Herculaneum was an ancient town destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that began on August 24th, 79 AD. Other cities completely lost include Pompeii, Stabiae and Oplontis.
Herculaneum may go back as far as the 6th Century BC. Its name is associated with the Greek hero of mythology, Hercules. This may explain the Greek origin of the city-state. There is also connection with the Samnite tribes of Italy who seemed to have influenced the culture more than any other group. Apart from worshipping Hercules, evidence shows that the inhabitants also worshipped Venus and Apollo.
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was subject to roughly the same set of conquerors and political developments. Whereas Pompeii was a commercial center, this city was more of a resort and residential center – and primarily so for those more well to do.
It was not until the mid-18th Century that Herculaneum was located. Its discovery came about as result of a well being dug out. The city was buried under 60 feet of earth. As was the case with Pompeii, robbers probably had a bit of their way with the site. Formal excavation work finally took place between 1749 and 1765.
The Vesuvius eruption provides us with a snapshot in time. We know that whatever was uncovered in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the environs – was on the scene in 79AD. As a result, it is massive time capsule for archaeologists to use for comparison purposes on other digs throughout the old Roman Empire.