Screenshot: Twitter

If you knew death was imminent, what would you do? If a wave of hot, bubbling magma was flowing in your direction, would you hysterically plow through women and children in a futile attempt at escape? Or would you stoically accept this fate and allow yourself one last instance of pleasure? We’d all like to at least believe we’d choose the latter, which is why hearts and minds alike were enraptured by this photo of a man who certainly looks like he was jacking it during the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79.

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If you’re unaware, the unfortunate victims of this eruption were buried for 1,700 years under 30 feet of mud and ash. When they were excavated in the early 1800s, some clever soul realized that, by pouring plaster of Paris into the voids in the compacted ash, molds could be made that captured the victims’ bodies, facial expressions, and final poses. And one such mold certainly looks to have captured a man in mid-yank.

After the above tweet went viral, people rallied in support around this hero, offering some quality zingers along the way.

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Ah, but it’s all just too beautiful to be true, isn’t it? The Daily Dot interviewed “volcanologist” Pier Paolo Petrone, a longtime scholar of the Vesuvius victims. He has no time for this masturbation tomfoolery, which he describes as the product of “some young time waster.”

In an email, he writes, “The individual in the photo is an adult man, killed by the hot pyroclastic surge (hot gas and ash cloud which killed most of the population living around Mount Vesuvius), with both arms and legs flexed due to the heat.” According to Petrone, “Most of the human victims found in Pompeii often show ‘strange’ position of arms and legs, due to the contraction of limbs as a consequence of the heat effect on their bodies after death occurred.”

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Luckily, this is the internet, where memes transcend facts, and a guy who looks like he died wanking it is close enough. It’ll be in our children’s history books.