Before the top blew off Vesuvius in 79 A.D., there was no human record or oral tradition that the mountain had ever erupted. Some "scientists" of the first century knew that Vesuvius had at one time in the distant past been a volcano, but everyone was convinced that it was a dead volcano. A major earthquake did considerable damage to Pompeii and the surrounding area during the reign of Emperor Nero on 5 February 62 A.D. No one suspected that this was related to volcanic activity.
Since destroying Pompeii and nearby Ercolano (also known as Herculaneum), Vesuvius has erupted dozens of times and destroyed many other towns and killed thousands of people over the past two thousand years. The most recent eruption was in March 1944, soon after the American troops of World War II liberated the area from German occupation. With Vesuvius erupting, Allied soldiers assisted with the relocation of many local residents out of harm's way.