Pompey Quake

~65 BC

by Jefferson Williams

Introduction     Textual Evidence     Archeoseismic Evidence     Paleoseismic Evidence     Notes     Paleoclimate - Droughts     Footnotes     References


Sometime around ~ 65 BC, while Roman General Pompey was in the process of successively conquering Anatolia, Syria, and Judea, an earthquake struck the city of Antioch.

Textual Evidence

Four ancient historians (Justin, John Malalas, Dio Cassius, and Orosius) writing between the 1st and 6th century AD provide conflicting accounts of an earthquake that destroyed Antioch, Syria around 65 BC (Guidoboni et. al., 1994). Ambraseys (2009) assigns a date range of 69-66 BC while Guidoboni et. al. (1994) approximate that it occurred around 65 BC. Both note the difficulties in resolving chronology when examining the sources.

Archeoseismic Evidence

Tel Sukas

There is archeoseismic evidence at Tel Sukas ~100 km. SSW of Antioch which Ambraseys (2009) states is dated to 68 BC based on a reading of history rather than any chronological information from the excavation.

Vadun Jacob aka Tel Ateret

Ellenblum et. al. (2015) noted possible archeoseismic damage in the mid first century BC at Tel Ateret (aka Vadun Jacob)– a location which straddles an active fault. They estimate ~1.5 meters of fault slip occurred on the site between its abandonment probably in the middle of the first century BC and when a Crusader fortress was built at the end of the 12th century AD. Due to the sites abandonment and lack of new construction during this time, it is difficult to resolve the ~1.5 meters of slip into individual earthquake events. However, abandonment of the site may have been precipitated by an earthquake. The latest Hellenistic coin excavated from the site dates to 65/64 BC indicating desertion of the site occurred afterwards.

Paleoseismic Evidence

Paleoseismic Evidence for an earthquake(s) associated with the Pompey Quake is summarized below:

Location Status
Bet Zayda possible but unlikely
Tekieh Trenches Syria possible - ~2 m displacement
En Feshka unlikely - several small seismites from around this time - see the Paleoseismic Evidence section of Pig on the Wall Quake for details
En Gedi not reported - expected to be masked by the 31 BC Josephus Quake
Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA2) none reported

Tekieh Trenches Syria

Gomez et. al. (2003, p. 15) may have seen evidence for an earthquake in the 1st or 2nd century BCE in paleoseismic trenches in Syria (Event B). Event B is estimated to have created ~ 2 meters of displacement Gomez et. al. (2003, pp. 16-17).

Tekieh Trench Seismic Events
Figure 13. Summary of events observed in the trenches and the interpreted palaeoseismic history of the Serghaya fault. Colluvial wedge deposits post-date palaeoseismic events. Stratigraphic ties provide additional constraint on the relative timing of events. Ages represent calendar corrected radiocarbon ages for given features (2 sigma uncertainties provided). Gomez et al (2003)

Bet Zayda

Wechsler at al. (2014) records event CH4-E6 (modeled age 392 BCE – 91 CE) in paleoseismic trenches at Bet Zayda just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret).
Bet Zeyda Earthquakes
Figure 9. Probability density functions for all paleoseismic events, based on the OxCal modeling. Historically known earthquakes are marked by gray lines. The age extent of each channel is marked by rectangles. There is an age uncertainty as to the age of the oldest units in channel 4 (units 490-499) marked by a dashed rectangle. Channel 1 refers to the channel complex studied by Marco et al. (2005).

Dead Sea

As the closest part of the Dead Sea is 410 km. away from Tel Sukas and 510 km. away from Antioch, it is extremely unlikely that any seismites would have been formed from this distant earthquake. For a more extensive discussion of Dead Sea seismites from around this time, see the Paleoseismic Evidence section of Pig on the Wall Quake


Paleoclimate - Droughts