What killed Pliny the Elder?
Pliny the Elder was an author, naturalist and philosopher. He died on August 25, A.D. 79, after a failed attempt to rescue a friend and his family in Stabiae. Vesuvius had just destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the powerful wind caused by the sixth and largest pyroclastic surge would not allow his ship to leave the shore. His nephew, Pliny the Younger, gave this account of his death: "In the end, they chose to go outdoors. So they went out with pillows tied on top of their heads with napkins, their only defense against the storm of falling stones. Elsewhere it was day, but there the darkness was deeper than thickest night, and they had to use lights to find their way. They decided to go down to the shore to see whether they could escape by sea, but the waves were still running too high. There my uncle lay down on a sail that had been spread for him, and called twice for some cold water, which he drank. Then a rush of flame, with the reek of sulfur, made everyone scatter, and made him get up. He stood with the help of his servants, but at once fell down dead, suffocated, as I suppose, by some potent, noxious vapor. He had always had a weak respiratory tract, which was often inflamed and obstructed. When light returned, which was not until the third day, his body was found intact, in the same clothes he had died in."