Baroque tectonics: eruptions and disruptions in the Vesuvian city

Alfonso Tortora and Sean Cocco


The Vesuvian city is a neologism that describes parts of the Neapolitan hinterland that have interacted historically with frequent bouts of volcanism. Heavily urbanised today, this territory has a complex and highly varied history shaped by how flows of volcanic rock and debris have altered human and natural environments.  Tortora and Cocco argue for the need to expand historical approaches to Vesuvius beyond the traditional focus on the recovery of classical sites and the modern appetite for tourism. They argue for an approach that is attentive to the different histories that emerged when people responded to volcanism’s effects on the territory. Eruptions threatened people by burying settlements and roads – but they did so unevenly and sporadically.  Likewise, eruptions created new conditions for rebuilding, quarrying, and working volcanic rock out to markets – but did so only in some places.

Keywords: Vesuvius, volcanism, history, 1631, seventeenth century, eighteenth century, disaster, environment, rock, stone

Full text: OAJ_issue6_Tortora_Cocco  (pdf, 1.39 MB)


Biographical notes

Alfonso Tortora is Aggregate Professor of Modern History in the Department of Humanistic Studies at the University of Salerno. He is the author of numerous works on Vesuvius, including L’eruzione vesuviana del 1631. Una storia d’età moderna (Rome, 2014). Along with Domenico Cassano and Sean Cocco, he has edited a recent collection of historical studies of Vesuvius entitled L’Europa moderna e l’antico Vesuvio (Battipaglia, 2017).

Sean Cocco is Associate Professor of History at Trinity College (Hartford, CT). He is the author of Watching Vesuvius: A History of Science and Culture in Early Modern Italy (Chicago, 2013) and co-editor (with Alfonso Tortora and Domenico Cassano) of the recent collection of historical studies of Vesuvius, L’Europa moderna e l’antico Vesuvio (Battipaglia, 2017).