The Secrets of Vesuvius

Number in series



August 79 AD


Ostia, Laurentum, Pompeii & Stabia of Italy

First published

15 November 2001

Number of pages



The Thieves of Ostia


The Pirates of Pompeii

The Secrets of Vesuvius is the second book in Caroline Lawrence's The Roman Mysteries. It is published by Orion Books.


August, 79 AD

"The volcano, Vesuvius, is about to erupt...

Flavia Gemina, Jonathan, Lupus and Nubia - friends and detectives - sail to the Bay of Naples to spend the summer with Flavia's uncle, who lives near Pompeii. There they uncover a riddle that may lead them to great treasure. Meanwhile, tremors shake the ground, animals behave strangely, and people dream of impeding doom. One of the worst natural disasters of all time is about happen: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius!"

(The above text is an extract from the blurb.)

Plot SynopsisEdit

The story begins as Flavia, Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus are playing in the Tyrrhenian sea, Flavia sets out to find Vulcan, who told Pliny of the riddle pointing to great treasure. Eventually, she and her friends solve the riddle, making out the word asine, Latin for 'jackass'. She tried to find Vulcan from a local blacksmith, and used the codeword 'Asine', but to little avail. Meanwhile, Aristo gives Miriam, Jonathan's sister, a sparrow, the traditional symbol of love. Soon, Flavia finds Vulcan, and tried calling him a jackass while he was drinking water. She finds out Vulcan is a clubfoot orphan, and feels horrible. Vulcan gives Miriam, who is in love, a bracelet.

At the forum, a Christian warns everyone of doom and desolation. The children find out that Clio, a small girl, had been following them. Her parents, Tascius and Rectina, had adopted her and many other girls, after losing their own son. They all go to the Vulcanalia, but everything goes wrong, and Flavia fails to tell Clio's parents that Vulcan may be their lost son. Flavia finds out that 'Asine' is really a codeword for their illegal faith, Christianity. Tascius thinks Vulcan is really Pliny's son.

Soon, the sparrow dies and birds rain from the air. Everyone finds out that Miriam is in love with Flavia's uncle, Gaius. Everyone is surprised except Nubia, who figured it out earlier. Jonathan's father, Mordecai ben Ezra, fears that his son's dreams of Jerusalem, the strange events, and everything going wrong, all point to the fact that the Christian was right, him being one also. They figure that a volcano is going to erupt, and they figure it is Vesuvius. They call over Pliny for a meal, and Flavia figures that Vulcan is really Tascius' son. Pliny did not know that Vesuvius was a volcano. Mordecai proposes that everyone leave, but his daughter Miriam objects. They warn everyone of the volcano.

While Rectina and Clio are in Herculaneum, and everyone else is in Stabia, it erupts. Miriam's hair is set on fire by the ashes from the volcano, but Mordecai puts it out with a towel. They find Gaius half-dead buried under ash, but Ferox, a wolf, saves him. Meanwhile, Mordecai, who is a doctor, tries to save everyone. Pliny sets out to save Rectina, but fails. Tascius confesses how he had abandoned Vulcan. Lupus warns Pliny of Vulcan in a boat. Pliny dies near Pompeii due to sulphur. Water is scarce, and pyroclastic flows bury cities, but the children survive the volcano.

Maps IncludedEdit

  • The Bay of Naples in AD 79
  • Uncle Gaius' Farm
  • Villa Pomponiana

Historical ReferencesEdit