That time a German prince built an artificial volcano


Perrin Doniger of Smithsonian.com says: "When a 18th century German prince visited Mt. Vesuvius in Naples, he insisted on building a replica of it on his estate back home."

Leopold III Friedrich Franz, Prince and Duke of Anhalt-Dessau ... ruled a small kingdom near the modern-day town of Dessau in the 18th century. Born in 1740, Franz was an unusually enlightened ruler, even for the Age of Enlightenment. In his mid-20s, he went on a Grand Tour of Europe, a rite of passage for the continent's nobility.

Franz's travels took him to London, Paris, Marseilles, Rome, Venice and Naples, where the 27-year-old princeling was captivated by the smoldering Mount Vesuvius and the recent discovery of the buried Roman town of Pompeii.

"Vesuvius must have really impressed him, because 22 years later he came up with the idea to re-create the Gulf of Naples in flat Germany," says Uwe Quilitzsch, the Woerlitz Garden Realm's staff historian. "He saw himself as obliged to enlighten his subjects, and he saw this as a lesson for people who would never get to Naples."

(Photo for Smithsonian.com by Rebecca F. Miller)

That time a German prince built an artificial volcano

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    1.  Isn’t a super-villian just a super-hero with a misguided sense of how they should make the world a better place?

  1. He saw himself as obliged to enlighten his subjects, and he saw this as a lesson for people who would never get to Naples

    “Because you’re stuck here, toiling on my land! AHAHAHAHA!”

  2. Neal Stephenson’s third volume of his “Baroque Cycle,” “The System of the World,” includes a similar volcano, inspired by a visit to Vesuvius by an English Peer who was equally impressed.

    The construction of the Volcano and the materials used to create the eruption were more sophisticated, relying primarily on phosphorus for the lava. Alchemy and natural philosophy are grand themes of the books, so Mr. Stephenson’s choice of technology was clearly borne of the desire to maintain consistency with his themes.

    I do wonder, however, the inspiration for the idea of the volcano was a result of his discovery of  the story of Leopold’s trip and subsequent construction of his volcano. 

    I love stuff like this. Granted, I would have been one of the peasants (not on his continent) packing peat in a bog somewhere as My Lord squandered resources, but it’s interesting at a distance of several centuries.

  3. In his villa in Sardinia, Mr. Berlusconi has an artificial volcano to entertain his numerous guests.

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