UN’ERUZIONE DEL VESUVIO: NOTA A CASSIOD. VAR. 4, 50, 5
Although the Variae of Cassiodorus are a collection of official documents (letters, edicts and model letters), which, between 506 and 538, the author drafted on behalf of Theoderic and other Ostrogothic rulers or for himself (acting as Praetorian Prefect of Italy), they often include digressions on public works and spectacles, liberal arts and cultural inventions, landscapes and natural phenomena, in the manner of private letters. In var. IV.50, a letter addressed to the Prefect Faustus, he describes an eruption of Vesuvius. Within a few lines the sands spat forth from the volcano are described first as sterile and then as fertile. To overcome the difficulty arising from what at first sight seems to be a contradiction we can go different ways. One of them leads us to conjecture harenarum subtile in place of harenarum sterile, taking account of a hitherto rejected reading from the first hand of the codex E.