In the winter of 113/114 AD, the 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
assign a date of 13 December 115 AD to this earthquake based on a detailed chronology provided by
Antiochene native John Malalas writing in the 6th century AD.
While other late authors provide earlier dates for this earthquake  ,
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 (155-235)
who produced an extensive and dramatic account of the effects of the quake.
In addition to Antioch and Daphne, Ambraseys (2009) states that four other cities, among them
Apamea, were also damaged by the earthquake.
This additional destruction, discussed but not specifically mentioned in the sources  , is inferred from building programs 
initiated by Rome in the aftermath of
the earthquake. Archeoseismic/Paleoseismic Evidence presented by
Meghraoui et. al. (2003)
in Al Harif, Syria (~120 km. to the south of Antioch) may
confirm that seismic destruction was experienced well beyond Antioch .
Although this earthquake was associated with both Dead Sea Seismites and Tsunamogenic deposits in and around
Caesarea, it is our opinion that this
association is incorrect because this earthquake was too far away to have caused either the seismites or the tsunami.
A more likely candidate is the Incense Road Earthquake of 110 – 114 AD.
While the emperor was tarrying in Antioch a terrible earthquake occurred; many cities suffered injury, but Antioch was the most unfortunate of all.
The emperor referred to was Trajan who ruled from 98 – 117 AD. Dio Cassius’ account is extensive and is reproduced in full in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
Chronographia by Johannes Malalas
Johannes Malalas (~491 – 578) , a native Antiochene, wrote the following passage in his book Chronographia
leaving us with a wealth of chronological evidence. In the passage (Book 11 Numbers 8-9 – pages 145-146)
below, “suffered for the third time” refers to the earthquake.
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."
Malalas gives a time (after the cockcrow – i.e. in the morning), a date (December 13), and a year. The Antiochene Year 164 equates to October 115 AD – September 116 AD
according to Ambraseys (2009). Other clues in the text are, for the most part, chronologically consistent. These include the earthquake occurring 2 years after Trajan arrived
in Antioch (generally agreed as winter 113-114 AD according to Ambraseys (2009)) and the death of the
Roman Consul Pedo described later  in Malalas’ account  .
Malalas synchronicity of the earthquake with the martyrdom of Saint Ignatius
is discussed in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
This earthquake is recounted in a number of other sources which are listed in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
Building Programs (e.g. Apamea)
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. See Ambraseys (2009), Balty (1988),
and Krauss (1914) for more details.
Al Harif, Syria
Meghraoui et. al. (2003)
associated the ~115 AD Trajan Quake with Event X observed in a Trench near a faulted and displaced
Roman Aqueduct in Al Harif, Syria .
Based on displacement of the Aqueduct, they estimated that Event X and two later events caused a cumulative left-lateral surface rupture of 4.0 – 4.5 m along the
Missyaf fault segment in Syria. The Al Harif site is roughly 120 km south of Antioch.
They estimated Mw = 7.3 - 7.5 for Event X.
Sbeinati, M. R., et al. (2010) date Event X later (160 AD – 510 AD) and did not assign it to a historical earthquake. They date the next surface rupturing
Event (Y) to 625 AD – 690 AD.
Goodman-Tchernov and Austin (2015) and earlier researchers identified a tsunamite in cores taken
immediately offshore of the harbor in Caesarea which they associated with the Trajan quake of ~115 AD.
(Salamon et al, 2010)
noted that the presence of a tsunami far south of the supposed epicenter of the Trajan Quake does not fit the
usual pattern of tsunamis on the Israeli coast. We also consider this association unlikely for reasons stated below. We suggest the Incense Road Earthquake as an
alternative candidate as the source of the tsunami.
A simple conservative calculation reveals how unlikely it is that the Trajan Quake would have produced the tsunamogenic deposits in Caesarea due to a localized offshore shelf failure.
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 Caesarea (354 km.).
4. Use a variety of attenuation relationships to estimate peak horizontal ground acceleration (ahmax) at Caesarea where Goodman-Tchernov, B. N. and J. A. Austin Jr (2015)
associated tsunamogenic deposits in Caesarea with the Trajan Quake.
The result is a peak horizontal ground acceleration (ahmax) of 0.02 – 0.04 g in Caesarea. This appears to be below the amount of energy required to cause an offshore slope
failure that would produce a localized tsunami in Caesarea. If the Trajan Quake did produce a tsunamite in Caesarea, it would likely have been generated by an earthquake
associated with the Cypriot Arc which would place the epicenter offshore of the southern coast of Cyprus. However, this is a well documented historical earthquake for
which we have no description of damage in Cyprus in any of the sources. Malalas mentions simultaneous damage to Rhodes however this may be a
forced synchronicity ; something Malalas is noted for (Ambraseys, 2009).
In any case, earthquake damage in Rhodes does not support an epicenter off the southern coast of Cyprus and the
geography of the damage reports indicates that an earthquake associated with the Hellenic Arc is not a realistic possibility. The sources suggests that the earthquake
was a result of a fault break on land; describing severe damage in Antioch, Daphne, and other inland cities. In addition, there is possible archeoseismic evidence for
this earthquake in Apamea.
A simple conservative calculation reveals how unlikely it is that the Trajan Quake would have 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 a variety of attenuation relationships to estimate peak horizontal ground acceleration (ahmax) at Nahal Ze ‘elim where Kagan et. al. (2011) observed a 5 cm.
thick seismite that they associated with the Trajan Quake.
The result is a peak horizontal ground acceleration (ahmax) of 0.01 – 0.02 g at Nahal Ze'elim. This is well below the 0.25 g threshold Williams (2004) calculated
one needs to break the Dead Sea sediments. The conclusion is that the Trajan quake did not produce these Dead Sea Seismogenic deposits. The Incense Road earthquake did.
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 AD. The 112 AD date refers to the 110-114 AD Incense Road Quake and the 115 AD 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,
Williams saw evidence for a sizable earthquake around 112 +/- 8 AD which was probably created by the Incense Road Quake. Williams also observed two detachment planes in the
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.
Nahal Ze ‘elim (Site ZA-2)
Kagan et. al. (2011) dated a 5 cm. thick seismite at a depth of 445 cm. to 86-164 AD (1 σ) and assigned a date of 115 AD.
The 115 AD date refers to the
Trajan Quake which was too far away to have created a Dead Sea seismite so a
correction has been made to associate this seismite with the 110-114 AD Incense Road Quake.
Taybe Trench, Jordan
LeFevre et al. (2018) identified a seismic event (E4) in the Taybeh trench in the Arava which they modeled
between 14 BC and 205 AD and associated with the Incense Road Earthquake which struck between 110 AD and 114 AD.
Klinger et. al. (2015) identified a seismic event (E6) in a trench near Qatar, Jordan in the
Arava which they modeled between 9 BC and 492 AD. The large spread in age caused them to consider two possible earthquakes as the cause; the Incense Road Earthquake
between 110 AD and 114 AD and the southern Cyril Earthquake of 363 AD. They preferred the Cyril Earthquake of 363 AD based on weighing other
evidence  not related to their paleoseismic study and noted that further investigation was required.
A clear spatial pattern is at play here. Seismite thickness increases in a southerly direction in the Dead Sea and one or two paleoseismic trenches in the Arava might have seen evidence of an earthquake.
This suggests that the earthquake expressed in the Dead Sea sediments from around this time
had an epicenter to the south rather than far to the north in the vicinity of Antioch. Like the tsunamogenic evidence, attributing this event to the Trajan Quake makes
no sense. The Incense Road Quake is the more likely candidate.
24 1 While the emperor 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
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.
At the end of this excerpt, Malalas recounts the martyrdom of St. 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.
This may have been a forced synchronicity to have the wrath of God in the form of an earthquake follow or coincide with the martyrdom of Ignatius,
a significant early Christian leader and the Bishop of Antioch; perhaps echoing the Gospel of Matthew which has an earthquake follow the death of Jesus. Ambraseys (2009)
has an extensive discussion  where he weighs the evidence and concludes that Malalas’ likely correctly dated the earthquake and
“moved” Ignatius’ martyrdom to coincide with the earthquake. Because this earthquake would not have generated seismites in the Dead Sea, the Ignatius dating
conundrum will not be examined further.
To read Chronographia in the original Greek, go here
An earthquake at Antioch ruined almost the entire city.
The first year of the 223rd Olympiad corresponds to July 1, 113 AD – June 30, 114 AD in the Julian calendar .
Eusebius dates the following year to 2130 in the Year of Abraham (anno Abraham). Since 2130 in the year of Abraham corresponds to
114 AD  this would place the earthquake to 113 AD  .
Ambraseys (2009) notes that the Armenian version of this text states that only a third of Antioch was destroyed.
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.
The passage above from to an earthquake which Ambraseys (2009) dates to 458 AD however it makes reference to the Trajan Quake occurring 347 years prior.
This would date the Trajan Quake to ~110 AD. Ambraseys (2009) notes, however, that there are dating inconsistencies in Evagrius Schlasticus’ passage about the 458 AD earthquake.
This indicates that extrapolating backwards to determine the year of the Trajan Quake, while useful, is likely to be beset by inaccuracies.
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
Niphates  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.
Ambraseys (2009) notes that the earthquake is recorded a number of later Syraic chroniclers who add no further information.
Ambraseys’ (2009) remaining references are discussed below.
Chr. 724 121/95
This is the same reference as Chronicon by Eusebius which is discussed above under Notes.
Pseudo Dionysus 123/I 92
Pseudo Dionysus lived in the late 5th and early 6th century AD. Links to various online works of his can
be found in the following footnote .
Paleoclimate - Droughts
 Orosius and Michael the Syrian
synchronize the earthquake with a lightning strike that burned down the Roman Pantheon in 110 AD.
From Evagrius Scholasticus one can backdate the Trajan Quake to ~110 AD based on
his date for the 458 AD Antioch earthquake however there are dating inconsistencies in his chronology for the 458 AD event.
Eusebius apparently dates the Trajan Quake to 112/113 AD. See the Notes section of this Catalog entry for more details.
 Dio Cassius mentions that “many cities suffered”
 The death of Pedo during the earthquake is contained in the fuller excerpt from Malalas in the Notes section of this catalog entry.
 Ambraseys (2009) cites Lepper (1948) in his argument for the chronologial consistency of Malalas' account.
 They bracket Event X’s age to 100 AD – 750 AD and state that it probably took place during the Roman occupation after AD 70.
 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).
 Ambraseys (2009) states the following:
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
Lepper (1948), 54-85;
(Downey 1961b, 216, 218, 292).
 The text in French follows : "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."
 The translation has a footnote which reads : Properly a mountain; here meant for a river.
 Ambraseys (2009) reference reads as follows :
Ps.Dion.: Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell Mahre (Chronicum Anonymum Pseudo-Dionysianum vulgo dictum), ed. J. Chabot, Corpus Scr. Christ. Orient., Script. Syr., series 3, vol. 2
(text), 1933, and vol. 1, Louvain, 1949, vol. 2 ed. and trans. R. Hespel, Louvain, 1989.