The story of Theokritos and Gaius is a fictional one. Or it might have happened as there were over 1100 people who perished in Pompeii during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius on 24th and 25th of October, AD 79. There is only one written down eyewitness account of the events by Pliny the Younger who witnessed the horrific events from the villa of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman Imperial Navy.
Pliny the Elder ordered his ships to help evacuate Pompeii but as the pumice was raining down hard on the ships and was floating on the sea, the ships couldn’t get near the shore and had to turn back. As far as we know, he is the most famous victim of the eruption as he died of the inhalation of poisonous gases from the volcano near Stabiae.
The archeologists have this far found 1150 remains in the ruins of the city, and thanks to a brilliant idea of using plaster to fill the cavities in the hardened ash, they were able to recreate the death scenes of the people. And as these casts are the remains of real people and animals, they deserve to be remembered and revered.
The people who died in Pompeii died from the falling debris, collapsed houses, and worst of all the pyroclastic clouds that rolled down the slopes of Vesuvius after 18 hours of pumice and ash rain. These pyroclastic clouds were at least 250⁰C (480 F) hot ash clouds that moved extremely fast with enough force to knock down buildings and suffocate and incinerate anything in their paths. Such was their force that archeologists have even found carbonised bread from the bakery ovens.
I wouldn’t say that I chose to write a story of two slaves, but when we visited the ruined city of Pompeii, it was like I could feel Gaius and Theokritos speaking to me. Besides, as slaves they would have most likely been left behind when the freemen and citizens tried making their escape, and that made their story an obvious one. By writing down their story, I hope that I have managed to pay respects to all those people of Pompeii who didn’t manage to escape the eruption for one reason or another. May they have reached Elysium. Hopefully, you liked the story as much as I enjoyed writing it to you.
If you ever have a chance, visit Pompeii and hire a local guide!
– Khalil Shafiq
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