A force to be reckoned with

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Painting of a centurion standing guard as Vesuvius erupts

Faithful Unto Death by Poynter

Pictures of the erupting Mt Merapi in Indonesia are simultaneously  beautiful and terrifying. Villagers from the surrounding areas are fleeing as the powerful volcano spews out huge gas clouds. Others, mindful of their crops and livestock, are refusing to leave, despite the imminent danger.

This steadfastness put me in mind of Poynter's wonderful 'Faithful Unto Death' which can be viewed in the Walker Art Gallery. The painting depicts a Roman soldier standing guard at Pompeii despite the molten lava and hot ash of Vesuvius rapidly closing in.

Perhaps such actions are foolish but they are also courageous and awe-inspiring. And despite the potential for tragedy, it strangely reassuring that such acts of bravery are not confined to classical history books.