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Trajan Quake

Early Morning - 13 December 115 CE

by Jefferson Williams









Introduction & Summary

In the winter of 113/114 CE, Roman Emperor Trajan moved to Antioch and made it his base for military operations against the Parthian Empire . Approximately two years later, he nearly died when an earthquake destroyed much of the city. Nearby Daphne was also badly affected. Guidoboni et. al. (1994) and Ambraseys (2009) assign a date of 13 December 115 CE to this earthquake based on a detailed chronology provided by Antiochene native John Malalas writing in the 6th century CE. While other late authors provide earlier dates for this earthquake1 , these dates do not seem nearly as reliable as the one provided by Malalas. The most reliable early source for this event is Dio Cassius who produced an extensive and dramatic account of the effects of the quake. In addition to Antioch and Daphne, four other cities, among them Apamea, may have also been damaged by the earthquake. This additional destruction, discussed but not specifically mentioned in the sources2, is inferred from building programs initiated by Rome in the aftermath of the earthquake (see Archaeoseismic evidence for Apamea).

Although this earthquake was associated with both Dead Sea Seismites and Tsunamogenic deposits in and around Caesarea, such an association is unlikely because this earthquake was too far away to have caused either the seismites or the tsunami. A more likely candidate is the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Earthquake

Footnotes

1 Orosius and Michael the Syrian synchronize the earthquake with a lightning strike that burned down the Roman Pantheon in 110 CE. From Evagrius Scholasticus one can backdate the Trajan Quake to ~110 CE based on his date for the 458 CE Antioch earthquake however there are dating inconsistencies in his chronology for the 458 CE event. Eusebius apparently dates the Trajan Quake to 113/114 CE. George Syncellus incorrectly dates the earthquake to 108 or 109 CE. Since the earthquake struck while Trajan was living in Antioch, it is constrained to the years of 113-116 CE.

2 Dio Cassius mentions that “many cities suffered”

Textual Evidence

Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Satire VI by Juvenal Latin
Biography

Juvenal was a Roman poet active in the late 1st and early 2nd century CE. He is best known for his collection of satirical poems known as the Satires of which the 6th Satire is the most famous.

Ambraseys (2009) citing Downey (1961b:213 n. 59) states that Juvenal may have referred to the Trajan Quake in his 6th Satire.

1st half of the 2nd century CE Italy Unlocated and undated poetic reference to how cities are tottering and lands subsiding
Roman History by Dio Cassius Greek
Biography

Dio Cassius also known as Cassius Dio was born and raised at Nicaea in Bithynia. At various points in his life he was a Senator, Governor of Smyrna, a Suffect Consul, and later a proconsul in Africa Proconsularis and Pannonia. He published 80 volumes of the history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The volumes documented the subsequent founding of Rome (753 BCE), the formation of the Republic (509 BCE), and the creation of the Empire (27 BCE), up until 229 CE. Written in Ancient Greek over 22 years, Dio's work covers approximately 1,000 years of history. Many of his 80 books have survived intact, or as fragments, providing modern scholars with a detailed perspective on Roman history (wikipedia). Dio Cassius was either the grandfather or great-grandfather of Cassius Dio, a consul in 291 CE.

~207-229 CE Mostly in Capua (Italy). Possibly wrote some material in other locations. Dio Cassius provided an extensive discussion of the earthquake and its effects but provides limited chronological information.
Chronicon by Eusebius Greek translated to Latin by Jerome
Biography

Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260/265 - 339 CE) also known as Eusebius Pamphilus is regarded as one of the most learned Christians of late antiquity (4th-6th centuries CE). He wrote numerous works of great value to historians including a History of the Church (aka Ecclesiastical History) which earned him a reputation as the "Father" of Church History. Despite this reputation, his works are not necessarily historically accurate and some scholars have accused him of dishonesty. Nevertheless, his writings are of great value due to both the volume of output and Eusebius' habit of quoting earlier works - many of which have been lost. Eusebius was born in Syria or Palestine, probably in Palestine close to Caesarea where he lived from a young age. Sometime before ~300 CE, he completed the first editions of two influential works - a History of the Church and Chronicon - a universal calendar of events from "Creation" until Eusebius' own time. In ~313 CE, Eusebius became Bishop of Caesarea. He also became an adviser to Emperor Constantine (r. 306-337 CE) and wrote a biography of the Emperor titled "In Praise of Constantine". A dedicated bibliophile, Eusebius managed or had access to the large library in Caesarea yet despite achieving fluency in Syriac and Greek, he apparently never mastered Latin. Eusebius wrote Chronicon in two parts. Although the original Greek text has been lost, later Chroniclers preserved significant parts of the manuscript. Jerome translated all of the second part (Book 2) into Latin.

Christian Early 4th century CE Caesarea Short passage states that An earthquake at Antioch ruined almost the entire city during the 1st year of the 223rd Olympiad which corresponds to 1 July 113 CE to 30 June 114 CE
History Against the Pagans by Orosius Latin
Biography

Paulus Orosius (c. 380 - c.420) was a Roman Priest who wrote several books but his most famous is History Against the Pagans which was completed in ~416/417 CE. Orosius, who may have been born in Spain, spent time in North Africa as a student of Augustine of Hippo and in Palestine where he collaborated with Jerome (Fear, 2010:2-4). History Against the Pagans is a history of the secular world written from a Christian perspective (Fear, 2010:7). Fear (2010:7) notes that the Histories, though well written, do show signs of misunderstanding of their source material, and while, as will be seen, some of these ‘misunderstandings’ are deliberate, others are not.

Christian ~416-417 CE Palestine and/or Gallaecia (northwest Hispania) and/or places between. States that Lightning struck and burned the Pantheon at Rome [~110 CE], while at Antioch an earthquake laid almost the entire city in ruins. Fear (2010:343 n. 154) notes that Orosius was using Jerome's Latin translation of Eusebius' Chronicon as a source and deliberately mis-dated certain events in this part of his book, including the burning of the Pantheon and the earthquake at Antioch, in service of a theological agenda.
Chronographia by Johannes Malalas Greek
Biography

Jeffries et al (1986:xxi) reports that everything that is known about Johannes Malalas (~491 – 578 CE) has to be gleaned from the chronicle itself, except that later writers refer to him as 'John the Rhetor', 'John Malalas' or 'Malelas', and 'John of Antioch'. Jeffries et al (1986:xxi-xxii) further reports that as a 'rhetor' or 'scholastikos' (which is the meaning of the Syriac word 'malal' from which the name Malalas is derived) Malalas possessed the education designed to equip one for the mainstream of government service, and so he was fairly well educated by contemporary standards.

His Book Chronographia was written in Greek and is a valuable and frequently unique reservoir of information however Malalas himself has been has been dismissed as entirely naive, ignorant and incompetent (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxii). 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... and Vasiliev (1958:184) characterizes his work as confused in content, mixing fables and facts, important events and minor incidents which was clearly intended not for educated readers but for the masses.

Fluent in Syriac, Latin, and Greek, Malalas was presumably educated in Antioch but at some point in his life moved to Constantinople perhaps between 535 and 540 CE (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxii). He probably continued his bureaucratic career in Constantinople until he died there in 578 CE (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxii).

His chronicle was composed and circulated in two editions. The first edition was put together in Antioch in the 530s CE and most likely reached the end of Book 17 (AD 527) (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxiii). It is not so clear where the final edition of the chronicle ended, although the most likely point is the end of Justinian's reign in 565 CE (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxiii). Presumably, everything from Book 18 forward was composed in Constantinople after 535-540 CE. Despite the chronological problems Chronographia is noted for, Malalas appears to produce accurate chronology for some earthquakes - likely due to the source(s) he accessed for the event.

Christian (Orthodox Byzantium) ~530s to 565 CE Probably Antioch and Constantinople Although there are chronological inconsistencies in Malalas' account, he provides what appears to be an accurate date - in the early morning of 13 December 115 CE. The source for this earthquake may have been 'City Chronicles' of Antioch.
Ecclesiastical History by Evagrius Scholasticus Greek
Biography

Evagrius Scholasticus was born Epiphania (Hama) in Syria around 535 CE. He pursued legal and other studies and earned the title of “Scholasticus” while he was in his 20s. He worked in Antioch as an aide to Gregory of Antioch - the Patriarch of Antioch. Although he wrote a number of works on theological matters, none of these have survived however Ecclesiastical History has survived. This text consists of 6 volumes and covers Christian history from the first council of Ephesus in 431 CE until Evagrius' present time. Ecclesiastical History was completed in ~593 CE.

Chalcedonian Christian ~593 CE Antioch ? Refers to the Trajan Quake in a discussion about another earthquake that struck Antioch ~347 years later. Ambraseys (2009) notes that there are dating inconsistencies in the passage by Evagrius Scholasticus
Chronicle of Zuqnin by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre Syriac
Biography

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 3 and 4 cover events from 488 - 775 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 (1999) 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. If Harrak is correct, this is a contemporaneous source. The work is preserved in a single handwritten manuscript (Cod. Vat. 162), now in the Vatican (shelf mark Vatican Syriac 162).

Eastern Christian 750-775 CE Zuqnin Monastery States that A great earthquake took place in Antioch, overturning the city almost entirely. Dated to 111-114 CE. Dates in this part of the Chronicle of Zuqnin are frequently unreliable.
The Chronicle of Georgius Syncellos Greek
Biography

In 808 CE, George Syncellus began work on a Chronicle intending to cover "Creation" until his own times. By 810 CE, Syncellus had written up to 285 CE when Diocletian became Emperor. Syncellus's incapacitation or demise in 810 CE meant that this is where his Chronicle ends. Before he died, however, he convinced his friend Theophanes to finish the Chronicle - which he did. Theophanes took Syncellus's apparently large collection of source material and extended it to 813 CE. How much Theophanes's extended Chronicle was based on Syncellus' source material is a matter of debate (Neville, 2018:56). How much editing or redaction Theophanes performed on Syncellus' work up to 285 CE may also be unknown.

George Syncellus seemed to have had an obsession with time. He believed that Christ's Incarnation at the beginning of A.M.a 5501 and his Resurrection in A.M.a 5534 both occurred on 25 March, the same day as the day of creation (Tuffin and Adler, 2002:xxix). Syncellus and his descendant Theophanes used an older method the count years - the Alexandrian Anno Mundi system - A.M.a - which had at its basis a search for the date of Creation and the date of Easter. The end result of this quest, however, may be significant chronological uncertainty in the work of Theophanes/Syncellus. Both present multiple time markers in the combined text which are frequently inconsistent or inaccurate.

Not much is known about Syncellus' life. His date and place of birth seem to be unknown. Because Syncellus mentions having personally visited various sites in Palestine, there is some speculation that he may have lived for some time in a monastery near Bethlehem before moving to Constantinople but this is not known for sure (Neville, 2018:57 and Tuffin and Adler, 2002:xxx). At some point in time he was appointed as to the high ranking ecclesiastical position of syncellus (literally "cell-mate") to Tarasios the Patriarch of Constantinople. He started writing his Chronicle after he retired from this position although presumably he would have been gathering source material before he began writing.

Some of George Syncellus' sources include Julius Africanus (c.160-240 CE), Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265-339 CE), and the monks Panodoros and Annianos, both early 5th century monks from Alexandria who developed the Alexandrian version of Anno Mundi reckoning. Syncellus, like Theophanes, was strongly opposed to the iconoclasm of his time and may have suffered due to his outspoken views on the subject.

Orthodox (Byzantium) 808-810 CE ( Adler and Tuffin, 2002:lxx) Vicinity of Constantinople States that Antioch suffered an earthquake when Trajan was staying there. Chronological information dating the earthquake to 108 or 109 CE is inconsistent and flawed when one considers the chronology of Trajan's reign (e.g., Trajan's move to Antioch at the start of the Parthian Campaign in 113 CE).
Chronicle by Michael the Syrian Syriac
Biography

Michael the Syrian also known as Michael I Rabo and Michael the Great was born in Melitene from a clerical family in 1126 CE (Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 2011). He studied at the Monastery of Dayro d-Mor Barṣawmo where he stayed on as a Monk and a Prior. In 1166, he was elected Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church. While acting as Partriach he collected manuscripts of theological and historical content and restored and compiled hagiographical and liturgical works (Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 2011). Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition (2011) reports that his canonistic work is partly conserved in later collections, but the greater part is lost, as is his treatise on dualist heresies composed for the Lateran Council. Michael the Syrian is best known for his Universal Chronicle which covered "creation" until 1195 CE (Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 2011). Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition (2011) describes Michael's Chronicle and various editions as follows:

The text is not preserved in its entirety, and the layout of Michael’s chronicle was distorted through the process of copying. Chabot’s edition is a facsimile of a documentary copy written for him in Edessa (Urfa) from 1897 to 1899. While the scribes tried to imitate the layout, a number of mistakes were introduced. Its Vorlage, the only extant ms., was written in 1598 by a very competent scribe. It is kept by the community of the Edessenians in Aleppo. In view of the loss of the original, this beautiful manuscript is the best witness for the layout of the chronicle. Fortunately it will soon be made available in print. This ms. was probably the Vorlage for an Arabic translation, which also sought to preserve some of the visual features, while changing others. The Arabic translation has much the same lacunae as the Syriac text. By comparing his version with the Arabic translation preserved in ms. London, Brit. Libr. Or. 4402 (which is one of several Arabic copies), Chabot detected some details lost in the Syriac text. No further research has been done so far on this problem.

The historical material was originally organized in four columns, the first being designated as the ‘succession of the patriarchs’, the second as ‘succession of the kings’, the chronological canon as ‘computation of the years’. No title of the additional column, which contains mixed material, is now known. Chapters with excursus were inserted, which interrupted the system of columns. After an open and abrupt end, six appendices follow. The first appendix is a monumental synopsis of all the kings and patriarchs mentioned. It was supposed to function as a directory. The second appendix is a treatise on the historical identity of the Syrians, who are connected to the Ancient Oriental Empires, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Arameans. When the chronicle was translated into Armenian, in two different translations, in 1246 and 1247, it was transformed according to Armenian interests.
Michael died in 1199 CE.

Syriac Orthodox Church late 12th century CE Probably at the Monastery of Mar Bar Sauma near Tegenkar, Turkey States that Antioch was more or less entirely overthrown by a violent earthquake at the same time that the Temple of the Pantheon was destroyed by lightning [~110 CE].
Other Sources
Text (with hotlink) Original Language Biographical Info Religion Date of Composition Location Composed Notes
Satire VI by Juvenal

Background and Biography

Juvenal was a Roman poet active in the late 1st and early 2nd century CE. He is best known for his collection of satirical poems known as the Satires of which the 6th Satire is the most famous.

Ambraseys (2009) citing Downey (1961b:213 n. 59) states that Juvenal may have referred to the Trajan Quake in his 6th Satire.

Excerpts

In and English translation by Ramsay (1918) of the 6th Satire we can read the following in the 29th paragraph:

English from Ramsay (1918)

Satire 6

[Translated by G. G. Ramsay]

The Ways of Women

... Better, however, that your wife should be musical than that she should be rushing boldly about the entire city, attending men's meetings, talking with unflinching face and hard breasts to Generals in their military cloaks, with her husband looking on! This same woman knows what is going on all over the world: what the Thracians and Chinese are after, what has passed between the stepmother and the stepson; she knows who loves whom, what gallant is the rage; she will tell you who got the widow with child, and in what month; how every woman behaves to her lovers, and what she says to them. She is the first to notice the comet threatening the kings of Armenia and Parthia; she picks up the latest rumours at the city gates, and invents some herself: how the Niphates17 has burst out upon the nations, and is inundating entire districts; how cities are tottering and lands subsiding, she tells to every one she meets at every street crossing.

Footnotes

17 Properly a mountain; here meant for a river.

English - embedded

  • see 29th paragraph starting with Better, however, that your wife should be musical
  • from tertullian.org


Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading
References

Roman History by Dio Cassius

Background and Biography

Dio Cassius also known as Cassius Dio was born and raised at Nicaea in Bithynia. At various points in his life he was a Senator, Governor of Smyrna, a Suffect Consul, and later a proconsul in Africa Proconsularis and Pannonia. He published 80 volumes of the history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The volumes documented the subsequent founding of Rome (753 BCE), the formation of the Republic (509 BCE), and the creation of the Empire (27 BCE), up until 229 CE. Written in Ancient Greek over 22 years, Dio's work covers approximately 1,000 years of history. Many of his 80 books have survived intact, or as fragments, providing modern scholars with a detailed perspective on Roman history (wikipedia). Dio Cassius was either the grandfather or great-grandfather of Cassius Dio, a consul in 291 CE.

Excerpts

In a translation by Foster (1905) we can read the following in Book 68 – Sections 24 and 25

English from Foster (2014)

24 1 While the emperor [Trajan (r. 98-117 CE)] was tarrying in Antioch a terrible earthquake occurred; many cities suffered injury, but Antioch was the most unfortunate of all. Since Trajan was passing the winter there and many soldiers and many civilians had flocked thither from all sides in connexion with law-suits, embassies, business or sightseeing, there was no nation of people that went unscathed; and thus in Antioch the whole world under Roman sway suffered disaster. There had been many thunderstorms and portentous winds, but no one would ever have expected so many evils to result from them. First there came, on a sudden, a great bellowing roar, and this was followed by a tremendous quaking. The whole earth was upheaved, and buildings leaped into the air; some were carried aloft only to collapse and be broken in pieces, while others were tossed this way and that as if by the surge of the sea, and overturned, and the wreckage spread out over a great extent even of the open country. The crash of grinding and breaking timbers together with tiles and stones was most frightful; and an inconceivable amount of dust arose, so that it was impossible for one to see anything or to speak or hear a word. As for the people, many even who were outside the houses were hurt, being snatched up and tossed violently about and then dashed to the earth as if falling from a cliff; some were maimed and others were killed. Even trees in some cases leaped into the air, roots and all. The number of those who were trapped in the houses and perished was past finding out; for multitudes were killed by the very force of the falling debris, and great numbers were suffocated in the ruins. Those who lay with a part of their body buried under the stones or timbers suffered terribly, being able neither to live any longer nor to find an immediate death.

25 Nevertheless, many even of these were saved, as was to be expected in such a countless multitude; yet not all such escaped unscathed. Many lost legs or arms, some had their heads broken, and still others vomited blood; Pedo the consul was one of these, and he died at once. In a word, there was no kind of violent experience that those people did not undergo at that time. And as Heaven continued the earthquake for several days and nights, the people were in dire straits and helpless, some of them crushed and perishing under the weight of the buildings pressing upon them, and others dying of hunger, whenever it so chanced that they were left alive either in a clear space, the timbers being so inclined as to leave such a space, or in a vaulted colonnade. When at last the evil had subsided, someone who ventured to mount the ruins caught sight of a woman still alive. She was not alone, but had also an infant; and she had survived by feeding both herself and her child with her milk. They dug her out and resuscitated her together with her babe, and after that they searched the other heaps, but were not able to find in them anyone still living save a child sucking at the breast of its mother, who was dead. As they drew forth the corpses they could no longer feel any pleasure even at their own escape. So great were the calamities that had overwhelmed Antioch at this time. Trajan made his way out through a window of the room in which he was staying. Some being, of greater than human stature, had come to him and led him forth, so that he escaped with only a few slight injuries; and as the shocks extended over several days, he lived out of doors in the hippodrome. Even Mt. Casius itself was so shaken that its peaks seemed to lean over and break off and to be falling upon the very city. Other hills also settled, and much water not previously in existence came to light, while many streams disappeared.

Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
113-115 CE While the emperor was tarrying in Antioch none
Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

Chronicon by Eusebius

Background and Biography

Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260/265 - 339 CE) also known as Eusebius Pamphilus is regarded as one of the most learned Christians of late antiquity (4th-6th centuries CE). He wrote numerous works of great value to historians including a History of the Church (aka Ecclesiastical History) which earned him a reputation as the "Father" of Church History. Despite this reputation, his works are not necessarily historically accurate and some scholars have accused him of dishonesty. Nevertheless, his writings are of great value due to both the volume of output and Eusebius' habit of quoting earlier works - many of which have been lost. Eusebius was born in Syria or Palestine, probably in Palestine close to Caesarea where he lived from a young age. Sometime before ~300 CE, he completed the first editions of two influential works - a History of the Church and Chronicon - a universal calendar of events from "Creation" until Eusebius' own time. In ~313 CE, Eusebius became Bishop of Caesarea. He also became an adviser to Emperor Constantine (r. 306-337 CE) and wrote a biography of the Emperor titled "In Praise of Constantine". A dedicated bibliophile, Eusebius managed or had access to the large library in Caesarea yet despite achieving fluency in Syriac and Greek, he apparently never mastered Latin. Eusebius wrote Chronicon in two parts. Although the original Greek text has been lost, later Chroniclers preserved significant parts of the manuscript. Jerome translated all of the second part (Book 2) into Latin.

Excerpts

In Jerome's translation of (Eusebius Chronicon Book Two, page 278, 223th Olympiad), we read about an earthquake in Antioch in the first year of the 223rd Olympiad.

English

An earthquake at Antioch ruined almost the entire city.

English Translation of Jerome's translation of Eusebius' Chronicon - embedded



Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
1 July 113 CE to 30 June 114 CE Eusebius dates this section to the first year of the 223rd Olympiad none Calculated with CHRONOS
112 CE to 114 CE Eusebius dates the following year of the 223rd Olympiad to 2130 in the Year of Abraham (Anno Abraham) Years were calculated for 2129 in the Year of Abraham (one year earlier) Calculated with CHRONOS
Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

History Against the Pagans by Orosius

Background and Biography

Paulus Orosius (c. 380 - c.420) was a Roman Priest who wrote several books but his most famous is History Against the Pagans which was completed in ~416/417 CE. Orosius, who may have been born in Spain, spent time in North Africa as a student of Augustine of Hippo and in Palestine where he collaborated with Jerome (Fear, 2010:2-4). History Against the Pagans is a history of the secular world written from a Christian perspective (Fear, 2010:7). Fear (2010:7) notes that the Histories, though well written, do show signs of misunderstanding of their source material, and while, as will be seen, some of these ‘misunderstandings’ are deliberate, others are not.

Excerpts

In an English translation by Fear (2010:343) we can read the following in Book 7 Section 12 Paragraph 5

English from Fear (2010)

5. Four cities in Asia, Elea, Myrina, Pitane, and Cyme along with two in Greece, those of the Opuntii and Oriti,154 were destroyed by an earthquake that also ruined three cities in Galatia. At Rome, the Pantheon was struck by lightning and burnt down, while an earthquake in Antioch almost levelled the entire city.155

Footnotes

154 Opus, the chief city of the Opuntian Locrians, is perhaps the modern Kardhenitza in modern Greece. Oricum, a port in Illyricum, is the modern Erikha in Albania.

155 The destruction of the Golden House is drawn from Jerome, Chronicle, A Abr. 2120. Orosius tries nobly to absolve his compatriot and hero, Trajan, from the blame of initiating a persecution in his account. The earthquake in Asia and Greece is taken from Jerome, Chronicle, A Abr. 2121. Orosius disingenuously elides this with the earthquake in Galatia to make God’s vengeance seem the greater. In fact, Jerome dates the earthquake in Galatia and the burning of the Pantheon six years after the Asian earthquake, A Abr. 2127 (= AD 113), and gives a third date for the earthquake at Antioch, A Abr. 2130.

Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
110 CE At Rome, the Pantheon was struck by lightning and burned down, while an earthquake in Antioch almost leveled the entire city. none
  • Lightning struck and burned the Pantheon in 110 AD according to these two references - here and here
  • Fear (2010:343 n. 154) notes that Orosius was using Jerome's Latin translation of Eusebius' Chronicon as a source and deliberately mis-dated certain events in this part of his book, including the burning of the Pantheon and the earthquake at Antioch, in service of a theological agenda.
Seismic Effects Locations Sources
Sources according to Fear (2010)

Fear (2010:15-16) described Orosius' sources as follows:

The sources Orosius used were probably not great in number, though a specious lustre of wide reading comes from his secondary use of the fragments of authors found in the notes of Jerome’s Chronicle. His main source for Greek history is Justin’s epitome of Pompeius Trogus’s Philippic History.83 Justin composed his epitome in the second or third century AD, while Trogus’s original work dates from the end of the first century BC. Livy, often at second hand via epitomes, the second-century historian Florus, and late fourth-century writer Eutropius form the main base of Orosius’s passages concerning the Roman Republic. In the Imperial period, Eutropius’s work becomes more prominent along with the now lost fourth century ‘History of the Emperors’ or Kaisergeschichte.84 Orosius also shows knowledge of Caesar, Sallust, Tacitus, and Suetonius. His approach to these sources was by no means naive. While at times he takes material verbatim or with very minor alterations, they are more often approached with a careful eye for selectivity. Instances of failed prophecy are seized upon as demonstrations of the folly of pagan religion,85 while pagan prophecies that seemingly come true are suppressed,86 as are accounts of successful pagan divine intervention.87 At times more open manipulation occurs. Leonidas’s speech to the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae is carefully edited to give it a sense quite different to the original found in Justin.88 Similarly, the sack of the Phoceans’ temples is portrayed as evidence of the impotence of the pagan gods, but Orosius’s source, Justin, presents it as divinely inspired punishment for the Phoceans’ earlier blasphemy.89 Later Orosius tells us that the consul Gurges was defeated after the ‘snake of Aesculapius’ was brought to Rome, leaving the reader to infer that there is a causal link between the two events. In Livy, however, who is Orosius’s source, the two events occur in the opposite order.90 Pagan sources are used to discredit the oracle of Ammon, and Mithridates’ final speech is also recruited to the cause of refuting paganism by a careful misinterpretation of its actual sense.91 This studied editing of the pagan past is intended to leave the reader feeling that Christianity’s critics are refuted by the very authors they would claim as their own.
Footnotes

83 For a discussion of this work see Yardley and Heckel (1997) and Yardley (2003).

84 The existence of the Kaisergeschicte was postulated by Enmann (1883). For modern discussions, see Barnes (1970) and Burgess (1995).

85 e.g. 3.22.3 and 4.13.14.

86 e.g. 4.10.3, where the sacred chickens rightly predict the Roman defeat at the battle of Drepanum.

87 For example, at 2.10, Orosius suppresses Justin’s comments that before Salamis Xerxes had sacked Delphi and hence was waging war on the gods as well as the Greeks, as he has no wish to imply that pagan gods could have been a factor in the Greeks’ victory at Salamis. He also suppresses the Delphic oracle’s comments about the wooden walls of Athens being her salvation.

88 2.9.6.

89 3.12.17; cf. the destruction of the Temple of Vesta at 4.11.9.

90 3.22.5–6; Livy, Per. 11.

91 3.16.13 and 6.14.11–17

Online Versions and Further Reading Notes
Calendars used by Orosius

Fear (2010:18) described Chronological Systems used by Orosius.

Given his wish to show that secular events prove the truth of Christianity, it is perhaps not surprising that Orosius uses the common chronological systems of his day rather than one centred on the incarnation. Such a system was not in fact available: the universal Christian chronology used today was devised some 100 years after Orosius’s death by Dionysius Exiguus.105 However, it is noticeable that Orosius chooses not to date events from the birth of Abraham, as does Eusebius/Jerome’s Chronicle. Rather, prior to the foundation of Rome, Orosius dates events by Olympiads. He then uses, as was common in Roman historiography, the date of Rome’s foundation as the starting point for his chronology.106 Orosius dates the foundation of Rome to 752 years before the birth of Christ, a year which fell in the sixth Olympiad and 414 years after the fall of Troy.107 The date of the foundation of Rome was subject to some dispute in antiquity. The commonest accepted date was that posited by the late republican scholar Varro – 754/3 BC. However, Orosius’s date has official sanction in that it is that which was used by the Capitoline Fasti, the official list of Roman magistrates erected in the forum at Rome, and it may be for this reason that he chose it, as it would once again link his account of the Roman past with the ‘official’ version of the day.
Footnotes

105 See Declercq (2002).

106 Normally such dates are styled AUC (Ab Urbe Condita), ‘from the foundation of the City’.

107 2.4.1; 6.22. Eusebius places Rome’s foundation in the fourth year of the sixth Olympiad, 1264 years after the birth of Abraham.

Chronographia by Johannes Malalas

Background and Biography

Jeffries et al (1986:xxi) reports that everything that is known about Johannes Malalas (~491 – 578 CE) has to be gleaned from the chronicle itself, except that later writers refer to him as 'John the Rhetor', 'John Malalas' or 'Malelas', and 'John of Antioch'. Jeffries et al (1986:xxi-xxii) further reports that as a 'rhetor' or 'scholastikos' (which is the meaning of the Syriac word 'malal' from which the name Malalas is derived) Malalas possessed the education designed to equip one for the mainstream of government service, and so he was fairly well educated by contemporary standards.

His Book Chronographia was written in Greek and is a valuable and frequently unique reservoir of information however Malalas himself has been has been dismissed as entirely naive, ignorant and incompetent (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxii). 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... and Vasiliev (1958:184) characterizes his work as confused in content, mixing fables and facts, important events and minor incidents which was clearly intended not for educated readers but for the masses.

Fluent in Syriac, Latin, and Greek, Malalas was presumably educated in Antioch but at some point in his life moved to Constantinople perhaps between 535 and 540 CE (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxii). He probably continued his bureaucratic career in Constantinople until he died there in 578 CE (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxii).

His chronicle was composed and circulated in two editions. The first edition was put together in Antioch in the 530s CE and most likely reached the end of Book 17 (AD 527) (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxiii). It is not so clear where the final edition of the chronicle ended, although the most likely point is the end of Justinian's reign in 565 CE (Jeffries et al, 1986:xxiii). Presumably, everything from Book 18 forward was composed in Constantinople after 535-540 CE. Despite the chronological problems Chronographia is noted for, Malalas appears to produce accurate chronology for some earthquakes - likely due to the source(s) he accessed for the event.

Excerpts

In a translation by Jeffries et al (1986:145-146) we can read the following in Book 11 Sections 8 and 9. In the passage below suffered for the third time refers to the earthquake.

English from Jeffries et al (1986)

During the reign of the same most divine Trajan Antioch the Great, situated near Daphne, suffered for the third time in the month of Apellaeus and December 13, the first day, after cockcrow ,in the Antiochene year 164, and two years after the arrival of Trajan in eastern parts. The Antiochenes who remained behind and survived erected an altar in Daphne, on which they wrote, “The survivors erected this to their saviour Zeus."

On the same night as Antioch the Great suffered, the island city of Rhodes, being a city of the Hexapolis, suffered under the wrath of God for the second time.

But the most pious Trajan, having founded it once already, erected the Median Gatenear the temple of Ares, where the Parmenius flows in winter, close to what is now called Macellus; and above it he inscribed an effigy of the She-Wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus, so that posterity might know that this was a Roman foundation. He sacrificed there a beautiful Antiochene virgin called Calliope as an expiatory and cleansing sacrifice for the city, in whose honour he built the Nymphagoria. And then he re-erected the two great architraves, and built many other things in Antioch, including a public bath, and an aqueduct, drawing the water from the springs of Daphne to the so-called Agriae, giving his own name to the baths and aqueduct. And the Theatre of Antioch, which was not yet finished, he completed, and placed in it, above, four columns; and in the middle of the Proscenium of the Nymphaeum he put a bronze statue of the virgin he had slaughtered, and on the upper side a bronze of the Orontes river was placed, being crowned by the kings Seleucus and Antiochus. The Emperor Trajan himself was in the city when the earthquake happened.

St Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch, was martyred then during Trajan’s visit, for he incurred the emperor’s anger through abusing him.

Greek with a Latin translation (embedded)



Jeffreys et al (1986) English Translation (embedded)



Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
in the morning on 13 December 115 CE in the month of Apellaeus and December 13, the first day (Monday), after cockcrow, in the Antiochene year 164, none
~115/116 CE two years after the arrival of Trajan in eastern parts none
  • Ambraseys (2009) noted that it is generally agreed that Trajan arrived in winter 113/114 CE.
Seismic Effects Locations Sources
Source for the Trajan Quake

The source for this earthquake may have been 'City Chronicles' of Antioch.

Sources according to Jeffreys et al (1986)

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).

Online Versions and Further Reading Notes
Era of Antioch

Parise (2002) defines the Era of Antioch a year later than Ambraseys (2009:123, 169) and also has different start and end dates. This way of reckoning would result in a different date for this earthquake - 13 December 116 CE. Since Ambraseys (2009:123), Guidoboni et al (1994), and Downey (1963:283) date the Trajan Quake to 13 December 115 CE apparently based on Malalas' specification of the Antiochene Year of 164, I am going to assume for now that they were correct although it is possible that Ambraseys (2009:123) and Guidoboni et al (1994) relied on Downey (1963:283) and Downey (1963:283) made a mistake. The Antiochene Year has a section in CHRONOS where this calendar is discussed in more detail in the Explanation dropdown.

Chronological Clues and Inconsistencies

At the end of this excerpt, Malalas recounts the martyrdom of Saint Ignatius of Antioch . Although Malalas’ text does not seem to specify that Ignatius’ martyrdom occurred coincident with or just prior to the earthquake, Ambraseys (2009) cites sources which say that the earthquake coincided with the date of Ignatius’ martyrdom. Ambraseys (2009) discussion follows

Malalas puts the event on a Sunday at the same time as the martyrdom of Saint Ignatius. For this reason Clinton (1851) rejects Malalas' date completely and dates the event to January or February AD 115; based on a reconstruction of the itinerary of St Ignatius, beginning with his arrest, which he mistakenly places in February AD 115 (cf. Downey, 1961b:292). According to St John Chrysostom, St Ignatius' martyrdom took place on 20 December 116, which was a Saturday: apparently the martyrdom continued till 6 am on Sunday (Ioann Chrys. S. Ignat. 594). Hence it may well be that 13 December 115 for the earthquake is correct, in view of the other corroborated data; Malalas has merely moved the date of St Ignatius's death back (Essig, 1986; Lepper, 1948:54-85; Downey, 1961b:216,218,292).
Malalas mentions simultaneous damage to Rhodes however this may be a forced synchronicity or sloppy chronology; something Malalas is noted for. Ambraseys (2009) noted that in a possible timing inconsistency, Malalas states that the Rhodes earthquake happened at night and the Antioch earthquake occurred in the early morning (after the cockscrow).

Roman Consul Pedo is reported to have died in this earthquake.

Ecclesiastical History by Evagrius Scholasticus

Background and Biography

Evagrius Scholasticus was born Epiphania (Hama) in Syria around 535 CE. He pursued legal and other studies and earned the title of “Scholasticus” while he was in his 20s. He worked in Antioch as an aide to Gregory of Antioch - the Patriarch of Antioch. Although he wrote a number of works on theological matters, none of these have survived however Ecclesiastical History has survived. This text consists of 6 volumes and covers Christian history from the first council of Ephesus in 431 CE until Evagrius' present time. Ecclesiastical History was completed in ~593 CE.

Excerpts

In and English translation by Walford (1846) we can read the following in Book 2 Chapter XII:

English from Walford (1846)

CHAPTER XII.

EARTHQUAKE AT ANTIOCH.

DURING the second year of the reign of Leo, an extraordinary shock and concussion of the earth took place at Antioch, preceded by certain excesses of the populace, which reached the extreme of frenzy, and surpassed the ferocity of beasts, forming, as it were, a prelude to such a calamity. This grievous visitation occurred in the five hundred and sixth year of the free prerogatives of the city, about the fourth hour of the night, on the fourteenth day of the month Gorpiaeus, which the Romans call September, on the eve of the Lord's day, in the eleventh cycle of the indiction; and was the sixth on record after a lapse of three hundred and forty-seven years, since the earthquake under Trajan; for that occurred when the city was in the hundred and fifty-ninth year of its independence; but this, which happened in the time of Leo, in the five hundred and sixth, according to the most diligent authorities. This earthquake threw down nearly all the houses of the New City, which was very populous, and contained not a single vacant or altogether unoccupied spot, but had been highly embellished by the rival liberality of the emperors. Of the structures composing the palace, the first and second were thrown down: the rest, however, remained standing, together with the adjoining baths, which, having been previously useless, were now rendered serviceable to the necessities of the city, arising from the damage of the others. It also levelled the porticoes in front of the palace and the adjacent Tetrapylum, as well as the towers of the Hippodrome, which flanked the entrances, and some of the porticoes adjoining them. In the Old City, the porticoes and dwellings entirely escaped the overthrow; but it shattered a small portion of the baths of Trajan, Severus, and Hadrian, and also laid in ruins some parts of the quarter of houses named Ostracine, together with the porticoes, and levelled what was called the Nymphaeum. All these circumstances have been minutely detailed by John the rhetorician. He says, that a thousand talents of gold were remitted to the city from the tributes by the emperor; and, besides, to individual citizens, the imposts of the houses destroyed : and that he also took measures for the restoration both of them and of the public buildings.

English from Whitby (2000) - Entire Book - embedded

  • see Book II Chapter XII on pages 94-95
  • from calameo.com


English from Walford (1846) - Book 2 - embedded

  • see Chapter XII starting with EARTHQUAKE AT ANTIOCH.
  • from tertullian.org


Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
~111 CE a lapse of three hundred and forty-seven years, since the earthquake under Trajan none
  • The passage above refers to an earthquake which Ambraseys (2009)) dates to 458 CE however it makes reference to the Trajan Quake occurring 347 years prior. This would date the Trajan Quake to ~111 CE. Ambraseys (2009) notes, however, that there are dating inconsistencies in Evagrius Schlasticus’ passage about the 458 CE earthquake. This indicates that extrapolating backwards to determine the year of the Trajan Quake is likely to be beset by inaccuracies.
Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading

Chronicle of Zuqnin by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre

Background and Biography

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 3 and 4 cover events from 488 - 775 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 (1999) 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. If Harrak is correct, this is a contemporaneous source. The work is preserved in a single handwritten manuscript (Cod. Vat. 162), now in the Vatican (shelf mark Vatican Syriac 162).

Excerpts

In an English translation of Parts 1 and 2 by Harrak (2017:196), we can read:

English from Harrak (1999)

[F34r] The year two thousand [one hundred] and twenty-eight (AD 114): A great earthquake took place in Antioch, overturning the city almost entirely.

Syriac - embedded



Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
111 CE to 113 CE The year 2128 none
  • The year 2128 appears to refer to the Year of Abraham used by Eusebius
  • Calculated with CHRONOS
  • (AD 114) was inserted by Harrak (2017:196).
  • As discussed below in Pseudo-Dionysius' sources, the year specified in the Chronicle of Zuqnin when using Eusebius as a source are frequently unreliable.
Seismic Effects Locations Sources
Pseudo-Dionysius' sources

Harrak (2017:xvi) lists Pseudo-Dionysius' sources during this time period as Eusebius’s Ecclesiastic History and an unspecified Chronicle of Edessa. Regarding Pseudo-Dionysius' use of Eusebius Harrak (2017:xvii-xix) notes that

Eusebius is mentioned by the Chronicler as his source, but does not specify whether it is his Ecclesiastical History or his Chronici canones, in a Syriac translation. The Chronicler relied heavily on the Canones for the period as early as the Creation (following the biblical account) and as late as the time of Constantine the Great, that is the entire history covered by the Canones. Eusebius’ Chronici Canones is no longer extant but it survived in the Latin translation of Jerome (Hieronymus; abbreviated hereafter as Hier.),26 in an Armenian translation (abbreviated hereafter as Arm.),27 and in Syriac translations,28 including a version used by the Chronicler. In the footnotes of our translation some dates and sometimes pieces of information found in the Chronicle are compared with Hier. and Arm. and the discrepancies resulting from these comparisons tell how risky it is to rely on the dates of Eusebius in all these translations. In a symposium on Chronography organized in 2006 in Ottawa by the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies and the Department of Classics, University of Ottawa, Richard Burgess compared dates for every event given in these versions, using for the Syriac Chabot’s Latin translation of the Chronicle of Zuqnīn. His statistics also highlight the unreliability of these versions in reconstructing the original Chronici canones: 14.3% exact match and 32.4% no agreement!29 In fact in the Chronicle some dates were tampered with, as in the case of the original Abr. 1848, which happens to agrees with both Hier. and Arm., but which was changed to Abr. 1850. None of the editors of the Chronicle paid attention to the different ink used in this emendation and or to the failed erasure of some original digits, and thus the year was always taken for 1850, including in Chabot’s Latin translation of the Chronicle. The fact that someone emended that date to agree with the one in the Latin and Armenian versions is quite interesting. Did he use a Syriac translation of the Chronici canones that is no longer extant, and was he at the monastery of Zuqnīn or at the monastery of the Syrians in Sketes when he changed it?

As for Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, it covers early church history in the Chronicle from the time of Herod (year 5 AD) to Constantine the Great, including calamities befalling the Jews after the Passion of Christ, material borrowed by Eusebius from Josephus. Eusebius’ EH is extant in Syriac, but the version used by the Chronicler differs slightly from the one published by Wright and McLean,30 and in any case he was selective in copying events from this largely quoted source.
Footnotes

26 Rudolph Helm, Eusebius Caesariensis Werke, Band 7: Die Chronik des Hieronymus, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte 47 (Berlin: Academy-Verlag, 1956; repr. De Gruyter, 2012).

27 Josef Karst, Die Chronik: aus dem Armenischen übersetzt mit textkritischem Commentar, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte 20 (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1911).

28 The translation of the Canones by Jacob of Edessa survived in a mutilated version; E. W. Brooks, Chronicon Jacobi Edesseni, (in) Chronica Minora III, T. CSCO 5/Syr. 5, pp. 261–330; V. CSCO 6/Syr. 6, pp. 197–258 (Paris, 1905–1907).

29 Richard W. Burgess, “A Chronological Prolegomenon to Reconstructing Eusebius’ Chronici canones: The Evidence of Ps-Dionysius (The Zuqnin Chronicle),” Journal of the CSSS 6 (2006), pp. 29–38. See also on the issue of disagreements Muriel Debié, L’Écriture de l’histoire en syriaque: Transmissions interculturelles et constructions identitaires entre hellénisme et islam (Peeters : Leuven, 2015), pp. 294; id., “L’Historiographie tardo-antique: une littérature en extrais,” in S. Morlet (ed.), Lire en extraits (Paris, PUPS, 2015), pp. 411–12.

30 W. Wright and N. McLean (eds.), The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in Syriac Edited from the Manuscripts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1898).

Background Information
Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre vs. Dionysius of Tell-Mahre

Annals by Dionysius of Tell-Mahre and Annals by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre are not the same work nor were they composed by the same author. Annals by Dionysius of Tell-Mahre is largely lost. It only exists in fragments. Annals by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre is extant. Annals by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre is also known as the Chronicle of Zuqnin as it is thought to have been composed by a monk at the monastery of Zuqnin before it was falsley attributed to Dionysius of Tell-Mahre - hence the reason why the author is referred to as Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre. To complicate matters further, Chabot (1895) published a French translation of Annals by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre which he mistakenly titled Annals by Dionysius of Tell-Mahre. Well, it was actually titled Annals by Denys of Tell-Mahre which is another name for Dionysius of Tell-Mahre.

Online Versions and Further Reading
Online versions including the supposed autograph (original copy)

The sole surviving manuscript at the Vatican (Cod. Vat. 162) - This manuscript is claimed by some to be the autograph - the first draft of the manuscript. No further recension, or copy, is known.

Annals Part II (?) by Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre in Syriac at archive.org

References

Harrak, A. (2017). The Chronicle of Zuqnīn: From the creation to the year 506/7 AD. Parts I and II, Gorgias Press.

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.

Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre at syri.ac

Wikipedia page for the Zunqin Chronicle - many links and references

The Chronicle of Georgius Syncellos

Theophanes wrote the Chronicle in Greek during the years 810-814 CE as a continuation of George Syncellus' Chronicle. Apparently, Theophanes added events after 284 AD so the Trajan Quake would have been in a section of the book written by Georgius Syncellus and edited by Theophanes. Guidoboni et. al. (1994) lists Georgius Syncellus as the source for this account of the earthquake. The relevant passage is not present in the English translations by In Mango and Scott (1997) or Turtledove (1982) but is present in a translation by Adler and Tuffin (2002:425) where we can read:

AM 5600

Year 100 of the divine Incarnation

The remaining years of Trajan, the eleventh ruler of the Romans

When the Jews throughout Libya, Cyrene, Egypt, Alexandria and the Thebaid commenced hostilities against the Greek inhabitants there, they were utterly destroyed.1

Antioch suffered an earthquake when Trajan was staying there.2

Trajan ordered Lysius Quintus3 to eliminate the insurgents in Mesopotamia. For killing many tens of thousands of Jews, he was thereby appointed governor of Judaea.4

After killing the Greeks at Salamis in Cyprus, the Jews razed the city.5

The Senate passed a resolution making Trajan a god.6

According to Eusebios, Trajan died of an illness in Selinous; but according to others, he died of dysentery in Seleukeia of Isauria.7

(7) The seventh Roman bishop was Xystos 9 years8
((5) The fifth) bishop of Alexandria was Primus 12 years9
(6) The sixth bishop of Jerusalem was Benjamin 2 years
(7) The seventh bishop of Jerusalem was Joannes 2 years
(8) The eighth bishop of Jerusalem was Matthias 2 years10
Footnotes

1 Cf. Eus. 2.196d; HE 4.2.1-4; Cass. Dio 68.32.
2 Cf. Eus. 2.196c (without the mention of Trajan); Cass. Dio 68.24.1.
3 Text: [Greek Text]; cf. Eus. HE 4.2.5: [Greek Text] ('Lysius Quietus').
4 Cf. Eus. 2.196e; HE 4.2.5.
5 Cf. Eus. 2.i96f.
6 Cf. Eus. 2.197c, Eutrop. 8.5.2.
7 Eus. 2.197a. For the tradition about Trajan's death in Seleukeia, see Eutrop. 8.5.2.
8 Cf. Eus. 2.198b; HE 4.5.5 (10 years).
9 Eus. 2.194e
10 Cf. Eus. 2.196a (without years). Cf. also [Greek Text] 77.22-4, which gives 3 years for Benjamin, 2 years each for Joannes and Matthias.

Chronology

The table below lists varying years that can be derived from Syncellos' entry. Reigns of the various ecclesiatical leaders are not included in the table because Syncellos specifies the lengths of their reigns rather than in which year of their reign the earthquake struck. This chronological information is inconsistent and flawed when one considers the chronology of Trajan's reign (e.g., Trajan's move to Antioch at the start of the Parthian Campaign in 113 CE).

Date Reference Corrections Notes
25 Mar. 107 to 24 Mar. 108 CE A.M.a 5600 none Calculated using CHRONOS.
25 March 108 to 24 March 109 CE Divine incarnation year 100 none. Calculated using CHRONOS.
Online References and Further Reading

Paul Tuffin and William Adler ed. (2002). The Chronography of George Synkellos: A Byzantine Chronicle of Universal History from the Creation, Oxford University Press.

W. Torgerson, J. (2022). The Chronographia of George the Synkellos and Theophanes: The Ends of Time in Ninth-Century Constantinople, Brill.

Chronographia by Georgius Syncellus (in Latin)

Chronographia by Georgius Syncellus (in Latin)

Notes

Guidoboni refers to this as Georgius Syncellus 657

Chronicle by Michael the Syrian

Background and Biography

Michael the Syrian also known as Michael I Rabo and Michael the Great was born in Melitene from a clerical family in 1126 CE (Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 2011). He studied at the Monastery of Dayro d-Mor Barṣawmo where he stayed on as a Monk and a Prior. In 1166, he was elected Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church. While acting as Partriach he collected manuscripts of theological and historical content and restored and compiled hagiographical and liturgical works (Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 2011). Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition (2011) reports that his canonistic work is partly conserved in later collections, but the greater part is lost, as is his treatise on dualist heresies composed for the Lateran Council. Michael the Syrian is best known for his Universal Chronicle which covered "creation" until 1195 CE (Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, 2011). Dorothea Weltecke in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition (2011) describes Michael's Chronicle and various editions as follows:

The text is not preserved in its entirety, and the layout of Michael’s chronicle was distorted through the process of copying. Chabot’s edition is a facsimile of a documentary copy written for him in Edessa (Urfa) from 1897 to 1899. While the scribes tried to imitate the layout, a number of mistakes were introduced. Its Vorlage, the only extant ms., was written in 1598 by a very competent scribe. It is kept by the community of the Edessenians in Aleppo. In view of the loss of the original, this beautiful manuscript is the best witness for the layout of the chronicle. Fortunately it will soon be made available in print. This ms. was probably the Vorlage for an Arabic translation, which also sought to preserve some of the visual features, while changing others. The Arabic translation has much the same lacunae as the Syriac text. By comparing his version with the Arabic translation preserved in ms. London, Brit. Libr. Or. 4402 (which is one of several Arabic copies), Chabot detected some details lost in the Syriac text. No further research has been done so far on this problem.

The historical material was originally organized in four columns, the first being designated as the ‘succession of the patriarchs’, the second as ‘succession of the kings’, the chronological canon as ‘computation of the years’. No title of the additional column, which contains mixed material, is now known. Chapters with excursus were inserted, which interrupted the system of columns. After an open and abrupt end, six appendices follow. The first appendix is a monumental synopsis of all the kings and patriarchs mentioned. It was supposed to function as a directory. The second appendix is a treatise on the historical identity of the Syrians, who are connected to the Ancient Oriental Empires, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Arameans. When the chronicle was translated into Armenian, in two different translations, in 1246 and 1247, it was transformed according to Armenian interests.
Michael died in 1199 CE.

Excerpts

In an excerpt from a French translation by Chabot (1899-1910: Book 6 Chapter 4 p. 174) we can find a description of the Trajan Quake.
English from Chabot

The temple of the Pantheon, that is to say of all the gods, was destroyed by lightning. At the same time, Antioch was more or less entirely overthrown by a violent earthquake.

French from Chabot

Le temple du Panthéon, c'est-à-dire de tous les dieux, fut détruit par la foudre. Encore à cette époque, Antioche fut tout entière plus ou moins renversée par un violent tremblement de terre.

French from Chabot - embeded



Syriac - embedded



Chronology
Year Reference Corrections Notes
110 CE The temple of the Pantheon, that is to say of all the gods, was destroyed by lightning. At the same time, Antioch was more or less entirely overthrown by a violent earthquake. none
  • Lightning struck and burned the Pantheon in 110 CE according to these two references - here and here
Seismic Effects Locations Online Versions and Further Reading
References

Unfortunately only one Syriac manuscript has survived.

text from the sole surviving Syriac manuscript

syri.ac website for Michael the Syrian

A French translation by Chabot (1899-1910: Volume 2, Book IX, Chapter XXIX pp. 243-244) can be read here. Other translations of can be found here, here, here (Parts 1,2, and 3), here, and here

Other Sources

Incomplete Fragment xxxv in the Fasti Ostienses

Guidoboni et. al. (1994:232) note that this earthquake may have been mentioned in the very incomplete Fragment xxxv in the Fasti Ostienses

English

[---] Vestal virgin [---] there was an [earthqu]ake [---1, of Quintus Asinius Mar[cellus ---].

Latin

[---]rinu[---J / v(irgo) V(estalis) [terrae m]otus fuit [---1 Q(uinti) Asini Mar[celli ---] / [---11-[---?]
Barbieri (1970, pp.263-5, 272-3, 276) has studied this much debated fragment and the substantial earlier bibliography in extreme detail, and suggests completing its five lines as set out below. He thinks the first line refers to a consul from the third and last pair for the year 115, namely Pompeius Macrinus — who is probably also referred to in the Fasti Potentini (from Potenza Picena, near Porto Recanati), though it, too, is a very fragmentary document:
English

[On the Calends of September] M. Pomp[eius Mac]rinu[s, ---1.

Latin

[k. Sept.] M. Pomp[eius Mac]rinu[s, ---].
The second line seems to refer to the death or sentencing of an unidentified Vestal virgin. Barbieri has suggested the Lepida in CIL 6.5477, but there are other possibilities, since the form of the first letter of the name suggests either an I or an N. The earthquake referred to in the third line seems to be the one which struck Antioch in that same year 115, and it is probably recorded in the inscription because it caused the death of a number of people in the retinue of the emperor Trajan. It is unlikely, therefore, to be the hypothetical earthquake in the Ostia area — which is in any case not attested in any other sources — as previously suggested by Burnand (1984, pp.176-7, no.10) and in Catalogo epigrafi (1989, p.144).

The fourth and fifth lines are taken to record the death of the praefectus urbi, Q.Asinius Marcellus, and his replacement by Q.Baebius Macer:
English

Q.Baebius Macer was appointed to replace Q.Asinius Marcellus as praefectus urbi.

Latin

in locu]m Q. Asini Mar[celli praef urb. f(actus) Q. Bae/bins Mace]r.
Barbieri has read the last letter of the fifth line as an R, whereas it had previously been interpreted as an A (CIL 14.4542) or an X.

Other Sources - Ambraseys (2009) and Guidoboni et al (1994)

Ambraseys (2009) notes that the earthquake is recorded by a number of later Syriac chroniclers who add no further information. Ambraseys (2009) and Guidoboni et al (1994) list other sources which mention this earthquake.

  • Chr. 724 121/95 - This is the same reference as Chronicon by Eusebius (Ambraseys, 2009)
  • Zon. 11.22.18

Archaeoseismic Evidence

Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Apamea possible Ambraseys (2009) states that four other cities, among them Apamea, are inferred to be have damaged by the earthquake based on building programs initiated soon after. Ambraseys' (2009) sources were Balty (1988) and Krauss (1914).
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Apamea



Tsunamogenic Evidence

Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Caesarea and Jisr al-Zakra unlikely If Tsunamogenic evidence is present in Caesarea from around this time, it was more likely a result of the Incense Road Quake
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
Caesarea and Jisr al-Zakra



Paleoseismic Evidence

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Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
al-Harif Syria possible ≥ 7
Sbeinati et. al. (2010) report a seismic event X which they dated to 335 AD ± 175 years at a displaced aqueduct at al-Harif, Syria (close to Masyaf, Syria). The Trajan Quake of 115 CE is slightly outside modeled ages. MW = 7.3-7.6 (based on 4.2 m of slip)
Dead Sea - Seismite Types n/a n/a A conservative worst case scenario calculation reveals why it is unlikely that the Trajan Quake produced seismites in the Dead Sea.
  1. Assume the upper end of the Magnitude estimate for the Trajan Quake (MW = 7.5) from Meghraoui et al. (2003).
  2. Locate the epicenter ~90 km. south of Antioch in Apamea.
  3. Calculate the Epicentral Distance (R) from Apamea to Nahal Ze ‘elim (465 km.).
  4. Use the attenuation relationship from Hough and Avni (2009) to estimate peak horizontal ground acceleration (PGA) at Nahal Ze ‘elim where Kagan et al (2011) observed a 5 cm. thick seismite that they associated with the Trajan Quake.

  5. The result is a PGA of 0.10 g at Nahal Ze'elim. 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. The conclusion is that the Trajan Quake probably not produce these Dead Sea Seismites and the Incense Road Quake did.

    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 - En Feshka no evidence Kagan et. al. (2011) did not see any evidence for a seismite created around this time.
Dead Sea - En Gediunlikely 6.3-8.8 Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned two seismites at depths of 264 and 265 cm. (2.64 and 2.65 m) at En Gedi to earthquakes in 112 and 115 CE. The 112 CE date refers to the early second century CE Incense Road Earthquake and the 115 CE date refers to the Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite. During field work in January 2014 in the nearby En Gedi Trench, Jefferson Williams saw evidence for a sizable earthquake from a ~5 cm. thick seismite from around 112 ± 8 CE which was probably created by the Incense Road Quake. Williams also observed two detachment planes in the Incense Road Quake seismite (use magnifying glass to see at high resolution) which might explain why Migowski, while doing microscope work on the En Gedi Core, identified two separate seismites from the same deformation event.
Dead Sea - Nahal Ze 'elim unlikely 8.1-8.9 At site ZA-2, Kagan et al (2011) assigned a 5 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at a depth of 445 cm. (Modeled Ages 1σ - 125 CE ± 39 and 2σ - 133 CE ± 78) to a date of 115 CE. The 115 CE date refers to the Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite. The seismite observed by Kagan et al (2011) likely formed during the Incense Road Earthquake.
Araba - Introduction n/a n/a n/a
Araba - Taybeh Trench unlikely ≥ 7 LeFevre et al. (2018) identified a seismic event (E4) in the Taybeh trench with a modeled age of 111 CE ± 31 which was associated with the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Earthquake.
Araba - Qatar Trench unlikely ≥ 7 Klinger et. al. (2015) identified a seismic event (E6) in a trench near Qatar, Jordan in the Arava which they modeled between 9 BCE and 492 CE. The large spread in age caused them to consider two possible earthquakes as the cause; the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Quake and the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE. They preferred the Cyril Quake of 363 CE based on weighing other evidence not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required.
Location (with hotlink) Status Intensity Notes
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 displaced aqueduct at al-Harif, Syria (close to Masyaf, Syria). The Trajan Quake of 115 CE is slightly outside modeled ages.



Dead Sea - Seismite Types



Dead Sea - En Feshka

Kagan et. al. (2011) did not see any evidence for a seismite created around this time.



Dead Sea - En Gedi

Migowski et. al. (2004) assigned two seismites at depths of 264 and 265 cm. (2.64 and 2.65 m) at En Gedi to earthquakes in 112 and 115 CE. The 112 CE date refers to the early second century CE Incense Road Earthquake and the 115 CE date refers to the Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite. During field work in January 2014 in the nearby En Gedi Trench, Jefferson Williams saw evidence for a sizable earthquake from a ~5 cm. thick seismite from around 112 ± 8 CE which was probably created by the Incense Road Quake. Williams also observed two detachment planes in the Incense Road Quake seismite (use magnifying glass to see at high resolution) which might explain why Migowski, while doing microscope work on the En Gedi Core, identified two separate seismites from the same deformation event.



Dead Sea - Nahal Ze 'elim

At site ZA-2, Kagan et al (2011) assigned a 5 cm. thick Type 4 seismite at a depth of 445 cm. (Modeled Ages 1σ - 125 CE ± 39 and 2σ - 133 CE ± 78) to a date of 115 CE. The 115 CE date refers to the Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite. The seismite observed by Kagan et al (2011) likely formed during the Incense Road Earthquake.



Araba - Introduction



Araba - Taybeh Trench

LeFevre et al. (2018) identified a seismic event (E4) in the Taybeh trench with a modeled age of 111 CE ± 31 which was associated with the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Earthquake.



Araba - Qatar Trench

Klinger et. al. (2015) identified a seismic event (E6) in a trench near Qatar, Jordan in the Arava which they modeled between 9 BCE and 492 CE. The large spread in age caused them to consider two possible earthquakes as the cause; the early 2nd century CE Incense Road Quake and the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE. They preferred the Cyril Quake of 363 CE based on weighing other evidence not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required.



Notes

Ambrasey's (2009) Entry for AD c. 115? Rhodes

AD c. 115? Rhodes

An earthquake severely damaged the city of Rhodes, possibly at about the same time as the earthquake in Antioch. The sanctuary of Asclepius was razed to the ground but later rebuilt by one Tiberius Claudius Antipater.

Malalas, who is the sole specific source for a Rhodian earthquake at this time, says that on the same night as Antioch suffered an earthquake (see above), ‘the island city of Rhodes, being a city of the Hexapolis, suffered under the wrath of God for the second time.’ However, he says in the previous paragraph that the Antioch earthquake began at cock-crow, whereas the Rhodes earthquake took place at night.

The coincidence, on the one hand, and the inconsistency, on the other, suggest that Malalas has manipulated the chronology, as he so often does, for effect.

An inscription from Lindos in Rhodes, dating from about the turn of the second century AD, records the generosity of a Tiberius Claudius Antipater, who ‘rebuilt in the city, out of his own funds, together with his son Claudius Diocles, the sanctuary of Asclepius which was razed by an earthquake’. Another inscription dating from about the same time gives thanks to the gods for deliverance from the earthquake (Robert 1978, 403ff).

The dates of these inscriptions are not certain, and they need not necessarily be connected with the same earthquake as that to which Malalas is referring.

Guidoboni et al. (1994, 235) associate the first inscription found in Lindos with the East Mediterranean earthquake of AD 141–2. However, since the epigraphy seems to date from early in the first century, it has been put with Malalas’s record.

Notes

(Mal. 275–276/416–417 – see above under AD 115 Dec 13 Antioch).
‘The Lindians honour. . . Tiberius Claudius Antipater, who rebuilt in the city, out of his own funds, together with his son Claudius Diocles, the sanctuary of Asclepius which was razed by an earthquake.’ (I. Lindos II, n. 449, l. 13–16).
‘For what was granted in the earthquake, thanks be to the gods.’ (IGR iv. 1121. 9–11).

Paleoclimate - Droughts

References