The remains of around 1,500 people have been found from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. Amongst the dead, there have been extremely poignant and touching images of families huddling together, and two men embracing as they died.
But now one image of a man preserved at Pompeii has gone viral over the weekend for a slightly lower-brow reason. People have been speculating that he was preserved in one final act of self-love, because, well, it really does look like that might be the case.
The image appears to show a man lying on his back and holding onto the crotch region of his body. It’s gone viral on Twitter, with people suggesting that the man saw his own death coming and rather than fleeing he decided to… well…
Whilst other people tried to give the guy a bit of dignity and suggest maybe he was just trying to protect his crotch from something headed towards it.
People are mixed on whether he had his priorities in the right order, with some people saying that he should have used the time to seek out his loved ones, and others hypothesizing that that’s precisely what he’d done.
Either way, people seem to agree that it’s not the most dignified death possible, and have been cracking jokes about the poor man all weekend.
We’ll probably never know what the man was really doing, but it’s perfectly possible the man was killed whilst masturbating, or that his body just fell like this naturally.
Theories on how Pompeii victims died suggest that many were killed instantly in a blast of hot gas, which they wouldn’t have seen coming. A study in 2001 looked at 80 skeletons taken from ash that had solidified and found signs that the victims close to the eruption would have been killed before they felt any pain.
“[There were no signs of a] voluntary self-protective reaction or agony contortions, indicating that their vital organs must have stopped within a shorter time than the conscious reaction time. The cloud was a mixture of hot gas and ash,” said Dr Alberto Incoronato of the University of Naples Federico II, as reported by the Telegraph. “It caused little damage in the town itself but killed these people instantly.”
Other victims were killed by falling debris in collapsed buildings, or possibly by suffocating in the ash. However, the lack of debris found around the “masturbating man” and the fact that he isn’t covering his face seems to suggest that he was one of the so-called lucky ones who died instantly, without ever seeing it coming.