On 5 February 62 CE, the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were hit by a strong earthquake with a magnitude approximated between 5 and 6 on the modern Richter scale. This catastrophic event has been linked to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius fifteen years later that destroyed both towns, burying them with ash and preserving them until their discovery by archaeologists in the eighteenth century.

Though devastating, the earthquake has proved useful to scholars who can date buildings in Pompeii based on obvious repairs necessitated by damage sustained during the 62 quake. The event was recorded in a low relief from the house of the banker Lucius Caecilius Iucundus as well as by several ancient authors. Tacitus recorded that “the busy Campanian town of Pompeii largely collapsed.” Seneca the Younger noted “large part of the town of Herculaneum fell, however, and shaky stand what is left in the colony of Nuceria, so that devastation and complaint prevail in equal measure; Naples, too, lost a lot in terms of private property, but nothing in terms of public buildings, hit lightly by this massive disaster: villas, however, collapsed, and there was a widespread tremor overall, if without causing damage. In addition to that, a flock of 600 sheep was killed and statues were smashed to pieces, and some people, traumatised by the events started to wander about, unable to re-gain control over themselves.”

Relief showing Pompeii Earthquake, from House of L. Caecilius Jucundus, Pompeii

Pompeiian wall with lower part of brick-faced concrete (opus latericium) repaired with alternating rows of brick and small rectangular stone blocks (opus vittatum mixtum)

Dedicatory plaque at the Temple of Isis, rebuilt after earthquake: “Numerius Popidius Celsinus, son of Numerius, restored the Temple of Isis from the ground up, after it had been totally destroyed by an earthquake. The Town Council, coopted him into their assembly when he was only six years old, (and) without charge, in consideration of his generosity.”

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