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by Jefferson Williams

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Why do the earthquakes have the names they do ?

Earthquakes are supposed to be named according to the date and approximate epicenter - for example, the 1927 Jericho Quake. This is great for instrumented earthquakes of the modern era where the date and epicentral region are known but it presents a problem for historical earthquakes where both the date and epicentral area may be in question. Dates for historical earthquakes can change as we gain more knowledge. For example, older papers frequently label the Cyril Quakes as the 362 AD earthquake and we now know that these earthquakes struck on May 18 and May 19 of 363 CE. Reading about the Cyril Quake(s) in older literature may lead the reader to think that there were earthquakes in 362 and 363 CE when, in fact, there were two earthquakes on May 18 and May 19 of 363 CE. Estimates for the location of the epicenter can also change. For a long time, it was thought that the epicenter for the Monaxius and Plinta Quake of 419 CE was close to Safed. Currently, what little evidence we have suggests that it struck somewhere in the southern half of the Arava fault. Perhaps in the future, we will find out with certainty where this mysterious earthquake struck. Thus, historical earthquakes in this catalog are frequently given a name when the date and/or epicenter is in question. This produces a lasting label that does not present incorrect information as our knowledge increases. The name produced usually refers to something in one of the textual accounts - perhaps something colorful and easy to remember. For example:

Why are quotes from the sources so long ?

To give you an idea of who the author is and to include possibly dateable events before and/or after the earthquake description. I try to bold a few lines that describe the earthquake so you can quickly see where the earthquake report is in the text.


The Julian Calendar is the standard for reporting dates before the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar on 15 October 1582 CE. All dates before are reported in the Julian Calendar. All dates after are in the Gregorian Calendar.

Sometime in the 20th century, the traditional abbreviation BC and AD changed to BCE and CE. Scientific and Historical literature contains a mix of both. So does this catalog. BCE = BC and CE = AD. Also, there is no year 0 (zero). 1 BCE (aka 1 BC) was immediately followed by 1 CE (aka 1 AD). There are many links in this catalog. In creating links, I tried to optimize two criteria:
  1. Free non-subscription links preferred over subscription links.
  2. Links that are more likely to last are preferred over those which may expire. This reduces maintenance in repairing broken links.
There are a lot of links to Wikipedia for historical figures, places, wars, ancient empires, etc. These links were chosen because Wikipedia is likely to last, has a well organized and consistent format, and tends to give fairly simple time saving explanations in the top few lines. However, if you have ever read Wikipedia links on something you are a subject matter expert on, you realize that Caveat emptor applies to Wikipedia. So Caveat emptor with Wikipedia. Also, I welcome feedback of better links or broken links. Please email me if you have a helpful link to share.


Historical Earthquake research is a messy business. Archeological and Geological Data are often ambiguous and sometimes wrong. The ancient texts can sometimes be semi-reliable and/or downright deceptive. Scholars transpose numbers, misspell words, get citations wrong, confuse their dates, etc. etc. If you are a cited author in this catalog and I pointed out an apparent mistake of yours I apologize but I had to do it. We have to collectively do quality control on each other's work in order to move science forward and that involves pointing out each others mistakes. Even if a mistake has been corrected in the literature, I may point it out here not due to anti-social malice on my part but to alert anyone new to a subject why something they read may be wrong. On that note, I would be very grateful if you would alert me to my mistakes. Please email me at Jeff dot Williams at acousticpulse.com if you find a mistake(s).