Herculaneum , an ancient city of Campania, Italy, situated at the N. W. base of Mt. Vesuvius, about 5 m. S. E. of Naples, and entirely overwhelmed by an eruption of Vesuvius in A. D. 79. Its foundation was ascribed to Hercules, and Ovid called it Herculea urbs. It is said by Strabo to have been occupied in turn by Oscans, Pelasgians, Tyrrhenians, and Sara- nites, but its history is obscure, and it was never of great importance. The inscriptions show that under the Romans it had the rights of a municipium, and that it was governed with its own laws by demarchs and archons. Strabo describes it as situated on a projecting headland, and Sisenna as built on elevated ground between two rivers, and surrounded by low walls. Its healthy situation rendered it a place of resort for wealthy Romans, who built magnificent villas in the city and its suburbs. It suffered severely from an earthquake in A. D. 63, and Seneca said then that what remained was not safe. In August, 79, Vesuvius threw out for eight days and nights torrents of mud, filling the city to the roofs of the houses, and afterward showers of ashes and currents of lava, forming a deposit varying from 70 to 112 ft. in depth.
A second settlement formed near the site of the buried city met with a similar fate in 472. Thereafter even the situation of Herculaneum was forgotten. It was not mentioned except in a few works of the loth, 16th, and 17th centuries, and was supposed to be buried under the modern site of Torre del Greco. The discovery of the real site was due to the sinking of a well at Resina in 1709, which brought to light some fragments of mosaic and statues. For the his-tory of the excavations, see Pompeii.