Geographical sites:

  • Hiera (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #573252)
    Pleiades_icon Hiera island Geocontext: same as Kalaureia?
    Description: An ancient place, cited: BAtlas 58 unlocated Hiera Ins.
  • Chalcis (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #540703)
    Pleiades_icon Chalcis settlement Geocontext: Khalkis, formerly Negroponte
    Description: An ancient place, cited: BAtlas 55 F4 Chalcis
  • Rhodes (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #590031)
    Pleiades_icon Rhodos (island) island Description: The island of Rhodes has an area of some 1,400 square km and sits 18 km from the coast of Asia Minor. The island has been inhabited by humans since the Neolithic period.
  • Syria (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #29492)
    Pleiades_icon (As)Syria region Geocontext: Barrington Atlas grid 3 C2
    Description: An ancient place, cited: BAtlas 3 C2 (As)Syria


Text #4007

Strabo. Geography
[Strab. 1.3.16. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. Harvard University Press. 1917 p. 215]


For midway between Thera and Therasia fires broke forth from the sea and continued for four days, so that the whole sea boiled and blazed, and the fires cast up an island which was gradually elevated as though by levers and consisted of burning masses — an island with a stretch of twelve stadia in circumference. After the cessation of the eruption, the Rhodians, at the time of their maritime supremacy, were first to venture upon the scene and to erect on the island a temple in honour of Poseidon Asphalios. And in Phoenicia, says Poseidonius, on the occasion of an earthquake, a city situated above Sidon was swallowed up, and nearly two-thirds of Sidon itself was engulfed too, but not all at once, so that no considerable destruction of human life took place. The same operation of nature extended also over the whole of Syria, but with rather moderate force; and it also passed over to certain islands, both the Cyclades and Euboea, with the result that the fountains of Arethusa1 were stopped up, though after many days they gushed up at another mouth, and the island did not cease from being shaken in some part or other until a chasm in the earth opened in the Lelantine Plain and vomited forth a river of fiery lava.

  1. A spring in Chalcis. [nE]

Text #8724

Seneca. Natural Questions. Series: The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca
[Sen. 2.26.4--2.26.5. Translated by Harry M. Hine. The University of Chicago Press. 2010 pp. 174--175]

Within our ancestors’ memory, as Posidonius records, when an island was rising up in the Aegean sea, during the daytime the sea foamed, and smoke rose up from the depths, but it was only nighttime that revealed the fire. This was not continuous, but flashed at intervals, like lightning-bolts, whenever the subterranean heat had overcome the weight of water that lay above it. Then stones and rocks were hurled out, some of them intact, expelled by breath before they were burnt, some of them eaten away and rendered as light as pumice. Finally the tip of a burnt mountain emerged; afterward its height increased, and the rock grew to the size of an island. The same happened within our memory in the second consulship of Valerius Asiaticus.1

  1. In 46 AD.

Text #8725

Seneca. Natural Questions. Series: The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca
[Sen. 6.17.3. Translated by Harry M. Hine. The University of Chicago Press. 2010 p. 101]

The truth of this account is demonstrated by the following evidence too: often after an earthquake has occurred, if part of the earth’s surface has been split open, a wind has blown from it for several days. That is what is reported to have happened in the earthquake that affected Chalcis.1 You will find in Asclepiodotus, a student of Posidonius [in these very causes of natural questions], and you will find in other writers, too, that the earth gaped open at one point, and a wind blew from there for a considerable time. It had presumably made for itself the channel through which it issued.

  1. This Chalcis may have been Chalcis-on-Belus in northern Syria. Note that Strabo does not name the city when he says “in Phoenicia, says Poseidonius, on the occasion of an earthquake, a city situated above Sidon was swallowed up” followed by “The same operation of nature extended also over the whole of Syria”. [nE]

Text #8726

Pliny. Natural History. Series: Natural History. Vol. 1
[Plin. Nat. 2.88--2.89. Translated by H. Rackham. Harvard University Press. 1967. (10 Vols.) p. 333]

88 New lands are also formed in another way, and suddenly emerge in a different sea, nature as it were balancing accounts with herself and restoring in another place what an earthquake has engulfed.

89 The famous islands of Delos and Rhodes are recorded in history as having been born from the sea long ago, and subsequently smaller ones, Anaphe beyond Melos, Neae between Lemnos and the Dardanelles, Halone between Lebedos and Teos, Thera and Therasia among the Cyclades in the 4th year of the 145th Olympiad1; also in the same group Hiera, which is the same as Automate, 130 years later2; and 2 stades from Hiera, Thia 110 years later3, in our age, on July 8 in the year of the consulship of Marcus Junius Silanus and Lucius Balbus4.

  1. 197 BC. “The 4th year of the 145th Olympiad” is an emendation for “the 4th year of the 135th Olympiad” i.e. 237 BC. Although this is still nonsensical, it does have the virtue of introducing the date of 197 BC into Pliny’s narrative. For one can argue that Pliny was indeed aware of the emergence of a landmass in this region of the Cyclades in 197 B.C. but pointed incorrectly to Thera and Therasia, leading him to misdate the emergence of Hiera-Automate, which is more probably the landmass that emerged in the Theran caldera ca 197 B.C. [nE]

  2. 67 BC or 107 BC [nE]

  3. 43 AD or 3 AD [nE]

  4. 19 AD. [nE]

Text #8729

Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. 5
[Plut. 399. Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt. Harvard University Press. 1962. (15 Vols.) p. 287]

The Oracles at Delphi

And then again these lines about the island which the sea cast up in front of Thera and Therasia, a and also about the war of Philip and the Romans :

But when the offspring of Trojans shall come to be in ascendant
Over Phoenicians in conflict, events shall be then beyond credence ;
Ocean shall blaze with an infinite fire, and with rattling of thunder
Scorching blasts through the turbulent waters shall upward be driven ;
With them a rock, and the rock shall remain firm fixed in the ocean,
Making an island by mortals unnamed ; and men who are weaker
Shall by the might of their arms be able to vanquish the stronger.

The fact is that these events, all occurring within a short space of time – the Romans’ prevailing over the Carthaginians by overcoming Hannibal in war, Philip’s coming into conflict with the Aetolians and being overpowered by the Romans in battle, and finally an island’s rising out of the deep accompanied by much fire and boiling surge – no one could say that they all met together at the same time and coincided by chance in an accidental way ; no, their order makes manifest their prognostication, and so also does the foretelling to the Romans, some five hundred years beforehand, of the time when they should be at war with all the nations of the world at once : this was their war with their slaves, who had rebelled.

Text #8730

Pausanias. Description of Greece. Series: Description of Greece. Vol. 1
[Paus. 8.33.4. Translated by W. H. S. Jones. Harvard University Press. 1918. (6 Vols.)]


The following incident proves the might of fortune to be greater and more marvellous than is shown by the disasters and prosperity of cities. No long sail from Lemnos was once an island Chryse, where, it is said, Philoctetes met with his accident from the water-snake. But the waves utterly overwhelmed it, and Chryse sank and disappeared in the depths. Another island called Hiera (Sacred) . . . was not during this time. So temporary and utterly weak are the fortunes of men.

Text #8723

Justin. Epitome of the Phillippic History of Pompeius Trogus
[Bk. 30 Ch. 4 ]


In the same year a concussion of the earth happened between the islands Thera and Therasia, in the midst of the sea at an equal distance from either shore, where, to the astonishment of those that were sailing past, an island rose suddenly from the deep, the water being at the same time hot. In Asia too, on the same day, the same earthquake shattered Rhodes, and many other cities, with a terrible ruin; some it swallowed up entire. As all men were alarmed at this prodigy, the soothsayers predicted that “the rising power of the Romans would swallow up the ancient empire of the Greeks and Macedonians.1

  1. One suspects that Justin was confused about an earthquake shattering Rhodes since the report was apparently derived from that of Posidonius, possibly via Strabo, and Posidonius lived in Rhodes; Strabo reported a city in Asia being swallowed up and mentions nothing of Rhodes being “shattered.” [nE]

Text #8728

Jerome. "Chronicle"
[p. 220]


198 BC Near Thera, an island appeared which is called Hiera.

Text #8727

Forsyth. "After the Big Bang". Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies
[pp. 191--204]

Pliny, a third source for this volcanic event, is, unfortunately, chronologically chaotic. At HN 2.202 in recording the emergence of islands from the sea, he mentions such ‘examples’ as Delos, Rhodes, Anaphe, Neae, Halone, and “Thera and Therasia among the Cyclades in the 4th year of the 135th Olympiad; also in the same group Hiera, also known as Automate, 130 years later. … “ The assertion that Thera and Therasia emerged from the sea in 237 B.C. is patently absurd. Yet this ‘event’ is said to have been followed by the emergence of “Hiera-Automate” in 107 B.C.

Editors of Pliny have attempted to alleviate this confusion by emending the “4th year of the 135 th Olympiad” to the “4th year of the 145th Olympiad,” thereby having Thera and Therasia ‘emerge’ in 197 B.C. Although this is still nonsensical, it does have the virtue of introducing the date of 197 B.C. into Pliny’s narrative. It thus becomes possible to salvage something from the text: for one can argue that Pliny was indeed aware of the emergence of a landmass in this region of the Cyclades in 197 B.C. but pointed incorrectly to Thera and Therasia, leading him to misdate the emergence of Hiera-Automate, which is more probably the landmass that emerged in the Theran caldera ca 197 B.C. This explanation seems supported by HN 4.70, in which Pliny writes of Thera, called Calliste when it first emerged, Therasia, which afterwards was torn away from it, and inter duas the soon born Automate, also called Hiera. The general sequence of events seems correct, even if the dates are not; thus Pliny’s text, despite its chronological problems, is valuable for providing the actual name of the first island to rise out of the caldera: Hiera, or Automate. Moreover, like Strabo and Seneca, Pliny leads his reader to believe that this island still existed in his own day, as Plutarch confirms. …

The data provided by the ancient sources suggest the following reconstruction of the history of Hiera: its birth was marked by a subaerial eruption that took place in the caldera in the 145th Olympiad, perhaps in 198 or 197 B.C.; over the four days of this eruption the island grew into a landmass with a perimeter of ca 2.2 km; Rhodian sailors were eye-witnesses to this event, and not only erected a shrine to Poseidon on the new island, but also carried the news of its existence back to Rhodes; the island continued to exist into the eighth century, when it was in fact enlarged by another eruption. There is no reliable ancient evidence that Hiera was submerged or disappeared in GrecoRoman antiquity.

Seneca (Q Nat 2.26.4ff) attests that at least one other volcanic landmass appeared in the Theran caldera during the Julio-Claudian period: immediately after describing Posidonius’ second-century B.C event, Seneca adds that” the same thing happened again in our own time [nostra memoria] during the second consulship of Valerius Asiaticus” (in 46). This assertion is indeed repeated a second time at Q Nat 6.21.1: “Does anyone doubt that air brought Thera and Therasia into the light of day, as well as that island which in our own time was born before our very eyes [spectantibus nobis] in the Aegean Sea?” Although Seneca does not provide a name for this new island, he clearly speaks with great certainty about an event that took place during his own lifetime.

Whereas Seneca seems clear and precise, another source for this eruption, Pliny’s confused text (H N 2.202), places the emergence of an island he calls Thia 110 years after the creation of Hiera (in 67 B.C), i.e., in A.D. 43; he then contradicts himself by placing the emergence of Thia in the consulship of M. Junius Silanus and L. Balbus, i.e., in A.D. 19. Pliny’s text, in fact, gives rise to the theory that two distinct volcanic events took place in the caldera during the first century-one in 19, the other in the reign of Claudius.

The evidence for an event in 19, however, is extremely weak. Not only is its source the garbled text of Pliny, but Pliny even seems to contradict himself again by stating that the emergence of Thia took place “in our age” [in nostro aevo], a rather curious assertion for a person who lived from A.D. 28 to 79. In fact, Pliny repeats this assertion at H N 4.70, where he writes that Thia “emerged near the same islands [i. e., Thera, Thcrasia, and Automate/Hiera] in our own time [in nostro aevo],” a statcment that would make much more sense if referring to an event during the reign of Claudius.

Though Pliny’s text is chronologically nonsensical if taken at face value, there is a noteworthy mathematical progression to be found in it. If one counts the years elapsing between the Theran island of ca 197 B.C. and that of ca A.D. 46, one arrives at a figure of ca 243 years-a figure very close to the 240 years (130 + 110) recorded by Pliny (HN 2.202). It is thus plausible to argue that Pliny was aware that (1) two volcanic islands had emerged in the Theran caldera, and (2) approximately 240 years had separated these events. …

Cassius Dio and Philostratus are also pertinent. Dio notes (61.29.7) that “this year [apparently A.D. 47] a small islet, hitherto unknown, made its appearance close to the island of Thera.” This unnamed [small islet] is apparently the same island mentioned by Philostratus VA 4.34: Apollonius was in Crete when an earthquake and seismic sea wave struck the coast at Leben; to calm the populace, Apollonius told them to be of good courage, “for the sea has given birth and brought forth land.” Philostratus then goes on to record: “After a few days some travellers arrived from Cydoniatis and announced that on the very day on which this portent occurred and just at the same hour of midday, an island rose out of the sea in the firth between Thera and Crete” (Loeb translation). Given that Philostratus next refers to Apollonius moving on to Rome during the reign of Nero, it seems likely that the unnamed island born near Thera must that of ca 46. …

Eusebius provides the additional information that, during the reign of Claudius, an island of thirty stades … arose between Thera and Therasia. The Armenian version likewise records that in the fifth year of the reign of Claudius inter Theram et Therasiam exorta est insula fere stadiis XXX; similarly, Jerome refers to the emergence of an island habens stadia XXX during the reign of Claudius. Here, for the first time, the size of the new landmass is recorded, and the figure of thirty stades will be repeated in such later sources as Oras. 7.6, Cassiod. Chron. 656, Syncellus Ec. Chron. 630, and Cedrenus Ann. 347….

Aurelius Victor provides another new piece of evidence about the event of 46 (Caes. 4): in the reign of Claudius in Aegaeo mari repente insula ingens emersit nocte, qua defectus lunae acciderat. As usual, the new island is not named, but the adjective ingens seems to agree with Eusebius’ thirty stades (perhaps influenced by that source), and the island is said to have emerged during a lunar eclipse. We do know that such an eclipse took place during the night of 31 December 46 (Fouque) - an explanation of why the dates of 46 and 47 both appear in our ancient sources….

[A]lthough our theoretical composite island with a perimeter of 5,600 m. is ca 2,000 m. larger than the present-day Palaea Kameni, there is strong evidence that Palaea Kameni lost a significant amount of land in 1457. An inscription of 1457, as recorded by ROSS,[…] addressed to Duke Francesco Crispo II, attests that in 1457 a large portion of Palaea Kameni collapsed into the caldera bay. The site provides evidence of this catastrophe, for the island features a steep cliff in its southern half, facing Nea Kameni; in general appearance this cliff looks very much like a collapse structure…

Text #9202

Guidoboni & Comastri & Traina. Catalogue of ancient earthquakes in the Mediterranean area up to the 10th century
[pp. 92--94]

Posidonius adds that around the time of the eruption, earthquakes were felt in the Sidon area, Syria, Phoenicia. Furthermore, an earthquake caused a temporary interruption in the flow of a spring at Chalcis in the island of Euboea. This is probably the same event mentioned by Seneca when he records an earthquake at Chalcis, within the context of a consideration of the causes of earthquakes.

There is a substantial collection of inscriptions from Rhodes, Caria, and the islands of Samos and Calymna, dating in general to the 2nd century BC, which may refer to this event. An inscription from Camirus, in the south of Rhodes, refers to the reconstruction of the walls and towers of the town which collapsed as a result of the earthquake. Another inscription from south of the city of Rhodes records the rebuilding of the enclosure and the erection of monuments to those who fell in the earthquake. Inscriptions from the island of Kalymnos, north of Rhodes, refer to successive earthquakes on the island between August and September. Another inscription, dated to 201-197 BC, records the generous work of a doctor when an earthquake struck the island of Samos. Other inscriptions, dated to the 2nd century, from the mainland, dated to 199–198 BC, show that the walls of Panamara were damaged by the earthquake and repaired and that Iasus also was affected. An inscription from the sanctuary of Didyma near Miletus, dates to the last quarter of the 2nd century BC, mentions the fear of the people when earthquake struck nearby cities.

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