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)