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365 Crete earthquake

365 Crete earthquake

The 365 AD Crete earthquake was an undersea earthquake that occurred at about sunrise on 21 July 365 AD in the Eastern Mediterranean, [ [http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learning/today/his_07_21.php Today in Earthquake History ] ] [ [http://www.infoplease.com/cig/writing-well/different-strokes-for-different-folks.html Writing Well: Different Strokes for Different Folks — Infoplease.com ] ] Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (545)] with an assumed epicentre near Crete. [Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (546, Fig. 1)] Geologists today estimate the quake to have been magnitude 8 or higher on the Richter scale, causing widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Cyprus, and Sicily.Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (558-560, Appendix B.)] In Crete, nearly all towns were destroyed.

The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, particularly Alexandria and the Nile Delta, killing thousands and hurling ships nearly two miles inland.Ammianus Marcellinus, [http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/ammianus_26_book26.htm#C9 "Res Gestae", 26.10.15-19] ] The quake left a deep impression on the late antique mind, and numerous writers of the time referred in their works to the event. [For summaries of the sources, see: Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (557f., App. A)]

Geological evidence

Recent geological studies view the 365 AD Crete earthquake in connection with a clustering of major seismic activity in the eastern Mediterranean between the 4th century and the 6th century AD which may have reflected a reactivation of all major plate boundaries in the region. The earthquake is thought to be responsible for an uplift of 9 m of the island of Crete, which is estimated to correspond to a seismic moment of ~10^29 dyne cm. An earthquake of such a size exceeds all modern ones known to have affected the region. However, a recent reassessment of radiocarbon data indicates that the uplift most probably took place at a later date.Kelly, Gavin: “Ammianus and the Great Tsunami”, "The Journal of Roman Studies", Vol. 94 (2004), pp. 141-167 (144)]

Literary evidence

[
Apollonia, Libya, were submerged]

Historians continue to debate the question whether ancient sources refer to a single catastrophic earthquake in 365 AD, or whether they represent a historical amalgamation of a number of earthquakes occurring between 350 and 450 AD. [Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (545f.)] The interpretation of the surviving literary evidence is complicated by the tendency of late antique writers to describe natural disasters as divine responses or warnings to political and religious events.Kelly, Gavin: “Ammianus and the Great Tsunami”, "The Journal of Roman Studies", Vol. 94 (2004), pp. 141-167 (145)] In particular, the virulent antagonism between rising Christianity and paganism at the time led contemporary writers to distort the evidence. Thus, for example, the Sophist Libanius and the church historian Sozomenus appear to conflate the great earthquake of 365 with other lesser ones to present it as either divine sorrow or wrath— depending on their viewpoint— for the death of emperor Julian two years earlier, who had tried to restore the pagan religion. [Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (547 & 557f.)]

On the whole, however, the relatively numerous references to earthquakes in a time which is otherwise characterized by a paucity of historical records strengthens the case for a period of heightened seismic activity. [Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (553)] Kourion on Cyprus, for example, is known to have been hit then by five strong earthquakes within a period of eighty years, leading to its permanent destruction. [D. Soren: "The Day the World Ended at Kourion. Reconstructing an Ancient Earthquake," National Geographic, Vol. 174, No. 1, (July, 1988), pp. 30-53] Additional evidence for the particularly devastating effect of the 365 AD earthquake is provided by a survey of excavations which document the destruction of many late antique towns and cities in the Eastern Mediterranean around 365 AD.

Tsunami

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus described in detail the tsunami hitting Alexandria and other places in the early hours of 21 July 365 AD. His account is particularly noteworthy for clearly distinguishing the three main phases of a tsunami, namely an initial earthquake, the sudden retreat of the sea and an ensuing gigantic wave rolling inland:

Slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake and shudder, and the sea was driven away, its waves were rolled back, and it disappeared, so that the abyss of the depths was uncovered and many-shaped varieties of sea-creatures were seen stuck in the slime; the great wastes of those valleys and mountains, which the very creation had dismissed beneath the vast whirlpools, at that moment, as it was given to be believed, looked up at the sun's rays. Many ships, then, were stranded as if on dry land, and people wandered at will about the paltry remains of the waters to collect fish and the like in their hands; then the roaring sea as if insulted by its repulse rises back in turn, and through the teeming shoals dashed itself violently on islands and extensive tracts of the mainland, and flattened innumerable buildings in towns or wherever they were found. Thus in the raging conflict of the elements, the face of the earth was changed to reveal wondrous sights. For the mass of waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning, and with the tides whipped up to a height as they rushed back, some ships, after the anger of the watery element had grown old, were seen to have sunk, and the bodies of people killed in shipwrecks lay there, faces up or down. Other huge ships, thrust out by the mad blasts, perched on the roofs of houses, as happened at Alexandria, and others were hurled nearly two miles from the shore, like the Laconian vessel near the town of Methone which I saw when I passed by, yawning apart from long decay.Kelly, Gavin (2004), “Ammianus and the Great Tsunami”, "The Journal of Roman Studies", Vol. 94, pp. 141-167 (141)]

The tsunami in 365 was so devastating that the anniversary of the disaster was still commemorated annually at the end of the 6th century in Alexandria as a “day of horror”. [Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562 (549 & 557)] [Hecht, Jeff: “Mediterranean's 'horror' tsunami may strike again”, "NewScientist.com news service" March 10, 2008 [http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn13439-mediterraneans-horror-tsunami-may-strike-again.html] ]

Gallery

Effects of the earthquake visible in the ancient remains:

Footnotes

References

*Kelly, Gavin: “Ammianus and the Great Tsunami”, "The Journal of Roman Studies", Vol. 94 (2004), pp. 141-167
*Stiros, Stathis C.: “The AD 365 Crete earthquake and possible seismic clustering during the fourth to sixth centuries AD in the Eastern Mediterranean: a review of historical and archaeological data”, "Journal of Structural Geology", Vol. 23 (2001), pp. 545-562

Further reading

Literary discussion on sources and providentialist tendencies
* G. J. Baudy, "Die Wiederkehr des Typhon. Katastrophen-Topoi in nachjulianischer Rhetorik und Annalistik: zu literarischen Reflexen des 21 Juli 365 n.C.", "JAC" 35 (1992), 47-82
* M. Henry: "Le temoignage de Libanius et les phenomenes sismiques de IVe siecle de notre ere. Essai d'interpretation', "Phoenix" 39 (1985), 36-61
* F. Jacques and B. Bousquet: “Le raz de maree du 21 juillet 365“, "Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome. Antiquité" (MEFRA), Vol. 96, No.1 (1984), 423-61
* C. Lepelley: "Le presage du nouveau desastre de Cannes: la signification du raz de maree du 21 juillet 365 dans l'imaginaire d' Ammien Marcellin", "Kokalos", 36-37 (1990-91) [1994] , 359-74
* M. Mazza, 'Cataclismi e calamitä naturali: la documentazione letteraria', "Kokalos" 36-37 (1990-91) [1994] , 307-30

Geological discussion
* Bibliography in: E. Guidoboni (with A. Comastri and G. Traina, trans. B. Phillips), Catalogue of Ancient Earthquakes in the Mediterranean Area up to the 10th Century (1994)
* D. Kelletat: "Geologische Belege katastrophaler Erdkrustenbewegungen 365 AD im Raum von Kreta", in E. Olhausen and H. Sonnabend (eds), "Naturkatastrophen in der antiken Welt: Stuttgarter Kolloquium zur historischen Geographie des Altertums" 6, 1996 (1998), 156-61
* P. Pirazzoli, J. Laborel, S. Stiros: "Earthquake clustering in the Eastern Mediterranean during historical times", "Journal of Geophysical Research", Vol. 101 (1996), 6083-6097
* S. Price, T. Higham, L. Nixon, J. Moody: "Relative sea-Ievel changes in Crete: reassessment of radiocarbon dates from Sphakia and West Crete", "BSA" 97 (2002), 171-200
* B. Shaw et al.: [http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo151.html "Eastern Mediterranean tectonics and tsunami hazard inferred from the AD 365 earthquake"] , "Nature Geoscience" (published online: 9 March 2008), 1-9
* G. Waldherr, "Die Geburt der "kosmischen Katastrophe". Das seismische Großereignis am 21. Juli 365 n. Chr.", "Orbis Terrarum" 3 (1997), 169-201

See also

*Historic tsunami
*426 BC Maliakos Gulf tsunami

External links

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080310-tsunami.html National Geographic: Ancient Mediterranean Tsunami may strike again]
* [http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2005AM/finalprogram/abstract_96386.htm Stanley, Jean-Daniel & Jorstad, Thomas F. (2005): The 365 A.D. Tsunami Destruction of Alexandria, Egypt]
* [http://odur.let.rug.nl/~drijvers/ammianus/index.htm Ammianus Marcellinus Online Project]


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