HERCULANEUM, ITALY — Scientists studied the entombed remains of villagers and a soldier on the beach of a coastal village in Italy, and realized the soldier was part of an elite force that joined in a rescue mission to evacuate civilians trapped on a beach beneath the thundering volcano.
Here are the details: In the year 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius exploded catastrophically.
Below it, the Roman city of Pompeii, and coastal villages like Herculaneum were now caught in a terrible vice.
As the volcano blew a gargantuan cloud of hot ash into the sky, the mountain kept on shaking and everyone fled, but for thousands it would be too late to flee.
Around midnight the cloud collapsed, sending its deadly hot ash rolling downward at a terrifying speed.
The people of Herculaneum were trapped between the mountain and the dark sea.
And out of the dark sea came hope, in the form of the Roman Navy's elite Praetorian Guard.
The BBC reports that this is the finding of a recent scientific study of the remains of a Roman soldier found on a beach, next to the remains of 300 civilians from the now-buried town of Herculaneum.
Scientists say the coins and objects found on the soldier's skeleton mark him as an officer of the elite guard.
It is believed the officer was part of a heroic rescue mission to get people on boats; when the beach was hit by a pyroclastic flow.
Historians and archaeologists theorize the soldier was probably an elite officer that took part in the rescue mission launched by Pliny the Elder.
Pliny the Elder was a famous Roman commander who himself died during the heroic rescue attempt.