Text #8613

Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Vol. 1
[Thuc. 3.89.1. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Clarendon Press. 1900 pp. 247--248]

In the ensuing summer the Peloponnesians and their allies, under the command of Agis the son of Archidamus, the Lacedaemonian king, came as far as the isthmus. They intended to invade Attica, but were deterred from proceeding by numerous earthquakes and no invasion took place in this year. About the time when these earthquakes prevailed, the sea at Orobiae in Euboea, retiring from what was then the line of coast and rising in a great wave, overflowed a part of the city; and although it subsided in some places, yet in others the inundation was permanent, and that which was formerly land is now sea. All the people who could not escape to the high ground perished.

A similar inundation occurred in the neighbourhood of Atalante, an island on the coast of the Opuntian Locri, which carried away a part of the Athenian fort, and dashed in pieces one of two ships which were drawn up on the beach. At Peparethus also the sea retired, but no inundation followed; an earthquake, however, overthrew a part of the wall, the Prytaneum, and a few houses. I conceive that, where the force of the earthquake was greatest, the sea was driven back, and the suddenness of the recoil made the inundation more violent; and I am of opinion that this was the cause of the phenomenon, which would never have taken place if there had been no earthquake.

Text #8614

Diodorus Siculus. The Library of History. Vol. 5
[Diod. 12.59.1--12.59.2. Translated by C. H. Oldfather. Harvard University Press. 1935. (12 Vols.) p. 49]

While the Athenians were busied with these matters, the Lacedaemonians, taking with them the Peloponnesians, pitched camp at the Isthmus1 with the intention of invading Attica again; but when great earthquakes took place, they were filled with superstitious fear and returned to their native lands. And so severe in fact were the shocks in many parts of Greece that the sea actually swept away and destroyed some cities lying on the coast, while in Locris the strip of land forming a peninsula was torn through and the island known as Atalantê was formed.

  1. of Corinth. [nE]

Text #8615

Strabo. Geography. Series: Geography. Vol. 1
[Strab. 1.3.20. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones and John Robert Sitlington. William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1967. (8 Vols.) pp. 223--225]

Demetrius of Calatis, in his account of all the earthquakes that have ever occurred throughout all Greece, says that the greater part of the Lichades Islands and of Cenaeum was engulfed; the hot springs at Aedepsus and Thermopylae, after having ceased to flow for three days, began to flow afresh, and those at Aedepsus broke forth also at another source; at Oreus the wall next to the sea and about seven hundred of the houses collapsed; and as for Echinus and Phalara and Heracleia in Trachis, not only was a considerable portion of them thrown down, but the settlement of Phalara was overturned, ground and all. And, says he, something quite similar happened to the people of Lamia and of Larissa; and Scarphia, also, was flung up, foundations and all, and no fewer than seventeen hundred human beings were engulfed, and over half as many Thronians; again, a triple-headed wave rose up, one part of which was carried in the direction of Tarphe and Thronium, another part to Thermopylae, and the rest into the plain as far as Daphnus in Phocis; fountains of rivers were dried up for a number of days, and the Spercheius changed its course and made the roadways navigable, and the Boagrius was carried down a different ravine, and also many sections of Alope, Cynus, and Opus were seriously damaged, and Oeum, the castle above Opus, was laid in utter ruin, and a part of the wall of Elateia was broken down, and at Alponus, during the celebration of the Thesmophoria1, twenty-five girls ran up into one of the towers at the harbour to get a view, the tower fell, and they themselves fell with it into the sea. And they say, also, of the Atalanta near Euboea that its middle portions,because they had been rent asunder, got a ship-canal through the rent, and that some of the plains were overflowed even as far as twenty stadia, and that a trireme was lifted out of the docks and cast over the wall.

  1. October-November in the Athenian calendar. [nE]

Text #8616

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Regarding this series of earthquakes and tsunami, some experts propose that there are two earthquakes conflated in Strabo’s account because it is slightly different from that of Thucydides, and that the proposed other earthquake belongs to between 225 and 215 BC. I would suggest that the slight differences in the accounts are just part of how history was done back then, including the lack of clarity in Thucydides who plainly says numerous earthquakes, and then “at the time when these earthquakes prevailed”, suggesting a build-up. That does not exclude an earthquake for the later period proposed by archaeologists,12 it just means that we are here dealing with multiple earthquakes from the beginning.

Additionally, considering the amount of detail that Thucydides gives about this earthquake, it is likely that he was referring to it as well in the passage where he describes the the Spartan high admiral Astyochus sacking the island of Cos:

As he coasted along he made a descent on the island of Cos Meropis3. The city was unfortified and had been overthrown by an earthquake, the greatest which has ever happened within our memory. The citizens had fled into the mountains; so he sacked the town and overran and despoiled the country, but let go the free inhabitants whom he found. (8.41)

Considering the extent and destruction of the 426 earthquake and tsunami, this must have been what Thucydides was referring to in retrospect.

  1. Susan I. Rotroff, John Howard Oakley, Debris from a Public Dining Place in the Athenian Agora, 1992, p. 54-57

  2. Evelpidou N et al. “Holocene emergence in Euboea island (Greece)”, Marine Geology 295-298 (2012) 14–19

  3. In the winter of 412-411, the Spartan high admiral Astyochus sacked the island of Cos, an ally of Athens, taking advantage of the fact that it had been completely destroyed by an earthquake. His arrival was followed by the recovery of the whole Island.

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