21st July 365 AD:- Massive Earthquake Hit Crete

The AD 365 Crete earthquake was an undersea earthquake that occurred at about sunrise on 21 July 365 in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an assumed epicentre near Crete. Geologists today estimate the quake to have been 8 on the Richter Scale or higher, causing widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Sicily. In Crete, nearly all towns were destroyed.


Raised beach 2 km west of Paleochora showing wave-cut notch and sea caves uplifted by about 9 m during the earthquake. photo by Mikenorton via Wikipedia

The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, particularly Libya, Alexandria and the Nile Delta, killing thousands and hurling ships nearly two miles inland. The quake left a deep impression on the late antique mind, and numerous writers of the time referred in their works to the event.

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus described in detail the tsunami hitting Alexandria and other places in the early hours of 21 July AD 365. His account is particularly noteworthy for clearly distinguishing the three main phases of a tsunami, namely an initial earthquake, the sudden retreat of the sea and an ensuing gigantic wave rolling inland. Read his account of events here.

The tsunami in AD 365 was so devastating that the anniversary of the disaster was still commemorated annually at the end of the 6th century in Alexandria as a “day of horror”.

If you would like to learn more:-

  • 365 Crete earthquake  Wikipedia                                                    
  • The survivors of a tsunami that killed thousands living on the shores of the Mediterranean in AD 365 called it the “day of horror”. Worryingly, history may be due to repeat itself, say geologists who have located the source of the wave.
    New Scientist News (2008 article)

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15 Responses to 21st July 365 AD:- Massive Earthquake Hit Crete

  1. Rebekah says:

    Wow … that’s really interesting reading. That’s somewhere around the same magnitude as the one in Japan, not long ago and the one outside Java 2006 was supposedly around 7.7. Horrible, scary stuff.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Rebekah,
      I’m very happy to hear that you enjoyed the read, I realize there are not a lot of people that are into history, but I find incredible what has actually happened in our past, and some of it of course not that much different than things that happen in the 21st century.

      • Rebekah says:

        I used to say that I wasn’t interested in history [which is a stupid thing to say in the first place], but I think that was because they didn’t manage to make it interesting in school. Back then, it was mainly about learning years and old kings ‘n stuff. I’ll always remember 1066 but I hardly know anything about what really happened in the battle of Hastings..

        • magsx2 says:

          I totally agree with you on that. There was so many things I wanted to know about, that just was not taught at school, as I got a bit older, I went to Library’s (no computers back then 🙂 ) to find out different things. I would see something in a documentary and go and find out more. My favorite thing I always loved to research was Ancient Egypt, and it still is today, although now it is a lot easier. 🙂

  2. souldipper says:

    Living on the West Coast of Canada, I sometimes wonder where we would ever be considered “safe”. One year I worked inland, in the far north of Canada. I thought how it would be good to be out of the earthquake zone. That Christmas, near Yukon, we sat out a 6.5 earthquake with the epicenter even further north of us in the Northwest Territories.

    The worst thing we can do is live in fear.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi souldipper,
      “The worst thing we can do is live in fear”.
      That is so true. There are fault lines all over the world, and it’s no use worrying over it, it will not change anything.

  3. Selma says:

    What strikes me is how long the event was commemorated. It really must have been quite horrendous. There is so much seismic activity out there, you just never know what’s going to happen. I try not to think about so I don’t get too freaked out!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Selma,
      It was more than horrendous, originally people that began studying this, thought that it was 1 big earthquake that hit the Mediterranean, it was known as the Universal Event, but historians started to doubt this because it just covered too big an area. To cut a long story short, after many years they finally worked it all out, there had been 7 earthquakes before 365 and 3 after 365. In just on 12 years there was 11 earthquakes, so you can imagine the panic, the devastation, these events would of caused, and of course the massive tsunami’s that followed that hit Egypt (Alexandria) and Libya. If I remember correctly I think one of those earthquakes hit in Libya, but I can’t be certain.

  4. travelrat says:

    It’s odd that this event isn’t more widely publicised … we know about the devastation caused by eruptions of Santorini and Vesuvius through countless TV documentaries. Mind you, who knew about the eathquake on Kefalonia of the 50s, until it was mentioned in the novel ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’?

    While I’m all for research into what happened, I’m wondering if scientists are doing the best service by doom-saying and predicting the ‘next big thing’ without any really hard evidence that it’s going to happen?

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi travelrat,
      I agree, I don’t think they can actually predict earthquakes yet really, it is always best guess. In cases like this, they write these guesses down, and keep studying the areas, and I don’t know how it all happens, but media gets hold of it and then it all gets blown out of proportion. I assume this is what happens in a lot of cases. (My best guess 🙂 )

      • travelrat says:

        I know it’s possible to predict the eruption of a volcano a few days in advance, but I don’t know about earthquakes. I have heard that it’s possible that birds, dogs and other animals can sense it’s going to happen, though?

        • magsx2 says:

          I have also heard about that. I remember reading (I can’t recall which newspaper) that a whole neighborhood of dogs started barking a few hours before an earthquake hit, they seem to be able to sense it somehow. The other animals might sense it in the same type of way. Maybe one day they will work out how to predict an earthquake, although they cannot stop it from happening it certainly would save a lot of lives.

  5. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    How terrifying for the people who lived through this – no warning systems, no preparation. Must have seemed like Hell visiting earth. I forget how lucky I am living in a state where there are few natural disasters waiting for us. But then, we do have this looney governor and legislators.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Snoring Dog Studio,
      I have never been in an earthquake, but i can imagine how frightening it must be, knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I get that feeling when we have our really bad summer storms here, that rip out trees, demolish homes etc.
      ‘Looney governor and legislators”. That is about the same for so many around the world I feel. 🙂

  6. I think it’s fascinating how scientists can piece history together. With my youngest son planning to move to California, I am trying hard not to worry about him experiencing earthquakes! Hopefully the “Big One” is a very long time from now, but I don’t want to find out. Yup, “The worst thing we can do is live in fear.”

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