Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre, the Spaniard who discovered Pompeii

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 is perhaps the most famous eruption in the history of the European continent, probably because of the traces it left behind. The places that suffered the tragedy can be visited and that undoubtedly has an effect. More than two million people comes every year to visit the ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum, both cities close to a Naples from which the now dormant volcano can be seen. And although it has become a kind of theme park, especially in the case of Pompeii, there are still those who are shocked to discover the ruins of this great city that perished due to the eruption. Many people are familiar with the general history. What may not be known is that the ruins of Pompeii were discovered by a Spaniard. Specifically, an Aragonese.

Alcubierre, rescuing hidden antiquities

Pompeii under Vesuvius alcubierre

Pompeii under Vesuvius. | Shutterstock

Roque Joaquín de Alcubierre was born in Zaragoza on August 16, 1702 and died on March 14, 1780, already in Naples, where he spent a good part of his life. Not much is known about his early years, except that he trained to become a military engineer. Alcubierre went to Italy to work on the works related to the royal palace of Portici, under the orders of King Charles III, but he soon became interested in more than these works. His curiosity for the ancient world led him to begin research work that soon led to the excavation of various corners of Italy.

Thus, little by little, he began to find elements that suggested the greatness of what was hidden. Herculaneum was the first city to see the light of day in these works, because it is very close to Naples. Anyone who has visited its ruins, although smaller than those of Pompeii, will understand the impression Alcubierre must have felt as he discovered these traces of tragedy in a place so full of life. Because Herculaneum today is a village like any other.

In 1748, Alcubierre thought he had found the city of Stabiae, but his discovery pointed in another direction. Res Publica Pompeianorum, could be read on one of the unearthed tombstones. Pompeii had been discovered, becoming one of the most important events in 18th century Europe.

In the following years, Alcubierre would carry out excavations in the real Stabiae, as well as in Sorrento, Pozzuoli, Cumae and Capri, becoming an essential figure in the archaeology of the time. In his excavation diaries, the Aragonese explained that he sought, with his works, to rescue forgotten or hidden antiquities. Surely he never imagined that his work would end up becoming a World Heritage Site.

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