Vesuvius is one of the most dangerous volcanoes on Earth. Its story is fascinating - not only its rich geological and geographical history, but also the changing social, religious and intellectual impact that the volcano has always had upon the people living around it. Hence, this book is truly a biography of a formidable and richly colourful living entity.Volcanoes are not passive like other mountains, and Vesuvius has been less passive than most volcanoes. It is the paramount natural feature in the whole region of Campania in southern Italy, and the constant rival of the turbulent city of Naples that lies at its heart. Volcano and city have played a dominant role on the stage of Campania since the first literate Greek colonists settled there some 3000 years ago. The Campanians have never been able to remember with serenity, nor to orget with impunity, that theirs is a volcanic land. Vesuvius threatens in the east; a rash of smaller volcanoes riddle the landscape of the Campi Flegrei to the west; and between them lie Naples and a host of busy towns.For many centuries, the people believed that the Underworld lurked beneath the ground itself. The ways in which the people have interpreted the habits and behaviour of the volcano have given it a distinct personality, and an almost anthropomorphic quality. Vesuvius has been as capricious as a spoilt courtesan. During its more tempestuous outbursts, it has destroyed homes and whole villages, and sent thousands of people to the Underworld. In calmer times, the destructive lava and ash then weathered into soils of such exquisite fertility that they recalled legends of a Golden Age.Some of that character has been manifested in the behaviour of the Campanians. They have watched their volcano, and they have watched over it; they have suffered from its fits of temper; they have feared and revered it; they have taken out images of their patron saints to propitiate it; and they have taken it to their hearts. Vesuvius has played a part in Campanian society that has been perhaps surpassed only by the strongest of rulers - or, more recently, by the bosses of the notorious parallel government that holds sway in the region. And, of course, Vesuvius buried Pompeii. Vesuvius threatens its surroundings today.The development of contingency plans for its next great eruption shows that scientists can apply the latest techniques to discover when the next eruption is about to occur, but also how such plans meet with a range of opposition from the people under threat. "Vesuvius: A Biography" is based on the latest research and also on a prudent appraisal of contemporary historical accounts. Wherever possible, the story is based on eye-witness accounts; many are graphic word portraits the equal of photography and television coverage. Fresh translation of classical source material features extensively. Written with the non-specialist reader in mind, the book will be compelling reading for not only geologists and geographers but also emergency planners and all those fascinated by the dramatic face of the Earth and eager to explore its rich human dimensions as much as its spectacular physical processes.This is a complete history of the relationship between one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and the many people who live perilously close to it. With new translations of classical sources, the story comes up to today and the ominous future.