365 Crete Earthquake

Greek: 365 Κρητη Σεισμος
When: July 21, 365 AD
Size: Higher than an 8 on the Richter scale

365 Crete earthquake.

365 Cretan earthquake.

The 365 AD Crete earthquake was anundersea earthquake with an assumed epicentre near Crete. It was higher than an 8 on the Richter Scale and caused widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Sicily. The earthquake wasfollowed by a tsunami killing thousands of people and hurling ships nearly two miles inland. The earthquake was the largest of a number of seismic activity in the eastern Mediterranean region from the 4th to 6th century AD.

The earthquake was one of the most devestating events of the ancient world and would leave a lasting impact on the people affected by it and the island of Crete. Crete lifted by up to 10 metres, completely changing the topography of Crete and destroying all towns. It was so devastating in Alexandria that the anniversary of it was still commemorated annually at the end of the 6th century as a “day of horror”. Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman historian, wrote about the earthquake and tsunami hitting Alexandria on the morning of July 21, 365 AD:

“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.”

Ammianus Marcellinus

Earthquake threat to Istanbul by BBC Science. Skip to 1:18 mark:


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