Imagine you’re a Greek soldier marching into battle in the front row of a phalanx. Or an Egyptian woman putting on makeup before attending an evening party with your husband. Or a Celtic monk scurrying away with the Book of Kells during a Viking invasion. Welcome to the other side of history, the 99% of ordinary people whose names don’t make it into the history books—but whose lives are no less fascinating than the great leaders whose names we all know.
On August 24, in the year A.D. 79, Pliny the Younger looked up and saw a spectacle the world would never forget. As he later wrote down, "A cloud was ascending, the appearance of which I cannot give you a more exact description of than by likening it to that of a great pine tree, for it shot up to a great height in the form of a very tall trunk, which spread itself out at the top into a sort of branches. It appeared sometimes bright and sometimes dark and spotted, according as it was either more or less impregnated with earth and cinders."