Open this page in a new tab



Transliterated Name Language Name
Areopolis Ancient Greek αρεοπολισ
Rabba Arabic الربة‎
er-Rabba Arabic ‎يرءراببا
Rabbath Moab

Areopolis, located on a plateau east of the Dead Sea and ~15 km. north of Al-Karak appears to have been built by the Nabateans (Negev, 1980). It was mentioned by Ptolemy in his book Geography around 150 CE (Negev, 1980) and also by Eusebius and Jerome.

Baalbek at The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
Aerial Views
Aerial Views

  • Vicinity of Rabba/Areopolis in Google Earth

Late 6th century CE earthquake



  • Fig. 5 - Fragmentary Inscription from Rucker and Niemi (2010)
  • Fig. 2 - Inscription from Zayadine (1971)


Zayadine (1971) published a translation of a dedicatory inscription at Areopolis which was found out of context and re-used in a structure (Rucker and Niemi, 2010). Zayadine (1971) suggested that the fragment indicates that a previously unreported earthquake struck Areopolis shortly before 597 CE. A translated excerpt is presented below:
Translation : During the incumbency of most holy Bishop John [this building] has been restored in the year 492, after the earthquake.


Line 1: Bishop John of Areopolis is mentioned, to my knowledge, for the first time. But we can name three of his predecessors; they are: Anastasius, who participated in the Council of Ephesus in 449; Polychronius and Elijah who attended the synods of Jerusalem in 518 and 536.

Line 2: "has been restored": the building which is the subject of this dedication was unfortunately not mentioned. One could suppose that it belongs to the small recently discovered church (pl. III), but nothing proves it.

Line 3: "the year 492": this is the era of the Province of Arabia, well attested for region and which begins on March 22, 105 AD. This date therefore corresponds to 597 - 598 AD.

Line 4: "after the earthquake": This last line adds to the interest of this dedication, because it is the first time that an inscription mentions an earthquake in this region.

The characters on this line have been damaged, but it is safe to read; the "tone" has been shortened and the sign you see at the end of the line is a damaged cross, as we have specified above.

Zayadine (1971) discussed implications of the inscription.
It is understood that the date is that of the restoration and not that of the earthquake; nevertheless, it is safe to assume that the works were not carried out long after the disaster. Among the known earthquakes, the closest to the date mentioned is 588 AD; but it seems to have mainly affected the city of Antioch. Another earthquake, which occurred in 599 AD, devastated Mesopotamia. It therefore appears that the catastrophe which affected the city of Areopolis is only attested by this inscription. Moreover, this capital of Moab seems to have been devastated by several earthquakes. Hill believes that the depiction of Poseidon on the city's coins, minted with the effigy of Caracalla, is related to these catastrophes. The decay of the Roman temple is certainly the result of a violent earthquake, as the first travelers pointed out.

Notes and Further Reading
Wikipedia page for Rabba (aka Areopolis)