Geographical sites:

  • Ptolemaïs (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #678010)
    Pleiades_icon Ake/Ptolemais settlement, temple Geocontext: Tell Acco ISR
    Description: The Phoenician city of Akko was refounded by Ptolemy II Philadelphos from ca. 285-246 BC.
  • Lebanon (click here to focus in map) (see also GeoNames #272103)
    Geonames_icon Lebanon independent political entity Geocontext: Asia/Beirut


Text #4040

Strabo. Geography
[Bk. 16 Ch. 2 Verse 26 p. 273]


A marvellous occurrence of a very rare kind is reported as having taken place on this shore between Tyre and Ptolemaïs: at the time when the Ptolemaeans, after joining battle with Sarpedon the general, were left in this place, after a brilliant rout had taken place, a wave from the sea, like a flood-tide, submerged the fugitives; and some were carried off into the sea and destroyed, whereas others were left dead in the hollow places; and then, succeeding this wave, the ebb uncovered the shore again and disclosed the bodies of men lying promiscuously among dead fish. Like occurrences take place in the neighbourhood of the Mt. Casius situated near Aegypt, where the land undergoes a single quick convulsion, and makes a sudden change to a higher or lower level, the result being that, whereas the elevated part repels the sea and the sunken part receives it, yet, the land makes a reverse change and the site resumes its old position again, a complete interchange of levels sometimes having taken place and sometimes not. Perhaps such disturbances are subject to periodic principles unknown to us, as is also should be the case of the overflows of the Nile, which prove to be variant but follow some unknown order.

Text #8737

Athenaeus. The Deipnosophistae
[Bk. 8 Ch. 0 pp. 13--15]

I know also that Poseidonius the Stoic speaks of a great quantity of fishes in these words: “When Tryphon of Apameia1 who had seized the kingdom of Syria, was attacked near the city of Ptolemais by Sarpedon, Demetrius’s2 general, the latter was defeated and forced to retreat into the interior with his troops. Tryphon’s army were marching along the coast after their victory in the battle, when suddenly a wave from the ocean lifted itself to an extraordinary height and dashed upon the shore, engulfing all the men and drowning them beneath the waters. And when the wave receded it left behind a huge pile of fishes among the dead bodies. The followers of Sarpedon, hearing of this disaster, came up and gloated over the bodies of their enemies, while they also carried away an abundance of fish and offered sacrifice to Poseidon, god of the rout, near the suburbs of the city.”

  1. Diodotus Tryphon [nE]

  2. Demetrius II Nicator [nE]

Text #4041

Ambraseys. Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East

Following the battle between Tryphon and Sarpedon, while the latter was marching with his army along the coast of Lebanon, a sea wave flooded the shore between Ptolemais (Acre) and Sidon, engulfing and drowning his men. Strabo says that when the water receded it left behind a pile of fish among the dead bodies. This battle probably took place about six years after Alexander Balas’ death in 145 BC (Clinton 1830, v, 327). However, the sequence of events for the years following Alexander’s death would put the event between 138 and 125 BC (Pauly, W iv, 2, col. 2800). There is no evidence that this event was connected with an earthquake.

The flood wave of 139 BC on the coast of Lebanon is another example for which the sources do not mention an earthquake. Yet again, modern writers assign it to no only a seismic origin, but also a magnitude of M 7.0 (Ben-Menahem 1979, 286). Assuming that such a large event in fact occurred, it should have caused havoc in the coastal area of southern Lebanon and Palestine, for which there is not a hint in the sources.

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