EARTHQUAKES (TSUNAMIS), PLAGUE, FAMINE, C. 500-750

Paul Stephenson (copyright, January 2012)

 

Sixth Century

502, 22 August: earthquake in Palestine accompanied by aurora borealis (Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite; Russell 1985: 43)

541: Plague in Pelusium, Nile Delta; spreads to Alexandria, and also to Gaza, Askalon, Negev (Stathakopoulos, 278-80, inscriptions on increased mortality in Negev).

542: Plague reaches Constantinople (Stathakopolous, 110-54, 277-90, with full reference to Procopius and much hagiography)

543: Plagues continues, has spread to Italy (Stathakopoulos, 290-7).

545-6: Shortages of wheat and wine in Constantinople (Malalas 482-3; Theophanes AM 6038; Stathakopoulos 297-8)

551, 9 July: earthquake in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Phoenice, Syria; felt as far away as Alexandria; destruction of Tripolis, Byblos, Tyre, Beirut, Sidon, Petra; aftershocks and associated quakes and waves in Greece and Bithynia (Agathias ii, 14 (p. 95); Malalas, p. 485.8, Theophanes AM 6046, derived from Malalas; Cameron 1970: 138-9; Russell 1985: 44-6).

551: tsunami, coast of Lebanon (Theophanes; Fokaefs and Papadopoulos 2007, #9). Caused by the earthquake?

554: earthquake that affects Constantinople (Malalas, 486.23; Theophanes AM 6046).

555, May: Shortage of bread, wheat and barley (but much wine and bacon) in Constantinople (Malalas, 488; Theophanes AM 6048; Stathakopoulos: 303-4).

557, 14 December: Devastating earthquake in Constantinople, leads to collapse of many buildings, including the dome of Hagia Sophia (Agathias, p. 282.2ff.; Malalas, p. 488; Cameron 1970: 142).

558, Feb. - July: Plague returns to Constantinople (Agathias V. 10 (pp. 175-6); Malalas, p. 489; Theophanes AM 6050; Stathakopoulos: 304-6)

561: earthquake in Cilicia, damages Anazarbus, Antioch, Seleucia (Procopius; Theophanes; Russell 1985: 45).

562, Oct.-Nov.: Shortage of wheat and bread in Constantinople, due to south wind halting grain fleet and lack of rain (Malalas, p. 492; Stathakopoulos: 309-10).

573-4: Plague and famine in Constantinople, the Orient (Stathakopoulos: 315-16, cites various sources).

580-1: Earthquake, plague of locusts (which destroyed crops) and epidemic in Antioch (Agapios, cited by Stathakopoulos: 317-18).

581-2: Famine in Egypt, and hence Constantinople (no grain, hence no bread) (Stathakopoulos: 318).

590-1: Epidemic in the Orient (Agathios, cited by Stathakopoulos: 321-2).

591-2: Plague in Antioch (Evagrios IV.29, cited by Stathokopoulos: 323-4).

599?: Plague in Constantinople, Bithynia, and also Syria (Stathakopoulos: 331-2)

 

Seventh Century

 

625/6: stars shoot towards the north (presaging Arab conquests) (WSC 10)

627, 15 September: simultaneous eclipse of sun and moon (!) (WSC 2)

629, June: earthquake (WSC 2)

632-3, earthquake in Palestine (Theophanes A.M. 6124; Michael the Syrian, A.G. 924; Russell 1985)

659, (7) June: earthquake in Palestine (WSC 4)

659, 9 June: earthquake in Palestine (WSC 4; Russell 1985: 46-7).

659/60: earthquake in Palestine (Theophanes A.M. 6150; WSC 4).

662, 13 April: grapevines withered by frost (WSC 4)

672: earthquake, damages Gaza, Ashkelon, Ramle (Russell 1985: 47, states texually undocumented)

679, 3 April: earthquake in Serugh (ZC, A.G. 990; WSC 10) and Edessa (ZC, A.G. 990; WSC 12)

683/4: severe famine (WSC 11)

686-7: plague in northern Mesopotamia (John Bar Penkaye, XV)

 

Eighth Century

 

704/5: plague in northern Mesopotamia, especially Serguh (ZC, A.G. 1016; WSC 10)

712, 8 August: lance in sky pointing south (WSC 7)

712-13, December-February: plague (WSC 7)

713, 28 February: earthquake in Syria (WSC 7, 12)

713-16: earthquakes in Antioch, famine, locusts (WSC 7)

717/18: earthquake in Syria (Theophanes, A.M. 6210; ZC, A.G. 1029)

741-2, a Sunday: earthquake in Syria (ZC, A.G. 1053)

742-3, winter: severe cold, heavy snowfall, floods (esp. Tigris) and rainfall (ZC, A.G. 1054).

743-4: severe famine and drought in Syria; plague (tremors, earthquakes) (ZC, A.G. 1055).

748, January: earthquake in Palestine (Theophanes; ZC, A.G. 1059; Russell 1985: 47-9)

 

 

 

Secondary Literature

 

Cameron, Averil (1970) Agathias. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press

 

Russell, K. W. (1985) "The Earthquake Chronology of Palestine and Northwest Arabia from the 2nd Through the Mid-8th Century A. D.," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 260: 37 -59

Stathakopoulos, D. Ch. (2004) Famine and Pestilence in the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Empire. A Systematic Survey of Subsistence Crises and Epidemics.  Aldershot: Ashgate