‘Pompeii’ by Bastille

‘And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above ‘

Most people know about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79; about the demise of the rich port cities Pompeii and Herculaneum; about the information and artefacts which have been uncovered by a couple of centuries of archaeological investigation; the wealth of knowledge these two buried cities have provided – and will probably continue to provide – about the lives of the Ancient Romans is as vast as it is valuable.

Pompeii - Eruption of Vesuvius reconstruction from the BBC.

Reconstruction drawing of the AD79 eruption of Vesuvius; looming over the city of Pompeii

In fact, the disaster that was the eruption of Mount Vesuvius is so famous that even the majority of those who have no interest in history or archaeology still know something about it. This leads me onto my main point; pop songs and archaeology.

You may remember that last year a band called Bastille released a song called ‘Pompeii’. It’s the best (possibly only) pop song I’ve ever heard about the city of Pompeii. The lyrics are so descriptive that they lead the listener through a popular music representation of this ancient eruption and encourages the audience to think through the feelings which may have been felt during the rumbling of the earth, fire falling from the sky and super-heated, super-speedy pyroclastic flow which swallowed up the entirety of two vast ancient cities. The song’s writer, Dan Smith, really seems to have encapsulated this brief moment of stochastic history.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F90Cw4l-8NY]

This is a song that seems to bring Pompeii to life with music – it works so well that when I first heard this song (I didn’t know the title) I concluded that they were singing about some kind of town flattened by a volcano – and lo-and-behold – the song is in fact about Pompeii. The video too explores the fear and dread that might have been felt by the inhabitants of the once great city; people keep running away from a great blackness which is enveloping people, turning their eyes black as they tumble down. The black eyes are an artistic representation of the ash from the pyroclastic flow catching people, so essentially the people with black eyes are modern reflections of the people who died in the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

I’d suggest, if you haven’t heard this song already, that you do take a few minutes to listen to it at some point. In my opinion it is truly a piece of art and proof that modern pop culture can be a tool to share information with the wider population.

Modern day Pompeii sitting in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius

Modern day Pompeii sitting in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius

‘We were caught up and lost in all of our vices
In your pose as the dust settles around us’



2 thoughts on “‘Pompeii’ by Bastille

  1. Past Rambles

    Bastille should be commended for bringing archaeology to the masses via the medium of music. I think the line ‘How am I going to be an optimist about this?’ is pure genius.


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