Geographical sites:

  • Delos (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #599587)
    Pleiades_icon Delos (settlement) settlement, pass, temple, plaza Geocontext: on Delos GRE
    Description: The ancient settlement of Delos, located on the Aegean island of the same name.


Text #3653

Herodotus. The Histories. Series: Histories. Vol. 3
[Hdt. 6.98. Translated by Alfred Denis Godley. William Heinemann; G. P. Putnam's Sons. 1922. (4 Vols.) p. 249]

This done, Datis1 sailed with his host against Eretria first, taking with him lonians and Aeolians; and after he had put out thence to sea, there was an earthquake in Delos, the first and last, as the Delians say, before my time. This portent was sent by heaven, as I suppose, to be an omen of the ills that were coming on the world.

For in three generations, that is, in the time of Darius son of Hystaspes and Xerxes son of Darius and Artoxerxes son of Xerxes, more ills befell Hellas than in twenty generations before Darius; which ills came in part from the Persians and in part from the wars for preeminence among the chief of the nations themselves. Thus it was no marvel that there should be an earthquake in Delos where none had been ere that. Also there was an oracle concerning Delos, wherein it was written :

Delos itself will I shake, that ne’er was shaken aforetime.

  1. a Persian general. [nE]

Text #3654

Guidoboni & Comastri & Traina. Catalogue of ancient earthquakes in the Mediterranean area up to the 10th century
[pp. 109--111]

In 490, shortly after a Persian attack, Delos was shaken by an earthquake. In those days, such a matter was not without importance, because Delos was renowned for the shrine of Apollo, and so held to be exempt from earthquakes, in accordance with an ancient belief recorded as early as the time of Pindar. The particular position of Delos explains why the Herodotean tradition concerning the first earthquake was refuted by Thucydides (2.8.3). He contradicts Herodotus by maintaining that the first earthquake to be felt at Delos occurred in 431 BC, shortly before the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. According to Momigliano1, Thucydides had this very passage from Herodotus in mind, and was openly contradicting him in an attempt to correct the date for the earthquake.

  1. Momigliano A. “Erodoto e Tucidide sul terremoto di Delo, SFIC 8, 1930, p. 87-89

Text #9052

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Found the following:

ΔΗΛΟΣ ἘΚΙΝΉΘΗ: An ‘Imaginary Earthquake’ on Delos in Herodotus and Thucydides1 Jeffrey S. Rusten *

Cornell University


Thucydides’ and Herodotus’ comments on a portentous (and unique) Delian earthquake contain the same phrase, but date the event almost 60 years apart and mutually rule out each other’s datings. Two additional problems in these passages – geology demonstrates that Delos has never in fact had an earthquake of any significance and κινεῖν is not the word for an earthquake – point to an explanation for the historians’ treatment. They are based on the Delphic oracle quoted by Herodotus which promised to ‘move unmoved Delos’, a paradox based on the island’s mythical transition from floating to fixed (Pindar), but liable to confusion with its equally well-known aseismicity. Normally κινεῖν τὰ ἀκίνητα is used of interfering with religious sites; but the oracle’s prediction was interpreted as an earthquake, that was assumed to have occurred in due course (although it had not). Both historians accepted the interpretation, but followed different datings since they invested it with different symbolism, Herodotus of the evils of the Persian and subsequent Greek wars, Thucydides of excited anticipation on the eve of the Peloponnesian War, since for him κίνησις meant ‘mobilization’ (1.1).


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