1481 Rhodes earthquake

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1481 Rhodes earthquake
1481 Rhodes earthquake is located in Greece
1481 Rhodes earthquake
Date 3 May 1481 (1481-05-03)
Magnitude 7.1
Epicenter 36°00′N 28°00′E / 36.0°N 28.0°E / 36.0; 28.0Coordinates: 36°00′N 28°00′E / 36.0°N 28.0°E / 36.0; 28.0
Areas affected Greece, Rhodes
Casualties 30,000

The 1481 Rhodes earthquake occurred at 3:00 in the morning on 3 May. It triggered a small tsunami, which caused local flooding. There were an estimated 30,000 casualties. It was the largest of a series of earthquakes that affected Rhodes, starting on 15 March 1481, continuing until January 1482.

Tectonic setting[edit]

The island of Rhodes lies on part of the boundary between the Aegean Sea and African plates. The tectonic setting is complex, with a Neogene history that includes periods of thrusting, extension and strike slip. Currently the island is undergoing a counter-clockwise rotation (17° ±5° in the last 800,000 years) associated with the south Aegean sinistral strike-slip fault system.[1] The island had also been tilted to the northwest during the Pleistocene, an uplift attributed to a reverse fault lying just to the east of Rhodes.


Sources refer to destruction in Rhodes Town; the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes was sufficiently damaged to require immediate rebuilding (Rhodes was at the time under siege by the Turks).[2] The damage caused by the earthquakes led to a wave of rebuilding after 1481.[3] Damage from the tsunami was said to be greater than from the earthquake. The tsunami caused a large ship to break free from its moorings. It (or another ship) later sank with loss of all its crew after running onto a reef.[4]



The tsunami appears to have been relatively minor, estimated at a maximum 1.8 m. However, it was observed on the Levantine coasts and a tsunami sediment layer found at Dalaman, on the southwest coast of Turkey, has been dated at 1473 ±46, consistent with this event.[5]


There was a major foreshock on 15 March of that year. Following the mainshock on 3 May, earthquakes (presumably aftershocks) continued until January 1482, with large aftershocks on 5 May, 12 May, 3 October and 18 December. The estimated magnitude for the mainshock is 7.1 on the surface wave magnitude scale.[4]


  1. ^ van Hinsbergen, D.J.J.; Krijgsman W., Langeris C.G., Cornée J-J., Duermeijer C.E., van Vugt N. (2007). "Discrete Plio-Pleistocene phases of tilting and counterclockwise rotation in the southeastern Aegean arc (Rhodos, Greece): early Pliocene formation of the south Aegean left-lateral strike-slip system". Journal of the Geological Society 164 (6): 1133–1144. doi:10.1144/0016-76492006-061. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Bradbury, J. The Routledge companion to medieval warfare. Routledge Companions to History Series. Routledge. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-415-22126-9. 
  3. ^ Luttrell, A.; Borchardt, K.; Jaspert, N.; Nicholson, H.J. (2007). The Hospitallers, the Mediterranean and Europe: festschrift for Anthony Luttrell. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-7546-6275-4. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b NGDC. "Comments for the Significant Earthquake". Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  5. ^ Papadopoulos, G.A.; Daskalaki E., Fokaefs A. & Giraleas N. (2007). "Tsunami hazards in the Eastern Mediterranean: strong earthquakes and tsunamis in the East Hellenic Arc and Trench system". Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 7: 57–64. doi:10.5194/nhess-7-57-2007. Retrieved 24 July 2010.