115 Antioch earthquake

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115 Antioch earthquake
115 Antioch earthquake is located in Syria
115 Antioch earthquake
Local date13 December 115 (0115-12-13)
Local timeAt night
Magnitude7.5 Ms[1]
Epicenter36°06′N 36°06′E / 36.1°N 36.1°E / 36.1; 36.1Coordinates: 36°06′N 36°06′E / 36.1°N 36.1°E / 36.1; 36.1[1]
Areas affectedAnatolia, Syria (region) in the Roman Empire
Max. intensityXI (Extreme)

The 115 Antioch earthquake occurred on 13 December 115 AD. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the surface wave magnitude scale and an estimated maximum intensity of XI (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. Antioch and surrounding areas were devastated with a great loss of life and property. It triggered a local tsunami that badly damaged the harbour at Caesarea Maritima. The Roman Emperor Trajan was caught in the earthquake, as was his successor Hadrian. Although the consul Marcus Pedo Vergilianus was killed, they escaped with only slight injuries and later began a program to rebuild the city.[2][3]

Tectonic setting[edit]

The site of Antioch lies close to the complex triple junction between the northern end of the Dead Sea Transform, the mainly transform boundary between the African Plate and the Arabian Plate, the southwestern end of the East Anatolian Fault, the mainly transform boundary between the Anatolian Plate and the Arabian Plate, and the northeastern end of the Cyprus Arc, the boundary between the Anatolian and African Plates. The city lies on the Antakya Basin, part of the Amik Basin, filled by Pliocene-to-recent alluvial sediments. The area has been affected by many large earthquakes during the last 2,000 years.[4]

The results of trenching over the northern part of the Dead Sea Transform indicate that three major earthquakes have occurred along the Missyaf segment of the fault since about 100 AD, the earliest of which may correlate with the 115 earthquake.[5]


An account of the earthquake was included by the writer Cassius Dio in his Roman History.[6] He describes Antioch at that time as crowded with soldiers and many civilians that had travelled from all parts of the empire, because Trajan was wintering there. The earthquake began with a loud roaring sound, followed by intense shaking of the ground. Whole trees were thrown into the air, as were many of the inhabitants, causing great injury. Large numbers of people were killed by falling debris, while many others were trapped. The aftershocks that followed the earthquake for several days killed some of the survivors, while others that were trapped died of hunger. Trajan managed to get clear of the house he was staying in by leaving through a window and only suffered minor injuries. Because of the danger from aftershocks, he moved with his retinue to the open hippodrome.[6]

The city of Apamea was also destroyed by the earthquake and Beirut suffered significant damage.[5] The tsunami triggered by the earthquake affected the Lebanese coast, particularly at Caeserea and Yavneh.[7] The harbour at Caeserea Maritima was probably destroyed by the tsunami, an interpretation based on the dating of a half metre thick tsunami deposit found outside the harbour.[8]

The origin of the reported death toll of 260,000 is uncertain, as it only appears in catalogues of about the last hundred years.[9]


The restoration of Antioch was started by Trajan but seems to have been completed by Hadrian.[10] Trajan had a copy of the statue of Tyche by Eutychides erected at the new theatre, to commemorate the rebuilding of the city.[11] Almost all of the mosaics that have been found in Antioch date from after the earthquake.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Geophysical Data Center. "Comments for the Significant Earthquake". Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  2. ^ Fant, C.E.; Reddish, M.G. (2003). "Antioch on the Orontes". A guide to biblical sites in Greece and Turkey. Oxford University Press. p. 303. ISBN 978-0-19-513917-4. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  3. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History 68,24–25
  4. ^ Çaktı, E.; Bikçe M.; Özel O.; Geneş C.; Kaçın S. & Kaya Y. (2011). "Antakya Basin Strong Ground Motion Network" (PDF). Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  5. ^ a b Meghraoui, M.; Gomez F.; Sbeinati R.; van der Woerd J.; Mouty M.; Darkal A.N.; Radwan Y.; Layyous I.; Al Najjar H.; Darawcheh R.; Hijazi F.; Al-Ghazzi R & Barazangi M. (2003). "Evidence for 830 years of seismic quiescence from palaeoseismology, archaeoseismology and historical seismicity along the Dead Sea fault in Syria" (PDF). Earth and Planetary Science Letters. Elsevier. 210 (1–2): 35–52. Bibcode:2003E&PSL.210...35M. doi:10.1016/S0012-821X(03)00144-4.
  6. ^ a b Bennett, J. (1997). Trajan: Optimus Princeps : a Life and Times. Roman imperial biographies Batsford Series (2nd ed.). pp. 199–201. ISBN 978-0-415-16524-2. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  7. ^ Sbeinati, M.R.; Darawcheh, R. & Mouty, M. (2005). "The historical earthquakes of Syria: an analysis of large and moderate earthquakes from 1365 B.C. to 1900 A.D." (PDF). Annals of Geophysics. 48 (3): 347–435. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
  8. ^ Reinhardt, E.G.; Goodman B.N.; Boyce J.I.; Lopez G.; van Hengstum P.; Rinnk W.J.; Mart Y. & Raban A. (2006). "The tsunami of 13 December A.D. 115 and the destruction of Herod the Great's harbor at Caeserea Maritima, Israel". Geology. Geological Society of America. 34 (12): 1061–1064. Bibcode:2006Geo....34.1061R. doi:10.1130/G22780A.1. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  9. ^ Musson, R. (7 March 2001). "The ten deadliest ever earthquakes". British Geological Survey. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  10. ^ Boatwright, M.T. (2003). Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire. Princeton University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-691-09493-9.
  11. ^ Dirven, L. (1999). The Palmyrenes of Dura-Europos: A Study of Religious Interaction in Roman Syria. Religions in the Graeco-Roman world. 138. BRILL. p. 112. ISBN 978-90-04-11589-7. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  12. ^ Hengel, M.; Schwemer, A.M. (1997). Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 478. ISBN 978-0-664-25736-1. Retrieved 20 October 2011.

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