Go to top

Malalas Confusion Quake

130 BCE or 148 BCE

by Jefferson Williams









Introduction & Summary

A chronologically inconsistent passage by Johannes Malalas leads one to conclude that an Earthquake(s) struck Antioch in

Date possibilities
148 BCE
130 BCE
148 BCE and 130 BCE
148 BCE, 130 BCE, and/or sometime during the first century BCE
142 BCE
None of the above
Malalas provides a specific day and time for this alleged event - 21 February at the tenth hour (~ 4 pm). Considering the confused nature of Malalas' chronology is, it possible that the Malalas Confusion Quake is the same quake as the Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake of ~142 BCE. Karcz (2004) suggested the possibility that the 17th of Adar Quake is also the same quake as the Dead Fish and Soldiers Earthquake. See the Conflation Possibilities - The Dead Fish and Soldiers, Malalas Confusion, and the Seventeenth of Adar Quakes for a discussion.

Textual Evidence

Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Chronographia by Johannes Malalas Greek Jurist ?, Rhetor, Scholastikos, Chronicler, Native of Antioch (Syria) who later in life moved to Constantinople, Fluent in Greek and Syriac, Chronologically inconsistent and flawed. For example, Olmstead (1942:22) states that John Malalas was undoubtedly the world's worst chronicler ... but [the historian] must use him for Malalas has preserved a great amount of the most important data... Vasiliev (1958:184) states Confused in content, mixing fables and facts, important events and minor incidents, it is clearly intended not for educated readers but for the masses. Nevertheless, for some earthquakes Malalas appears to produce accurate chronology - likely due to the source(s) he accessed for the event. Christian (Orthodox Byzantium) ~530s to 565 CE Probably Antioch and Constantinople Malalas, citing Domininos, states that Antioch was struck by an earthquake while using three different chronological markers which leads to three different dates - 148 BCE, 130 BCE, and an unknown date. Downey (1938:109-110) suggests it is possible that Malalas could be conflating up to 3 earthquakes in 148 BCE, 130 BCE, and sometime in the first century BCE.
Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Chronographia by Johannes Malalas

Johannes Malalas (~491 – 578), a native Antiochene, wrote Chronographia in Greek. He may have described an earthquake which struck Antioch in 130 BCE and/or 148 BCE (and possibly the 1st century BCE) relying at least partially on a currently lost early 6th century CE chronicle written by Domninus (who he cites). In Malalas' book, the expression variously translated as the "wrath of God" or the "anger of God" usually refers to an earthquake. In a translation by Jeffries et al (1986:109) we can read the following in Book 8 Chapters 24 and 25. Full names of the ruling Kings along with their reigns are placed in parentheses for clarity1.

24. After him Demetrianos (Demetrius I Soter - 162-150 BCE), son of Seleukos (Seleucus IV Philopator - 187-175 BCE), reigned for eight years. A man named Judas (Judas Maccabeus ?), a Jew by race, came to Antioch the Great and begged and entreated the emperor Demetrianos (Demetrius I Soter - 162-150 BCE), and the emperor turned over to him the temple and the Maccabees' remains. He buried them in Antioch the Great in the place known as the Kerateon; for there was a Jewish synagogue there. Antiochos had executed them just outside the city of Antioch, on the Ever-Weeping Mountain, opposite Zeus Kasios. After purifying the temple and rebuilding Jerusalem, Judas celebrated the Paschal festival in honour of God. This was the second capture of Jerusalem, as Eusebios Pamphilou has written in his chronicle.

25. After Demetrianus (Demetrius II Nicator - 145-138 BC), Antiochus (Antiochus VII Sidetes - 138-129 BC), grandson of Grypus (?) and son of Laodice (V?), daughter of Ariarathes (?), emperor of the Cappadocians, reigned for nine years.

At that time Antioch the Great, suffered from the wrath of God, in the eighth year of his reign, in the time of the Macedonians, 152 years after the original laying of the foundation of the wall by (208) Seleucus Nicator, at the tenth hour of the day, on 21st Peritios-February. It was completely rebuilt, as Domninos the chronicler has written. It was 122 years after the completion of the walls and the whole city that it suffered; it was rebuilt better.
This passage is chronologically inconsistent as shown in the table below.
Year Reference Corrections Notes
130 BCE The 8th year of Antiochus' (Antiochus VII Sidetes - 138-129 BC) reign none Demetrianus (Demetrius II Nicator) had two reigns. The first lasted from 145 BCE until 138 BCE. In 138 BCE, he was captured by the Parthian King Mithridates I and remained in captivity until 130 BCE when the new Parthian King Phraates II released him. Demetrius II Nicator then ruled a second time from 130 BCE -125 BCE. Between Demetrius' reigns, his brother Antiochus VII Sidetes ruled from 138 - 130 BCE. Note : The years presented here may differ by up to a year compared to other historical accounts. They are simplified in the interest of clarity.
148 BCE 152 years after the foundations of the walls of Antioch were laid by Seleucus Nicator none The founding of Antioch is commonly assigned to the spring of 300 BCE based on Eusebius and Malalas. 300 minus 152 leads to 148 BCE. See Downey (1938:108 n. 2) for details and references on the founding of Antioch.
unknown 122 years after the walls and the whole city was completed none leads to an unknown date because it conflicts with the "known traditions" in which construction of Antioch was completed Downey (1938:109-110).
Guidoboni et. al. (1994) note that this passage could refer to two separate earthquakes (148 BCE and 130 BCE) while Downey (1938:109-110) suggests it could be conflating up to 3 earthquakes (148 BCE, 130 BCE, and sometime in the first century BCE). Downey (1938) further noted that in 130 BCE, Antiochus VII Sidetes marched his army east to fight (and lose to) the Parthians - timing that seems odd if his capital city (Antioch) was ravaged by an earthquake. This casts doubt on either the 130 BCE date, the extent of damage, or that this passage even describes an actual earthquake. Downey (1938) further noted that when Malalas states that Antioch suffered a disaster and had to be rebuilt, he could have been referring to the disaster that befell the city of Antioch when the last Seleucid King Antiochus VII fell to the Parthian King Phraates II rather than to a disaster caused by an earthquake.
Footnotes

1 A great many members of these royal families had the same name (e.g. Laodice, Antiochus, Seleucus, Ariarathes) and Malalas did not provide suffixes (e.g. Laodice V, Antiochus VII) to help identify them. Further, the understanding of familial relations between these royal family members appears to be at least a bit murky. So for the purposes of dating this event, focus is placed on identifying the succession of Seleucid Kings in Antioch during this time period which appears to be better defined. Questions marks within a parentheses (?) were placed after some names in Malalas' quote where the identification of the personage contains a degree of uncertainty. Several of personages linked to in Malalas' passage are based on speculation by Downey (1938)

Online Versions

English Translation of Chronographia by Malalas

The relevant passage is at this link - Book 8 Number 25 – page 109

To read Chronographia in the original Greek, go here

Sources

Jeffreys et al (1986:xxiii) describes Malalas's sources as follows:

As indicated in its preface the chronicle may be divided, in terms of sources of information, into two parts. For the period before the emperor Zeno, Malalas had to rely on written records and therefore cites, largely at second hand, numerous Greek and Latin authors, including some that are otherwise unknown. For the period from Zeno onwards (that is, for his own lifetime), he claims reliance on oral sources of information: The preface makes specific mention of Julius Africanus, Eusebios and others, and their use in the chronicle is well signposted. These were among his major sources, along with the chroniclers Domninos and Nestorianos and the 'City Chronicles' of Antioch and Constantinople. Sources are rarely cited in Books 15-18, covering material derived from oral sources and dealing with events likely to have been within the author's personal experience. Still it is possible to identify the origin of certain portions of this material; for example, Marinos the Syrian is likely to have been the source for the rebellion of Vitalian (Bo 402.3-406.8), Julian for the embassy to the Axoumite court (Bo 456.24-459.3) and Hermogenes for the first Persian war of Justinian (Bo 445-477). In addition Malalas clearly made use of documentary sources such as imperial laws, decrees and letters (Scott, 1981 and 1985). Again, the evidence for this and a detailed discussion will be presented in the Studies volume.

Notes

Another translation

25. After Demetrianus (Demetrius II Nicator - 145-138 BC), Antiochus (Antiochus VII Sidetes - 138-129 BC) the offspring of Grypus (?) became king for 9 years; he was the son of Laodice (V?), the daughter of Ariarathes (?), king of the Cappadocians. In the eighth year of his reign, Antioch the great was destroyed by the anger of god, in the time of the Macedonians. This happened 152 years after the foundations of the walls were laid by Seleucus Nicator, on the 21st day of the month of Peritius, which is the same as February, at the tenth hour of the day. And the whole city was restored, as Domninus the chronicler has recorded. It suffered [this disaster] 122 years after the walls and the whole city were completed; and afterwards it became yet more splendid.

Archaeoseismic Evidence

Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Tel Ateret aka Vadun Jacob possible ≥9 Ellenblum et. al. (2015:5) estimated a displacement of ~2.5 m from this event which, though dated from the 3rd century BCE - ~142 BCE, probably struck around ~142 BCE. Using the scaling laws of Wells and Coppersmith (1994), ~2.5 m of strike-slip displacement corresponds to a magnitude of 7.1 - 7.4.
Tell Anafa possible Hellenistic Earthquake inferred from possible rebuilding - Although Herbert in Stern et al (1993) did not report any evidence for seismic destruction in Hellenistic times, they did date construction of a Late Hellenistic stuccoed building around ~125 BCE noting that a coin of Alexander Zebina (128-125 BCE) found in the construction fill of the bath's southern room is the latest find under any of the building's original floors. Herbert in Stern et al (1993) also reports that a massive leveling and terracing operation took place with the construction of the Late Hellenistic stuccoed building, obliterating earlier architectural remains. This could explain an absence of archaeoseismic evidence.
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Tel Ateret aka Vadun Jacob



Tell Anafa



Tsunamogenic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence

<
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Dinar Trenches possible - indeterminate ≥ 7 Altunel et al (1999) claim evidence for a ~80 BCE Apamea Earthquake in Event 2 from their trenches but only two useful radiocarbon dates were obtained in their paleoseismic study. The date constraints from these two samples are large (~1550 BCE - 1360 ± 50 CE) and their historical earthquake assignment is speculative - based on consulting earthquake catalogs during that time span.
Hacipasa Trenches possible ≥ 7 The oldest event identified in the Ziyaret Trench dated to before 983 CE. A lower bound on age was not available due to insufficient radiocarbon dates.
Tekieh Trenches possible ≥ 7 Gomez et. al. (2003:15) may have seen evidence for an earthquake in the 1st or 2nd century BCE in Event B. Event B is estimated to have created ~ 2 meters of left lateral strike slip displacement which translates to an estimated Magnitude between 7.0 and 7.3 (7.0 and 7.2 according to Gomez et al, 2003:16-17). In terms of dating, an upper bound for Event B is 170 BCE - 20 CE while a lower bound for Events B and and the older Event C is from 1690 - 1400 BCE.
Jarmaq Trench possible ≥ 7 Nemer and Meghraoui (2006) date Event Y to between 2920-2879 BCE and 84-239 CE
Qiryat-Shemona Rockfalls possible 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) assigned Sample ID QS-6 to an earthquake in 199 BCE but the wide spread in ages indicate that this event could have occurred in the 2nd century BCE.
Bet Zayda possible ≥ 7 Wechsler at al. (2014) records event CH4-E6 with a modeled age of 392 BCE – 91 CE.
Jordan Valley - Dir Hagla Trenches possible ≥ 7 Reches and Hoexter (1981) report that Event A was dated from 200 BCE - 200 CE and exhibited 3.5 m of vertical displacement. Although the total vertical displacement could have been created by more than one seismic event, there were no broken layers between Event A the next Event (B) which was dated to between 700 and 900 CE. Further, they interpreted Event A created a fault scarp on the site. Kagan, E., et al. (2011) noted that the dip slip could have been magnified by local variations in the strike of the fault.
Dead Sea - Seismite Types n/a n/a A worst case scenario calculation reveals why it is unlikely that an earthquake in Antioch would produce seismites in the Dead Sea.
  1. Assume a maximal Magnitude estimate - MW = 7.5
  2. Locate the epicenter in Antioch
  3. Calculate Epicentral Distances (R) from Antioch: ~500 km. to En Feshka (the closest site) and ~545 km. Nahal Ze ‘elim (the furthest site)
  4. Use the attenuation relationship from Hough and Avni (2009) to estimate peak horizontal ground acceleration (PGA) at En Feshka and Nahal Ze ‘elim

The result is a PGA of 0.07 g at Nahal Ze'elim and 0.08g at En Feshka. This is below the 0.23 g threshold calculated by Williams (2004) or 0.13 g assumed in Lu et al (2020a) that one needs to break the Dead Sea sediments. That said, there is evidence that a mid second century BCE earthquake struck the Dead Sea and the Araba, creating some thick seismites in the process. This suggests that we may be dealing with an earthquake couplet where an earthquake in the northern part of the Dead Sea transform struck within a short amount of time (1-2 decades or less) before or after an earthquake in the southern part of the Dead Sea Transform.

Calculator
Seismic Attenuation

Variable Input Units Notes
Magnitude
km. Distance to earthquake producing fault
Variable Output - Site Effect not considered Units Notes
unitless
unitless Conversion from PGA to Intensity using Wald et al (1999)
  

Dead Sea - Nahal Darga ppossible ≥ 7 Enzel et. al. (2000) identified a 20 cm. thick seismite in coarse grained lithology in Deformed Unit 8 in Stratigraphic Unit 10 which dated to 450-50 BCE (2400-2000 yrs BP).
Dead Sea - En Feshkapossible 7.9 - 8.8 Kagan et al (2011) identified two seismites which they estimate struck in the 2nd century BCE.
Depth (cm.) Thickness (cm.) Seismite Type Modeled Age (± 1σ) Modeled Age (± 2σ) Quake Assignment (Kagan) Quake Assignment (Williams)
393 l 4 121 BCE ± 25 119 BCE ± 58 mid 2nd century BCE possibly ~150 BCE southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake
402 l.5 4 151 BCE ± 21 150 BCE ± 55 mid 2nd century BCE possibly ~150 BCE southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake
Dead Sea - En Gedi possible 7.9 - 8.8 Migowski et. al. (2004) dated a 1 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at a depth of 302.48 cm. (3.0248 m) to 140 BCE.
Dead Sea - Nahal Ze 'elim possible 8.2 - 8.9 At site ZA-2, Kagan et al (2011) observed a 8 cm. thick Type 4 intraclast breccia seismite at a depth of 516 cm. with modeled ages of 103 BCE ± 37 (1σ) and 103 BCE ± 75 (2σ). They suggested it struck in the middle of the 2nd century BCE. It may have formed during the southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake.
Araba - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Araba - Taybeh Trench possible ≥ 7 LeFevre et al. (2018) reports a modeled age for Event E6 of 139 BCE ± 22.
Araba - Qatar Trench unlikely ≥ 7 Klinger et. al. (2015) did not observe any mid 2nd century BCE seismic events.
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Dinar Trenches



Altunel et al (1999) claim evidence for a ~80 BCE Apamea Earthquake in Event 2 from their trenches but only two useful radiocarbon dates were obtained in their paleoseismic study. The date constraints from these two samples are large (~1550 BCE - 1360 ± 50 CE) and their historical earthquake assignment is speculative - based on consulting earthquake catalogs during that time span.



Hacipasa Trenches

The oldest event identified in the Ziyaret Trench dated to before 983 CE. A lower bound on age was not available due to insufficient radiocarbon dates.



Tekieh Trenches

Gomez et. al. (2003:15) may have seen evidence for an earthquake in the 1st or 2nd century BCE in Event B. Event B is estimated to have created ~ 2 meters of left lateral strike slip displacement which translates to an estimated Magnitude between 7.0 and 7.3 (7.0 and 7.2 according to Gomez et al, 2003:16-17). In terms of dating, an upper bound for Event B is 170 BCE - 20 CE while a lower bound for Events B and and the older Event C is from 1690 - 1400 BCE.



Jarmaq Trench

Nemer and Meghraoui (2006) date Event Y to between 2920-2879 BCE and 84-239 CE



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) assigned Sample ID QS-6 to an earthquake in 199 BCE but the wide spread in ages indicate that this event could have occurred in the 2nd century BCE.



Bet Zayda (aka Beteiha)

Wechsler at al. (2014) records event CH4-E6 with a modeled age of 392 BCE – 91 CE.



Jordan Valley - Dir Hagla Trenches

Reches and Hoexter (1981) report that Event A was dated from 200 BCE - 200 CE and exhibited 3.5 m of vertical displacement. Although the total vertical displacement could have been created by more than one seismic event, there were no broken layers between Event A the next Event (B) which was dated to between 700 and 900 CE. Further, they interpreted Event A created a fault scarp on the site. Kagan, E., et al. (2011) noted that the dip slip could have been magnified by local variations in the strike of the fault.



Dead Sea - Seismite Types



Dead Sea - Nahal Darga

Enzel et. al. (2000) identified a 20 cm. thick seismite in coarse grained lithology in Deformed Unit 8 in Stratigraphic Unit 10 which dated to 450-50 BCE (2400-2000 yrs BP).



Dead Sea - En Feshka

Kagan et al (2011) identified two seismites which they estimate struck in the 2nd century BCE.

Depth (cm.) Thickness (cm.) Seismite Type Modeled Age (± 1σ) Modeled Age (± 2σ) Quake Assignment (Kagan) Quake Assignment (Williams)
393 l 4 121 BCE ± 25 119 BCE ± 58 mid 2nd century BCE possibly ~150 BCE southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake
402 l.5 4 151 BCE ± 21 150 BCE ± 55 mid 2nd century BCE possibly ~150 BCE southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake


Dead Sea - En Gedi

Migowski et. al. (2004) dated a 1 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at a depth of 302.48 cm. (3.0248 m) to 140 BCE.



Dead Sea - Nahal Ze 'elim

At site ZA-2, Kagan et al (2011) observed a 8 cm. thick Type 4 intraclast breccia seismite at a depth of 516 cm. with modeled ages of 103 BCE ± 37 (1σ) and 103 BCE ± 75 (2σ). They suggested it struck in the middle of the 2nd century BCE. It may have formed during the southern Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake.



Araba - Introduction



Araba - Taybeh Trench

LeFevre et al. (2018) reports a modeled age for Event E6 of 139 BCE ± 22.



Araba - Qatar Trench

Klinger et. al. (2015) did not observe any mid 2nd century BCE seismic events.



Notes

Paleoclimate - Droughts

References