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Cyril Quakes

May 18 and 19 363 AD

by Jefferson Williams

Introduction & Summary

The Cyril Quake was likely a pair of strong earthquakes; one with a northern epicenter and another with a southern epicenter with the southern quake striking first (see Ghor-es-Safi in Archaeoseismic evidence). Ambraseys (2009), states that the first earthquake occurred on the night of Sunday May 18, 363 AD and the second quake followed on Monday May 19, 363 AD [1]. Ambraseys (2009) and Kagan et. al. (2011) suggest there were two earthquakes instead of one because it seems unlikely that one earthquake could be responsible for so much apparent damage over such a broad area. Damage reports extend from southern to northern Palestine and from the Mediterranean coast to Petra with one author (Libanius - see Notes) mentioning damage in Syria.

Although damage may have been over reported due to a theological agenda of the writers and/or appeals for rebuilding funds, archeoseismic evidence supports widespead destruction. The primary historical sources for this earthquake were Christian theologians and apologists writing after a time of great strife. In 363 AD, Julian the Apostate was the Roman Emperor. He had renounced Christianity as the state religion and allowed the Jews of Israel to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem which had been destroyed in 70 AD. However, right when they were about to start work on the foundation of the Temple, the earthquakes of 18 and 19 May 363 AD wrecked their efforts. Then Julian died a month later in June of 363 AD. Christian writers at the time took these as a sign of God's intent; i.e. displeasure with Julian as an Emperor and displeasure with Jewish efforts to rebuild the Temple which they thought was accursed. Reporting surrounding the earthquake appears to contain embellishments such as crosses appearing in the sky and on the bodies and clothes of bystanders, mysterious fires (also reported by the Pagan author Ammianus Marcellinus), and invisible forces keeping those working on the Temple project from leaving their homes (Cain and Lenski, 2009). Guidoboni et. al. (1994) (citing Brock(1977), p. 267) notes that such details suggest oral transmission. It can also be suggested that these written accounts were aggrandized to support the controlling narrative of the triumph of Christianity. Furthermore, Ambraseys (2009) suggests that some of the contemporaneous and later writers may have conflated effects of the Crete Earthquake of 365 AD with the Cyril Quakes.

Several catalogs report a seiche in the southern Dead Sea; apparently based on the writings of Jerome. Russell (1980) examined the passage by Jerome and could not come to a conclusion whether Jerome was reporting a legitimite oral tradition emanating from the town of Areapolis or whether Jerome was conflating widespread Eastern Mediterranean tsunamis from the 365 AD Crete earthquake with the effects of the Cyril Quake(s). Both are possible. The textual accounts list numerous towns overthrown by the earthquake as well as an extended period of aftershocks following the main shocks.

Textual Evidence

The primary authors for these earthquakes are listed below:
Letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem
4th hymn against Julian by Ephrem Syrus
Fifth Oration Against the Pagans by Gregory of Nazianzusa
Artemii passio
Res Gestae by Ammianus Marcellinus
Commentariorum In Esaiam by Jerome
Additional authors and longer passages from the primary authors are in the Notes section. Jump links to the authors in Notes are provided below:
Letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem
Historia Ecclesiastica by Socrates Scholasticus
Ecclesiastical History by Theodoret of Cyrus
Chronicon anonymum ad annum 724
Chronicon anonymum ad annum 846
Annals Part I by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre
Chronicle by Michael the Syrian
Chronicon anonymum ad annum 1234
Julian Romance
Commentariorum In Esaiam (Isaiah) by Jerome
Ecclesiastical History by Sozomen
Other sources

Letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril was the Bishop of Jerusalem when the earthquake(s) of 363 AD struck. After the earthquake, Cyril or someone writing later in his name (i.e. attributed authorship) wrote a letter describing the earthquake and it's effects. This letter, originally written in Syraic, was translated by Brock(1977). Excerpts of this letter are shown below. The letter in its entirety can be found in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
On how many miracles took place when the Jews received the order to rebuild the Temple, and the signs which occurred in the region of Asia.

1 The letter, which was sent from the holy Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, concerning the Jews, when they wanted to rebuild the Temple, and (on how) the land was shaken, and mighty prodigies took place, and fire consumed great numbers of them, and many Christians (too) perished.


11 Now we should like to write down for you the names of the towns which were overthrown : Beit Gubrin—more than half of it ; part of Baishan, the whole of Sebastia and its territory (χωρα), the whole of Nikopolis and its territory (χωρα) ; more than half Lydda and its territory (χωρα) ; about half of Ashqelon, the whole of Antipatris and its territory (χωρα) ; part of Caesarea, more than half Samaria ; part of NSL', a third of Paneas", half of Azotus, part of Gophna, more than half Petra (RQM) ; Hada, a suburb of the city (Jerusalem)—more than half ; Jerusalem more than half. And fire came forth and consumed the teachers of the Jews. Part of Tiberias too, and its territory (χωρα), more than half 'RDQLY' (Areapolis or Archelais [2]Sepphoris (SWPRYN) and its territory (χωρα), 'Aina d-Gader; Haifa (? ; TAP) flowed with blood for three days ; the whole of Japho (YWPY) perished, (and) part of 'D'NWS.

12 This event took place on Monday at the third hour, and partly at the ninth hour of the night. There was great loss of life here. (It was) on 19 Iyyar of the year 674 of the kingdom of Alexander the Greek. This year the pagan Julian died, and it was he who especially incited the Jews to rebuild the Temple, since he favoured them because they had crucified Christ. Justice overtook this rebel at his death in enemy territory, and in this the sign of the power of the cross was revealed, because he had denied Him who had been hung upon it for the salvation and life of all.

All this that has been briefly written to you took place in actual fact in this way.
Cain and Lenski (2009) opine that the letter is probably not genuine and was likley composed in Syraic in the 5th century AD. However, although they doubt that Cyril was the author, they note that the letter may have been based on an earlier document written in Jerusalem due to its detailed knowledge of the topography of the city and the unique information about the actions of the Jerusalem Christian community. Brock (1977) noted that the consistency of the chronological information contained within the letter also enhances its credibility. Ambraseys (2009) and other authors convert 19 Iyyar of the year 674 of the Kingdom of Alexander the Great to Monday 19 May 363 AD. [3] Since the Greek Day began at sundown, the third hour would be roughly 9 pm and the ninth hour would be 3 am [4].

4th hymn against Julian by Ephrem Syrus

Ephrem Syrus wrote about this earthquake within a year of its occurrence (Cain and Lenski, 2009). An excerpt from Ephrem's 4th hymn against Julian (originally composed in Syraic) is shown below. The full hymn is in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
Jerusalem quaked when she saw

That her wreckers had come in again
to disturb her calm
She complained to the Most High
against them, and she was heard

Fifth Oration Against the Pagans by Gregory of Nazianzusa

Gregory of Nazianzusa (~329 AD - ~390 AD wrote about the quake within a year of its occurrence according to Cain and Lenski (2009). In the Second Invective of the Fifth Oration, Gregory writes:
they began to debate about rebuilding the Temple, and in large number and with great zeal set about the work. For the partisans of the other side report that not only did their women strip off all their personal ornaments and contribute it towards the work and operations, but even carried away the rubbish in the laps of their gowns, sparing neither the so precious clothes nor yet the tenderness of their own limbs, for they believed they were doing a pious action, and regarded everything of less moment than the work in hand. But they being driven against one another, as though by a furious blast 3 of wind, and sudden heaving of the earth, some rushed to one of the neighbouring sacred places to pray for mercy; others, as is wont to happen in such cases, made use of what came to hand to shelter themselves; others were carried away blindly by the panic, and struck against those who were running up to see what was the matter.
A larger section from the Fifth Oration is in the Notes part of this catalog entry.

Artemii passio

In Artemii passio, possibly written by John of Damascus and apparently using the lost work Ecclesiastical History by Philostorgius as a source (Levenson, 2013) we find the following passage which mentions several additional cities affected and continuing aftershocks.
It also happened that cities fell: those around Nicopolis, Neapolis, Eleutheropolis, Gaza, and many others. A stoa of Aelia, that is to say, Jerusalem, by the synagogue of the Jews, fell and killed many of those just mentioned, and fire broke out mysteriously and burned up a great number of Jews. And there was darkness in those places, and continual earthquakes wreaking much destruction in many cities.


Russell (1980) notes the apparent silence of Jewish sources on the Temple rebuilding project. Part of this may have to do with one point of view in Jewish eschatology where the Temple is not supposed to be rebuilt until the arrival of the messiah. The silence in the Jewish sources brings into question whether the Christian sources were accurate in describing the Temple rebuilding project as a largely Jewish affair. Did one faction of Judaism, perhaps swayed by national/ethnic pride seek to rebuild the Temple or did Christian theologians and apologists seek to tell a story of the triumph of Christianity over its Jewish and Pagan (represented by Julian) rivals with the assistance of God's hand in summoning an earthquake ? While we do not have an answer for this, the silence of Jewish sources does cast doubt on, at the least, the accuracy of the Christian sources on Jewish involvement and by extension the extent of damage to so many towns and villages. Russell's (1980) discussion with links to other sources is repeated below:
With the exception of two rather obtuse statements in the Palestinian Talmud attributed to R. Acha, which might have been intended as a rationale for rebuilding the Temple (see Bacher 1898), the only other Jewish accounts date to the 16th century and were obviously based upon earlier ecclesiastical sources (see Adler 1893: 642-47). The apparent correlation between the day on which the Temple project began (as given in Harvard Syriac 99) and the Jewish semifestival of Lag ba-`Omer (Brock 1976: 104; 1977: 268) makes this silence even more of an enigma.

Such considerations not withstanding, the historical "kernel of truth" for the events of 363 involves Julian's attempt to rebuild the Temple and the subsequent occurrence of a devastating earthquake. The death of Julian in the following month ushered in an unbroken line of Christian emperors to the Roman throne, and the temple project was never resumed. Whether Jews were actively involved in Julian's project, as maintained by ecclesiastical accounts. or refused to participate, as maintained by Graetz ( 1956: 597-601) and Baron (1952: 160-61) remains a moot point.

Res Gestae by Ammianus Marcellinus

Ammianus Marcellinus provides a Pagan account of events surrounding the Cyril Quakes. Although he does not mention the earthquakes, he does mention the effort to rebuild the Temple and fire bursting forth from the foundations - something which some of the more theologically minded Christian authors also mentioned. In Book XXIII Section I, we can read the following excerpt.

[Translated by C.D.YONGE]

A.D. 363.

§ 1. To pass over minute details, these were the principal events of the year. But Julian, who in his third consulship had taken as his colleague Sallustius, the prefect of Gaul, now entered on his fourth year, and by a novel arrangement took as his colleague a private individual; an act of which no one recollected an instance since that of Diocletian and Aristobulus.

2. And although, foreseeing in his anxious mind the various accidents that might happen, he urged on with great diligence all the endless preparations necessary for his expedition, yet distributing his diligence everywhere; and being eager to extend the recollection of his reign by the greatness of his exploits, he proposed to rebuild at a vast expense the once magnificent temple of Jerusalem, which after many deadly contests was with difficulty taken by Vespasian and Titus, who succeeded his father in the conduct of the siege. And he assigned the task to Alypius of Antioch, who had formerly been proprefect of Britain.

3. But though Alypius applied himself vigorously to the work, and though the governor of the province co-operated with him, fearful balls of fire burst forth with continual eruptions close to the foundations, burning several of the workmen and making the spot altogether inaccessible. And thus the very elements, as if by some fate, repelling the attempt, it was laid aside.

Commentariorum In Esaiam by Jerome

Russell (1980) examined the relevant passage in Commentariorum In Esaiam where additional earthquake damage is reported in Areapolis in Moab along with a possible seiche in the Dead Sea. Russell (1980) concluded that it was not possible to determine from the text if Jerome reported a seiche in the Dead Sea from the Cyril Quakes or if he conflated the tsunamis associated with the powerful Crete Earthquake of 365 AD with the Cyril Quake. It should be noted that mysterious Dead Sea Tsunami of 315 AD also contained a report of a Tsunami that was supposedly sourced from Areapolis.

Archaeoseismic Evidence

Archeoseismic evidence is summarized below

Location Status Intensity
Jerash indeterminate
Kadesh indeterminate
Hippos Sussita definitive
Gush Halav possible and debated
Meiron possible but debated
Khirbet Shema possible but lacking solid evidence
Beth She'arim needs investigation
en-Nabratein debated
Capernaum possible - needs investigation
Samaria-Sebaste possible
Bet She'an needs investigation
Schechem (Neapolis) definitive
Ma’ayan Barukh indeterminate
Anz needs investigation
Caesarea Maritima possible
Jerusalem - Introduction n/a n/a
Jerusalem - Robinson's Arch debated
Jerusalem - Givati Site definitive
Jerusalem - Conclusion n/a n/a
Ghor-es-Safi (ancient Zoara) definitive
Aphek-Antipatris needs investigation
Avdat/Oboda possible
Haluza possible
En Hazeva probable
Mamphis possible - epicenter to the North 9
Yotvata possible but unlikely
Petra - Introduction n/a n/a
Petra - Jabal Harun possible ≥ 8
Petra - various sites definitive ≥ 8
Aqaba/Eilat - Introduction n/a n/a
Aqaba - Aila definitive ≥ 8
Beit-Ras/Capitolias possible
Dharih possible - lacks definitive evidence
Khirbet Faynan needs investigation

Archaeoseismic Evidence is examined on a case by case basis below



Transliterated Name Language Name
Jerash English
Gérasa Greek Γέρασα
Ǧaraš Arabic جرش‎

Jerash has a long history of habitation, flourished during Greco-Roman times, appears to have been mostly abandoned in the second half of the 8th century and was sporadically reoccupied and abandoned until Ottoman times when continuous habitation began anew. It is one of the world's best preserved Greco-Roman cities and has been studied by archeologists for over a century.

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Although Ambraseys (2009) reports that there was damage to 'the cathedral' and staircase in the area of the ‘Fountain Court’ of Gerasa, which has been dated to between 340 and 365 AD ( Crowfoot 1931, 144; 1938, 219), which "was probably due to this earthquake" (Russell 1981, 40), the reports on the excavations by Crowfoot at Jerash are not so precise. For instance, Crowfoot (1938) reports that the "the Cathedral is one of the few churches in Gerasa which is not precisely dated by a building inscription" (Crowfoot, 1938: 217). Based on building style, location in the city, and a reference by Epiphanius in 375 AD, Crowfoot (1938, 217 - 219) variuosly estimated the date construction of the Cathedral by the Fountain Court or atrium at Jerash to around 365 AD (Crowfoot, 1938: 219) or the middle of the 4th century AD (Crowfoot, 1938: 218). Since, the date of construction of 'the Cathedral" is not known with precision, the existence of earthquake damage to the Cathedral due to the Cyril Quakes is also not known with precision. The Cathedral could have been built after the Cyril Quakes. Thus, archeoseismic evidence for earthquake destruction at Jerash is indeterminate.


Fischer at al (1984) examined a Temple at Kadesh which, based on inscriptions and architectural decorations, was presumed to have been in use in the second and third centuries CE. Noting that there were indications that Temple appeared to be destroyed by an earthquake, they also speculated about damage to the Temple due to the northern Cyril Quake
Some of the masonry courses of the east facade are clearly shifted out of line (PI. 27: I), and a similar disturbance is evident in the keystones above the two side entrances. This could have been caused by an earthquake some time in the past. One likelihood is the devastating earthquake of May 19, 363 C.E. that affected the entire region, from northern Galilee to Petra and from the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan Valley (Russel 1980; Hammond 1980).


Although it is still difficult to determine when the temple was abandoned, there are indications that it was destroyed by an earthquake, possibly the one that struck the region on May 19, 363 C.E
Schweppe et al (2017) reiterated that "Fischer et al. [1984] suggest the temple was destroyed by an earthquake on May 19, 363 C.E.". They further stated that "unearthed ceramics and coins show that the temple was abandoned after the earthquake." This last quote does not refer to any part of Fischer et al. [1984] and its source is unknown. Schweppe et al (2017) note that the site may have been used as a quarry after abandonment and likely also suffered from looting noting that "it is not possible to differentiate with certainty which damage is of anthropogenic or of natural cause." However, some archeoseismic evidence does appear to remain which was described below
However, the wall in Figure 3a shows horizontal shifts and gaps between the ashlars which indicate that, at least in part, dynamic shaking has ruined the Kedesh Temple. In particular, we interpret the gaps between the ashlars in the northern section and its bend as the consequence of earthquake ground motions.
The horizontal shifts and gaps are good evidence for archeoseismic damage which unfortunately is apparently not well dated. Nonetheless, Schweppe et al (2017) performed numerical simulations on the remaining Temple structure at Kadesh and estimated that a PGA of 6 m/s2 was required to topple the Temple structure under conditions of a dominant frequency of 1 Hz. and shaking in an EW direction. They simulated a number of historical earthquakes thought to have affected Kadesh after 363 AD and none were shown to topple the Temple. However, there were no indications that the northern Cyril Quake of 363 AD toppled the Temple either (363 AD models weren't presented). The fact that part of the structure remains standing was used to postulate that if the northern Cyril Quake did topple the Temple at Kadesh, the fact that a small part of the structure still remains standing indicates that in the ensuing centuries a PGA above 6 m/s2 (at 1 Hz. with shaking EW) was never reached. Taken together, archeoseismic evidence for destruction of the Temple at Kadesh during the northern Cyril Quake of 363 AD is unfortunately indeterminate.

Hippos aka Sussita


Transliterated Name Language Name
Hippos Greek Ἵππος
Antiochia Hippos Greek Αντιοχεία Ἵππος
Sussita Hebrew סוסיתא
Sussita Aramaic
Qal‘at al-Ḥuṣn Arabic قلعة الحصن

Hippos-Sussita was one of the ten cities of the Decapolis.

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Wechsler, N., et al. (2018) report the following archeoseismic evidence at Hippos
The destruction of the Roman Basilica built in the center of the city at the end of the 1st century CE is clear evidence for the 363 CE earthquake judging by the archaeological data (Eisenberg, 2016; Segal, 2014a). The latest coins found in-between the fallen architectural fragment and the basilica floor are dated to 362 CE while the floor built above its debris is dated to the 380s CE. It is possible that some of the later, strong, post-abandonment earthquakes caused some additional damage at the site.
Wechsler, N., et al. (2018) also report a topographic or ridge seismic amplification effect on Sussita Hill where the Roman Basilica was located. Quantitative models were developed to try to estimate local seismic intensity from later earthquakes. Their discussion of the topographic effect is reproduced below :
The saddle-like structure of the Sussita hill is prone to topographic amplification of strong ground motion during earthquakes, especially at the hilltop. The focusing effects of seismic waves in similar situations have been reported to lead to significant ground motion amplification (e.g., Massa et al., 2010). In the case of Hippos, the special geometry of the hill is combined with the unusual situation of high impedance material in the form of a basalt flow on top of weaker conglomerates. Figure 2.5 shows a simplified north-south trending profile through the site and the neighboring valleys of Ein-Gev and Sussita. Estimates of ground motion amplification of vertically traveling shear waves from 1D model calculations indicate amplification factors at the hilltop in the range of 8 at frequencies of 2–3 Hz, a frequency range at which constructions such as colonnades show high vulnerability. In any further archaeoseismic studies of the damaged structures in Hippos, the exceptional location of the site and the local conditions must be taken into account.
Press reports also indicate the discovery of the skeleton of a woman with a dove-shaped pendant under the tiles of the collapsed roof which was attributed to the northern Cyril Quake of 363 AD. They indicates a high degree of seismic intensity at the site to the earthquake; perhaps abbetted by a seismic amplification ridge effect at the site. Because of the coin evidence, archeoseismic evidence for the 363 AD northern Cyril Quake at Hippos can be classified as definitive.

Gush Halav aka Giscala

Meyers, Strange, Meyers, and Hanson (1979: 37) reported on excavations at Gush Halav (referred to as Giscala by Josephus). Stratum VI contains the relevant archeoseismic evidence and was subdivided in Phase a and Phase b. A summary from their paper is presented below:

Stratum VI Late Roman (A.D. 250-362)
Phase a A.D. 250-306
Phase b A.D. 306-62/5

Stratum VII Byzantine (A.D. 362/5-551)
Phase a A.D. 362/5-447
Phase b A.D. 447-551

Meyers, Strange, Meyers, and Hanson (1979) dated the construction of a Gush Halav synagogue (in Stratum VI) to around 250 A.D. and report the village was abandoned beforehand; possibly after the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The date for building the synagogue is primarily based on ceramics but is supplemented by 6 coins. They report strong evidence for destruction at the end of VIa due to the Eusebius' Martyr Earthquake of ~306 AD. Meyers, Strange, Meyers, and Hanson (1979)'s discussion of archeoseismic evidence for the Cyril Quake of 363 AD is shown below:
Therefore a second phase - VIb - of Late Roman occupation, after this seismic event, is postulated. This second Late Roman phase is also terminated by an earthquake, no doubt in A.D. 362. The coin evidence for this terminus is extremely illuminating, inasmuch as the earliest preserved surfaces of the western corridor contain coins which may extend at the latest until A.D. 365. Equally important, the ceramic repertoire from VIb corresponds precisely to that of Meiron Stratum IV and Khirbet Shema Stratum IV. In other words, there is a clear continuity in the ceramic tradition here, unmistakably late Roman. Whereas Stratum VIa contains many 3rd-century Middle Roman forms, these forms virtually disappear in VIb.

Stratum VII, representing the Byzantine period, thus begins after the 362 earthquake and is characterized by significant localized repairs made within the building.
Their misdating of the Cyril Quake to 362 AD is a mistake frequently found in older papers. This is discussed briefly in footnote [1]. Their mention of coins from the Western corridor extending "at the latest until 365 AD" is somewhat problematic as this coincides with the date of the Crete Earthquake of 365 AD however the epicenter of this earthquake was too far away to have produced archeoseismic damage at Gush Halav so this will be left as a numismatic mystery which does not infringe badly on their chronology. The biggest potential problem with their chronology is it is debated. Magness (2001a) performed a detailed examination of the stratigraphy presented in the final report of (Meyers, Meyers, and Strange (1990)) and concluded, based on numismatic and ceramic evidence, that a synagogue was not built on the site until no earlier than the second half of the fifth century. While she agreed that earthquake destruction evidence was present in the excavation, she dated the destruction evidence to some time after abandonment of the site in the 7th or 8th centuries AD. Strange (2001) and Meyers (2001) went on to rebut Magness (2001a) to which Magness (2001b) responded again.

Netzer (1996) also reviewed the original archaeological reports and. athough he agreed with the original dating of the material remains, he concluded that only one synagogue was constructed at Gush Halav and it was constructed in the first half of the 4th century CE. He further concluded that the seismic destruction of this synagogue dates to the Mount Lebanon Thrust Quake of 551 CE. He did not interpret destruction in 363 CE that left a mark in the material remains.

Although there is significant disagreement on chronology, there is agreement that archeoseismic evidence is present at the site. Thus, we classify archeoseismic evidence for the northern Cyril Quake of 363 CE as possible and debated.


Excavations at Meiron (Meyers, Meyers, and Strange (1974), Meyers, Strange, and Meyers (1978), and Meyers and Meyers (1978)) posited that Meiron was abandoned rather than destroyed in the middle of the 4th century AD. However, as noted by Russell (1980), their excavation evidence may suggest that the site was destroyed by the Cyril Quake of 363 AD; as well as abandoned. A thick destruction layer was found in multiple rooms of the lower city ( Site M I ) as well as the northern suburb of the city ( Site M II ). Further, in what the excavators believed was a store room of the so-called 'Patrician House', they discovered crushed storage jars still containing remnants of stored food [7]. Coin and pottery evidence apparently dates this abandonment to ~360 CE (Meyers and Meyers (1978)). Meyers, Strange, and Groh (1978) report that in the stratum of interest (III) no stratified coins were found dating to after 360 CE.

Magness (2010) redated the chronology of the original excavators. Her analysis is repeated in its entirety in Magness and Schindler (2015). This analysis redated construction of the houses to "the second half of the fourth century and first half of the fifth century, which means that occupation ended a full century later than the excavators believe." This was based on coin and ceramic evidence. In particular, Magness and Schindler (2015) identified some post 363 AD coins and ceramics as not intrusive which the original excavators viewed as intrusive.

Archeoseismic evidence at Meiron can be labelled as possible but debated.

Khirbet Shema

Although excavators Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange (1976) identified two earthquake events ( Eusebius' Martyr Quake of ~306 AD and Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD) which destroyed a Synagogue I and then a Synagogue II at Khirbet Shema, subsequent authors ( e.g. Russell (1980) and Magness (1997)) re-examined their chronology and redated the earthquake evidence. Russell (1980) redated the two earthquake events to the Cyril Quake of 363 AD and the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD while Magness (1997) concluded that there was no solid evidence for the existence of a Synagogue I on the site and evidence for an earthquake event in ~306 AD was lacking. She posited that Synagogue II was constructed in the late 4th to early 5th century AD and concluded that there was no solid evidence for the 419 AD (or 363 CE) earthquake as well. In Magness (1997) interpretation of the evidence, she suggested that the site had been abandoned when an earthquake brought down Synagogue II sometime before the 8th century AD.

Two sealed loci at the site provide a terminus post quem for the construction of Synagogue II. The latest coin found within a Bema was dated to 337-341 AD during the rule of Constans. The bema was described as "absolutely sealed by the stonework of the bema around and over it" where "contamination by later intrusions is virtually impossible" (Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange 1976:34). A declivity in the northwest corner of Synagogue II contained fill which was "sealed beneath more than a meter of debris, including large fallen architectural members" (Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange 1976: 34). Pottery within the fill below was described as homogeneous Middle-Late Roman. At the lowest levels a coin from Gratian (who ruled from 367-383 AD) was discovered. Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange (1976) interpreted the construction above the declivity to be part of a remodel. If we consider that construction above the declivity could also represent original construction, the terminus post quem for the construction of Synagogue II is between 337 and 383 AD. It is conceivable that Synagogue II was constructed over earthquake damaged remains of an earlier structure due to the presence of "battered architectural fragments built into Synagogue II (including those identified as belonging to the "Torah shrine")" (Magness, 1997:216) however, as pointed out by Magness (1997) the provenance of these battered elements is unknown. They could come from another building. Nevertheless, this can be considered as possible archeoseismic evidence which predates the construction of Synagogue II. As for the causative earthquake(s), the Eusebius' Martyr Quake of ~306 AD and the Cyril Quake of 363 AD are both possibilities. Two other fills were examined (east and west of the Stylobate wall) but neither were sealed and neither added chronological precision to the construction of Synagogue II.

Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange (1976) archeoseismic evidence for the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD is also debated. It is based on a lacuna of coin evidence starting in 408 AD and lasting for the last three quarters of the 5th century AD. They suggest this indicates abandonment of the site during this time period and Meyers, Kraabel, and Strange (1976) in turn suggest that abandonment was likely due to the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of ~419 AD. Magness (1997: 217-218) provides a number of reasons why she classifies this as a "dangerous argument from silence". In any case, we agree with Magness (1997) that there is scant archeoseismic evidence at Khirbet Shema for an earthquake in ~419 AD as well. As for the Cyril Quake of 363 AD, the archeoseismic evidence at Khirbet Shema can best described as possible but lacking solid evidence.

Beth She'arim

Avigad 1955 and Mazar (1973) produced reports on archeaological excavations at Beth She'arim. Russell (1980) provided the following commentary which appears to be based on Mazar (1973: 18-19).
Evidence of conflagration accompanied the destruction debris, and the skeletons of two individuals apparently killed while trying to flee were found on one of the streets. Following this destruction, the site was abandoned until later in the 4th century. The date of the destruction was fixed by the discovery of a hoard containing about 1,200 coins in the basement of a destroyed building. Although no catalogue of these coins has (to the author's knowledge) been published, the excavator noted that most of them dated to the reigns of Constantine I, Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius II collectively ruling from 306 CE - 361 CE (Mazar 1973: 19, 35, n. 13). Based upon the destruction evidence (collapse plus burning) and the numismatic finds, Mazar attributed this event to the Jewish revolt under Gallus and the supposed destruction of Jewish settlements which followed.
Russell (1980) then quoted Mazar (1973) as follows
Archaeological finds therefore serve as further testimony to the events which brought about the devastation and ruin of the Jewish settlements in Palestine, the great rebellion of the Jews in the days of Constantius (337-361 c.s.) and its suppression by Gallus in 352 C.E. (Mazar 1973: 6).
Russell (1980) (citing Lieberman (1946)) and then then Cohen (1976)) went on to make the case that the Jewish Revolt under Gallus was little more than "a local insignificant incident of a Roman usurper supported by some of the Diocaesarean Jews Lieberman (1946)" concluding that the destruction at Beth She'arim was likely due to the Cyril Quake of 363 AD. Absent published numismatic evidence, it is difficult to assess this archeoseismic evidence which leads us to classify this as "needs investigation".


Meyers, Strange, and Meyers (1982) performed excavations of what they labelled Synagogue 2 at en-Nabratein. They subdivided the life of this structure into two phases of Period III (Late Roman, A.D. 250-350/363)

They dated Period III phase a using ceramics and some coins and end phase a with the Eusebius' Martyr Quake of ~306 AD which they believed damaged the synagogue and led to rebuilding. The rebuilding effort initiated Period III phase b. The end of Period III phase b is not precisely dated with material remains. Ceramics and "an irregular supply of coins dating up to ca. 350 A.D." provide the earliest possible date for the end of Period III phase b. The authors state that the end of Period III phase b "is perhaps to be understood as a combination of factors, mainly the revolt against Caesar Gallus (A.D. 350-52), general economic hardships, and the great earthquake of A.D. 363". By the 7th decade of the 4th century AD, the authors consider the site to have been virtually abandoned until a third synagogue was established towards the end of the Byzantine era in A.D. 564; according to an inscription.

Magness (2010) examined the reports of Meyers, Strange, and Meyers (1982) paying attention to stratigraphic levels and chronological information and concluded that the first (and only) Synagogue built on the site ocuurred "no earlier than the second half of the fourth century, and point to occupation and activity precisely during the centuries when the excavators claim the site was abandoned." A coin of 341-346 from the east wall and pottery suggests a terminus post quem of the second half of the 4th century for the synagogue's construction. Other evidence leads to a terminus ante quem of the second half of the 5th century or later (mid 6th century). There is also the inscription which states that the synagogue was built or remodeled in 564 AD (Magness, 2010). Meyers and Meyers (2010) rebutted Magness (2010) analysis of the stratigraphy and chronology discussing intricate details of sloping bedrock, lensed stratigraphy, later disturbance of the site, the coin of 341-346 not being in the wall but in earthen fill, etc. etc. all of which is beyond our ability as non-archeologists to assess responsibly. Considering this, we have decided to label archeoseismic evidence for the Cyril Quake at en-Nabratein as debated.



Transliterated Name Source Name
Capernaum New Testament and Josephus καπερναούμ
Kefr Nahum* Talmudic Literature כפר נחום
Kefar Tanhum* Medieval Jewish Sources כפר תנחום
Tanhum* Medieval Jewish Sources תנום
Talhum* Arabic تالهوم
Tell Hum* Arabic تيلل هوم
*from Stanislao Loffreda in Stern et al (1993).


Capernaum lies on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Numismatic evidence from various strata revealed a synagogue in Capernaum that was built in the late 4th or early 5th centuries AD (see Loffreda (1972), Loffreda(1973), and Chen (1986)) [6]. The synagogue was built on an artifical platform that was itself on top of the remains of an earlier village (stratum a). Firm dating chronology was established after construction of the synagogue but not before leaving the timing and cause for the underlying village to be in remains unanswered - at least not definitively. Russell (1980) speculated that the village was damaged or destroyed by the northern Cyril Quake of 363 AD citing numismatic evidence to bolster his case however absent systematic excavation of these underlying layers, a precise chronology is currently unestablished. This archeoseismic evidence can best be classified as possible and in need of investigation.

It should be noted that after the publications by Loffreda (1972) and Loffreda (1973), there was significant opposition to the dating of the construction of the synagogue at Capernaum to the late 4th or early 5th century AD. Opposing scholars dated these synagogues earlier by approximately two centuries with Magness (2001) supprting an even later 6th century date for it's construction.

Samaria-Sebaste aka Shomron

Initial excavations of this site were performed by Harvard University without the aid of modern excavation or recording techniques and without a valid chronology of Late Roman Byzantine ceramics (Russell,1980). Reisner, Fischer, and Lyon (1924: 218) report the following which may indicate earthquake damage:
Restoration - During the Severan period the Basilica and the Forum were entirely reconstructed. The building, like those on the summit, had apparently been in ruins. Many of the columns had been overthrown, and the pedestals carried away.
Gibson (2014) reports that Samaria-Sebaste was destroyed during the First Jewish War (66–73 CE), "but was rebuilt and gained the status of a Roman colony from the hands of Septimus Severus in 200 CE. By the time that Christianity became the dominant religion, Sebaste was already deteriorating and after the Arab conquest in the first half of the seventh century CE it was left in ruins". This indicates that the Severan period referred to by Reisner, Fischer, and Lyon (1924) lasted from 200 CE until sometime before the middle of the 7th century CE.

Russell (1980) reports that later excavations by Crowfoot, Kenyon, and Sukenik (1966:137-38) found evidence of destruction and subsequent rebuilding in a large house found in the eastern insula. Crowfoot et. al. (1966) described the evidence as follows :
No portion of the walls above ground level survived. The foundations show at least two periods. some badly built walls with very rubbly building being added to the better built earlier ones. Nearly all the earlier ones seem to have been partially rebuilt in the worse style, with two or three courses of rubble on the top of their solidly built foundations. This would indicate that the original building had been destroyed to ground level, possibly by an earthquake
According to Russell (1980), Crowfoot, Kenyon, and Sukenik (1966) also suggested that the Basilica of the site might have been converted into a cathedral during the 4th century AD (Crowfoot, Kenyon, and Sukenik, 1966: 37).

This indicates that the chronology of destruction at Samaria-Sebaste is insufficiently well defined to postulate anything further than that it is possible that the Cyril Quake caused damage and destruction at this location.

Bet Shean


Transliterated Name Language Name
Beit She'an Hebrew בֵּית שְׁאָן
Scythopolis Greek Σκυθόπολις
Beisan Arabic بيسان‎
Tell el-Husn Arabic تيلل يلءهوسن

Beit She'an is situated at a strategic location between the Yizreel and Jordan Valleys at the juncture of ancient roadways (Stern et al, 1993). In Roman times, it was one of the cities of the Decapolis. The site of Bet She'an was occupied almost continuously from Neolithic to Early Arab times (Stern et al, 1993).

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Raphael and Bijovsky (2014) report that
The collapse of the roof of the Bet She'an odeum and the partial destruction of the theater were attributed to the 363 CE earthquake. A major wave of construction in the city center is thought to be related to earthquake damage (Foerster and Tsafrir 1988:18, 15-32; Foerster and Tsafrir 1992a:11-12; Foerster and Tsafrir 1992b; Foerster 1993; Atrash 2003:VI; Mazor and Najjar 2007:14,17,55-56,70,187).
Foerster G. and Tsafrir Y. 1988. The Center of Ancient Beth-Shean (North). Hadashot Arkheologiyot 91:15-32 (Hebrew).
Foerster G. and Tsafrir Y. 1992a. The Town Center (North). Hadashot Arkheologiyot 98:2-30 (Hebrew).
Foerster G. and Tsafrir Y. 1992b. The Dating of the Earthquake of the `Sabbatical Year' of 749 CE in Palestine. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 55:231-248. Note by Williams - nothing on a 363 CE quake here
Foerster G. 1993. Beth-Shean. In E. Stem ed. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 1. Jerusalem. Pp. 223-235. Note by Williams - nothing on a 363 CE quake here
Atrash W. 2003. The Scaenae Frons of the Roman Theatre in Scythopolis (Beth Shean) Architectural Analysis and Suggested Reconstruction. M.A. thesis, University of Haifa. (Hebrew).
Mazor G. and Najjar A. 2007. Bet She'an I: Nysa-Scythopolis: The Caesareum and the Odeum. (IAA Reports 33). Jerusalem.

This archeoseismic evidence is classified as needs investigation.

Schechem (Neapolis)

In the 1960's, three cisterns were excavated at ancient Shechem (Bull and Campbell 1968: 15-17). At the bottom of what was labeled Cistern II, a 0.15 m thick layer of black silt was overlain by a 0.2 meter thick layer of compact fine grey silt. These two silty layers contained a large quantity of pottery, glass fragments, coins, and other artifacts and were overlain by an apparent destruction layer - 1.10 m of thick loose grey earth containing architectural fragments, vaulting, and building stones. 43 dateable coins were recovered from the two silty layers in Cistern II ranging in age from Severus Alexander (222-235) to Julian II aka Julian the Apostate (360-363). Bull and Campbell (1968) note that the cisterns abutted and post dated a wall (12,000) that was part of the Zeus Temple Complex built during during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. They suggest that it is likely that this Temple complex was built during Hadrian's visit to Palestine around 130 AD. They further report that Samaritan literary evidence indicates that the Zeus Temple was in ruins by the time of Julian II indicating that the cisterns likely fell into disuse and began to silt up prior to 363 AD. Because the destruction layer (present in all 3 cisterns and of approximately equal thickness) appears to be so well dated, it is fair to characterize this archeoseismic evidence as a definitive indication that there was damage and destruction at ancient Shechem due to the Cyril Quake of 363 AD.

Ma’ayan Barukh

Negev (1969) published a description of an inscription regarding a restored Temple which he interpreted as attributing the restoration to Emperor Julian II (aka Julian the Apostate). Julian's name is not specifically mentioned but possibly referred to as Romani orbis liberatori. An analogue to another incription in Italy is used to hypothesize that this referred to Julian. Language in this inscription found at Ma’ayan Barukh is also compared to other inscriptions attributed to Julian which (Negev, 1969) used to further bolster the case that the inscription found at Ma’ayan Barukh refers to Julian. Julian's reign was characterized by restorations of a number of Pagan Temples; some of which had been previously damaged by zealous Christians earlier during the 4th century AD. If Julian is referred to in the inscription, the use of the title "Pontifici maximo" dates the inscription to some time after the summer of 362 AD as Julian did not use that title earlier in his reign (Negev, 1969). Note : Ambraseys (2009) misreports this to the summer of 363 AD.

The insciption was found at a site ~8 km. from Caesarea Philippi (Paneas) "where once stood a famous Roman Temple" Negev (1969). Negev (1969) conjectures that the insciption may come from "the famous Roman Temple" in Caesarea Philippi (Paneas) or other Temples in the region.

Since Julian's reign ended only a month after the Cyril Quake(s), this inscription as evidence of restoration of a Temple due to earthquake damage due to the Cyril Quake(s) is tenuous at best. Thus, archeoseismic evidence for earthquake destruction in the vicinity of Ma’ayan Barukh is indeterminate.


Ambraseys(2009) reports
Another inscription from ‘Anz in the southern Hauran states that another temple was restored by Julian (Littman 1910, 108/no. 186).

Caesarea Maritima

Raphael and Bijovsky (2014) examined "a large hoard of 3,700 copper coins found in the excavations of" what may have been a synagogue. They describe the discovery of the coin hoard as follows:
In 1962, during the excavations at Caesarea, Avi-Yonah unearthed a large hoard containing 3,700 copper-alloy coins, in a building that he identified as a synagogue. The latest coins in the hoard date to 361 CE, suggesting that the synagogue was destroyed by the 363 CE earthquake. ... The finds from the excavation were only partially published. Much of the information, such as locus numbers, is not always clear and the exact location of the hoard is not marked on a plan or described by Avi-Yonah. Nevertheless, his written descriptions clearly state that the hoard was found in the building and the strata are fairly well defined. A photograph shows Avi-Yonah in the building during the excavation kneeling next to the in situ hoard (Fig. 1).
The coins were found in Stratum IV. The original excavator (Avi-Yonah) "gave no reason for the destruction of Stratum IV." In discussing evidence for seismic destruction in Caesarea, Raphael and Bijovsky (2014) provide the following:
None of the excavations revealed large scale damage in Stratum IV: "there is no evidence of wholesale destruction across the site, especially since the wall lines are still mostly intact based upon photographic record. Yet not much remains of the structure either in stratum IV or stratum V" (Govaars et al. 2009:132). After the earthquake debris was cleared, the synagogue was rebuilt. Stones from the previous synagogue were reused for the building of the stratum V synagogue, but the hoard was not found until Avi-Yonah's excavations. Govaars wrote "the direct relationship of the coin hoard to a structure is uncertain and, therefore the coin evidence cannot be used to date the still unknown structure" (Govaars et al. 2009:42). This is a somewhat peculiar statement considering the coins were found in the synagogue and are on the whole well preserved, homogeneous and well dated. Avi-Yonah was convinced that the hoard was directly related to the Stratum IV building: "The fact that a hoard of 3,700 bronze coins was found in the ruins of the synagogue itself that were buried in 355/356 AD indicates that this synagogue was built in the end of the third or the early fourth century, and was destroyed in the mid fourth century AD" (Avi-Yonah 1964:26 n. 5).


Evidence at Caesarea

The subject of earthquakes and tsunamis has been partially reviewed by several archaeologists who directed or participated in the excavations at Caesarea. None of the monumental buildings across the site revealed earthquake damage that dates to the fourth century CE.

The report of remains from the excavations of the Promontory Palace at Caesarea, dated between the early fourth century and early sixth centuries, does not mention destruction levels (Levine and Netzer 1986:176-184). In other excavations, the Roman and Byzantine-period warehouses and granaries (horreum) gradually fell into ruin over a considerable period. Neither the main streets, pavements, sewage and water systems, the theater, amphitheater nor the stadiums of the Late Roman and Byzantine periods show signs of destruction that suggested earthquake damage (Humphrey 1974:32; Porath 1996:114-120; Porath 2003 and Porath [pers. comm.]).

If the town was partially damaged or destroyed in the 363 CE earthquake, as the Harvard Syriac letter [i.e. the letter attributed to Cyril] describes, then other than the large coin hoard, the earthquake left no clear, tangible evidence. The damage was cleared and buildings were repaired or rebuilt. Although none of the archaeological reports mentions earthquake damage, several reports clearly describe the abandonment and/or the rebuilding of public buildings in the second half of the fourth century CE. None of the authors provided a reason for their destruction or abandonment.

Tectonic evidence such as collapsed columns, thick piles of debris or warped walls are elusive throughout the fourth century architecture of Caesarea. Why is this typical earthquake damage missing? Are the written sources and the numismatic evidence sufficient proof of the 363 CE earthquake in Caesarea? It is important to note that among the various violent, politically motivated upheavals that took place in the second half of the fourth century, one of the main candidates explaining destruction at archaeological sites is the Gallus Revolt (352 CE). However, none of the sources that describe this revolt mention Caesarea Maritima (Geller-Nathanson 1986:34)
1,453 coins from the hoard of coins were identifiable by mints and dates. They ranged in age from 315 CE to the first quarter of the 5th century CE. 110 of these coins ranged in age from 364 - 421 CE and post dated 363 CE. The bulk of the hoard, however, were struck between 341 and 361 CE. The authors noted that 11 of the post 363 CE coins may have been intrusive. An explanation for the other 99 post 363 CE coins was based largely on a comparison to a similarly dated coin hoard in Qasrin. The authors opined that the many coins from Julian II shows that the coins could not have been concealed before 355 CE ruling out the Gallus Revolt (352 CE) as a cause for the loss of the hoard. On the whole, this numismatic evidence for the Cyril Quake striking Caesarea seems tenuous however since Caesarea was mentioned as being partly ruined in Cyril's letter, it merits inclusion in this catalog. Archeoseismic evidence for one of the Cyril Quakes striking Caesarea is labeled as possible.



Transliterated Name Language Name
Jerusalem English
Yerushaláyim Modern Hebrew יְרוּשָׁלַיִם‎
al-Quds Arabic القُدس‎
Ûrshalîm-Al Quds Arabic أورشليم القدس‎‎
Bayt al-Maqdis Arabic ‎بيت المقدس‎
Baitul Muqaddas Arabic ‎بايتول موقادداس
Iliya Arabic ‎يلييا
Ilya Bayt el-Maqdas Arabic ‎يليا بايت يلءماقداس
Hierousalḗm Greek Ἱερουσαλήμ‎
Hierosóluma Greek ‎Ἰεροσόλυμα
Aelia Capitolina Latin Aelia Capitolina
Erusałēm Armenian ‎Երուսաղեմ
Yerushalem Hebrew Bible
Salem Hebrew Bible
City of Judah Divided Monarchy ?
The City Lachish letters
Jebus Jebusites
Uruslimmu Sennacherib inscriptions (7th century BCE)
Urusalim el-Amarna letters (14th century BCE)
Rushalimum Egyptian Execration texts
(19th-20th centuries BCE)

Jerusalem has a long continuous history of habitation with textual sources (i.e. the Hebrew Bible) documenting an occupation by a Canaanite tribe known as the Jebusites at the beginning of the Iron Age (Iron Age I). The city, according to the Hebrew Bible, was wrested from the Jebusites by King David around 1000 BCE and thereafter became the premier city of the Jewish religion and people. Later religions such as Christianity and Islam also made it a focal point. A continuous history of construction and destruction has led to a complex archeological history that appears to add some uncertainty to the chronology derived from excavations. On the other hand, abundant textual evidence appears to have assisted in sleuthing this chronology.

Vicinity of Robinson's Arch
Reconstruction of Robinson's Arch Proposed Reconstruction of Robinson's Arch

Водник at ru.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Remains of Robinson's Arch Remains of Robinson's Arch


Russell (1980) reported that "excavations in Jerusalem revealed a domestic structure just south of the pier of "Robinson's Arch" (Mazar 1975: 247: Mazar 1976: 36-38). Numerous coins were recovered from beneath the rubble and ash that marked the destruction of this house. The latest of these dated to the reign of Julian II. Mazar interpreted this destruction as probable evidence of Jewish preparations for the reconstruction of the Temple."

The Constantinian structures near the Western Wall may have been destroyed by Jews who, encouraged by Julian, began preparations for the reconstruction of the Temple—which project came to nought upon the emperor's death (Mazar 1976: 38).
However, Russell (1980) noted that the location of the structure to the side of Temple Mount rather than on it suggests that the destruction was more likely due to the Cyril Quake than Jewish preparations to rebuild the Temple. Brock (1976) citing Mazar(1971 - in Hebrew) noted that an inscription quoting Isaiah 66:14 was found in the same area and suggested it was associated with the Temple rebuilding project. However, The New encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land Supplementary Volume 5 (2008) - Reich and Billig notes that
A Hebrew inscription citing Isaiah 66:14 was discovered by B. Mazar on one of the stones of the western wall. Mazar dated it to the mid-fourth century CE, the days of Julian the Apostate. However, it may now be understood as having been directly related to the cemetery, and should thus be dated to around the eleventh century CE.
Gibson (2014) proposed that archeoseismic evidence for the Cyril Quake of 363 AD was in fact discovered during the excavations by Mazar and states the following :
What is the date of the stone collapse near Robinson’s Arch?

A full publication of the stone collapse unearthed by Mazar has still not been made, so we still do not know what ceramics and coins were found between the ashlars and the fallen debris. However, Mazar excavated a building adjacent to Robinson’s Arch (Building 7066, the “bakery” in Area VII) and it was built immediately on top of ruined walls from the Second Temple period (Mazar(1971:20-21)). This structure reportedly had two building phases, the first from the Late Roman period, and the second from the beginning of the Byzantine period. The latter building was burnt in a fire and on the basis of numismatic finds its destruction was dated by Mazar to the time of Julian’s death in 363 CE. The excavation of this building has now been fully published by Eilat Mazar (2011, 145-183). The bulk of the coins (more than 200 of Constantius II, with a few of Julian II) seem to indicate a termination of the building in 363 CE at the time of the earthquake (see further on this, below). The few coins from this building which happen to post-date 363 appear to be intrusive or perhaps they represent squatter activities in the area in the aftermath of the earthquake. The fact that the foundations of this bakery and the adjacent bath-house to its north (Mazar 2011, 1-83) do not seem to have encroached much on the Herodian street, does suggest that the position of this street was taken into account by the architects of these two building complexes during the major planning and construction activities in this area c. 120 CE (see more on this in Weksler-Bdolah, 2014 a; idem 2014 b). Therefore, the Early Roman (Herodian) stone-paved street was maintained as a thoroughfare in the Late Roman period as well, with a slight build-up of soil surfaces and fills in places, and with the construction of channels and various other small features, as was noted by the excavators. Hence, I would suggest that the massive collapse of the marginal-drafted stones from the western Temple Mount wall down on to the surface of the paved street does not date to 70 CE, as so many previous commentators have suggested, but to the time of the earthquake of 363 CE instead.

Hence, I would argue that the massive stone collapse seen today above the level of the Early Roman (Herodian) street pavement just north of Robinson’s Arch, is the direct result of this devastating earthquake and is not evidence of a deliberate destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE as has hitherto been claimed.
Gibson (2014) noted the similarity of the fallen stones north of Robinson's Arch accompanied by destruction of nearby domestic structure(s) to the description in Historia Ecclesiastica by Socrates Scholasticus (in Notes) that
a mighty earthquake tore up the stones of the old foundations of the temple and dispersed them all together with the adjacent edifices.
Gibson (2014) argued further that the massive stone collapse just north of Robinson’s Arch contained pilaster stones which had likely been upright and standing in 325 CE when Christian builders imitated them in supporting pillars that have been found from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the church over the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the church at Mamre near Hebron. This would add further evidence that this massive stone collapse occurred during the Cyril Quake of 363 AD rather than due to Roman destruction during the seige on the second Temple in 70 CE [5].

Leen Ritmeyer countered in a blog pointing out that underneath the fallen Herodian stones was a thin layer of destruction debris that contained many Herodian coins supporting the original interpretation that these stones were pushed over the wall by Roman Troops after the Second Temple burned. He summarized his counter argument while making reference to an illustrated cross section
cross section
If the earthquake of 363 AD did destroy the Western Wall, where is the evidence? The heap of fallen Herodian stones is only three meters (10 feet) high. No stones were ever added on top of this, as this Roman destruction was covered by a late Roman bath house and Byzantine street level and drain. The Roman floor level was later covered over by the floor of an Umayyad palace. If the Western Wall was destroyed in 363 AD, then a large pile of stones would have been found on top of the Roman bath house and Byzantine street level which would have been completely destroyed, but no sign of this was found.
Givati Site in the City of David
Collapse Rubble in Givati Site in City of David Cyril Quake Fig. 3.

Collapse in two rooms (view to the north-west)

Ben Ami D. and Tchekhanovets Y. (2013)

Ben Ami D. and Tchekhanovets Y. (2013) excavated a large peristyle building of the Late Roman period located to the south-west of the Temple Mount in the Givati site of the City of David. Ben Ami, D., Tchekhanovets, Y., and Daniel, R. W. (2013) dated its construction to the third century CE based on a coin found in one of its walls. The coin was a provincial Roman coin from the reign of Diocletian (Alexandria mint) of the year 285 CE. This provided a terminus post quem for the foundation of the building (Ben Ami et. al. (2013)). The building collapsed violently with scores of coins buried under the collapse in various rooms dated to no later than 361 CE providing a terminus post quem for the destruction (Ben Ami D. and Tchekhanovets Y., 2013). They described the destruction as follows:
In the western wing, the floor of the living area collapsed, burying nearly all the remains of the ground floor . The surviving walls of the ground story, in some cases preserved to a height of over 3 m, were found under massive heaps of stones from the walls of the upper story. A large crack cuts through the stone slabs covering the underground water systems. These, along with other finds retrieved from the building, testify to the immense catastrophe it underwent. The ceramic assemblages found in the collapse and below it, on the floors of the building, are dated to the Late Roman–Early Byzantine period (third to fourth centuries CE). The dominant types are arched-rim basins and rouletted bowls
This can be considered as definitive archeoseismic evidence for destruction of this structure due to the Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
Jerusalem Conclusion
Definite archeoseismic evidence apparently exists at the Givati Site in the City of David while the archeoseismic evidence near Robinson's Arch is currently a matter of debate. Taken together, evidence for earthquake destruction in Jerusalem can be described as both definitive and violent in agreement with sources which say half the city was destroyed by the earthquake.

Ghor-es-Safi (Byzantine Zoara)

Tombstone from Victim of Cyril Quake in Ghor es-Safi Tombstone of Samakon of Ghor es-Safi who died in the southern Cyril Quake

photo by Jefferson Williams

Three tombstones discovered in Ghor-es-Safi (Byzantine Zoara) provide an explicit date for the southern Cyril Quake - Monday, 28 Artemisios 258 of the era of Province Arabia, that is 18 May 363 (Ambraseys (2009) - citing Meimaris and Kritikakou-Nikolaropoulou 2005, nos. 22-24). Since the textual accounts date the earthquake to 19 May 363 AD and the night before (ie May 18), this indicates that the southern quake struck first.

The incriptions in Greek are translated below with links to photographs taken by the author at the Museum at the Lowest Place on earth near Safi, Jordan in December 2014.

Samakon (son) of Zabdas (the) archdeacon who died 40 years (old) during the earthquake of 18 May 363 AD. Be courageous. No-one is immortal.

Obbe (daughter) of Samakon who died 15 years (of age) during the earthquake of 18 May 363 AD. Be courageous Obbe. No-one is immortal.

Siltha (daughter) of Valentinus and Kyra (her) daughter who both died in holiness ... during the earthquake who died 38 years (old) Siltha of 18 May 363 AD Be courageous. No-one is immortal.

Antipatris aka Aphek


Transliterated Name Source Name
Tel Afek Hebrew תל אפק‎‎
Kŭlat Râs el 'Ain Arabic كولات راس يل 'اين
Binar Bashi Ottoman
Surdi fontes Early Frankish ‎‎
'Auja Arabic 'اوجا
Abu Butrus Arabic ابو بوتروس
Antipatris Hebrew ‎‎אנטיפטריס
Antipatris Ancient Greek Αντιπατρίς‎‎
Pegae Hellenistic Period

Aphek is located about 12 km. east of Tel Aviv. It has a long history of habitation appearing for example in 19th century BCE Egyptian Execration texts (Pirhiya Beck and Moshe Kochavi in Stern et al, 1993). Aphek is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in a list of conquered Canaanite cities (Joshua 12:18, etc.) and as the base from which the Philistines set out to fight Israel (1 Samuel 4:1, 1 Samuel 29:l) (Pirhiya Beck and Moshe Kochavi in Stern et al, 1993). In the Hellenistic period, the city of Pegae occupied the mound. It was expanded by Herod the Great and renamed Antipatris, after his father (Pirhiya Beck and Moshe Kochavi in Stern et al, 1993). It was also occupied in Helenistic, Early Arab, and Ottoman times .


Karcz and Kafri (1978: 244-245) reported that tilted and distorted walls and subsiding arches were encountered in the excavations of the Byzantine town of Antipatris (Aphek) which led Kochavi (1976) and Kochavi (personal communication to Karcz) to attribute the end and decay of the town to the earthquake of 419 AD. In his preliminary report on excavations Kochavi (1975) reported that very little was uncovered in the Early Byzantine Period and suggested that Byzantine Antipatris, as a city of any importance, probably came to its end around the beginning of the 5th century B.C.E. while Kochavi (1981) reports that the entire city of Antipatris was destroyed by an earthquake in 419 CE. Golan (2008) does not present any earthquake evidence but mentions that Kochavi thought that the city was destroyed by the Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
The fact that most of the coins dated to the second half of the fourth century CE suggests that the cardo may have been abandoned at the beginning of the Byzantine period, which seems to corroborate the excavators’ conclusions (Kochavi 1989) that assumed the city was destroyed in the year 363 CE.
The latest coins reported by Kochavi (1975), apparently come from the Early Byzantine level, dated to Constantine the Great (308-337 C.E.), Constantius II (337-361 C.E.), and Arcadius (395-408 C.E.).

Jones (2021) added
Caution must be exercised in interpreting the numismatic data, however, as the ceramic fords included PRS 3 forms dating to the mid-5th-6th century (Golan 2008: fig. 5.5-6). More troubling is the apparent presence of `Mefjar ware' (i.e. Islamic Cream Ware), which dates no earlier than the late 7th century (see Walmsley 2001), in the `earthquake stratum' (Neidinger 1982: 167). This may indicate multiple destructions, but without more complete publication of the excavations, this is difficult to evaluate. It is, however, worth noting the presence of a bishop of Antipatris at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (Dauphin 2000; Frankel and Kochavi 2000: 23, 31). This may be explained, as Fischer (1989: 1806) suggests, by assuming that the role of Antipatris `was filled with a great number of smaller settlements' like Khirbat Dhikrin (Zikrin) after the 418/419 earthquake, but it is equally likely that Antipatris was simply not abandoned in the early 5th century.
I was unable to access the final report on the excavations (Kochavi (1976:52)). Absent solid stratigraphic information, this archeoseismic evdience cannot be evaluated and is classified as needs investigation.

Seismic Effects

Karcz and Kafri (1978: 244-245) reported that tilted and distorted walls and subsiding arches were encountered.

Intensity Estimates

Effect Location Intensity
Arch Damage VI +
Tilted Walls VI +
Folded Walls VII +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VII (7) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .


Avdat Acropolis Aerial View of Avdat Acropolis



Transliterated Name Source Name
Avdat Hebrew עבדת‎‎
Abdah Arabic عبدة‎
Oboda Ancient Greek ‎‎Ὀβόδα
Ovdat ‎‎
Obodat ‎‎

Avdat started out in the 3rd or 4th century BCE as a Nabatean way station on the Incense Road (Avraham Negev in Stern et al, 1993). By the 1st century BCE, the town was named Oboba after Nabatean King Obodas I. It was occupied continuously until it was abandoned in the 7th century . Situated at the end of a ~4 km. long ridge, Avdat may have suffered from seismic amplification during past earthquakes as it appears it may be subject to a topographic or ridge effect (terrain map).


Archeological excavations have uncovered several earthquakes which struck Avdat/Oboda. Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) noted approximate dates and Intensities:
  1. Substantial destruction in the early 2nd century CE
  2. Some damage due to an earthquake in 363 CE
  3. A massive earthquake in the early 5th century CE
  4. A massive earthquake in the early 7th century CE
Early 2nd century earthquake

The early 2nd century earthquake is the Incense Road Quake which she described as follows:
There is indirect evidence of a more substantial destruction in the early 2nd century CE in which residential structures from the earliest phase of the Nabataean settlement east of the late Roman residential quarter were demolished and used as a source of building stone for later structures. Destruction from this earthquake is well attested particularly nearby at Horvat Hazaza, and along the Petra to Gaza road at Mezad Mahmal, Sha'ar Ramon, Mezad Neqarot and Moyat `Awad, and at `En Rahel in the Arava as well as at Mampsis (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003).
Erickson-Gini and Israel (2013) added
Evidence of an early second-century CE earthquake is found at other sites along the Incense Road at Nahal Neqarot, Sha'ar Ramon, and particularly at the head of the Mahmal Pass where an Early Roman Nabataean structure collapsed (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003; Erickson-Gini 2011). There is ample evidence of the immediate reconstruction of buildings at Moyat ‘Awad, Sha'ar Ramon, and Horvat Dafit. However, this does not seem to be the case with the Mahmal and Neqarot sites.
Erickson-Gini and Israel (2013) discussed seismic damage at Moyat ‘Awad due to this earthquake
The Early Roman phase of occupation in the site ended with extensive damage caused by an earthquake that took place shortly before the Roman annexation of the region in 106 CE (Korjenkov and Erickson-Gini 2003). The building in Area C and the kiln works were destroyed, and the cave dwellings were apparently abandoned as well. Reconstruction was required in parts of the fort. At this time, deposition from its floors was removed and thrown outside of the fort and a new bath as well as heating were constructed in its interior. Along its eastern exterior and lower slope, rooms were added. Thus, the great majority of the finds from inside the fort and its ancillary rooms date to the latest phase of its occupation in the Late Roman, post-annexation phase, the latest coins of which date to the reign of Elagabalus (219–222 CE).
Southern Cyril Quake (363 CE)

Tali Erickson-Gini in Stern et al (2008) provided some information on the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
In 1999–2000 an area located east of the Byzantine town wall and the north tower at Oboda was excavated on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Some structural damage, probably resulting from the 363 CE earthquake, is evident in the blockage of a few doorways and the collapse of one of the rooms (rooms 4, 7, 17).
one room of the earlier structure appears to have been utilized in the fourth century CE (room 7), and it apparently collapsed in the 363 earthquake.

the numismatic and ceramic evidence uncovered in this third phase indicate that the dwellings were destroyed in a violent earthquake several decades after that of 363 CE. Following this second, local earthquake, the area was abandoned and many of the building stones were robbed.
Negev (1961) identified several phases of occupation at one of which, dated by inscriptions, began in the third century CE. Negev (1961: 126) noted that during this Late Roman/Byzantine occupation phase, the retaining walls were "probably shattered by a strong earthquake" and were repaired by "adding a second, rounded wall, screening the original one". A precise date for the archeoseismic damage was not supplied.

5th century earthquake

An early 5th century earthquake suggests the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 CE where there appears to be archaeoseismic evidence in Yotvata. Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) described the early 5th century earthquake at Avdat/Oboda:
A massive earthquake took place in the early 5th century CE, substantial evidence of which was uncovered in the late Roman and early Byzantine residential quarter (Erickson-Gini 2010a: 91-93). All of the structures east of the town wall were abandoned and used as a source of building stone for the late Byzantine town. Following this earthquake, massive revetment walls were constructed along the southern wall of the acropolis in order to shore up the heavily damaged walls. In contrast, the late Byzantine citadel adjoining the temenos area of the acropolis has no revetment walls, certainly due to its construction following the earthquake. The two churches inside the temenos area were built using numerous early Roman ashlars and architectural elements originally from the Obodas Temple damaged in the earthquake.
Negev (1989) provided a wider range of dates for this earthquake which entertains the possibility that this archaeoseismic evidence was caused by the hypothesized Negev Quake which, if real, is dated to the late 5th to early 6th century CE.
A decisive factor in determining this phase is the dating of a series of earthquakes, one or more of which shattered numerous buildings in some of the towns of the central Negev. Although literary evidence is scarce, there is ample archaeological evidence that testifies to these disasters. At Oboda the entire length of the old southern Nabatean retaining wall was thrust outwards, and for this reason it had to be supported by a heavy, slanting supporting wall. Similarly much damage was caused to a massive tower of the Nabatean period, identified in July 1989 as the temple of Obodas (?), which in the Late Roman - early Byzantine period was incorporated in the citadel occupying the eastern half of the acropolis hill. Most of the damage was caused to the western and southern walls of the temple, and for this reason these too had to be supported by still heavier stone taluses, blocking the original entrance to the temple on the southern wall. It is against this talus that the South Church was built. Similar damage was also caused to some of the nearby buildings in the so-called Roman Quarter south of the temple. We may thus place the date of the earthquake between the end of the third century A.D., when the latest building in this quarter was constructed, and A.D. 541, when the Martyrium of St. Theodore was already being used as a burial ground.
7th century earthquake

Finally, Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) also discussed the early 7th century earthquake.
The destruction of the town by a massive earthquake sometime in the early 7th century CE was one piece of a puzzle not mentioned by Negev. The earthquake certainly occurred after the latest inscription found at the site in the Martyrion of St. Theodore (South Church) in 617 CE (Negev 1981: 37). Direct evidence of the destruction and abandonment of the site was uncovered by Fabian, with massive destruction evident throughout the site, and particularly along the western face of the site with its extensive caves and buildings (Korjenkov et al., 1996). Mezad Yeruham, several kms further south, was apparently destroyed at the same time (Y. Baumgarten, personal communication), while the earthquake left a trail of damage at numerous sites. This is indicated by the early seventh-century construction of revetment walls around churches and private houses at Sobota (Shivta), Sa'adon, Rehovot in-the-Negev, and Nessana. Compared to other Nabataean sites in the Negev Highlands that indicate a continued occupation through the late Byzantine period well into the early Islamic period in the 9th c., Oboda was devoid of settlement in the early Islamic period. In place of a central town, such as Sobota (Shivta), Rehovot in-the-Negev, or Nessana, a significant number of early Islamic farming villages—many with open-air mosques—were found in close proximity to Oboda.
This would suggest the Sword in the Sky Quake of 634 CE with the potentially dubious Sign of the Prophet Quake (613-622 CE) and the Jordan Valley Quake of 656/660 CE as less likely possibilities.

Archaeoseismic investigations

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) conducted two archaeoseismic surveys at Avdat and were able to distinguish between 7th century CE seismic effects and effects from a "previous" earthquake in. The "previous" earthquake in this case would be the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE and/or the 5th century CE earthquake. Since, the Archaeological literature indicates that the 5th century earthquake did more damage to Avdat than the southern Cyril Quake, it can likely be assumed that most of the damaged features that were adapted to in rebuilding would come from the 5th century earthquake.

Seismic Effects

In surveys conducted in 1994 and 1996, Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) examined hundreds of deformation features and selected 41 measurements of wall inclinations, 26 of wall collapse, 17 of block rotations, and 96 cases of through-going fractures, where [they] were certain of the non-static origin of dislocations. They divided the features of seismic destructioninto 2 groups based on diagnostic use.

  1. Seismic-related features, which can be used for the determination of the seismic origin of the destruction, and degree of seismic shaking - seismic intensity
    1. joints crossing through a few adjacent blocks
    2. rotation of arch or roof slabs around horizontal axis
    3. hanging stones in the arches
    4. later built supporting walls for the tilted walls and columns
    5. non-coincidence of lower rows of masonry with upper building construction
  2. Seismic indicators which can be used for the determination of epicentral direction
    1. inclination of walls
    2. shifting of complete walls or wall fragments
    3. collapse of arches and wall fragments
    4. rotation of building fragments in arches and walls around the vertical axis
Examples and summaries of observations are presented below:
Damage Type
7th century
Location Figure Comments
JOINTS AS AN INDICATION OF THE SEISMIC NATURE OF THE DESTRUCTIONS 7th century Northern Church 4 Joints are mode 1 (dilatation) fractures developed as a result of extension (Engelder and Fisher. 1996). Joints confined to stone breaks often appear in old buildings. Interpretation of such joints is somewhat ambiguous: they could be erected tectonically, they could also be the result of weathering, i.e., repeated heating and cooling events. In contrast, joints passing through two or more adjacent blocks (through-going joints) could be formed only under high strains. Such joints require the application of tremendous amounts of energy to overcome the stress shadows, appearing along free surfaces at the block margins (Fisher et al., 1995: Engelder, and Fisher, 1996; Becker and Gross, 1996) and therefore cannot be related to the weathering process.
Numerous examples of through-going joints were observed during the study of the ruins of Avdat town. One such joint was found in the WSW external wall of the Northern Church (trend azimuth is 150°) in a corner of a small ledge (Figure 4). The joint crosses two adjacent blocks with a thickness of 50 cm each. What is most important in this case, is that the joint has passed straight through cement between the two blocks, without any bends. The length of the joint is 1 m. It starts 30 cm in from the upper corner of the upper block and it finishes 70 cm in from the lower corner of the lower block. The joint is inclined by an azimuth 174° L59° in its upper part, dip azimuth is 173° L68° in its lower part.
All of the above is evidence of an earthquake which took place in the region of Avdat town in the 7th century A.D., probably 631-633 A.D. However, there is other evidence in the town, dating back to the Late Roman period, of at least one more strong seismic event, probably the well known earthquake of 363 A.D. (Amiran, 1950-1952; Russell, 1980; Amiran et al., 1994), which terminated the Late Roman settlement of the city. Several years later, a new town was rebuilt on the ruins of the old one. This idea was suggested by P. Fabian (1996, 1997). Our study has confirmed his suggestion.
Strange discordance of trends of first lower rows of masonry (usually one or two rows) and upper wall fragments is visible in some parts of Avdat. For example, there is counterclockwise rotation of the whole NW wall of room No. 10 of the court (see, Figure 3). Horizontal displacement was 45 cm. During rotation around the vertical axis the NW wall was not collapsed and townsmen, who settled there after the 363 A.D. shock, used the rotated wall for rebuilding (Fabian 1996, 1997). The original trend of the wall was 50°, preserved first and second lower rows testify about that building (Figure 5). Modern trend azimuth of rotated wall is 41°.
In some places, one can see a sharp deviation of trends for separate walls joining to each other perpendicularly. Such deviations can sometimes amount to an angle of 11° (see, for example, SE wall of room No. 2 of the court on the Figure 3).
The shift of the building elements without rotation may be used in a similar manner to wall inclination or block collapse. The upper element of a construction is shifted toward or away from an epicenter due to inertia. In the Avdat such a displacement, of 80 cm, can be observed for the upper fragment of the NW wall of room No. 8 of the court (see, Figure 3) in a NW direction (Figure 6). Its former position (trend azimuth is 41°) is marked by one stone row of 20 cm height. The width of the shifted wall fragment is 70 cm, length is 165 cm, height of preserved fragment is 55-60 cm, its trend azimuth is 45°.
These facts apparently testify to the adaptation of the lower non-destroyed rows of masonry and preserved walls (only rotated slightly) for the regeneration of the town in Byzantine times. During Roman times at the same place, there was a settlement which was destroyed by an earthquake. Later the town was, again rebuilt on the site of the former settlement using the preserved lower rows of masonry and preserved whole walls (Fabian, 1996, 1997).
Additional indirect evidence of possible seismic activity in the studied territory is non-coincidence of lower stone rows with upper building structures. Such patterns occurred when a building was partly destroyed during an earthquake, but ancient people decided not to restore it. They removed still standing preserved fragments of the destroyed building and smoothed out the piles of rubble. They built a new building on the site of the old one. Later, during recent archeological excavations, researchers discovered strange non-coincidence of lower stone rows with upper building structures (Fabian, 1996, 1997).
For example, such non-coincidence can be observed in the northern yard of the bath-house, which is located near the foot of the Avdat hill (Figure 7). The bottom row of the NW corner of the wall is pulled out to the west 13 cm if compared with the upper fragment of the wall, with the trend azimuth of 159° (see, Figure 7(a)). This non-coincidence is even larger - 28.5 cm if compared with the SE part of the wall, with the trend azimuth of 167°. The lower pulled row of the northern fragment of the wall continues to the NW over the perpendicular external wall of the yard (see Figure 7(b)). The probable explanation of this case is given in the previous paragraph.
SUPPORT-WALLS "Previous" Southern Church 8 Indirect evidence of more old shocks are special support-walls which were built solely for this purpose. One such wall was built to support the eastern corner of the Southern Church (P. Fabian, 1994, personal communication). The wall which needed support had an ENE trend (Figure 8). One more support-wall was built to support the external wall (with NE strike) of the South Quarter of the town, opposite the eastern corner of the Fort, later it was dismantled by archeologists during excavation (P. Fabian, personal communication, 1996). This building of supporting walls for city walls of the same trend is not isolated. Apparently, during the Roman earthquake these city walls were slightly tilted, but they were not collapsed. Ancient people built those support-walls specifically to prevent them from possible future collapse (Fabian, 1996, 1997).
CAVE DESTRUCTIONS "Previous" Caves As stated above, on the slope of Avdat hill there are many caves which were inhabited for living during Nabatean—Byzantine times. However, below the caves there are huge piles of rubble, which consist of debris from Avdat hill's rocks and from remains of domestic objects (pieces of Nabatean earthenware vessels, for example - T. Gini, personal communication, 1996). This fact also indicates a possible earthquake in 363 A.D. during which the collapse of inhabited caves took place. After that event ancient people cleaned out the caves and used them for living in for the second time. However, some of the caves were not cleaned after the 363 A.D. shock.
The caves near the top of the hill were the most severely damaged (T. Gini, 1996, personal communication). This fact can be explained by the "sky-scraper effect - maximum oscillation during earthquakes is in the upper part of the building (or the hill in the Avdat case).
A study of habitable (in the past) caves was made. They were dug up on a hill slope, on top of which there are main town buildings. This study shows numerous collapses of walls and cave vaults, and also considerable long fractures. The displacement of chisel traces on the cave ceilings was observed, where those traces are crossed by long fractures in limestone massif . The latest ones show subsidence on the first few centimeters of the middle parts of the limestone hill compared to the external parts. It is the opposite to what one would expect due to gravitation forces. Such graben-like subsidence of watershed parts of mountain ridges was observed during strong earthquakes in the Baikal Rift area (Khromovskikh, 1965) and in the Tien Shan seismic belt (Korjenkov and Chedia, 1986; Korjenkov and Omuraliev, 1993; Ghose et al., 1997). These seismogenic features are indicators of an earthquake intensity of IX—X.
The new Byzantine town existed until the beginning of the seventh century A.D., probably 633 A.D., and was then totally destroyed by an earthquake never to be rebuilt (Fabian, 1996, 1997). This may explain the absence of any Early Muslim period finds at the site in spite of the continued occupation of other Negev sites such as Nessana and Shivta (see Figure 1) that existed until the tenth century A.D. (E. Oren, personal communication, 1996). These towns were located west of Avdat and were probably less affected by the earthquake.
The following are the seismic features belonging to group 2, used for the determination of the seismic wave propagation direction. They belong to the seismic event which occurred in the 7th century.
INCLINATION OF BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION ELEMENTS mostly 7th century ? various locations 9
As in strong earthquakes throughout the world, a large number of structural elements were found to be preferentially inclined (Richter, 1958; Cloud and Scott, 1969; Bolt, 1978; Polyakov, 1978; Omuraliev et al., 1993a and others). A similar destruction was found in the ancient city of Avdat: forty one cases of preferentially inclined walls (Figures 9 and 10) and inclination of single stones within walls can be seen there. As seen in Figure 5, walls trending SE 130°-140° are systematically inclined to the SW. In contrast walls trending NE 40°-60° are inclined to NW and SE with no preferential direction. This observation seems to indicate that the seismic shock arrived along the NE—SW direction: the walls oriented roughly normal to the seismic wave direction were systematically collapsed or inclined, whereas walls oriented parallel to the seismic waves lost support, were tilted and collapsed randomly.
COLLAPSE FEATURES 7th century ? Agricultural Fences 11a
Numerous ruins of agricultural fences remained on the top (Figure 11(a)) and near the foot of the Avdat hill (Figure 11(b)). The fences trending about EW reveal a clear systematic picture of the collapse: the lower part of the wall is intact (easily seen from its northern side), whereas the upper part of the fences fell southward (see Figure 11). Azimuth of preferred collapsed features are plotted in Figure 12 versus wall trend. One group of walls trending SE 90°-140° reveals collapse toward SW 180°-240°, whereas walls oriented in other directions fell on both sides of the original wall position, they did not show a systematic pattern of the collapse, and so they were not shown on the graph. This observation indicates that the direction of seismic wave propagation was roughly perpendicular to the SE-trending walls.
It is necessary to mention the cases of wall drags (rotations) because of wall collapse. Many rotated blocks or block fragments in Avdat were caused by the drag due to the collapse of a wall (Figure 13). Such rotations cannot be used to determine shear stresses, however the patterns of drag-caused rotations enable us to reconstruct the direction of wall collapse.
ROTATION OF BUILDING ELEMENTS 7th century ? various locations 13
Field study of the epicentral zones of the well-known strong earthquakes revealed that some building constructions or rock fragments were rotated clockwise, whereas others were rotated counterclockwise (Richter, 1958; Cloud and Scott, 1969; Bolt, 1978: Polyakov, 1978; Omuraliev et al., 1993b and others). Horizontal rotation of arch supports, separate blocks in arch supports and walls, or rotation of a large fragment of a wall with tens to hundreds of stones were measured in the ruins of Avdat town. Clockwise and counterclockwise patterns of rotation were observed. Some examples of the rotated elements are shown in Figure 14.
For the case of the Avdat ruins the pattern and degree of rotations were plotted against the wall trends (Figure 15 ). As can be seen in the graph, the only one case of clockwise rotation was found in a wall fragment with trend SE 140°, whereas counterclockwise rotations were found on walls trending NE 40°-60°.
The rotations described above were measured in well-preserved walls at some distance from the corners, so that a researcher could be confident, that the rotations were caused by a shear couple. However, many rotated blocks or block fragments in Avdat were caused by a drag which occurred due to collapse of a wall (see Figure 13). Such rotations cannot be applied to determine shear stresses, however, the patterns of drag-caused rotations enable us to reconstruct the direction of wall collapse, which, as described above, is an independent kinematic indicator.
Archaeoseismic Analysis

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) provided an extensive discussion regarding the analysis of their data. This discussion provides information for Avdat and explains the methodology used to examine archaeoseismic observations from other sites in the Negev. Due to it's value as a reference, much of the discussion is repeated below:
Study of the destruction in the Avdat ruins reveals a systematic type of dislocation:
  1. Walls of buildings trending SE 120° revealed strong preferential collapse or inclination toward south, whereas walls trending NE 20°-50° tilted and fell without a noticeable systematic pattern (see Figure 10 ). A similar structure of collapse was observed for the ruins of agricultural fences (see Figure 12 ). These observations indicate that the seismic shock arrived from the south in the case of a compressional wave, or from the north, if the wave causing the collapse was extensional. Thus, by this exercise the eastward and westward propagating seismic waves can be excluded.
  2. Most rotated blocks in the Avdat ruins are turned counterclockwise and they were found exclusively on NE-trending walls (see Figure 15 ). The only case of clockwise rotation was found in a wall fragment with trend SE 140°. The fact of the appearance of rotated blocks, as described above, indicates push movements (compression wave approaching the buildings). Thus, the only possibility left is a compressional seismic wave coming from the south. Rotation itself involves shear stresses acting along the walls, thus the seismic wave must have arrived at some angle to the walls.
Following the well-known strong earthquakes a large number of structural elements were found to be preferentially inclined toward the epicenter, however, in some cases the inclination was in the opposite direction. As in the case with the wall inclinations, the walls facing the seismic wave collapsed systematically toward the seismically induced compression strain, whereas the walls aligned parallel to the seismic wave lost support and collapsed in a random manner. Therefore, one has to look for a correlation between the trend of a construction element and the direction of collapse. The collapse debris form the shape of a cone, because the central part of a collapsing wall segment undergoes maximum oscillation during the seismic event (Figure 16 ).

The preferred direction of collapse or inclination of building elements may be either toward an epicenter or away from it. If the damaged site is located in the quadrangle of compression strain (Figure 17 ), the deformation will be caused by a push movement exerted on the ground, resulting in inclination and collapse toward the epicenter. In contrast, in the sites located in a tensional quadrangle, the deformations are induced by a pull movement causing inclination and collapse away from the epicenter. In either case, the line of collapse or relative motion can be determined. This line connects the original position of an object and its position after an earthquake, or corresponds to the dip azimuth of an inclined element. The intersecting points of the collapse lines measured in many places will converge at the area of the epicenter (Figure 18 ).

Shear stresses applied to an elongated element cause its rotation. The direction of rotation depends on two factors:
  1. orientation of principle stresses in a location and
  2. the orientation of the elongated element
Field study of the epicentral zones of the world-known strong earthquakes revealed that some building constructions or rock fragments were rotated clockwise, whereas others were rotated counterclockwise. A seismic wave approaching a building parallel or normal to its walls will result in collapse, shift or inclination with no rotation (Figure 20(a) ). The rotation should take place in the cases where the principle stresses are oblique to a construction element, and the resolved shear stresses are high (Figure 20(b) ). Thus, rotated elements situated on perpendicularly oriented walls should have an opposite direction of rotation, if the seismic shock came along the bisector of the two walls (Figure 20(c) ).

Two mechanisms of rotation, caused by tectonic movements, are known in geology (Figure 21 ):
  1. book-shelf structures, or synthetically rotated blocks, and
  2. asymmetric pull-aparts, or antithetically rotated blocks (Jordan, 1991)
As can be seen in Figure 21 , the same direction of rotation can be obtained by the different stress setups. These rotated blocks are termed "antithetical" or "synthetic" because with respect to the same simple shear couple two directions of rotation are possible. A synthetic structure is formed as a result of compression acting parallel to an element along axis, whereas the antithetical structure is developed when extension is parallel to an elongated element. Thus, in tectonics the interpretation of the rotation structures should be proceeded by a determination of the strain that occurred parallel to a rotated element. Such an ambiguity does not exist in seismic interpretations. Any lateral extension applied to a construction should lead to its collapse or inclination, whereas rotation could occur only under horizontal compression. This provides an additional criterion for the determination of strain accompanying an earthquake: the appearance of rotated blocks is an indication of a push movement. A scheme showing the direction of rotation, with respect to the direction of seismic wave propagation, is shown in Figure 20 .

This discussion leads to an additional conclusion explaining the lack of oriented inclination and collapse features in an epicentral area (and additionally, to the assumption that the point seismic source is not valid in the epicentral zone): the shock wave moving from a hypocenter under a high angle to the surface, results in a lateral extension applied to constructions. This explains why in recent earthquakes (Acapulco, 1962; Scopje, 1963; Tashkent, 1966 and others) the areas above a hypo-center do not reveal systematic inclination and collapse patterns (Muto et al., 1963; Binder, 1965; Medvedev, 1966; The Scopje Earthquake of 26 July 1963, 1968; Mirzoev et al., 1969; Liquidation of Consequences of Tashkent Earthquake, 1972), whereas some distance away inclination and collapse have pronounced directional patterns (Figure 22 ).

All said above is true for the features of destruction found in building constructions built on an isotropic massive foundation without a strong preferential orientation of the fabric in the basement rocks. In the studied case, Avdat was built directly on massive limestones. Thus, an input caused by rock anisotropy could be neglected. To avoid gravitational reasons for the city's destruction, the authors did not conduct the measurements on the slope of Avdat hill.

Avdat ruins have two perpendicular directions of walls (—NE 50° and —SE 140°), so the overall model can be represented as a single building (or room). To cause south-directed wall collapse by a compressional seismic wave, the shock should have come from south side. If the shock arrived exactly perpendicular to the NE-trending walls (i.e., from SW, Figure 23(a) ), the shear stresses along walls should be minimal and the rotations should appear only occasionally.

In contrast, maximal shear stresses would result if the seismic wave approached the buildings along a bisector line between the walls (Figure 23(b) ), i.e., from south. In this case rotations on both wall directions should be clearly pronounced, whereas both NE and SE-trending walls should reveal oriented collapse and inclinations to the south (SE and SW sides correspondingly).

In the case of Avdat the only NE-trending walls revealed oriented collapse and inclinations, and SE-trending walls demonstrate systematic counterclockwise rotations. Such a situation is possible if the compressional wave came from SSW (Figure 23(c) ).

Thus, the epicenter was located somewhere SSW from the Avdat settlement, and the scale of destruction indicates that the epicenter was situated 15 km south of Avdat, probably in the area of the Nafha Fault zone. The force (seismic intensity) of a shock resulting in the destruction of buildings was determined using the scale of earthquake intensity MSK-64. Buildings in Avdat town according to this scale are classed as B type - buildings from natural hewed stones. Quantitative characteristics of destruction: most buildings were destroyed (more then 75%). According to the degree of destruction Avdat town is classified as fourth degree:
  • through cracks and breaks in the walls
  • collapse of building parts
  • breaking of connections between separate parts of buildings
  • collapse of internal walls and walls of framework filling
All these features of destruction show on IX-X intensity of seismic shock on territory of Avdat town.
The destruction was caused by a compressional seismic wave and the epicenter was located SSW of Avdat somewhere in central Negev. The degree of town destruction during the historical earthquake according to Seismic Intensity Scale MSK-64 was IX-X.
Intensity Estimates

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999)'s seismic characterization of the 7th century earthquake

As mentioned previously, Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) were able to sort a number of seismic effects by earthquake event - distinguishing whether the observed damage was due to the 7th century earthquake or one of the "previous" earthquakes (i.e the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE and/or the 5th century CE earthquake). As such, one can have confidence in the Intensity estimate Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) produced for the 7th century earthquake. Korjenkov and Mazor (1999)'s conclusion for the 7th century CE earthquake is that
The destruction was caused by a compressional seismic wave, the epicenter was located SSW of Avdat somewhere in central Negev, and the degree of town destruction [] according to Seismic Intensity Scale MSK-64 was IX-X.
Distinguishing 7th century effects from "previous" earthquake effects

Korjenkov and Mazor (1999) did not produce an Intensity or directional estimate for any of the earthquakes that preceded the 7th century CE event. However, by making use of their detailed descriptions of seismic effects and the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart, I produced Intensity estimates for both the 7th century CE earthquake and the "previous" one. Although I cannot rigorously distinguish whether my "previous" earthquake Intensity estimate is for the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE or the 5th century CE earthquake, if Erickson-Gini, T. (2014) is correct that the southern Cyril Quake only caused some structural damage and the 5th century earthquake was massive, my Intensity estimate for the "previous" earthquake is likely effectively for the 5th century quake. So, it is labeled as such.

Intensity Estimate for the 7th century CE earthquake

Effect Earthquake
Location Intensity
Penetrative fractures in masonry blocks 7th century many locations
an example from Northern Church
Figure 4
Tilted Walls 7th century various locations VI +
Collapsed Walls 7th century various locations
Fig. 9
Collapsed Walls 7th century Agricultural Fences
Fig. 11a
Fig. 11b
Arch damage 7th century various locations VI +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Intensity Estimate for the 5th century CE earthquake

Effect Earthquake
Location Intensity
Displaced Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
Room 10 in court in S Quarter
Fig. 5
Room 8 in court in S Quarter
Fig. 6
Displaced Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
N yard of bath-house
Fig. 7a
Fig. 7b
Tilted Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
Support Walls of Southern Church
Fig. 8
VI +
Collapsed Walls "previous"
prob. 5th century
Caves VIII +
Collapsed Vaults "previous"
prob. 5th century
Caves VIII +
This archaeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Topographic or Ridge Effect

Evidence of increased seismic damage in upslope cavescitation adjacent to the Avdat acropolis suggests that a ridge effect may present at Avdat. A terrain map showing the ~4 km. long ridge Avdat lies on suggests the same. Orientation of the ridge further indicates that seismic energy arriving from the NE or the SW (orthogonal to the ridge) would be most likely to produce seismic amplification at the site. A slope effect may also be at play as Avdat is parked at the end of the ridge; surrounded by steep slopes on 3 sides.

Notes and Further Reading

Korzhenkov, A. and E. Mazor (1998). "Seismogenic Origin of the Ancient Avdat Ruins, Negev Desert, Israel." Natural Hazards 18: 193-226.

Korzhenkov, A. and E. Mazor (1999). "Structural reconstruction of seismic events: Ruins of ancient buildings as fossil seismographs." Science and New Technologies 1: 62-74.

Rodkin, M. V. and A. M. Korzhenkov (2018). Estimation of maximum mass velocity from macroseismic data: A new method and application to archeoseismological data. Geodesy and Geodynamics.

Fabian, P. (1998). Evidence of earthquakes destruction in the archaeological record–the case of ancient Avdat. Pp. 21E-26E in The Annual Meeting of the Israel Geological Society, Mitzpeh Ramon.

Erickson-Gini, T. (2014). "Oboda and the Nabateans." STRATA - Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 32.

Tali, E.-G. and I. Yigal (2013). "Excavating the Nabataean Incense Road." Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies 1(1): 24-53.

Erickson-Gini, T. (2000). Nabataean or Roman? Reconsidering the date of the camp at Avdat in light of recent excavations. XVIIIth International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies, Amman, Jordan.

Haluza (Elusa)

Negev (1976:92) report that at an eastern part of the site at Haluza (Area D), a house from Late Roman-Byzantine Haluza was discovered where "it thus seems that either the destruction of the house occurred a very short time after its abandonment, or the house had to be abandoned because of its destruction by an earthquake." Korjenkov and Mazor (2005) indicate that, although first human habitation started in the 3rd century BCE, the main building activity in the town started in the second century CE. They report that Negev (1989) reported that the Cathedral at Haluza was restored, likely after an earthquake, but inscriptions indicate that the restoration ocurred in the late 5th or more likely early 6th century CE. Thus, archeoseismic evidence for the southern Cyril earthquake can only be considered as possible because definitive evidence is lacking.

En Hazeva

The Summary Report on Excavations at 'En Hazeva (1990) by the Israel Antiquities Authority reports archeoseismic evidence in the Late Roman period (Stratum 2; 3rd-4th centuries CE) at the Fortress where they state
The abundant pottery and the coins attributed to this phase indicate that it was destroyed in the mid-4th century CE, probably by the earthquake of 344 CE, and was almost immediately rebuilt. Changes made in this phase are evident in its inner layout, especially in the size of the casemates. Its final ruin should be attributed to the earthquake of 363 CE
We are unaware of any earthquake reports for 344 CE in the vicinity of the southerm Levant. The most relaible catalogs of Guidoboni et al (1994) and Ambraseys (2009) report an earthquake in 344 CE in Neocaesarea in Pontus and another one in Rhodes; both too far away to have caused seismic damage in Palestine.

Tali Erickson-Gini and Moore Bekes (2019) report that
a Roman fort and camp that appear to have been part of the Diocletianic military build-up in the region that took place with the transfer of the Tenth Legion from Jerusalem to Ayla (Aqaba) at the end of the third or the early fourth century CE (Erickson-Gini 2010:68–74).


The camp appears to have been built around the time that the Diocletianic fort was constructed on the tell, in the late third or early fourth century CE. It was devastated in the earthquake of 363 CE, which damaged the bathhouse and the fort as well. The camp was subsequently reconstructed and remained in use until the sometime in the sixth century CE


The 2003 Excavation

Room 45 (see Fig. 4). An east–west balk (L100, L101, L200, L203, L300, L303; width 1 m) remaining from Cohen and Israel’s excavation and running across the center of Room 45 (3.8 × 12.0 m), in the northeast part of the camp, was removed; the finds were meager. A north–south wall (W785), running through the center of the room was exposed to its full length. The wall was made up of pilasters and collapsed arches over a layer of dark soil and ash (Figs. 6, 7). Coins discovered under the arches included a Roman Provincial coin from the third century CE (IAA 97941), coins of Licinius I (320 CE; IAA 97946) and Constantine I (324 CE; IAA 97937), and a Late Roman coin from 324 CE (IAA 97936).

The soil over the Room’s floor (L300/L303) contained coins, mainly from the fourth century CE, attributed to both the first phase of the structure (late third or early fourth century to the earthquake of 363 CE) and its second phase (from 363 CE until the early sixth century CE). These included coins of Arcadius (383 CE; IAA 97942) and Theodosius (379 CE; IAA 97940), as well as several other Late Roman coins of the early fourth century CE (IAA 97939, 97944, 97945, 97947, 97948). A Late Roman coin from 346 CE was recovered on the surface of the site elsewhere in the structure (IAA 97949).


Room 53. In the 1994–1995 excavation, a vaulted, subterranean structure (L4538; 3.7 × 4.3 m; Fig. 9) was discovered in the middle of the camp; it was dubbed ‘The Treasury Vault’. This structure was re-examined in 2003. It was well-constructed, with a paved floor and walls built of dressed stones that stood at least seven courses high. The vaulted ceiling was originally supported by two arches, the springers of which are still visible on the south and north walls. According to the 1994–1995 field notes by Y. Kalman, Area E supervisor, Room 53 was filled with collapsed debris, stone slabs that were used for roofing, arch stones and other building stones. The structure probably collapsed in the 363 CE earthquake.
These reports suggest probable evidence that the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE damaged structures at En Haseva.


Cracked Steps at Mamshit Fig.7


Open cracks at the bottom and closed cracks at the top of a E-W (83 degrees) trending staircase inside a Late Nabatean Building, and tilted side walls


Stress directions concluded from the observed open and closed crack patterns, disclosing northward movement of southern walls. Thus the seismic push arrived from north.

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003)

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003) estimated that an earthquake struck Mamshit at the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century. Although they saw evidence that a later 7th century earthquake also struck the site, they found statistically meaningful directional preferences in the damage patterns that allowed them to separate the effects of the two different quakes. They further estimated that the epicenter of the late 3rd/early 4th century earthquake was to the north of Mamshit and the minimum local intensity was IX.

Korzhenkov and Mazor (2003) estimated that all structures were damaged during the earthquake and 15% were destroyed. They noted that although the destroyed Roman buildings were rebuilt, "the large number of deformation patterns seen in the remaining parts of the Roman period buildings makes room to the assessment that practically all houses were damaged." They further noted that "most of the second floors or upper parts of high structures were rebuilt at the Byzantine stage, leading to an estimate that at least 15% of the Roman period buildings were destroyed in the earthquake. In the rebuilding, presumably after the quake(s), the incorporation of wooden beams to absorb seismic shocks is thought to reflect a seismic awareness that stemmed from the damage and destruction experienced in Mamshit during this earthquake. They further noted the the secondary use of building stones presumed to be salvaged from the damaged and destroyed structures.

Erickson-Gini (personal communication, 2021) relates that there is archeoseismic evidence for destruction and abandonment of Building XXV and destruction and rebuilding in Buildings I and XII from the earthquake(s) that struck around this time. Further details are in Erickson-Gini, T. (1999).

The archeoseismic evidence suggests that the Cyril Quake and/or the Monaxius and Plinta Quake was responsible for the observed damage. Because it is difficult identify which of these two earthquakes caused the damage or if both were responsible, archeoseismic evidence for Mamphis is labeled as possible.


Stratigraphy of Yotvata Fig. 7

West baulk of Room 4, showing the mud-brick collapse

JW: Stratigraphy of Yotvata - burnt layer at bottom is overlain by mud brick collapse layer and sedimentation until the top Early Islamic layer

Davies and Magness (2015)


Transliterated Name Source Name
Yotvata Hebrew יׇטְבָתָה
Iutfata Arabic يوتفاتا
Ein Ghadian Arabic يين عهاديان

Yotvata is located in a small oasis about 40 km. north of Eilat. The modern name Yotvata is based on Jotbathah, one of the stops of the Israelites in the journey of the Exodus (Deuteronomy 10:7 and Numbers 33:33-34). There is as yet no proof for this identification (Zeev Meshel in Stern et al, 1993). Due Yotvata's water source and location at a crossroad, it has been settled during different periods although although there is no mound or multiperiod central site (Zeev Meshel in Stern et al, 1993). Sites are located in different places. Zeev Meshel in Stern et al (1993) summarizes the sites:
Remains can be divided into four main groups:
  • remains related to water or agriculture
  • tombs
  • remains of settlements or encampments
  • remains associated with copper production

The settlements excavated so far date to the [following periods]
  1. Chalcolithic
  2. the Early and Middle Bronze Ages
  3. The beginning of the Iron Age
  4. Nabatean
  5. Roman
  6. Early Arab
The sites from the last four periods were probably fortresses or way stations
A Roman fortress is present at the site .


Davies and Magness (2015) excavated a Roman Fort at Yotvata from 2003-2007. A monumental Latin inscription discovered earlier (1985) outside of the east gate "suggests that the fort at Yotvata was built when Diocletian transferred the Tenth Legion Fretensis from Jerusalem to Aila in the last decade of the third century." Two destruction layers were described after establishment of the fort - a burned layer and a collapse layer. The authors noted that "the first phase of Roman occupation at our fort, which is associated with coins that go up to ca. 360, ended with a violent destruction evidenced by intense burning throughout." Reconstruction is said to have occurred immediately after this destruction as documented by a "series of successive floor layers throughout". The cause of the burned layer was not established but the authors suggested a "a possible connection with the Saracen revolt against Rome led by Queen Mavia, ca. 375–378" noting the documented successes of her forces against Roman field armies and that "the inclusion of former foederati among her troops suggest that her forces would have been capable of taking and destroying the fort at Yotvata." Whatever the specific cause, the excavators strongly believed that human agency rather than the southern Cyril Quake of 363 AD was the general cause noting that there was no visible evidence of structural damage or a collapse layer. One of the excavators, Gwyn Davies (personal communication 2020) noted that
We are confident that the fort was destroyed in a violent attack as we encountered signs of intense burning across most contexts and, even more suggestively, the stone frame of the main gate was fire-seared as well. If the fire had been more localized and associated with signs of toppling collapse, then ‘natural causes’ may have been more persuasive or, indeed, that this represented an accidental destruction. Instead, the evidence suggests to us that the fort was put to the torch quite deliberately
Another of the excavators, Jodi Magness (personal communication 2020) related the following
In addition to the lack of evidence of visible structural damage that could be attributed to an earthquake in the earliest destruction level, the absence of whole (restorable) pottery vessels and other objects in that level suggests an earthquake did not cause the destruction, as one would expect these artifacts to be buried in a sudden collapse. Therefore, we attributed the destruction by fire to human agents.
Thus, although it is possible that there is archeoseismic evidence for the southern Cyril Quake at Yotvata, this is considered unlikely.



Transliterated Name Language Name
Petra English
Al-Batrā Arabic ٱلْبَتْرَاء‎
Petra Ancient Greek Πέτρα‎
Rekeme Thamudic ?
Raqmu Arabic
Raqēmō Arabic

Petra is the location of an ancient city in Southern Jordan which is traditionally accessed through a slot canyon known as the Siq. The site was initially inhabited at least as early as the Neolithic and has been settled sporadically ever since - for example in the Biblical Edomite, Hellenistic, Nabatean, Byzantine, and Crusader periods. After the Islamic conquest in the 7th century CE, Petra lost its strategic and commercial value and began to decline until it was "re-discovered" by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812 (Meyers et al, 1997). It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been and continues to be extensively studied by archeologists.

Jabal Harun
Jabal Harun after excavations Figure 1

The FJHP site following the end of excavations in 2007 (by Z. T. Fiema).

Fiema (2013)


Transliterated Name Language Name
Jabal Harun Arabic جابال هارون‎

Jabal Harun (Mount Harun) is located ~5 km. southwest of the main site (cardo) of Petra and has traditionally been recognized by Muslims, Christians, and Jews as the place where Moses' brother Aaron was buried (Frosen et al, 2002). As such, it may have remained as an ecclesiastical and pilgrimage site after Petra's decline in the 7th century CE. About 150 m from the peak of Jabal Harun lies the remains of what is thought to have been a Byzantine monastery/pilgrimage center dedicated to Aaron.


In Appendix C of the Final Report of FJHP, one can find Pre-Monastic Phasing. Phase IV is listed as a destruction layer attributed to the 363 CE earthquake. It is described in Appendix C:34
The structures and soundings made in Room 25 provided evidence of an early destruction and the following period of decay that apparently preceded the building of the monastery. A dramatic piece of evidence the shattered second story floor (O.41), some remains of which are still protruding from Wall (e.g. Fig. 8). The core of Western Building must have partially collapsed and the second story was entirely destroyed, as remains of its floor were incorporated in the Byzantine structures. The superstructure and arches of the southern cistern (Room 36) may also have collapsed. All of this may well be related to the famous earthquake of May 19, 363 CE [JW: The southern Cyril Quake struck on the night of May 18, 363 CE] which is archaeologically well-evidenced by excavations in central Petra at sites such the Temple of Winged lions, the Colonnaded Street, the so-called Great Temple, and the residential complex at es-Zantur. According to a contemporary literary source (Bishop, Cyril of Jerusalem), the earthquake destroyed more than half of Patna. Given the fact that the earthquake severely damaged a host of other cities as well, it stems very unlikely that Jabal Harun, located less than five kilometers from downtown Petra, was left unharmed.
This shown in Tab AppC of the Google sheet below:

Seismic Effects

Seismic Effects mentioned in in Appendix C:34 include: Intensity Estimates

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls VIII +
Collapsed Arches VI +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Notes and Further Reading

Fiema, Z. T. and J. Frösén (2008). Petra - the mountain of Aaron : the Finnish archaeological project in Jordan. Helsinki, Societas Scientiarum Fennica.

Eklund, S. (2008). Stone Weathering in the Monastic Building Complex on Mountain of St Aaron in Petra, Jordan.

Frosen et al. (2000). "The 1999 Finnish Jabal Harun Project: A Preliminary Report " Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 44.

Fiema, Z. T. (2002). "The Byzantine monastic / pilgrimage center of St. Aaron near Petra, Jordan." Arkeologipäivät.

Fiema, Z. T. (2013). "Visiting the sacred : continuity and change at Jabal Hārūn " Studies in the history and archaeology of Jordan. Department of Antiquities, Amman, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan-Amman. Vol. 4 11.

Finnish Jabal Harun Project

Bikai, P. M. 1996 Petra, Ridge Church. P. 531 in Archaeology in Jordan section. Patricia M. Bikai and Virginia Egan, eds. American Journal of Archaeology 100, no. 3, pp. 507-536.

Bikai, P. and M. Perry (2001). "Petra North Ridge Tombs 1 and 2: Preliminary Report." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 324: 59 - 78.

Bikai, P. M. 2002a Petra. North Ridge Project. Pp. 450-51 in Archaeology in Jordan section. St. H. Savage, K. Zamora and D. R. Keller, eds. American Journal of Archaeology 106: 435-458.

Bikai, P. M. 2002b North Ridge Project. ACOR Newsletter vol 14.1. Summer, pp. 1-3.

Bikai, P. M. (2002). The churches of Byzantine Petra, in Petra. Near Eastern Archeology, 116, 555-571

Bikai, P. M. 2004 Petra: North Ridge Project. Pp. 59-63 in Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan VIII. F. al-Kraysheh ed. Amman. Bikai, Patricia M., and Megan Perry

Parr, Peter 1959 Rock Engravings from Petra. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 91, pp. 106-108.

Petra North Ridge Project

Fiema, Z. T., et al. (2001). The Petra Church, American Center of Oriental Research.

Bikai, P., et al. (2020). Petra: The North Ridge, American Center of Oriental Research.

Petra: The North Ridge at ACOR

Petra - various locations

Chronology and Seismic Effects

Kirkbride (1960:121) was apparently first to recognize (approximately) 4th century AD earthquake damage in the main area of Petra. Russell (1980) reports that during the 1961-1962 seasons, Hammond (1965:13-17) "found evidence of 4th century AD architectural collapse while excavating the Main Theater. From the stratigraphic evidence and the recovery of two coins of Constantine I (ruled 306 - 337 AD) and one of Constantius II (ruled 337-361 AD), he was able to date this event to the mid 4th century". Hammond (1964) apparently labeled the destruction period as Period IV noting that "in this period the scaena and its stories, blockade walls, the tribunalia(e), and other built parts of the Theater were all cataclysmically destroyed". This would indicate a high level of seismic intensity in Petra due to the southern Cyril Quake.

Zayadine, F. (1973) excavated on the western slope of Khubta Cliff; uncovering a small dwelling in a cave in "Area A". Inside the cave, Zayadine (1973), found objects dated to the beginning of the 4th century AD noting that "it was tempting to consider that the cave was abandoned after an earthquake." In 1973 and 1974, Hammond (1975) excavated a Temple at a location called Site II at Petra. There they encountered a not particularly well dated destruction layer (Phase X) which they mistakenly correlated to an earthquake in 365 AD; something Hammond (1980) later acknowledged as a mistake. The corrected correlation of the Phase X layer of architectural debris would then be to the Cyril Quake(s) of 363 AD. During the seasons of 1975-1977, Hammond (1978) excavated at a location north of the Cardo Maximus and encountered some chronologically precise archeoseismic evidence for the Cyril Quake(s). Ken Russell served as one of two supervisors on these excavations and provided a detailed account of the archeoseismic evidence encountered in his article from 1980. In the 1976 and 1977 seasons at what was termed the "middle house" structure of Area I, Russell (1980) reports the discovery of a destruction layer containing numerous domestic articles such as lamps, shattered ceramics and glass, spindle whorls, and coins. In Room II, a hoard of 85 bronze coins was discovered of which 45 were identifiable. All 45 identifiable coins were minted during the reign of Constantius II who ruled from 337-361 AD. Further, 40 of these 45 coins were identified as being minted after 354 AD. This coin evidence provided a terminus post quem - i.e. the earliest possible date of destruction was between 354 and 361 AD. This points to the southern Cyril Quake as the cause of the destruction layer in the "middle room" in Petra.

Stucky et al. (1990) discovered two skeletons (a woman and child) along with 65 bronze coins dated from 336 - 361 AD (p. 270-271) beneath a destruction layer in Room 1 of the Ez-Zantur domestic complex; also at Petra. This provided another strong chronological correlation to severe earthquake damage in Petra due to the southern Cyril Quake. Bedal et al. (2007) also excavated the Ez-Zantur domestic complex at Petra. They identified a destruction layer composed of architectural elements of the pool complex of Ez-Zantur which they attributed to the Cyril Quake(s). Pottery fragments in the layer below the destruction layer were dated from the 1st to 4th century AD.

Tholbecq et. al., 2020 (Figs. 11 and 12 on p. 37) (2020) attributed a destruction layer to the southern Cyril Quake based on excavations of the western Temple Staircase (Zone F) of Qasr al Bint. The dating is approximate - to the 3rd or 4th century CE - apparently based on a pottery fragments (North African Sigillata) and oil lamps. Colluvium atop the destruction layer suggests partial abandonment of the site and a destructive earthquake.

Kolb and Growher (1998) offered the following regarding chronology of earthquakes at ez-Zantur
EZ IV: The Nabataean "Villa"

The Last Phase of Occupation

Household objects such as a basalt hand mill, two bone spoons, an alabaster pyxis and a number of unidentifiable iron objects, as well as large quantities of ceramics and glass vessels of the fourth century AD lay buried on the pavement, along walls H and K, beneath innumerable fragments of stucco from the wall and ceiling decoration (see below for the contributions of D. Keller and Y. Gerber). The datable objects confirm last year's findings from room 2, where the coins indicated that the end of the final phase of occupation came with the earthquake of 363 AD (Kolb 1997: 234).

The thick layer of mural and moulded stucco fragments on top of the household utensils of the fourth century proves beyond any doubt that the Nabataean decor remained on the walls up till the aforementioned natural catastrophe. 3
Seismic effects from Room 6 at ez-Zantur IV (EZ IV) included broken columns, debris, and a cracked flagstone floor under 6 carbonized wood beams which Kolb and Growher (1998) described as a witness to the violence with which the wood hit the floor. Also found in az-Zantur IV were cracked steps which may have been seismically damaged. There was no indications from the article what lay below the steps and whether geotechnical factors could have played a role in cracking the steps. Kolb and Growher (1998) report that some structures at EZ IV were built directly on bedrock.

Kolb B. and Keller D. (2002:286) also discussed archeoseismic evidence at ez-Zantur for both an early 2nd c CE earthquake and the southern Cyril Quake
Stratigraphic excavation in square 86/AN unexpectedly brought useful data on the history of the mansion' s construction phases and destruction. The ash deposit in Abs. 2 with FK 3524 and 3533 provided clear indications as to the final destruction in 363. A further chronological "bar line" — a some-what vaguely defined construction phase 2 in various parts of the terrace in the late first or second century AD — received clear confirmation in the form of a thin layer of ash. The lamp and glass finds from the associated FK 3546 date homogeneously from the second century AD, and confirm the assumption of a moderately severe (not historically documented) earthquake that led to the structural repairs observed in various places and the renewal of a number of interior decorations.
Jones (2021) provided a summary of archeoseismic evidence in Petra which is reproduced below.

Arcehoseismic Evidence in Petra Table 1

List of sites in and near Petra (other than al-Zantur) with destructions attributable to earthquakes in 363 AD and the 6th century

Jones (2021)

Intensity Estimates

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls Main Theater - Hammond (1964) apparently labeled the destruction period as Period IV noting that "in this period the scaena and its stories, blockade walls, the tribunalia(e), and other built parts of the Theater were all cataclysmically destroyed" VIII +
Collapsed Walls Room 6 Ez-Zantur IV VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .



Transliterated Name Source Name
Aqaba Arabic العقبة
al-ʿAqaba Arabic variant
al-ʿAgaba Arabic variant
ʿaqabat Aylah 12th century Arabic عقبة آيلة
Ayla Arabic آيلا
Aela Latin
Aila Latin
Ailana Latin
Haila Latin
Aila Byzantine Greek Άιλα
Berenice Ancient Greek Βερενίκη
Elath Ancient Semitic
Ailath Ancient Semitic
Ezion-Geber Hebrew עֶצְיֹן גֶּבֶר
Transliterated Name Source Name
Eilat Hebrew אֵילַת
Ilat Arabic إِيلَات
Umm al-Rashrāsh Arabic أم الرشراش

Aqaba, located at the northern terminus of the Gulf of Aqaba has a long history of habitation punctuated by episodes of abandonment and decline. It's strategic location as the nearest port town to the copper mines of the Araba Valley made it a regional hub for copper production (smelting) and trade as evidenced at the Chalcolithic sites of Tall Hujayrat Al-Ghuzlan and Tall Al-Magass Klimscha (2011). The Hebrew Bible (e.g. 1 Kings 9:26-28 and 2 Chronicles 8:17-18) mentions nearby Elath and Ezion Geber as ports of departure for Solomon's merchant fleet to Ophir ( S. Thomas Parker and Donald S. Whitcomb in Meyers et al, 1997). According to the same Hebrew Bible, Eilat was later conquered by the Edomites in the late eighth century BCE (2 Kings 16:6). Nelson Glueck excavated the site of Tell el-Kheleifeh thinking it was Solomon's port city but subsequent work on the site suggests that this is not the case. Before the Roman annexation in 106 CE, Aqaba was a Nabatean port. In Roman and Byzantine times, the port was known as Aila. The town surrendered to the Muslims during the Muslim conquest of the Levant, and eventually a new Muslim town (Ayla) was built just outside the city walls of Byzantine Aila (aka Ailana) (Whitcomb, 1994).

The modern Israeli city of Eilat, named for ancient Elath, lies across the border from the Jordanian city of Aqaba.


Tilted Walls at Aila Jordan (southern Cyril Quake) Wall Collapse at Aila Jordan (southern Cyril Quake) Left - Tilted South Wall of Room 2 at Aila J-East

Right - Normal Faulting of a wall at Aila J-East

photos by Jefferson Williams


Aila (aka Ailana) was the name of the Roman Byzantine town in Aqaba .


Thomas et al (2007) excavated and examined area J-east between 1994 and 2003. The J-East area is a multiphase site incorporating Early Islamic to Byzantine domestic occupation and a late third to fourth-century monumental mudbrick structure that has been interpreted as a church (Parker 1998a; 1999a; Mussell 2001; Rose 1998; Weintraub 1999) ( Thomas et al, 2007). This site, in the Roman-Byzantine town of Aila, is located ~500 m north of the modern shoreline of Aqaba and ~500 m NW of the Islamic town of Ayla . Thomas et al (2007) identified 6 or 7 earthquakes from the 2nd century CE onward in J-east and divided up the timing as follows:

Thomas et al (2007) produced a schematic of a composite columnar stratigraphic section for the deposits of the J-east site in Figure 3 . They identified earthquake destruction (Earthquake V) in a collapse layer which they dated to the southern Cyril Quake. A terminus post quem of 360 CE for Earthquake V was established with coins and pottery.
Thin wall construction and surface layers produced pottery from the mid to late fourth century A.D. (similar types to Phase 2 described earlier). The latest pottery dates from about A.D. 360 onward (based on several examples of African Red Slip form 67, introduced ca. A.D. 360; Hayes 1972). However, over 100 coins were found on the final floor of this phase. The majority of these coins were found associated with the remains of a broken box in Room 2. The latest coins date to the reign of Constantius II who reigned from A.D. 337 to 361 (Parker 1999a) and provide a terminus post quem for this building phase.
They added
The very refined pottery and coin dates give a secure post A.D. 360 date for the Earthquake V event. The scarcity of post A.D. 360 pottery and the location of the coin hoard at the interface between occupation surface and collapse horizon indicate that this event cannot have occurred long after A.D. 360. We have interpreted this earthquake to be the historically attested earthquake of May 19, A.D. 363 (Russell 1980; Guidoboni 1994: 264-67).
Seismic Effects

Thomas et al (2007) described seismic effects from Earthquake V in J-East as follows:
The monumental building appears to have been violently shaken in Earthquake V. This is a more severe reactivation of Faults C and D but occurs along a slightly different rupture plane (through the Room 20 north wall - see Fig. 4 ) than during EQ VI. The amount of fault slip in this earthquake must exceed 23 cm of dip-slip (measured in sections A and B, fig. 5 ). Where Fault D shifted Wall J.1:53, a maximum of 30 cm of left-lateral strike-slip was measured. This slip is shared by reactivation in Earthquake IV and the previous Earthquake VI (discussed above). The collapse layer for Earthquake V exceeds 90 cm in places. The tumble is more evenly distributed throughout the site than was the case for the earlier Earthquake VI, with a bias to the north side of collapsing walls. This thick collapse horizon across the site suggests Earthquake V was stronger in intensity compared with Earthquake VI. The majority of the lateral slip across Fault D is likely to have occurred predominantly in Earthquake V (but also moves in Earthquakes VI and IV).
Intensity Estimates

Effect Description Intensity
Fault Scarps dip-slip VII +
Tilted Walls VI +
Displaced Walls VII +
Collapsed Walls VIII +
Seismic Uplift/Subsidence VI +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) . On-site fault rupture suggests a minimum moment magnitude MWof 6.5 (Mcalpin, 2009:312) while dip slip movement greater than 23 cm. suggests a minimum Moment Magnitude MW of 6.4 and maximum strike-slip movement of 30 cm. suggests a Moment Magnitude MW of 6.4 (see Calculator below).


Normal Fault Displacement - Wells and Coppersmith (1994)

Variable Input Units Notes
cm. Dip-Slip displacement
cm. Dip-Slip displacement
m/s Enter a value of 655 for no site effect
Equation comes from Darvasi and Agnon (2019)
Variable Output - not considering a Site Effect Units Notes
unitless Moment Magnitude for Avg. Displacement
unitless Moment Magnitude for Max. Displacement
Variable Output - Site Effect Removal Units Notes
unitless Reduce Intensity Estimate by this amount
to get a pre-amplification value of Intensity

Site Effect

The value given for Intensity with site effect removed is how much you should subtract from your Intensity estimate to obtain a pre-amplification value for Intensity. For example if the output is 0.5 and you estimated an Intensity of 8, your pre-amplification Intensity is now 7.5. An Intensity estimate with the site effect removed is helpful in producing an Intensity Map that will do a better job of "triangulating" the epicentral area. If you enter a VS30 greater than 655 m/s you will get a positive number, indicating that the site amplifies seismic energy. If you enter a VS30 less than 655 m/s you will get a negative number, indicating that the site attenuates seismic energy rather than amplifying it. Intensity Reduction (Ireduction) is calculated based on Equation 6 from Darvasi and Agnon (2019).


VS30 is the average seismic shear-wave velocity from the surface to a depth of 30 meters at earthquake frequencies (below ~5 Hz.). Darvasi and Agnon (2019) estimated VS30 for a number of sites in Israel. If you get VS30 from a well log, you will need to correct for intrinsic dispersion. There is a seperate geometric dispersion correction usually applied when processing the waveforms however geometric dispersion corrections are typically applied to a borehole Flexural mode generated from a Dipole source and for Dipole sources propagating in the first 30 meters of soft sediments, modal composition is typically dominated by the Stoneley wave. Shear from Stoneley estimates are approximate at best. This is a subject not well understood and widely ignored by the Geotechnical community and/or Civil Engineers but understood by a few specialists in borehole acoustics. Other considerations will apply if you get VS30 value from a cross well survey or a shallow seismic survey where the primary consideration is converting shear slowness from survey frequency to Earthquake frequency. There are also ways to estimate shear slowness from SPT & CPT tests.

Strike-Slip Fault Displacement - Wells and Coppersmith (1994)

Variable Input Units Notes
cm. Strike-Slip displacement
cm. Strike-Slip displacement
Variable Output - not considering a Site Effect Units Notes
unitless Moment Magnitude for Avg. Displacement
unitless Moment Magnitude for Max. Displacement

Notes and Further Reading

Beit-Ras/Capitolias, Jordan

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) examined archeoseismic evidence at the theater of Capitolias - one of the cities of the Decapolis. They suggested two earthquakes damaged the structure - one before 260/261 CE and one after 260/261 CE. The 260/261 CE dividing date is based on an inscription found in a rebuilding phase where the eastern orchestra gate was walled up. The second earthquake is believed to have tilted the scaenae wall approximately 8 degrees to the north where the upper 2/3 of that wall is now missing. This, they suggest, led to abandonment of the theater and building of an adjacent buttress wall to which they assigned a terminus ante quem of the 4th to 5th centuries CE. Sediment infill in the theater provides a less precise terminus ante quem based on ceramics of Late Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad ages and radiocarbon dating of ash bands within the sediment infill which indicated that most of the sediment was deposited between 521 and 667 CE. While their evidence strongly suggests earthquake damage, the dating of the causative event is unfortunately not well constrained. Thus, this archeoseismic evidence can be classified as possible.

Local intensity for the second event was estimated to between VIII and IX based based on observations of a dropped arch, titled walls, and shifted stones and the Earthquake Archeological Effects diagram from Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013:221-224) (Al-Tawalbeh personal communication, 2021). Damage in the theater was assigned an estimated intensity of VIII (Al-Tawalbeh personal communication, 2021).


Durand (2015) attributes abandonment of Darih (located near the town of Tafila, a hundred kilometers north of Petra) to the Cyril Quake(s) of 363 CE. No definitive stratigraphic evidence was presented.

Khirbet Faynan

Jones (2021) suggested that there may be archeoseismic evidence at Khirbet Faynan in Area 16, Terrace 3 in local stratum 2a based on unpublished work. A preliminary report can be found at Levy et al (2012:430-435). This archeoseismic evidence is labeled as needs investigation.

Tsunamogenic Evidence

No physical tsunamogenic evidence from the Cyril Quake(s) has been conclusively identified in the Dead Sea. However, as discussed in the Notes section of this catalog entry, Jerome in Commentariorum In Esaiam apparently relayed oral reports coming from the town of Areopolis of a seiche in the Dead Sea generated by the Cyril Quake(s). Although Jerome mistakenly conflated these reports with tsunamis generated in the Mediterranean during the Crete Earthquake of 365 AD, Jerome's mistake is not a reason to reject this report and Geologists would be well advised to examine the Cyril Quake seismites for tsunamogenic evidence.

Paleoseismic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence is summarized below:

Location Status Intensity Notes
al-Harif Syria possible wide spread in ages - 4.3 m of slip (Mw = 7.3 - 7.6)
Qiryat-Shemona Rockfalls probable 9
Bet Zayda probable
ICDP Core 5017-1 probable 7 11 cm. thick turbidite
En Feshka probable 8 1 or 2 cm. thick microbreccia (Type 4)
En Gedi no evidence
Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA-1 & ZA-2) probable 8 5 cm. thick intraclast breccia (Type 4)
Taybeh Trench possible Event E3 - 551 CE +/- 264
Qatar Trench possible one of 2 candidates between 9 BC and 492 AD

Each site will now be discussed separately.

Displaced Aqueduct at al Harif, Syria

Sbeinati et. al. (2010) report a seismic event X which they dated to 335 AD +/- 175 years at a dispalced aqueduct at al-Harif, Syria (close to Masyaf, Syria).

Al Harif Aqueduct Seismic Events Fig. Correlation of results among paleoseismic trenching, archaeoseismic excavations, and tufa analysis. In paleoseismic trenching, the youngest age for event X is not constrained, but it is, however, limited by event Y. In archaeoseismic excavations, the period of first damage overlaps with that of the second damage due to poor age control. In tufa analysis, the onset and restart of Br-3 and Br-4 mark the damage episodes to the aqueduct; the growth of Br-5 and Br-6 shows interruptions (I) indicating the occurrence of major events. Except for the 29 June 1170 event, previous events have been unknown in the historical seismicity catalogue. The synthesis of large earthquake events results from the timing correlation among the faulting events, building repair, and tufa interruptions (also summarized in Fig. 12 and text). Although visible in trenches (faulting event X), archaeoseismic excavations (first damage), and first interruption of tufa growth (in Br-5 and Br-6 cores), the A.D. 160–510 age of event X has a large bracket. In contrast, event Y is relatively well bracketed between A.D. 625 and 690, with the overlapped dating from trench results, the second damage of the aqueduct, and the interruption and restart of Br-3 and onset of Br-4. The occurrence of the A.D. 1170 earthquake correlates well with event Z from the trenches, the age of third damage to the aqueduct, and the age of interruption of Br-4, Br-5, and Br-6. Sbeinati et al (2010)

Al Harif Aqueduct Radiocarbon
Fig. 12 (A)

Calibrated dating of samples (with calibration curve INTCAL04 from Reimer et al. [2004] with 2σ age range and 95.4% probability) and sequential distribution from Oxcal pro-gram (see also Table 1; Bronk Ramsey, 2001). The Bayesian distribution computes the time range of large earthquakes (events W, X, Y, and Z) at the Al Harif aqueduct according to faulting events, construction and repair of walls, and starts and interruptions of the tufa deposits (see text for explanation). Number in brackets (in %) indicates how much the sample is in sequence; the number in % indicates an agreement index of overlap with prior distribution.

Sbeinati et al (2010)

Qiryat-Shemona Rockfalls

Kanari, M. (2008) examined rockfalls in Qiryat-Shemona which were attributed to earthquakes. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating was performed on soil samples beneath the fallen rocks. Kanari et al (2019) proposed that rockfalls QS-3 and QS-11 were most likely triggered by the northern Cyril Quake of 363 CE. Their discussion is quoted below:
QS-3 (1.6±0.1 ka) and QS-11 (1.7±0.2 ka) fit the historical earthquakes of 363 and 502 CE, and only lack 40 years in error margin to fit the one of 551 CE. Since the 502 CE earthquake was reported on shoreline localities only in the DST area, we find the 363 CE earthquake to be a better rockfall-triggering candidate. We suggest that the two ages are clustered around one of these earthquakes, hence suggesting they represent one rockfall event in the 363 CE earthquake. However, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that these were two separate rockfall events, both triggered by large earthquakes in 363 and 502/551 CE.
OSL dates Qiryat-Shemona
Fig. 10

Summary of OSL ages (black circles with error bars) plotted in chronological order and selected historical earthquakes suggested as rockfall triggers (shown as vertical gray lines, chronologically labeled at the top axis); see text for details.

Kanari et al (2019)

The criteria used by Kanari (2008) to identify historical earthquakes as triggering the observed rockfalls included:

(a) Estimated minimum MMI of IX
(b) Calculated Moment-Magnitude greater than or equal to 6.5
(c) distance to the site not exceeding 100 km.

Kanari (2008) surmised that these conditions satisfied Keefer (1984)'s upper limit for disrupted slides or falls triggered by earthquakes.

Bet Zayda

In paleoseismic trenches just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret), Wechsler at al. (2014) Event CH4-E1 appears to be a good candidate for the Northern Cyril Quake.

Bet Zeyda Earthquakes
Figure 9

Probability density functions for all paleoseismic events, based on the OxCal modeling. Historically known earthquakes are marked by gray lines. The age extent of each channel is marked by rectangles. There is an age uncertainty as to the age of the oldest units in channel 4 (units 490-499) marked by a dashed rectangle. Channel 1 refers to the channel complex studied by Marco et al. (2005).

Wechsler at al. (2014)

Dead Sea

ICDP Core 5017-1
Lu et al (2020) associated a turbidite deposit in the core to one of the Cyril Quakes. CalBP is reported as 1636 +/47. This works out to a date of 314 CE with a 1σ bound of 267-361 CE. Ages come from Kitagawa et al (2017). The deposit is described as a 11 cm. thick turbidite (MMD). Lu et al (2020) estimated local seismic intensity of VII which they converted to Peak Horizontal Ground Acceleration (PGA) of 0.18 g. Dr. Yin Lu relates that "this estimate was based on previous studies of turbidites around the world (thickness vs. MMI)" ( Moernaut et al (2014). The turbidite was identified in the depocenter composite core 5017-1 (Holes A-H).

See the following from Lu et al (2020b) regarding estimating intensity from turbidites:
Previous studies have revealed that the intensity threshold for triggering historic turbidites are variable in different regions and range from MMI V½ to VII½ (Howarth et al., 2014; Moernaut, 2020; Van Daele et al., 2015; Wilhelm et al., 2016). The intensity threshold constrained from the Dead Sea data (≥VI½) is situated in the middle of this range.

Previous studies in Chilean lakes have indicated that the (cumulative) thickness of historic turbidites across multiple cores correlates with seismic intensity, and can thus be used to infer paleo-intensities in this setting (Moernaut et al., 2014). However, in the case of the Dead Sea core 5017-1, there is a random relationship (a correlation factor of 0.04) between the thickness of prehistoric turbidites and seismic intensity (Figure 5a).
En Feshka
Kagan et. al. (2011) assigned a 363 AD date to a 2 cm. thick microbreccia at a depth of 220 cm however I suggest that the 1 cm. thick microbreccia at 228 cm. was caused by one of the Cyril Quakes.

En Gedi
Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned a 419 AD date to a seismite in the 1997 GFZ/GSI En Gedi core and did not observe a seismite around 363 AD. Williams et. al.(2012) varve counted part of the same 1997 GFZ/GSI core that Migowski et. al. (2004) worked on and produced an estimate of varve count uncertainty based on distance from a well dated "anchor" earthquake which in this case are the Josephus Quake of 31 BC and the Sabbatical Year Quake of 747/749 AD. These anchor quakes are between 329 and 394 years away from the Cyril Quake of 363 AD and/or the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD. Assuming a worst case scenario of 394 years, the 8% varve count error estimated by Williams et al (2012) constrains Migowski et. al.'s (2004) 419 AD to +/-32 years - i.e. between 387 and 451 AD. Two conclusions can be drawn from this and an examination of the depths and seismite thicknesses of Migowski et al (2004)'s core.

1. Migowski et. al.'s (2004) varve count suggests they identified a seismite caused by the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD.

2. The Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD would not likely have masked or overprinted the Cyril Quake seismite of 363 AD indicating that the Cyril Quake did not produce a seismite in En Gedi. Simple calculations supporting this are in footnote [8]. This is consistent with Migowski et al (2004: Table 2) which did not list a 363 CE seismite being masked or overprinted by a 419 CE seismite.

Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA1 and ZA2)
There has been an ongoing debate since the start of the millenia whether a seismite in Nahal Ze 'elim should be assigned to the southern Cyril Quake of 363 AD or to the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD

Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) assigned a seismite known as Event D in Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA-1) to the 363 AD Cyril Quake Seismite as did Williams (2004). Neither Ken-Tor et al. (2001a) nor Williams (2004) were aware at the time that the Cyril Quake was a result of two earthquakes with northern and southern epicenters; just that the damage reports were so widespread that it was doubtful that one earthquake could have produced so much destruction. Considering the possibility that textual reports overstated the damage, this cast significant uncertainty in determining which date to assign to the seismite. Williams (2004) estimated that that the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD was unlikely to produce sufficient shaking to form a seismite in Nahal Ze 'elim which is why he rejected that earthquake for Event D. At the time, he was relying on Russell (1980) whose article suggested an epicenter north of the Sea of Galilee. This may not have been a good assumption. He also noted that at the time three authors (Abou Karaki (1987), Ben-Menahem et. al, (1981), and Galli and Galadini (2001)) had placed the epicenter of the 363 AD Cyril Quake to the south in the Arava. Other authors had estimated that the epicenter was in the north due to the many northern cities listed in Cyril's letter (Brock, 1977).

At site ZA-2, Kagan et. al. (2011) assigned the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD to what appears to be the same Nahal Ze 'elim seismite as Event D of Ken-Tor (2001a) likely because 419 AD better fits with the modeled ages. Bookman (nee Ken-Tor) co-authored a paper in 2010 ( Leroy et. al. (2010)) which maintained a 363 AD date for Event D.

Because Migowski et. al. (2004) had used varve counting in the En Gedi core to assign a seismite to the 419 AD earthquake rather than the 363 AD Cyril Quake, there was doubt whether the 363 AD Cyril Quake had created seismites in the Southern Dead Sea.

Now, however, armed with the knowledge that the Cyril Quakes had northern and southern epicenters and that the southern Cyril Quake produced fatalities in nearby Ghor-es-Safi, Jordan (see Archeoseismic evidence), it can more confidently be stated that the southern Cyril Quake likely did produce a seismite in Nahal Ze 'elim. However, the mystery of Kagan et. al.'s (2011) radiocarbon match with the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 AD still remains.


A modified Age Model for ZA-1 is shown in Figure 8 from Agnon et al (2006)

Dated litho-section for ZA-1 from Ken-Tor et al. (2001a). (small and large )


Taybeh Trench, Jordan
LeFevre et al. (2018) might have seen evidence for the southern Cyril Quake in the Taybeh Trench (Event E3).

Taybeh Trench Earthquakes
Figure S5

Computed age model from OxCal v4.26 for the seismic events recorded in the trench.

LeFevre et al. (2018)

Qatar, Jordan
Klinger et. al. (2015) identified a seismic event (E6) in a trench near Qatar, Jordan in the Arava which they modeled between 9 BC and 492 AD. The large spread in age caused them to consider two possible earthquakes as the cause; the Incense Road Quake between 110 AD and 114 AD and the southern Cyril Earthquake of 363 AD. They preferred the Cyril Earthquake of 363 AD based on weighing other evidence [9] not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required.

Qatar Trench
Figure 6

Age model computed for the trench stratigraphy using OxCal v4.2 (Bronk-Ramsey et al. 2010) and IntCal13 calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2013). Light grey indicates raw calibration and dark grey indicates modelled ages including stratigraphic information. Phases indicate subsets of samples where no stratigraphic order is imposed.

Klinger et al (2015)


Letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril was the Bishop of Jerusalem when the earthquake(s) of 363 AD struck. After the earthquake, Cyril or someone writing later in his name (i.e. attributed authorship) wrote a letter describing the earthquake and it's effects. This letter, originally written in Syraic, was translated by Brock(1977).
On how many miracles took place when the Jews received the order to rebuild the Temple, and the signs which occurred in the region of Asia.

1 The letter, which was sent from the holy Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, concerning the Jews, when they wanted to rebuild the Temple, and (on how) the land was shaken, and mighty prodigies took place, and fire consumed great numbers of them, and many Christians (too) perished.

2 To my beloved brethren, bishops, priests, and deacons of the Church of Christ in revery district : greetings, my brethren.'The punishment of our Lord is sure, and His sentence (ὰποφασις) that He gave concerning the city of the crucifiers is faithful, and with our own eyes we have received a fearful sight for truly did the Apostle say that there is nothing greater than the love of God. Now, while the earth was shaking and the entire people suffering, I have not neglected to write to you about everything that has taken place here.

3 At the digging of the foundations of Jerusalem, 'which had been ruined because of the killing of its Lord, the land shook considerably, and there were great tremors in the towns round about.

4 Now even though the person bringing the letter is slow, nevertheless I shall still write and inform you that we are all well, by the grace of God and the aid of prayer. Now I think that you are concerned for us, r(and) our minds were tearing us—not only our own, but all our brethren's as well, who are with us, that I should tell you too about what happened amongst us.

5 rWe have not written to you at length, beyond the earthquake that took place at God's (behest). For many Christians too living in these regions, as well as the majority of the Jews, perished at that scourge — and not just in the earthquake, but also as a result of fire and in the heavy rain they had.

6 At the outset, when they wanted to lay the foundations of the Temple on the Sunday previous to the earthquake, there were 'strong winds and storms, with the result that they were unable to lay the 'Temple's foundations that day. It was on that very night that the great earthquake occurred, and we were all in the church of the Confessors, engaged in prayer. After this we left to go to the Mount of Olives, which is situated to the east of Jerusalem, where our Lord was raised to His glorious Father. We went out into the middle of the city, reciting a psalm," and we passed the graves of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and we besought the Lord of the prophets that, through the prayers of His prophets and apostles, His truth might be seen by His worshippers in the face of the audacity of the Jews who had crucified Him

7 Now they (sc. the Jews), wanting to imitate us, were running to the place where their synagogue usually gathered, and they found the synagogue doors closed. They were greatly amazed at what had happened and stood around in silence and fear when suddenly the synagogue doors opened of their own accord, and out of the building there came forth fire, which licked up the majority of them, and most of them collapsed and perished in front of the building. The doors then closed of their own accord, while the whole city looked on at what was happening, and the entire populace, Jew and Christian alike, cried out with one voice, saying ' There is but one God, one Christ, who is victorious ' ; and the entire people rushed off and tore down the idols and (pagan) altars that were in the city, glorifying and praising Christ, and confessing that He is the Son of the Living God. And they drove out the demons of the city, and the Jews, and the whole city received the sign of baptism, Jews as well as many pagans, all together, so that we thought that there was not a single person left in the city who had not received the sign (σημειον) or mark (τνπος) of the living Cross in heaven. And it instilled great fear in all.

8 And the entire people thought that, after these signs which our Saviour gave us in His Gospel, the fearful (second) coming of the day of resurrection had arrived. With trembling of great joy we received something of the sign (ημιεὶον) of Christ's crucifixion, and whosoever did not believe in his mind found his clothes openly reprove him, having the mark of the cross stained on them.

9 As for the statue (ἀνδριάς) of Herod which stood in Jerusalem, which the Jews had thrown down in (an act of) supplication (?) (δέησις), the city ran and set it up where it had been standing.

10 Thus we felt compelled to write to you the truth of these matters, that everything that is written about Jerusalem should be established in truth, that no stone shall be left in it that will not be upturned '.

11 Now we should like to write down for you the names of the towns which were overthrown : Beit Gubrin—more than half of it ; part of Baishan, the whole of Sebastia and its territory (χωρα), the whole of Nikopolis and its territory (χωρα) ; more than half Lydda and its territory (χωρα) ; about half of Ashqelon, the whole of Antipatris and its territory (χωρα) ; part of Caesarea, more than half Samaria ; part of NSL', a third of Paneas", half of Azotus, part of Gophna, more than half Petra (RQM) ; Hada, a suburb of the city (Jerusalem)—more than half ; more than half Jerusalem. And fire came forth and consumed the teachers of the Jews. Part of Tiberias too, and its territory (χωρα), more than half 'RDQLY', the whole of Sepphoris (SWPRYN) and its territory (χωρα), 'Aina d-Gader; Haifa (? ; TAP) flowed with blood for three days ; the whole of Japho (YWPY) perished, (and) part of 'D'NWS.

12 This event took place on Monday at the third hour, and partly at the ninth hour of the night. There was great loss of life here. (It was) on 19 Iyyar of the year 674 of the kingdom of Alexander the Greek. This year the pagan Julian died, and it was he who especially incited the Jews to rebuild the Temple, since he favoured them because they had crucified Christ. Justice overtook this rebel at his death in enemy territory, and in this the sign of the power of the cross was revealed, because he had denied Him who had been hung upon it for the salvation and life of all.

All this that has been briefly written to you took place in actual fact in this way.

4th Hymn Against Julian (incomplete 18-23 and ?) by Ephrem Syrus

Ephrem Syrus wrote about this earthquake within a year of its occurrence (Cain and Lenski, 2009). An excerpt from Ephrem's 4th hymn against Julian (originally composed in Syriac) is shown below.
At that time fearful events were stirred up to rebuke (men),
(God) proclaimed in the world truth to souls,
in that cities were overthrown, to the reproach of paganism.
Jerusalem especially held guilty
the accursed and the crucifiers, who had made bold threats and entered
so as to rebuild the ruins that their own sins had brought about.

Foolish and stupid, they had caused its ruin when it was still standing,
and now that it lies in ruins, they threaten to rebuild it !
When it was established, they tore it down, when it lies waste, they shower
their love on it.
Jerusalem quaked when she saw

That her wreckers had come in again
to disturb her calm
She complained to the Most High
against them, and she was heard

He commanded the wind and it blew
He signalled the quakes and they came
The lightning and it flashed
the air and it darkened
the walls and they were wrecked
the gates and they were opened
Fire came out and consumed the scholar-scribes

Who had read in Daniel that she should lay in ruins forever
they were chastened again and they learned

They had scattered her through the Lowly one,who had gathered together her chicks,"
and they imagined He had gathered to her the error of the diviner(s);
they overthrew her because of the True one," they propped her up with
they wished to rebuild her again.
They had upturned the great altar at the slaying of the Holy one,
and they imagined that the rebuilder of (pagan) altars would re-establish it.
They destroyed her through the wood of the Living Architect,
they propped her up with the broken reed of paganism;
they made her sad with Zechariah, who had given them joy, (saying)
' Behold your king';
they wanted to make her happy with the divination of the madman,
they proclaimed to her : 'Behold, there comes one furious, who will
rebuild you;
he will enter and sacrifice in you, and pour libations in you—to his demons'.

Daniel passed the sentence against Jerusalem and decreed
She will not be built again
and Sion believed him
The two of them were worn out and they wept
He cut off and cast away their hope
Cana, with its wine, gave comfort
to the two mourners, giving them advice
'Do not aggravate the injustice (done) to the Good one by your mourning'.


In the place of the People - uprooted
from all peoples
To see within your wombs
the grave and Golgotha

Who will ever again beleive in
fate and the horoscope ?
Who will ever again affirm
diviners and soothsayers
Who will ever again go astray after auguries and Zodiacal signs ?

All of them have been wrong in everything

So that the Just One will not have to instruct
each one who went astray He broke the one who went astray
so that in him those who have gone astray might learn their lesson

"Who had read in Daniel that she should lay in ruins forever" refers to the Temple Mount - deserted at the time but undergoing a rebuilding project until apparently interrupted by the earthquake.

Fith Oration Against the Pagans by Gregory of Nazianzusa

Gregory of Nazianzusa (~329 AD - ~390 AD wrote about the quake within a year of its occurrence according to Cain and Lenski (2009). In the Second Invective of the Fifth Oration, Gregory writes:
3. He [Julian] 2 was daily growing more infuriated against us, as though raising up waves by other waves, he that went mad first against himself, that trampled upon things holy, and that did despite unto the Spirit of Grace: is it more proper to call him Jeroboam or Ahab, those most wicked of the Israelites; or Pharaoh the Egyptian, or Nebuchadnezzar the Assyrian; or combining all together shall we name him one and the same, since he shows himself to have united in himself the vices of them all----the apostasy of Jeroboam, the bloodthirstiness of Ahab, the hardness of heart of Pharaoh, the sacrilegious acts of Nebuchadnezzar, the impiety of all put together! For when he had exhausted every other resource, and despised every other form of tyranny in our regard as trifling and unworthy of him (since there never was a character so fertile in finding out and contriving mischief), at last he stirred |88 up against us the nation of the Jews, making his accomplice in his machinations their well-known credulity, as well as that hatred for us which has smouldered in them from the very beginning; prophesying to them out of their own books and mysteries that now was the appointed time come for them to return into their own land, and to rebuild the Temple, and restore the reign of their hereditary institutions ---- thus hiding his true purpose under the mark of benevolence.

4. And when he had formed this plan, and made them believe it (for whatever suits one's wishes is a ready engine for deceiving people), they began to debate about rebuilding the Temple, and in large number and with great zeal set about the work. For the partisans of the other side report that not only did their women strip off all their personal ornaments and contribute it towards the work and operations, but even carried away the rubbish in the laps of their gowns, sparing neither the so precious clothes nor yet the tenderness of their own limbs, for they believed they were doing a pious action, and regarded everything of less moment than the work in hand. But they being driven against one another, as though by a furious blast 3 of wind, and sudden heaving of the earth, some rushed to one of the neighbouring sacred places to pray for mercy; others, as is wont to happen in such cases, made use of what came to hand to shelter themselves; others were carried away blindly by the panic, and struck against those who were running up to see what was the matter. There are some who say that neither did the sacred place (to i9ero_n) 4 admit them, but that when they approached the folding doors that stood wide open, on coming up to them |89 they found them closed in their faces by an unseen and invisible power 5 which works wonders of the sort for the confusion of the impious and the saving of the godly. But what all people nowadays report and believe is that when they were forcing their way and struggling about the entrance a flame issued forth from the sacred place [church] and stopped them, and some it burnt up and consumed so that a fate befell them similar to the disaster of the people of Sodom, or to the miracle about Nadab and Abiud, who offered incense and perished so strangely: whilst others it maimed in the principal parts of the body, and so left them for a living monument of God's threatening and wrath against sinners. Such then was this event; and let no one disbelieve, unless he doubts likewise the other mighty works of God! But what is yet more strange and more conspicuous, there stood in the heavens |90 a light circumscribing a Cross, and that which before on earth was contemned by the ungodly both in figure and in name is now exhibited in heaven, and is made by God a trophy of His victory over the impious, a trophy more lofty than any other!

Historia Ecclesiastica by Socrates Scholasticus

Socrates Scholasticus (aka Socrates of Constantinople) wrote Historia Ecclesiastica in Greek. This work was finished in ~439 AD and covers the years from 305 AD - 439 AD. Book III Chapter 20 is reporduced below. Based on the passage below, it appears that Socrates Scholastis may have had knowledge of Cyril's letter or its predecessor.
Chapter 20.

The Jews instigated by the Emperor attempt to rebuild their Temple, and are frustrated in their Attempt by Miraculous Interposition.

The emperor in another attempt to molest the Christians exposed his superstition. Being fond of sacrificing, he not only himself delighted in the blood of victims, but considered it an indignity offered to him, if others did not do likewise. And as he found but few persons of this stamp, he sent for the Jews and enquired of them why they abstained from sacrificing, since the law of Moses enjoined it? On their replying that it was not permitted them to do this in any other place than Jerusalem, he immediately ordered them to rebuild Solomon's temple. Meanwhile he himself proceeded on his expedition against the Persians. The Jews who had been long desirous of obtaining a favorable opportunity for rearing their temple afresh in order that they might therein offer sacrifice, applied themselves very vigorously to the work. Moreover, they conducted themselves with great insolence toward the Christians, and threatened to do them as much mischief, as they had themselves suffered from the Romans. The emperor having ordered that the expenses of this structure should be defrayed out of the public treasury, all things were soon provided, such as timber and stone, burnt brick, clay, lime, and all other materials necessary for building. On this occasion Cyril bishop of Jerusalem, called to mind the prophecy of Daniel, which Christ also in the holy gospels has confirmed, and predicted in the presence of many persons, that the time had indeed come 'in which one stone should not be left upon another in that temple,' but that the Saviour's prophetic declaration should have its full accomplishment. Such were the bishop's words: and on the night following, a mighty earthquake tore up the stones of the old foundations of the temple and dispersed them all together with the adjacent edifices. Terror consequently possessed the Jews on account of the event; and the report of it brought many to the spot who resided at a great distance: when therefore a vast multitude was assembled, another prodigy took place. Fire came down from heaven and consumed all the builders' tools: so that the flames were seen preying upon mallets, irons to smooth and polish stones, saws, hatchets, adzes, in short all the various implements which the workmen had procured as necessary for the undertaking; and the fire continued burning among these for a whole day. The Jews indeed were in the greatest possible alarm, and unwillingly confessed Christ, calling him God: yet they did not do his will; but influenced by inveterate prepossessions they still clung to Judaism. Even a third miracle which afterwards happened failed to lead them to a belief of the truth. For the next night luminous impressions of a cross appeared imprinted on their garments, which at daybreak they in vain attempted to rub or wash out. They were therefore 'blinded' as the apostle says, and cast away the good which they had in their hands: and thus was the temple, instead of being rebuilt, at that time wholly overthrown.

Ecclesiastical History by Theodoret of Cyrus

Theodoret of Cyrus (c. AD 393 – c. 458/466) wrote Ecclesiastical History. Book III Chapter 15 is reproduced below.
Chapter 15.

Of the Jews; of their attempt at building, and of the heaven-sent plagues that befel them

Julian, who had made his soul a home of destroying demons, went his corybantic way, ever raging against true religion. He accordingly now armed the Jews too against the believers in Christ. He began by enquiring of some whom he got together why, though their law imposed on them the duty of sacrifices, they offered none. On their reply that their worship was limited to one particular spot, this enemy of God immediately gave directions for the re-erection of the destroyed temple, supposing in his vanity that he could falsify the prediction of the Lord, of which, in reality, he exhibited the truth. The Jews heard his words with delight and made known his orders to their countrymen throughout the world. They came with haste from all directions, contributing alike money and enthusiasm for the work; and the emperor made all the provisions he could, less from the pride of munificence than from hostility to the truth. He dispatched also as governor a fit man to carry out his impious orders. It is said that they made mattocks, shovels, and baskets of silver. When they had begun to dig and to carry out the earth a vast multitude of them went on with the work all day, but by night the earth which had been carried away shifted back from the ravine of its own accord. They destroyed moreover the remains of the former construction, with the intention of building everything up afresh; but when they had got together thousands of bushels of chalk and lime, of a sudden a violent gale blew, and storms, tempests and whirlwinds scattered everything far and wide. They still went on in their madness, nor were they brought to their senses by the divine longsuffering. Then first came a great earthquake, fit to strike terror into the hearts of men quite ignorant of God's dealings; and, when still they were not awed, fire running from the excavated foundations burnt up most of the diggers, and put the rest to flight. Moreover when a large number of men were sleeping at night in an adjacent building it suddenly fell down, roof and all, and crushed the whole of them. On that night and also on the following night the sign of the cross of salvation was seen brightly shining in the sky, and the very garments of the Jews were filled with crosses, not bright but black. When God's enemies saw these things, in terror at the heaven-sent plagues they fled, and made their way home, confessing the Godhead of Him who had been crucified by their fathers. Julian heard of these events, for they were repeated by every one. But like Pharaoh he hardened his heart.

Chronicon anonymum ad annum 724

Chronicon anonymum ad annum 724 was written in Syraic and can be found in Chronica minora, II, CSCO, Scr. Syri 3, 133 (ed. E. W. Brooks). Brock (1977) supplies an excerpt (below) and relates that "this source does not mention events in Jerusalem but reiterates that 21 cities sufferred damage; echoing the letter attributed to Cyril". The date is mostly in agreement : The Year A.G. 674 (= A.D. 363) is the same, the month (Iyyar) is the same but the date is different. This passage refers to the 27th day of Iyyar while the letter attributed to Cyril identifies the date of the earthquake as the 19th of Iyyar (and by extension the night before 19 Iyyar)
At that time the Lord was angry with the cities of the pagans and Jews and Samaritans and of the false teachings in the south that had joined in with the madness of the pagan Julian. Anger went forth from the Lord's presence and began to destroy the unclean and pagan cities because of (or over) their inhabitants, because they had defiled them with the blood they had unjustly shed. And it began to destroy the cities, twenty-one in number, some of which were overthrown, others collapsed, and yet others survived, in the month of Iyyar of the year 674, on the twenty-seventh day.

Chronicon anonymum ad annum 846

Chronicon anonymum ad annum 724 was written in Syraic and can be found in Chronica minora, II, CSCO, Scr. Syri 3, 199-200 (ed. E. W. Brooks). Brock (1977) supplies an excerpt and opines that this is mostly based on Theodoret.
The Jews, being reproved by Julian for having neglected sacrifices, put forward as the reason the fact that it had been laid down that it was not permissible to make sacrifice except in the Temple at Jerusalem, Give us permission ', they said, ' if you want us to sacrifice, to rebuild our Temple '. When he had given them permission they began to build, and while they had still only laid bare the foundations, fire issued forth from them and destroyed those on the site. The fire consumed the building (operations) and destroyed them. On hearing this, Julian ceased from urging them on over the matter of the rebuilding and sacrifices.
Annals Part I by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre
This Syriac text also known as the Chronicle of Zuqnin is now thought to have been composed by a monk from the Zuqnin monastery rather than Dionysius of Tell-Mahre - hence the cognomen Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre. Parts 1 and 2 cover events from "creation" to 506/507 CE. There is apparently a debate over its date of composition with some scholars suggesting it was composed in the 9th century CE rather than the late 8th century CE as the text would indicate - it ends in 775 CE. Harrak (2017) opines on the opening page of his translation that it was composed in 775 CE by a West Syrian Monk - probably Joshua (the Stylite) of the monastery of Zuqnin. The work is preserved in a single handwritten manuscript (Cod. Vat. 162), now in the Vatican (shelf mark Vatican Syriac 162). In an English translation of Part I by Harrak (2017:276) we can read:
In the land of Samaria, a great crowd of monks were martyred while going to prayer, for Samaritans and Jews fell upon them and killed all of them with sticks. Now Julian the emperor compelled the Jews to sacrifice and they sacrificed. They begged the emperor that their temple which is in Jerusalem be rebuilt, 810 and he ordered them to build it, the expenses to be paid by the public treasury. Thus, they quickly prepared everything: stones, wood, burnt bricks, lime instead of clay, and other things needed for the construction. When the holy Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, saw this, he prophesied saying: It is time for our Saviour's word to be fulfilled: There will be not left here one stone upon another.811 The holy Cyril said these words in advance. Now during the night there was such a mighty earthquake that the ancient foundation stones of the temple flew up, and all of them scattered by the intensity of the earthquake. Also the houses that were near the place were uprooted, and the news of the ruin spread out in the whole land. Then in another day, fire fell down from the sky, destroying all the work of the architects, masons, and all kinds of instruments of work. One could see the hammers, tongs, axes, and hatchets, and in short all the work that had been prepared by them for the building was burning in the fiery blaze; the fire burnt the instruments throughout the entire day. A great fear befell the Jews, and unwillingly, they confessed that Christ was God. But they did not obey his will, nor did the triple miracle [179] that happened to them bring them to the Faith. In another night, luminous impressions of a cross appeared imprinted on their garments, and when the day came and they saw this sign, they sought to wash them and wipe them out with every means but they failed.812

Now Julian, the maternal uncle of the tyrant emperor, when he went to Jerusalem and entered the holy church and seized the holy vessels of the Church there, the Lord struck him: he bred worms and died.813

Footnote 813

See Soz. HS, V viii, Theod., HE, III viii—ix. See also the full account of Mich. Syr. 147a [I 285]. Witakowski suggests that this detail about Julian may have derived from Theodore Anagnostes, who wrote a Church history also called Historia Tripartita, and who was one of Mich. Syr.'s sources in the Armenian version of his Chronicle. Since there is no evidence that this Historia was translated into Syriac, Jacob of Edes. and or John of Ephesus who used it in its original language may well be the sources of Chr. Zuq. and Mich. Syr.; Witakowski, "Third Part;" pp. 194—5. With regard to Cyril and Jerusalem see Sebastian Brock, "A Letter Attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem on the Rebuilding of the Temple," BSOAS 40:2 (1977), pp. 267-286.

Harrak (2017:xvi) lists Pseudo-Dionysius' sources from 298/9 - 429/30 CE as Notes and Further Reading

Harrak (2017:xvi) notes major sources identified in Parts I and II of the Zugnin Chronicle had been discussed in great detail by Witakowski.

Witakowski, Study, p. 124-135

Witakowski, "The Sources of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre for the Second Part of his Chronicle," in J.O. Rosenqvist (ed.), AEIMΩN Studies Presented to Lennart Ryden on his Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Uppsala, 1996), pp. 181-210

Witakowski, "Sources of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre for the Christian Epoch of the First Part of his Chronicle," in G.J. Reinink and A.C. Klugkist (eds.), After Bardaisan: Studies on Continuity and Change in Syriac Christianity in Honour of Professor Han J.W. Drijvers (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters en Department Oosterse Studies, 1999), pp. 329-366.

Chronicle by Michael the Syrian

Michael the Syrian, ' Chronicle ' (ed. J. B. Chabot, ii, 288-9 (translation) ; iv, 146 (text)).

Michael the Syrian (1126 AD - 1199 AD wrote The Chronicle covering "Creation" until his times. He wrote a short passage about the unsuccessful Temple rebuilding effort in 363 AD but did not mention an earthquake.
[Julian] changed the names of cities: he renamed Caesarea to Mazaka (Bazke'), and Constantinople to Biwzandia. He deceitfully built hostels, poor houses, and places where orphans and widows could be cared for. He commanded that pagan legends be read and that the children of Christians not be excluded from secular learning. He left Antioch with threats about what would happen when he returned peacefully from Persia. He sent to Edessa to prepare for [receiving] him, but they refused. He then went to Harran, sacrificed to the demons, and honored the Jews there, commanding that they go to Jerusalem, [re]build the Temple, and make sacrifices according to [their] faith. [The Jews] took 3,000 measures of lime, gathered up those who had been dispersed, went and began to rebuild. A fierce wind scattered the lime and cement they wanted to build with, and fire descended and burned the structure and their tools. The Jews in Edessa arose against the Christians, and were killed by them [gl43].

Chronicon anonymum ad annum 1234

Chronicon anonymum ad annum 1234 (ed. J. B. Chabot, CSCO, Scr. Syri, 36, 155-67).

Brock (1977) relates that this Syraic chronicle devotes over 10 pages to Julian's reign but does not discuss the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. He also relates that it contains a long extract from Socrates ( HE, ni.1).

Julian Romance

Julian romance (ed. J. G. E. Hoffmann, Julianos der Abtrunnige, Leiden,1880, 108-16).

Brock (1977) relates that this story tells of the Jews obtaining permission to rebuild the Temple but deliberately does not discuss events in Jerusalem because they were described by another author.
I should be doing something superfluous if I inserted into our narrative what has been outlined by another writer, who has described these events (i.e. the rebuilding of the temple) fittingly, as they actually took place.

Commentariorum In Esaiam (Isaiah) by Jerome

Jerome's Commentariorum In Esaiam, in a section dealing with the region of Moab (V, xv, 1; ed. Migne 1845: 168; ed. Corpus Christianorum, Vol. 73, pars 2, 1963: 176)

Ambraseys (2009) supplied the following excerpt:
I heard (and the entire city testifies to this) that when the seas overran the shores of the whole world during my childhood, the walls of a certain Areopolis collapsed on the same night.
Guidoboni et. al. (1994) supplied the same excerpt in Latin as well as English.
Audivi quemdam Aerapolitem, sed et omnis civitas testis est, motu terrae magno in mea infantia, quando totius orbis litus transgressa sunt maria, eadem nocte muros urbis istius corruisse.
Russell (1980) examined this Commentariorum In Esaiam. His comments are below :
Jerome probably heard this story in his travels after arriving in Bethlehem in 385-86, or from pilgrims to Bethlehem actually living in the region of Moab (for an account of Jerome's early activities in Palestine, see Kelly 1975: 116-28). Unlike the other references to the 365 earthquake, this passage notes coastal inundation supposedly associated with an earthquake in which the region of biblical Moab, and specifically Areopolis, suffered direct earthquake damage. While earthquake destruction east of the Dead Sea along the edge of the Jordanian Plateau does not correlate with the other ancient accounts of the 365 earthquake, it does fit the 363 earthquake as described in Harvard Syriac 99. Confirmation of this is found in the agreement of Jerome's statement with Harvard Syriac 99 in placing the earthquake at night, while the 365 earthquake occurred shortly after daybreak (see Ammianus Marcellinus, XXVI, x, 16: Rolfe 1950: 648-49). Whether Jerome thought this story referred to the earthquake and tidal wave of his "youth" remains in question. It could well be the case that Jerome actually added the statement about coastal inundation because he assumed that the story did refer to this event. While it is possible that inundation of the Palestinian coast did occur in 363, there is no mention of such in Harvard Syriac 99.along the edge of the Jordanian Plateau does not correlate with the other ancient accounts of the 365 earthquake, it does fit the 363 earthquake as described in Harvard Syriac 99. Confirmation of this is found in the agreement of Jerome's statement with Harvard Syriac 99 in placing the earthquake at night, while the 365 earthquake occurred shortly after daybreak (see Ammianus Marcellinus, XXVI, x, 16: Rolfe 1950: 648-49). Whether Jerome thought this story referred to the earthquake and tidal wave of his "youth" remains in question. It could well be the case that Jerome actually added the statement about coastal inundation because he assumed that the story did refer to this event. While it is possible that inundation of the Palestinian coast did occur in 363, there is no mention of such in Harvard Syriac 99.
It should be noted that mysterious Dead Sea Tsunami of 315 AD also contained a report of a Tsunami that was supposedly sourced from Areopolis.

Commentariorum In Esaiam in Latin can be read here

Ecclesiastical History by Sozomen

Sozomen (~400 - ~450 AD was from a Christian family in Palestine and wrote Eccelesiastical History in Constantinople in the years 440 443 AD. In Book V Chapter 22 Paragraphs we can read
Chapter 22. From Aversion to the Christians, Julian granted Permission to the Jews to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem; in every Endeavor to put their Hands to the Work, Fire sprang upward and killed Many. About the Sign of the Cross which appeared on the Clothing of those who had exerted themselves in this Work.

Though the emperor hated and oppressed the Christians, he manifested benevolence and humanity towards the Jews. He wrote to the Jewish patriarchs and leaders, as well as to the people, requesting them to pray for him, and for the prosperity of the empire. In taking this step he was not actuated, I am convinced, by any respect for their religion; for he was aware that it is, so to speak, the mother of the Christian religion, and he knew that both religions rest upon the authority of the patriarchs and the prophets; but he thought to grieve the Christians by favoring the Jews, who are their most inveterate enemies. But perhaps he also calculated upon persuading the Jews to embrace paganism and sacrifices; for they were only acquainted with the mere letter of Scripture, and could not, like the Christians and a few of the wisest among the Hebrews, discern the hidden meaning.

Events proved that this was his real motive; for he sent for some of the chiefs of the race and exhorted them to return to the observance of the laws of Moses and the customs of their fathers. On their replying that because the temple in Jerusalem was overturned, it was neither lawful nor ancestral to do this in another place than the metropolis out of which they had been cast, he gave them public money, commanded them to rebuild the temple, and to practice the cult similar to that of their ancestors, by sacrificing after the ancient way. The Jews entered upon the undertaking, without reflecting that, according to the prediction of the holy prophets, it could not be accomplished. They sought for the most skillful artisans, collected materials, cleared the ground, and entered so earnestly upon the task, that even the women carried heaps of earth, and brought their necklaces and other female ornaments towards defraying the expense. The emperor, the other pagans, and all the Jews, regarded every other undertaking as secondary in importance to this. Although the pagans were not well-disposed towards the Jews, yet they assisted them in this enterprise, because they reckoned upon its ultimate success, and hoped by this means to falsify the prophecies of Christ. Besides this motive, the Jews themselves were impelled by the consideration that the time had arrived for rebuilding their temple. When they had removed the ruins of the former building, they dug up the ground and cleared away its foundation; it is said that on the following day when they were about to lay the first foundation, a great earthquake occurred, and by the violent agitation of the earth, stones were thrown up from the depths, by which those of the Jews who were engaged in the work were wounded, as likewise those who were merely looking on. The houses and public porticos, near the site of the temple, in which they had diverted themselves, were suddenly thrown down; many were caught thereby, some perished immediately, others were found half dead and mutilated of hands or legs, others were injured in other parts of the body. When God caused the earthquake to cease, the workmen who survived again returned to their task, partly because such was the edict of the emperor, and partly because they were themselves interested in the undertaking. Men often, in endeavoring to gratify their own passions, seek what is injurious to them, reject what would be truly advantageous, and are deluded by the idea that nothing is really useful except what is agreeable to them. When once led astray by this error, they are no longer able to act in a manner conducive to their own interests, or to take warning by the calamities which are visited upon them.

The Jews, I believe, were just in this state; for, instead of regarding this unexpected earthquake as a manifest indication that God was opposed to the re-erection of their temple, they proceeded to recommence the work. But all parties relate, that they had scarcely returned to the undertaking, when fire burst suddenly from the foundations of the temple, and consumed several of the workmen.

This fact is fearlessly stated, and believed by all; the only discrepancy in the narrative is that some maintain that flame burst from the interior of the temple, as the workmen were striving to force an entrance, while others say that the fire proceeded directly from the earth. In whichever way the phenomenon might have occurred, it is equally wonderful. A more tangible and still more extraordinary prodigy ensued; suddenly the sign of the cross appeared spontaneously on the garments of the persons engaged in the undertaking. These crosses were disposed like stars, and appeared the work of art. Many were hence led to confess that Christ is God, and that the rebuilding of the temple was not pleasing to Him; others presented themselves in the church, were initiated, and besought Christ, with hymns and supplications, to pardon their transgression. If any one does not feel disposed to believe my narrative, let him go and be convinced by those who heard the facts I have related from the eyewitnesses of them, for they are still alive. Let him inquire, also, of the Jews and pagans who left the work in an incomplete state, or who, to speak more accurately, were able to commence it.


Libanius (~314 - 392/393), a Pagan author, wrote a contemperaneous account which adds the observation that some towns in Palestine and Syria were damaged. Ambraseys (2009) supplies an excerpt from Forster, R., 1902, De Libanio, Pausania, templo Apollinis Delphico. Album gratulatorium in honorem Henrici van Herwerden. Utrecht 1902, S. 45–54 which Guidoboni et. al. (1994) suggest comes from a eulogy Libanius delivered for Emperor Julian.
As for us Antiochians, not one man survived, and the earthquakes which have happened bear witness to the evil: some cities in Palestine and Syria have been flattened in parts, others completely. It seems to us that the god is showing a great sign through great calamities.
It is unlikely that the Cyril Quake(s) produced heavy destruction in Antioch but it is impossible to tell from this brief passage if Libanius is conflating an earthquake near Antioch with the Cyril Quake(s) or if he is discussing the experience of expatriated Antiochians in Syria and/or Palestine.

Other sources

Guidoboni et. al. (1994) and Brock (1976) mention several other sources which provide commentary on the Cyril Quake. They are

Paleoclimate - Droughts


[1] Kagan et. al. (2011) dates the two earthquakes to ~362 AD and 363 AD. The 362 AD date is based on Ben-Menahem (1991) who misdated the earthquake to May 24 362 AD - perhaps partly influenced by Sieberg (1932a) who dated the Cyril Quake(s) to June 362 AD without citing a source. A deep examination of the various textual accounts reveals that mistakes were made by early earthquake cataloguers in parsing the accounts leading to incorrect months and dates and likely years as well. Since these earthquakes appear to be well dated by contemporaneous sources to 18 and 19 May 363 efforts to unravel the source of this propagating catalogue dating mistake will not be pursued here. Russell (1980, p.52) relates that "The scholarly process by which 362 rather than 363 came to be the accepted date is difficult to ascertain".

[2] Guidoboni et. al. (1994) state that there are "palaeographic reasons to suggest that the debated 'RDQLY in Cyril's letter may be a reference to Areopolis rather than Archelais".

[3] The calendar being used is a local variant of the lunisolar Macedonian Calendar with Jewish names substituted for the months. The Macedonian calendar begins with 312 BC being year 1. The year begins on the 1st of Dios (Jewish Tishri) on the first new moon after the autumnal equinox during what we call October. Thus we have 312 years in the BC era plus 362 years to which adds up to 674; remembering that there is no year 0. 19 Iyyar was then converted to May 19. Brock (1976) relates the following : "The date, however, in our Letter will be Iyyar according to the Julian calendar (i.e. exactly our May) - but it so happens that in 363 the lunar Nisan and Iyyar for once exactly corresponded with the Julian Nisan and Iyyar (April and May). It is hard to believe that we are dealing with a mere coincidence. Can it be that there is some connection between Lag ba 'Omer and the rebuilding of the Temple?".

[4] See Finegan (1998) Section 132

[5] This argument is presented in much greater detail in Gibson (2016)

[6] Loffreda (1973) specifically dates construction of the synagogue "from the last decade of the fourth to the middle of the fifth century A.D."

[7} The remnants in the jars were carbonized by the time of the excavation but lab analysis revealed that the carbonized were originally food - primarily walnuts, barley and peas Meyers and Meyers (1978).

[8] Migowski et al (2004) report the 419 CE seismite at a depth of 2.3716 m with a thickness of 0.5 cm. They report the ~175 CE seismite at a depth of 2.5562 m. A simple calculation reveals that in this part of the core, 1 cm. of sediment represents ~13 years of time. As 363 CE is 56 years earlier than 419 CE, it should be ~4 cm deeper and thus ~3.5 cm. below the bottom of the 0.5 cm. thick 419 CE seismite. It should not have been masked or overprinted.

[9] Archeoseismic Evidence (esp. Thomas et. al. (2007), Historical Reports, and Dead Sea Seismite Evidence.


missing references

Archeoseismic Evidence

Gush Halav

Russell, K. W. (1981). The earthquake chronology of ancient Palestine and Arabia from the 2nd to the 8th century A.D. Anthropology. Salt Lake City, UT, University of Utah. MS.


Russell, K. W. (1981). The earthquake chronology of ancient Palestine and Arabia from the 2nd to the 8th century A.D. Anthropology. Salt Lake City, UT, University of Utah. MS.


Crowfoot, Kenyon, and Sukenik 1966:137-38

For a summary of the Classical and Late Antiquity remains at Sebaste, see Avigad, N. (1993). "Samaria (city)." The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 4: 1300-1310.



Bet Shean

Fitzgerald, G. M. (1931). Beth-shan Excavations, 1921-1923: The Arab and Byzantine Levels, University Press.



Littman, E. (1910), Publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expedition to Syria in 1904–5 and 1909, Part 3, Greek and Latin Inscriptions, Leyden.



Hammond, P. C. 1965 The Excavation of the Main Theater at Petra, 1961-1962: Final Report. London: Quaritch.


Mazar. B., 1976 The Archaeological Excavations Near the Temple Mount. Pp. 25-40 in Jerusalem Revealed, ed. Y.Yadin. New Haven and Lonndon: Yale University. Israel Exploration Society
Mazar 1976: 38).

Mazar(1971): 9-12 in hebrew

Beth Shearim

Mazar. B. 1973 Beth She' arim: Report on the Excavations During 1936-1940. Vol. I: Catacombs 1-4. English edition. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University.


S. Loffreda and V. Corbo 1972 The Synagogue of Capharnaum: Archaeological Evidence for its Late Chronology. Liber .4nnuus 22: 5-29.


Meyers, Meyers,and Strange (1978) Excavations at Meiron in Upper Galilee-19741975: Second Preliminary Report. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 43: 73-98.

Meyers, Strange, and Meyers (1981)


Korjenkov, A.M., Fabian, P., and Becker, P. (1996) "Evidence for 4th and 7th Century AD Earthquakes, Avdat Ruins (Israel): Seismic and Historical Implications", Annual Meeting of the Israel Geological Society, Eilat, March 18–21, 1996:.52.

A. Negev, The Architecture of Oboda: Final Report (Qedem 36), Jerusalem 1997; ibid. (Reviews) BAR 24/6 (1998), 56. — NEA 61 (1998), 182. — BAIAS 17 (1999), 93–94. — AJA 104 (2000), 154. — BASOR 318 (2000), 84–85;

T. Erickson-Gini, Crisis and Renewal: Settlement in the Negev in the 3rd and 4th Centuries CE, with an Emphasis on the Finds from the New Excavations in Mampsis, Oboda and Mesad ‘En Ḥazeva (Ph.D. diss.), Jerusalem (in prep.);


Negev, A. (1989). "The Cathedral of Elusa and the Typology and Chronology of the Byzantine Churches in the Negev." Liber Annis 39: 129-142.


Cohen, R. and Y. Yisrael "On the Road to Edom: Discoveries from En Hazeva." Israel Museum Catalogue(370).


Erickson-Gini, T. (1999). Mampsis: a Nabataean Roman Settlement in the Central Negev Highlands: In the Light of the Ceramic and Architectural Evidence Found in Archaeological Excavations During 1993-1994, Tel Aviv University, the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern ….