The science in the book Pompeii is used by the author as foreshadowing for the events to come in each chapter. There is a quote from some sort of academic or professional book or journal such as Dynamics of Volcanism or Volcanoes: A Planetary Perspective. The science behind the physical actions of the mountain and the seas surrounding Pompeii adds a tension to the story that would not be present if the author did not tip off the reader at the beginning of each chapter. The science of volcanism is used as effectively in telling this story, as is any literary device.
The action begins with Marcus Attilius being called from Rome to be the new aquarius for the cities along the Campagnia coast. Pompeii and Herculaneum are among these cities. The aquarius is the engineer charged with keeping the municipal aqueducts in working order. He was assigned here from Rome because the prior aquarius had gone missing mysteriously. Campagnia is in the midst of a terrible drought and Attilius is worried that the reservoir will soon go dry. To preclude this, the first chapter finds the new aquarius leading a reluctant team of laborers up the side of Mt. Vesuvius to fins a new spring they cam tap in order to supply more water to the aqueduct.
The science that drives the first two incidents centers around the emission of sulfur from vents in the ground prior to a volcanic eruption. As magma moves into the space occupied by a dormant volcano, the balance of sulfur and carbon can change. This is because the minerals locked in rocks escapes as a gas when the magma melts the material that makes up the Earth’s crust. Sulfur can be emitted as a vapor into the atmosphere, giving off a smell like rotten eggs. This gaseous sulfur is important at the beginning of the story.
Marcus Attilius uses a technique his father taught him to locate the source of a spring. Laying on his belly, he scans the horizon