under mud and the other two towns under ash and cinders.

Pliny the Elder was one of the victims; a letter written by Pliny the Younger to the Roman historian Tacitus describes the events surrounding his uncle's death.

Mount Vesuvius

Deadly Vesuvius
Claimed many lives in the
Havoc it wreaked;
Now this volcano is
Poised near Pompeii; it's
Short and twin-peaked.