Portrait of Pompeii Girl, 1st century A.D., Wikipedia photo, for this poem, Corina.
Portrait of Pompeii Girl, 1st century A.D., Wikipedia photo, for this poem, Corina.

Recurring dreams startled me awake, night
Sweats, Vesuvius firestorm erupting, wit-
Nessed from perilous distance, warships
Fleeing Stabiae, houses burning in night,
Death of my parents at their mountain villa.
In defiance of gods, my father, Blasius, paid
Coin to soldiers, my safe passage to Rome.

As mother, Valeria, gave me, Corina, her gold
Snake bracelet, father his Jupiter ring, cen-
Turion grabbed me, familiar helmeted face,
Running to waiting ships, smell of unbathed
Soldier, leather and armor, burning ash and
Screaming. “Don’t look back,” he stated, my
Face pressed hard against his shoulder plates.

Two soldiers we met, then three more, on his
Orders fighting wedge they made, by swords
And shields, they pushed through panicked
Crowds, many falling at their feet. When half-
Filled warship we arrived, he gave order, “Go
Now!” His men raised blood-spattered shields,
Phalanx protection against volcanic might.

For months, only by wine and trance of poppy
Could I sleep, drug-numbed nights, my dreams
Recurring, memories of older teenage girl
Running amongst colonnades, parents lost
Faith in gods. To survive, I sold their bracelet
And ring, rebuilding life to what end I knew
Not, grieving angst, no family, friends few.

At advice of my physician, an older man of
Good learning, we took merchant ship to
Pompeii burial, such raw therapies I required,
Facing that which haunted me, walk desolate
Shores, wrest myself from wine and drugs,
View Stabiae ruins at sunrise, visit destroyed
Herculaneum, Neapolis resort towns.

"Groom and Demure Bride," Casa della Farnesina, c. 19 BCE, Wikipedia photo.
“Groom and Demure Bride,” Casa della Farnesina, c. 19 BCE, Wikipedia photo.

Broad-shouldered centurion accompanied us,
Soldier who saved me during eruption. No
Introductions were needed, my physician
Serving as intermediary on behalf of Marcus
Donatus. “Corina, will you accept my hand in
Marriage?” he asked, no nuptial family cele-
Brations, no dowry owned nor required.

When he proposed, gift of gold snake bracelet
And Jupiter ring he presented, recovered at local
Shops, memory of my parents. Yes, I married an
Older man like my father, one he trusted with
My life, same military bearing, fighting side-by-
Side, duty and honour to my father, Marcus lost
His wife and family to Vesuvius that night.

Whilst teenaged girls were often married during Roman
times, this marriage occurred out of duty and honour 
after family deaths caused by eruption of Vesuvius.

Click here for more about marriages in ancient Rome.
For more on the gold snake bracelet click here.

Social profiles