Posted By Gigi Aguiar+ on February 23, 2014
Having just seen the movie Pompeii which in my opinion was
1. Historically inaccurate in several places; and…
2. Rather lame
I thought I’d share an excerpt from my novel, Deo Volente! (God Willing) Love in the First Century:
Let me set the scene. Vesuvius has erupted. The day before, Anthony, a Christian missionary spoke in the forum warning the citizens of Pompeii that something big was coming to repent and come to Jesus Christ. Anthony and his family were about to leave on a boat back to their home city of Puteoli (now called Pozzuoli).
Two servants carried their luggage on board the Africus. The ship brought olive oil from Carthage and picked up wine from Pompeii for Rome via Puteoli.
“The water is running!” A voice from inside the city at the Porta Marina shouted. “It’s slow, but running!”
A few people ran into the city. Darius, who was just stepping onto the gangplank said, “See that! I have to stay and go to work!”
“No you don’t,” Aurelia said from behind him. “Gaius knows what to do. He will take care of everything.” She put her hand on his shoulder urging him forward.
Darius knew arguing with his wife was useless and walked onto the gangplank.
As they stepped on board, Phoebe protested, pulling her mother’s hand. “Why do I have to go?” She shook her light brown curls. She was a miniature image of her mother.
“We’re going to visit your Aunt Julia. She hasn’t seen you in a long time. We want to show her how much of a young lady you are.”
“Very well.” She looked to the sky and noticed flocks and flocks of seagulls, pelicans, sparrows, crows, ducks and many other types of birds flying north. “Look, Mater, look at all the birds!”
Everyone looked up.
“That’s odd,” Darius said. “It’s too early for birds to migrate and they would be flying south.”
“Ducks wouldn’t be flying with crows either,” Anthony added. “Something is wrong.”
As they walked on deck, Captain Meti welcomed them, recognizing Anthony. “Anthony Supreus! How good it is to see you!”
“Captain Meti! It is good to see you, too! You remember my wife, Claudia. This is her Aunt Aurelia, her husband, Darius and their daughter, Phoebe. We’re going to visit our family in Puteoli.”
“Come to my cabin while we finish boarding.” The Captain led them inside. “I will have the steward bring you some wine. We should be leaving at hora sexta. The trip is just an hour or so, if the winds hold up. We have eight oarsmen in the event that the wind is unfavorable.”
“Thank you so much, Captain,” Anthony said.
They made themselves comfortable on the couches against the cabin walls as the captain walked out. Anthony took Claudia’s hand and said, “Let us pray.”
Claudia took Aurelia’s hand and she held Phoebe’s. Phoebe looked up at her father and reached for his hand. “Come on, Pater, you can pray, too.”
Darius smiled and took her hand.
Anthony prayed, “Almighty father, be with us as we embark on this voyage. We thank you for the opportunity to visit our families and we ask that you carry us safely in your arms and protect us from any dangers that we may encounter. This we pray in your son, Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“What dangers can we possibly encounter on such a short voyage?” Darius asked.
In that instant, they heard two loud cracks. Moments later, the ship rocked violently.
“What was that?” Darius asked grabbing Phoebe and holding on to the wall.
“Maybe… that’s the danger Uncle Anthony prayed about,” Phoebe said her bright blue eyes wide with fright.
They ran outside and witnessed something never seen before—the top conical point of Mount Vesuvius was gone and there was a thick pillar of smoke rising high into the sky. All they could do was stare at it.
In Misenum, 32 kilometers across the bay from Pompeii, Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder), admiral of the Roman fleet, lay resting in his windowless room when his sister, Julia came running in.
“Pliny! You must come and look.”
“Julia, can you not see that I’m resting.”
“Across the bay…one of the mountains…exploded!”
“Exploded? Woman, what are you talking about?” He rose, tossed on his casual toga and followed his sister.
On the balcony, his nephew, Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny the Younger), pointed to the plume of smoke. “Uncle! It seems to be Vesuvius. There is a tower of smoke rising into the sky!”
Fascinated by nature and known for his writing, especially his encyclopedic work, Natural History, the elder Pliny, enthralled by the phenomenon he was witnessing, ran to the veranda. As they continued to stare, the plume reached its highest point and then started branching outward.
“Look!” exclaimed Pliny. “It looks like an umbrella pine. Prepare my fastest ship! I must get closer! Come with me Gaius, this is something we may never see again in our lifetimes!”
“No, Uncle, I will stay and finish the assignment you gave me.”
Moments before he was about to leave, a messenger came with a letter from a friend, Rectina, who feared for her life since her villa was in the Vesuvian foothills near Herculaneum.
“Call out the whole fleet. This is now a rescue mission!” Pliny ordered his servant.
“Be careful, Pliny,” Julia pleaded.
“I will be fine, Julia,” Pliny assured her. “I have the greatest fleet accompanying me.”
All the passengers on the Africus, still at the dock in Pompeii, stared at the churning column. Sometimes it was white, sometime grey with black speckles. The passengers watched the cloud crawl across the sky hiding the sun. It was day, but it was as black as the night. Suddenly, it seemed to fall like a dark curtain covering the city.
“I have to go to the house!” Darius screamed walking towards the gangway.
Aurelia grabbed his arm. “Have you lost your mind? It is too dangerous! What is there that is so important?”
“Our money! Our things!” He screamed back at her, yet he couldn’t take his eyes off the tower of smoke. “Our lives! We’re going to lose everything!”
Aurelia put her arm around Phoebe. “Darius, this is our life.”
Darius stared at her then stared at Vesuvius.
In the city, people had no idea what was happening. Standing in the open atrium of his house on the Villa dell’Abondanza, Polybius and his family—including his daughter who was eight months heavy with child—ran under the peristylium for protection as ash and pebbles rained down on them. The chunks that landed in the atrium pool dropped into the water and bounced back up to the surface.
“Look, Pater,” his daughter exclaimed. “They float!”
“How odd,” Polybius said. “I think it is best that we all stay inside the house—the walls are solid and so is the roof. We will be safe inside.”
A few blocks away, Livius, the baker, ran with his wife and two sons to the port. “It is amazing! Anthony was right. Quickly! We must get to a ship!”
All together, there were about fifty passengers on the Africus. Captain Meti yelled, “Set sail, set sail! Passengers! Get below or under cover!”
Anthony guided his family back to the shelter of the cabin.
The cloud seemed to be following the northwesterly wind so sailing with the wind was not a viable option—the only way was to row to Puteoli where it was still clear. The wind changed and the sails were useless. “Take down the sails! Oarsmen! To your posts! Hurry!” Eight men scrambled down a hatch.
The captain shouted to the helmsman, “We must go to Puteoli as planned. It is our only escape!”
“But, Captain, the wind is against us!” the helmsman yelled back.
“Steer against it! The oarsmen have to do all the work.” To another member of the crew he yelled, “Add two more oarsmen to each side.”
Everyone did as ordered, but the oarsmen were not only fighting the wind, but also the ever-increasing high waves. It was a tough challenge, but they finally were able to pull away from the dock.
Anthony looked out the window, saw Livius and his family on the dock frantically waving and ran outside.
Claudia tried to stop him. “Anthony, where are you going?”
“It’s Livius. We need to save him!” Anthony ran out searching for the captain. “Meti! Please we need to pick up Livius and his family!”
“We cannot! Look at that cloud, it is getting closer!”
“Then, let’s hurry! Please! He is a good friend!”
The captain shook his head and shouted to the helmsman, “Back to the dock! Let us rescue some of these people! We cannot take everyone! Oarsmen stop!”
The helmsman obeyed and turned the ship with the help of the oarsmen. It wasn’t three feet away when people on the dock started jumping towards it. Some were able to grab a rope but many ended up in the water. The captain yelled, “Throw out more ropes!”
The ship was two feet away. Anthony threw a rope to Livius. Livius caught it, gave it to his wife and put his youngest boy on her back. She leapt to the boat. Anthony caught her, grabbed the boy and helped her aboard. Once they were safely aboard, he threw the rope back to Livius, who caught it and with his older son on his back, leapt to the ship. Anthony pulled the rope and was able to grab the boy’s arm. The boy let go of his father and Anthony pulled him in and handed him to his waiting mother.
“Help!” Livius lost his grip and fell into the water. The rough waves rocked the ship violently.
Anthony tried to get the rope to him. There were several people in the water fighting Livius for the rope. Anthony thought about jumping in to help him, but Claudia came outside just as he was going to climb on the rail. “Anthony! What are you doing?”
“It’s Livius. He fell into the water!”
“Look, he’s climbing the rope ladder!” Claudia pointed.
Dripping, scratched and bruised he climbed over the rail and hugged his wife and children. “Thank you, Anthony. You saved my life!”
“Come, let’s go inside, it’s too dangerous out here.”
The sky was now thick and dark with the cloud enveloping the city and slowly inching out to the bay.
When Anthony entered the cabin, he found Darius in the corner on his knees praying. “Darius, who are you praying to?”
“Vulcan of course!” Darius rose to his feet. “He wasn’t happy with what you did yesterday on the day of his festival and he’s releasing his wrath on the whole city!”
Anthony, Claudia, Aurelia, Livius and his wife stared at him not believing what he was saying.
“You should be thanking God that we are safe!” Anthony said trying not to sound angry.
“What about those people dying in the city? Why isn’t God saving them?”
“They don’t believe.”
“So you’re saying only the Christians are going to be safe?”
“Maybe—I don’t know that. Livius and his family are safe—however, not without a struggle. It is not for man to judge who will die and who will survive. Some people will make the right decisions that will save their lives and some will make foolish decisions that will end theirs. I just pray that people like Iulius Polybius and other people that heard me today turn to Christ before they die. Then I know that even though they may perish in this disaster, they will live in peace and love with Jesus and God in heaven.”
“Mater, I’m scared,” Phoebe looked up at her mother tugging at her dress.
Claudia squatted down, looked Phoebe in the eyes and held her tiny hands. “A long time ago, when I first met Anthony, I was going through something scary and he gave me a passage from scripture from the Godly people who came before Jesus. It goes like this: ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber…’ See, Phoebe, if you believe and have faith, the Lord will be with you every step of your life. You can call on him whenever you feel scared, lonely, hurt—even tired. ‘The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.’”
“Is that true?” Darius asked, humbling inside and sensing it was true after all.
“Yes, Darius,” Aurelia replied. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Like Anthony said yesterday at the forum, ‘If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ It’s that simple.”
Everyone looked at Darius silently praying that he would finally understand.
Convinced of all he had witnessed, Darius fell to his knees. “I believe. Jesus is the Lord, the son of the one and only God.”
Aurelia broke into tears, knelt down beside him and hugged him. “Oh Darius, I prayed for this moment for 10 years! Thank you Lord, now our family can grow in your love.” They stood up and Anthony and Claudia hugged them.
“Praise to the Lord for he is good,” Anthony said.
The people of Pompeii, outside in the streets, forced out by collapsing roofs, climbed higher and higher atop the rising drifts of light stones and pieces of rock. They found breathing difficult. The air smelled of sulfur. Lightning lit up the sky followed quickly by the boom of thunder. Why gray snow was coming from the mountain, they couldn’t comprehend.
“It’s a sign from the gods!” someone yelled. “They have decided to kill us all!”
“Didn’t that man in the forum yesterday say something about a “critical event?” a woman asked.
“Maybe he was a prophet,” another man said.
“Maybe he was right,” said another.
In Puteoli, from a third floor balcony above the baths, Stephanus and Marcus noticed the cloud emerging from across the bay and called to Julia and Olivia who were inside.
“Is it coming from Vesuvius?” Julia asked.
“It seems so,” Stephanus answered.
“Oh, I hope Aurelia, Darius and Phoebe are safe!”
“Weren’t Claudia and Anthony visiting them this week before coming here?” Stephanus asked.
“I believe that was the plan. Oh, I hope they left already!”
All they could do was watch.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Award-Winning Christian Author