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Poirier and Taher (1980b)

Earthquake Catalog


A catalog of historical seismicity from the VIIth to the XVIIIth century A.D. was compiled from Arabic documents (many of which are unpublished manuscripts) for the near and Middle East, and in a lesser measure, for North Africa and Spain.In most cases, detailed descriptions have allowed us to assign Modified Mercalli intensities to the shocks for the localities where they were reported. The detailed chronology of a protracted episode of seismicity in northern Syria between 1156 and 1159 is given shock by shock from the relation of a Damascus chronicler.


We have abundant information on earthquakes felt in Syria and Palestine from the VIIth to the XIVth century included but none at all from the XVth to the XVIIIth century. It is not likely that there were no earthquakes during that period, especially since earlier chroniclers often recorded slight shocks from distant seisms. It seems more probable that earthquakes ceased being recorded due to the low level of cultural life in Damascus under Mamluk and Ottoman rule.

We list here the best known of the chroniclers and historians who provided the bulk of our information.

at Tabari, Baghdad (839 to 922)
Ibn al Qalanisi, Damascus (1073 to 1160)
Ibn al Djawzi, Baghdad (1116 to 1201)
Sibt Ibn al Djawzi, Baghdad (1186 to 1257) (grandson of the above)
Ibn al Athir, Mosul (1160 to 1233)
al Maqrizi, Cairo (1360 to 1442)
As Suyuti, Cairo (1455 to 1505).

The only published chronology of seisms in the near and Middle East has been as far the one compiled from earlier sources by As Suyuti, an Egyptian polygrapher. As Suyuti's work on earthquakes (Kashf as Salsala an wasf az zalzala) was translated by Sprenger in 1843 from a manuscript in Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Ambraseys (1962) checked his dates against another manuscript of the same work (in the British Museum, London) which he had translated (Ambraseys, 1962). We have used here the Paris manuscript (BN 4658) which bears additions (by 'abd al Qadir alb Shadhili) extending the chronology of seisms in Cairo beyond 1505 A.D. (As Suyuti's death). These additions had apparently been neglected by Sprenger, but appear in the recent translation by Said Nejjar (1973). Most of our sources are the original sources used by As Suyuti; our chronology confirms As Suyuti's and adds new details on the seisms he had reported. Moreover, we list here about 100 seisms not reported by As Suyuti (in all fairness to this author, we must mention that 25 of these were after his death!). Some of the sources we have used were eyewitnesses to the earthquakes they reported. Thus, we have a shock by shock description of the 1156 to 1159 A.D. seismic episode in the Orontes Valley as felt in Damascus by Ibn al Qalanisi (Table 2 and Figure 2) and an eyewitness description by al Bidiri of the damage caused in Damascus by the great 1759 earthquakes (Taher, 1979).


In making a chronological list of the seisms from data culled from various documents, we met the usual problem of the reliability of the information, especially about the date, when the seism was reported by travelers from a distant country or when the account was written much later. Earthquakes usually do not go unnoticed or unreported (if they are large), but they may be reported twice: e.g., the seism of 1068 which affected Israel, Arabia, and Egypt was reported by Ibn al Qalanisi to have occurred on Tuesday 10 Jumada I, 460 H (Hegira) and later on Tuesday 11 Jumada I 462 H by Ibn al Djawzi. The data cannot be correct for both years and in fact is correct only for 460 H; the earlier account was more trustworthy. Later texts take both reports into account and quote two seisms instead of one (As Suyuti in Ambraseys, 1961). We adopted as a rule of thumb, to be wary when great seisms were reported by different authors to have occurred in the same area at dates differing only by a few years, when the day of the month were the same and/or the detailed descriptions of the same damage were too similar (same anecdotes, same wording, etc.). Another example of the case in point is a seism in Hulwan around 958 A.D. which was probably reported three times [see (a) Table 1]. In similar cases, we usually retained only the date of the earlier account. Another source of errors il-)ut in the opposite direction) lies in the frequent habit of chroniclers to report in to an underestimation of the number of seisms and an overestimation of their In such cases, we could do no more than exert our own judgment; if we felt that there was not the least evidence for simultaneity, we listed several seisms (repeating the date, in Table 1).

An earthquake catalog is useful only if one knows where the reported seisms have been felt and not only when. Identification of the mentioned localities is therefore an important problem. In some cases, there is in fact no problem. If the names */ the places have not changed since the date of the report (e.g., Baghdad, Jerusalem, we then adopted the Times Atlas of the World (1968) spelling, using the best-kno wn* english equivalent when available (e.g., Damascus instead of ash Sham, Antk ieb instead of Antakya, or Cairo instead of Misr). In many cases, the reported naafi were those in usage many centuries ago for cities or towns which still exist and modern name (e.g., the Greek city Edessa, near the upper Euphrates, be can cameo. Ruha and finally Urfa); we then listed the modern names. Finally there are ails where, once thriving provinces or cities have entirely disappeared centuries ago have not even left a trace in the modern toponymy; such, e.g., was the fate ( Dinawar, Siraf, or Hulwan in Persia or of Tinis in Egypt. The difficulty the h compounded by the fact that distant modern unrelated cities sometimes bear name which would have a similar rendition in Arabic script (e.g., Halvan or Tunie). This can also lead to overestimation of the intensity, as when an earthquake h Palestine is thought to have made 4,500 victims in Tunis instead of Tinis. We could locate all but a few localities with the help of the Atlas of Islamic History of Hazard (1954) and the works of Le Strange (1890), Dussaud (1927), and Hertzfeld (1968). We then gave the approximate geographic coordinates of the places.

Catalog (Google Sheet)

Catalog from paper

*References of Sources

(1) Al Biruni Abu al Rayhan Mohamet
·	"Al Athar al Baqiya 'An alqoron al Khaliya", edited by Sachau, Leipzig, 1923.
·	"Tandid Nihayat al Amain li-tashili masaffit al-masain", edited by B. Bolgakof, 
	review of the Arabic league for Arabic manuscripts, May-Nov. 1962.
(2) Ibn Al Djawzi 'Abd-ar-Rahman
·	"Shudhur al'oqod fi Ather al'ohod" Egyptian library manuscript 994 Tarikh.
·	Al modehish fi al Mohadrat" Egyptian library manuscript B 23054.
·	"Al montazam", Hyderabad ad Dakan, 1357 H.

(3) Ibn Al Qasim Yihya
·	"Anba'al zaman fi Tarikh Abna' al-yaman" Egyptian library manuscript 17075 H.
·	"Ghayat al amany fi akhbar al-qotr al yamani", edited by Said Ashor dar al Katib Cairo, 1968.

(4),(5) Al Ispahani Hamza
·	"Tarikh sini mulak al-ard", Leipzig, 1944.

(6) Al Dhahabi Abu 'Abdalah Mohamet
·	"Tarikh al Islam" vol. 1-5 published by al Qodsi, 1369 H and Egyptian library manuscript 1452 Tarikh.
·	"Dowal al Islam", Hyderabad ad Dakan, 1233 H.
·	"Al eber fi khabar man ghabar", edited by Salah al Menagid, Kuwait, 1966.

(7) Ibn Al Athir Abu Hassan 'Ali
·	"Al Kamil fi at Tarikh", edited by Tornberg, Leyden, 1851-1876.
·	"al Tarikh al Bahir fi ad Dawla al Atabikya", edited by Tolymat, Cairo, 1963.

(8) At Tabari Abii Djafar Mohamet
·	"Tarikh at Tabary", edited by De Golfe, Leyden, 1879-1901.

(9)	Ibn Aybak Ad Dawadary Abil Bakr
·	"Kanz ad Durar wa Djami' al Ghurar" Egyptian library manuscript 2578,4643 Tarikh.

(10) Ibn Al'imad Al Hanbali Abu al Falah
·	"Shadharat adh Dhahab fi Akhbar man Dhahab", published by al Qodsi, 1351 H.

(11)	Al Ya'qobi Ahmed
·	"Tarikh al Ya'qobi", Beirut, 1960.

12),(13) Ibn Abi Zar' Abil Hassan 'Ali
·	"Al'Anis al Motrib bi Rawd al Qortas if akhbar molouk fas", edited by Mohamet al Hashimi al
	filali, Rabat, Morocco.
(14) Ibn 'Adhari Ahmed
·	"Al Bayan al Moghrib fi Akhbar al Andolas wa al Maghrib", Beirut, 1967.

(15) Ibn Batriq Said
·	"At Tarikh al magmou'ala at Taliqiq wa tasdiq", Beirut, 1909.

(16) An Niweyri Ahmed
·	"Nihayat al Arab if funun al Asab' Egyptian library manuscript 549 Ma'ref "Ama.

(17) Ibn Taghri Bardi Youssof
·	"An Nogoum az Zahira fi Molouk misr wal Qahira", Cairo, 1939-1960.

(18) Al Mass'oudi Abu Hassan 'Ali
·	"At Tanbih wal'eshraf', edited by Abdo'lah as Sawy, Cairo, 1938.
·	"Morildj adh dhahab wa Ma'adin al djawhar", edited by Mohamet Mohyaddin abd Hamid, Baghdad.

(19) Ibn Sa'id Al Antaki Yihya
·	Edited by L. Shikho, Beirut, 1909.

(20) Al Maqrizi Ahmed Ibn'Ali
·	"Itti 'ad al Hunafa bi-akhbar al A'ima al fatimyin al Khalafa", edited by ash Shayal, Cairo.
·	"as soliik bi-ma'rifat dowal al Molouk", edited by Ziyada, Cairo, 1934-1958 and Ashor, Cairo, 1970.
·	"al Khitat", Cairo, 1953.

(21) 'Azra Hadad
·	"Rihlat Binyamin at Tutili" (561-569 H), Baghdad, 1949.

(22) Al Fariqi Ahmed Ibn Yussof
·	"Tarikh Mayafarqin", edited by Badawi'Abd al latif, Cairo, 1959.

(23) Ibn Butlan Abu al Hassan al Mukhtar
·	Cited in "Modjam al Boldan" by Yoqot al Hamidi, edited by Wiistenfeld, Leipzig, 1866-1873.

(24) Al Qalanisi Abu Ya'la Hamza
·	"Dhayl Tarikh Dimashq", edited by Amedroz, Leyden, 1908.

(25) Ar Raf i Abu al Qasim' Adb al Karim
·	"At Tadwin fi Akhbar Qaswin" Egyptian library manuscript 4276 Tarikh.

(26) Ibn Kathir Isma'il
·	Al Bidaya wa an Nihaya, Beirut, 1966.

(27) Abu Makhrma AbE Mohamet Abdo alah 
·	"Tarikh Taghr'Aden" Leyden, 1936.

(28) Ibn Rushd al Walid
·	"Talkhis Kutub Aristotalis if al Hikama" Egyptian library manuscript 5 Hikma wa Falsafa.

(29) Abii Shama Abd-ur-Rahman
·	"Adh-Dhayl 'ala arRawdatin" published under the title "Taradjim al Qarnun as Sadis wa as Sabi' al Hidjeriyn" by 'Eyzat al'Atar al Hassani, 1947.
·	"ar Rawdatin fi akbar ad Dawlatin an Norya wa as Salahiya", Cairo, 1288 H.

(30) Al Baghdadi Ibn Al Labad Abd al Latif
·	"al 'ifada wa "ftbar" published under the title "Mokhtassr Tarikh Misr" by White, London,
	1800. Reprinted with english translation, London, 1960.
(31) See (29).

(32) Al Fowati 'Abd ar-Raziq
·	"al tlawadith al djami'a wa at Tadjarob an Nafi'a fi al Mi'a as Sabi'a" edited by Mustafa
	Djawad, Baghdad, 1351 H.
(33) As Samhodi Nur ad Din 'Ali
·	"Wafa' al Wafa bi Akhbar dar al Mustafa", edited by Mohamed Mohy ad Din, Cairo, 1955.

(34) Al Kharzradji Ali ibn al Hassan
·	"al `oqod al-lo 'Lolya fi Tarikh ad Dawla ar Rasolya", Cairo, 1911.

(35) Al Qalqashandi Ahmed Ibn'Ali
·	"Sobh al A'sha fi Sina'at al "Insha"", Cairo, Ministry of Culture.
·	"Ma'ther al Inafa fi Ma'lim al Khilafa", edited by Abd as Satar faradj, Kuwait, 1964.

(36) Al Malti Abu al faradj
·	"Tarikh ad Dowal as Siryani" written by Armala as Siryani, published in the review of id
	Mashriq, March-April 1956.
(37) Al Yonini
·	"Dhayl Mirat az Zaman", Hyderabad ad Dakan.

(38) Ad Dimashqi Shaykh ar Rabwa
·	Nukhbat ad Dhar fi "Adj'ab al Bar wa al Bahr", edited by Mehren, 1966.

(39) Ibn Al Wardi 'Omar
·	"Tatimat al Mokhtaser fi Akhbar al Bashar", Cairo.

(40) Ibn Hadjar Ahmed Ibn'Ali
·	'"Ubba' al Ghomr bi Abna' al 'Omr", edited by Hassan Habashi, Cairo, 1972.

(41) See (20).

(42) Ibn 'Ivas Mohamen Ibn Ahmed
·	"Bada'i' az Zohour fi Waqa'i' ad Dohour", Cairo, 1898, edited by M. M. Ziyada, Cairo, 1960

(43) See (33).

(44) Al'Aydarous Abdal Qadir
·	"An Nour as Sof-lion Akhbar al Qarn al' Ashar", edited by M. As Safir, Baghdad, 1934.

(45) As Suyuti Djalal ad Din
·	"Hosn al Mohadra fi Tarildi Misr wa al Qahira" edited by Mohmet abii al fadl Ibrahim. Cairo, 1967.
·	"Kashf as Salsala'an Wasf az Zalzala". Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, 
	manuscrits Arabeii 4658; translated in french by Said Nejjar, Cahiers du Centre Universitaire de la Recherche Scientifique, Rabat, 1973.
(46) Al Qadri Al Hassani Mohamet
·	"Nashr al Mathani ii Ahl al Qarn al Hadi Asher wa aththani", Fez, 1315 H.

(47) Al Djazzar 'Ali
·	"Tahsin al-Mandzal min Hawl al Zalazil", edited by Mustafa Taher, Annales Islamologiques,
	Cairo, 1974.
(48) APIsbaqi Mohamet ibn abd Mo'ti 
·	"Tarikh a1 'isbaqi' Cairo, 1300 H.

(49) See (46).

(50) To (54) M. A. Taher, Textes d'histoire damascene sur les tremblements de terre du XIIe siecle de 1'Hegire. 
	Bulletin d'Etudes Orientales, Damascus, 1975.
(55) AI Yafi'i Abdo allah
·	"Mir'at al Djinan wa i'Brat al Yaizan", Hyderabad ad Dakan, 1338 H.

(56) Ibn Al Fasi Mohamet ibn Ahmed
·	"Shifa 'al gharam bi Akhbar al Balad al Harram", Gottingen, 18,57.

† From As Suyuti's Paris manuscript.
‡ From Ambrasey (1961).
§ (a)-(k), see Appendix.


Poirier, J. P. and M. A. Taher (1980). "Historical seismicity in the near and Middle East, North Africa, and Spain from Arabic documents (VIIth-XVIIIth century)." Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 70(6): 2185-2201.