The Corner

No Latin for Volcano Cont’d

This is awesome, from a reader:

Hi, Jonah,

I discovered this a few years ago, after I’d read Robert Harris’ excellent novel, _Pompeii_.  It’s told from the point of view of a hydraulic engineer in AD 79, sent to figure out why the aqueduct around Pompeii is running dry.  I kept wondering why the characters weren’t thinking about the possibility of the volcano erupting, and I finally tried to look up the word in my Latin dictionary, without success.  It’s the Chambers & Murray—considered the best 1-volume Latin dictionary out there—so it wouldn’t have accidentally missed the word.

That really surprised me.  But I reckon Vesuvius really surprised the Romans, too.  I thought this might have been the first eruption of a volcano their civilization had known, but that’s not the case, since even Vergil refers to an eruption of Etna in the Aeneid.  So…even weirder they didn’t have a word, since they knew about these things.  Huh.



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