The Heinsohn Horizon: 21st July 365 AD

The finer details of Roman History are as slippery as an eel and the events of the 21st July 365 AD are especially slippery.

The 365 Crete earthquake occurred at about sunrise on 21 July 365 in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an assumed epicentre near Crete.

The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, particularly Libya, Alexandria and the Nile Delta, killing thousands and hurling ships 3 km (1.9 mi) inland.

The quake left a deep impression on the late antique mind, and numerous writers of the time referred to the event in their works.

The tsunami in 365 was so devastating that the anniversary of the disaster was still commemorated annually at the end of the sixth century in Alexandria as a “day of horror”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/365_Crete_earthquake

Whether the events of the 21st July actually occurred in 365 AD is an open question.

On the one hand:

Scientific sources singularly fail to identify a tsunami in 365 AD.

https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00299403/document

On the other hand:

Historical sources only state the events of the 21st July occurred in “the year in which Valentinian was consul for the first time”.

A century ago this was interpreted to mean 21st July 366 AD.

Book XXVI – Chapter X – A.D. 366.

15. While the usurper, whose various acts and death we have been relating, was still alive, on the 21st of July, in the first consulship of Valentinian and his brother, fearful dangers suddenly overspread the whole world, such as are related in no ancient fables or histories.

The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus – Translated by C D Yonge – 1894
https://archive.org/stream/TheRomanHistoryOfAmmianusMarcellinus1000223978/The_Roman_History_of_Ammianus_Marcellinus_1000223978#page/n445/mode/1up

Nowadays, this is generally interpreted to mean 21st July 365 AD.

While this usurper [Procopius] yet lived, whose various deeds and whose death I have described, on 21 July in the year in which Valentinian was consul for the first time with his brother [A.D. 365], fearsome terrors suddenly strode through the whole circle of the world, the like of which neither legends nor truthful ancient histories tell us.

Ammianus Marcellinus 26.10.15-19

Ammianus and The Great Tsunami – Gavin Kelly [Peterhouse, Cambridge]
The Journal of Roman Studies – Vol. 94 – 2004

https://www.scribd.com/document/338552316/Ammianus-and-the-Great-Tsunami

But the latest speculation suggests this should slip back to 21st July 364 AD.

Valentinian I, also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentinian_I

The perennial problem with historical sources is their authenticity.

The favoured historical source for the 21st July events is Ammianus Marcellinus.

Ammianus Marcellinus (born c. 325 – 330, died c. 391 – 400) was a Roman soldier and historian who wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity (preceding Procopius).

His work, known as the Res Gestae, chronicled in Latin the history of Rome from the accession of the emperor Nerva in 96 to the death of Valens at the Battle of Adrianople in 378, although only the sections covering the period 353–378 survive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammianus_Marcellinus

As a 4th century Roman solider Ammianus Marcellinus is too good to be true.

Ammianus‘ perspective goes far beyond the normal limits of historiographical propriety – indeed is little short of omniscience.

Whilst Ammianus’ description is that of an observant and well-informed contemporary, and he neither refers directly to nor has even demonstrably read any of the other, mainly Christian, sources which survive (most are in any case of a later date), his relationship to those sources deserves more attention than a passing ‘cf.’.

Ammianus and The Great Tsunami – Gavin Kelly [Peterhouse, Cambridge]
The Journal of Roman Studies – Vol. 94 – 2004

https://www.scribd.com/document/338552316/Ammianus-and-the-Great-Tsunami

As a 15th century Latin spoof Ammianus Marcellinus is spectacularly successful.

There are twelve manuscripts that contain all the surviving books of Ammianus. Two break off at the end of Book xxvi. (PR), and one ends abruptly at xxv. 4 (D). There are besides six detached sheets which once formed part of a codex belonging to the abbey of Hersfeld ; these are now in Marburg [M], and the manuscript to which they belonged is designated as M.

Of the other fifteen manuscripts seven are in Rome (VDYEURP), one each in Florence (F), Mutina (Q), Cesena (K). and Venice (W), and the remaining four in Paris (CHTN). V and M are of the ninth century, the rest of the fifteenth.

A full description of all these and their relations to one another is given by Clark, who has convincingly shown that of the existing manuscripts only V has independent value.

To this are added the readings of M. so far as that manuscript has been preserved, and so far as the readings of its lost part can be restored from the edition of Gelenius. who professed to follow M, but made extensive emendations of his own.
….
Since the text of V is in bad shape, with numerous lacunae, some of the readings of the early editions are of value.

The first printed edition (S) was that of Sabinus. Rome, 1474

Ammianus Marcellinus – John C Rolfe – 1935
https://archive.org/stream/L300AmmianusMarcellinusRomanHistoryI1419/L300-Ammianus%20Marcellinus%20Roman%20History%20I%3A14-19#page/n49/mode/1up

Unsurprisingly, the exact events associated with 21st July are also an open question.

On the one hand:

The events of the 21st July unleashed a “catastrophe cosmique” upon the “whole world”.

François Jacques and Bernard Bousquet list thirty documents of Antiquity referring to this tsunami. They admit that their list is partial, as they did not take into account the texts written in Syriac and in Arabic.

Q-mag.org – What happened on July 21, 365 A.D.? – Anne-Marie de Grazia – 2012
http://www.q-mag.org/what-happened-on-july-21-365-a-d.html

http://www.persee.fr/doc/mefr_0223-5102_1984_num_96_1_1412

Book XXVI – Chapter X – A.D. 366.

15. While the usurper, whose various acts and death we have been relating, was still alive, on the 21st of July, in the first consulship of Valentinian and his brother, fearful dangers suddenly overspread the whole world, such as are related in no ancient fables or histories.

The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus – Translated by C D Yonge – 1894
https://archive.org/stream/TheRomanHistoryOfAmmianusMarcellinus1000223978/The_Roman_History_of_Ammianus_Marcellinus_1000223978#page/n445/mode/1up

While this usurper [Procopius] yet lived, whose various deeds and whose death I have described, on 21 July in the year in which Valentinian was consul for the first time with his brother [A.D. 365], fearsome terrors suddenly strode through the whole circle of the world, the like of which neither legends nor truthful ancient histories tell us.

Ammianus Marcellinus 26.10.15-19

Ammianus and The Great Tsunami – Gavin Kelly [Peterhouse, Cambridge]
The Journal of Roman Studies – Vol. 94 – 2004

https://www.scribd.com/document/338552316/Ammianus-and-the-Great-Tsunami

On the other hand:

The events of the 21st July were just another large Crete Earthquake.

The 365 Crete earthquake occurred at about sunrise on 21 July 365 in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an assumed epicentre near Crete. Geologists today estimate the undersea earthquake to have been a magnitude eight or higher.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/365_Crete_earthquake

Despite its magnitude, this earthquake cannot have produced the necessary short-period, high-energy waves which are necessary to explain the seismic damage which occurred circa AD365 in a very broad region, from Sicily to Cyprus and Libya.

Hence, the AD365 earthquake sequence included at least two other major events, with epicentres close to Cyprus and Sicily.

Although significant changes in the coastal morphology, widespread destruction, and a high human death toll occurred, the AD365 Crete earthquake was not responsible for any major cultural change.

The 8.5+ magnitude, AD365 earthquake in Crete: Coastal uplift, topography changes, archaeological and historical signature – Stathis C.Stiros
Quaternary International – Volume 216, Issues 1–2 – 1 April 2010

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040618209001499

Generalization of local events into wider catastrophe is a natural development in ancient historiography, which is inevitably dependent (even in the best scenario) on the collation of a few localized and scattered witnesses.

And as with battles, historiographical representation of earthquakes almost invariably resorts to conventional descriptions, taken over from earlier disasters.

Perhaps the most important element of ‘late antique understanding’ is the belief that natural disasters reflect divine anger and act as responses to or warnings of events in the political sphere.

Such theological and providentialist argument, both polytheist and Christian, becomes particularly prominent in the religious vicissitudes of the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.

Ammianus and The Great Tsunami – Gavin Kelly [Peterhouse, Cambridge]
The Journal of Roman Studies – Vol. 94 – 2004

Either way, the devastation attributed to the 21st July is “quite astonishing”.

Geologists today estimate the undersea earthquake to have been a magnitude eight or higher.

It caused widespread destruction in central and southern Greece, northern Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, Sicily, and Spain.

On Crete, nearly all towns were destroyed.

The Crete earthquake was followed by a tsunami which devastated the southern and eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, particularly Libya, Alexandria and the Nile Delta, killing thousands and hurling ships 3 km (1.9 mi) inland.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/365_Crete_earthquake

In Crete a ten metre uplift destroyed nearly all the towns.

Falasarna or Phalasarna is an ancient Greek harbor town on the northwest coast of Crete.

In 69-67 BC the Romans sent forces to eliminate piracy from the eastern Mediterranean, stormed Phalasarna, blocked its harbor with massive masonry, and destroyed the whole city, probably killing its citizens… The location of the city was then forgotten, and Phalasarna appears in Venetian records only as a lost city.

The site was rediscovered in the 19th century by British explorers Robert Pashley and Captain T. A. B. Spratt. Spratt, of the Royal Navy, noted in 1859 that the former harbor of the deserted site was now 100 yards from the sea, and that the ancient sea coast must have risen at least twenty four feet.

A probable event was the great earthquake and tsunami of 21 July A.D. 365

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalasarna

Ten meters [33 feet] of uplift is quite astonishing,” Shaw said. “Unexpectedly, our results confirm that all [of the] uplift did happen in the 365 A.D. earthquake.”

Q-mag.org – What happened on July 21, 365 A.D.? – Anne-Marie de Grazia – 2012
http://www.q-mag.org/what-happened-on-july-21-365-a-d.html

Beth Shaw and colleagues at the University of Cambridge carbon-dated a section of corals on the coast of Crete that were lifted clear of the water during the upheavals. The corals’ distribution and identical age revealed that one giant quake must have lifted all of them by 10 metres in one massive push – revealing the tsunami’s source.

Mediterranean’s ‘horror’ tsunami may strike again
New Scientist – Jeff Hecht – 10 March 2008

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13439-mediterraneans-horror-tsunami-may-strike-again/

Few contemporary sources mention Crete during the period from the 4th century to the Muslim conquest in the 820s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Crete

In Greece the “violence of the wind” is said to have driven ships two miles inland.

16. For a little before sunrise there was a terrible earthquake, preceded by incessant and furious lightning. The sea was driven backwards, so as to recede from the land, and the very depths were uncovered, so that many marine animals were left sticking in the mud. And the depths of its valleys and the recesses of the hills, which from the very first origin of all things had been lying beneath the boundless waters, now beheld the beams of the sun.

17. Many ships were stranded on the dry shore, while people straggling about the shoal water picked up fishes and things of that kind in their hands. In another quarter the waves, as if raging against the violence with which they had been driven back, rose, and swelling over the boiling shallows, beat upon the islands and the extended coasts of the mainland, levelling cities and houses wherever they encountered them. All the elements were in furious discord, and the whole face of the world seemed turned upside down, revealing the most extraordinary sights.

18. For the vast waves subsided when it was least expected, and thus drowned many thousand men. Even ships were swallowed up in the furious currents of the returning tide, and were seen to sink when the fury of the sea was exhausted ; and the bodies of those who perished by shipwreck floated about on their backs or faces.

19. Other vessels of great size were driven on shore by the violence of the wind, and east upon the housetops, as happened at Alexandria; and some were even driven two miles inland, of which we ourselves saw one in Laeonia, near the town of Mothone, which was lying and rotting where it had been driven.

https://archive.org/stream/TheRomanHistoryOfAmmianusMarcellinus1000223978/The_Roman_History_of_Ammianus_Marcellinus_1000223978#page/n445/mode/1up
The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus – Translated by C D Yonge – 1894

Methoni is a village and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece.

Like other Mediterranean coastal settlements, Methoni was probably heavily affected by the tsunami that followed the earthquake in AD 365.

Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that as a result of the earthquake some ships had been “hurled nearly two miles from the shore”, giving as an example a Laconian vessel that was stranded “near the town of Methone”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methoni,_Messenia

In Cyprus the city of Kourion “suffered near total destruction” at about this time.

In the later-4th century (c. 365/70) Kourion was hit by five strong earthquakes within a period of eighty years, as can be seen by the archaeological remains throughout the site, and suffered near total destruction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kourion

In Egypt parts of Alexandria “sank beneath the harbour due to earthquake subsidence”.

Alexandria is the second largest city and a major economic centre in Egypt, extending about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country. Its low elevation on the Nile delta makes it highly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

On 21 July 365, Alexandria was devastated by a tsunami (365 Crete earthquake), an event annually commemorated years later as a “day of horror.”

Much of the royal and civic quarters sank beneath the harbour due to earthquake subsidence in AD 365, and the rest has been built over in modern times.

Pompey’s Pillar“, a Roman triumphal column, is one of the best-known ancient monuments still standing in Alexandria today…. The structure was plundered and demolished in the 4th century when a bishop decreed that Paganism must be eradicated. “Pompey’s Pillar” is a misnomer, as it has nothing to do with Pompey, having been erected in 293 for Diocletian…

The most extensive ancient excavation currently being conducted in Alexandria is known as Kom El Deka. It has revealed the ancient city’s well-preserved theater, and the remains of its Roman-era baths.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria

Alexandria was famous for its cisterns. The city was supplied with water by Schedia canal that approached the city from the south-east and then distributed the water by small canals running under the city. Before the annual flood the water becomes scarce and the Greeks and the Romans had to rely on wells for the underground water and cisterns for the imported water.

After the Tsunami of 365 CE, the Alexandrian depended only on cisterns during the annual draught period because the underground water became salty.

Kom el Dikka – Alexandria – Initial Survey Report and Preliminary Project
The Alexandria and Mediterranean Research Center – 2015 – Bibliotheca Alexandrina

http://www.bibalex.org/Culture/Attachment/CKfiles/files/Kom%20el%20Dikka%20Report.pdf

Heracleion, also known as Thonis, was an ancient Egyptian city located near the Canopic Mouth of the Nile, about 32 km northeast of Alexandria.

Its ruins are located in Abu Qir Bay, currently 2.5 km off the coast, under 10 m (30 ft) of water.

The city was mentioned by the ancient historians Diodorus (1.19.4) and Strabo (17.1.16).

The city sank in the 3rd or 2nd century AD, probably due to liquefaction of the silts on which it was built following earth tremors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracleion

In Libya cities were “badly damage” and parts of Apollonia subsided into the sea.

Sabratha, Sabratah or Siburata, in the Zawiya District of Libya, was the westernmost of the ancient “three cities” of Roman Tripolis… The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of AD 365.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabratha

Apollonia in Cyrenaica (modern Libya) was founded by Greek colonists and became a significant commercial centre in the southern Mediterranean.

The early foundation levels of the city of Apollonia are below sea level due to submergence in earthquakes, while the upper strata of the later Byzantine Christian periods are several meters above sea level, built on the accumulated deposits of previous periods.

The Crete earthquake and tsunami of 21 July 365 AD apparently caused extensive damage to the city and harbor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollonia,_Cyrenaica

This second shrine was destroyed by the earthquake of A.D. 365, and subsequently the Christian population of Cyrene wrecked everything that remained visible. The statues and marble columns were chopped up, and the whole interior of the building was burned out.

Cyrene and Apollonia: An Historical Guide – Richard George Goodchild – 1959
https://books.google.es/books?hl=es&id=etFynQEACAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=365

In Sicily an elaborate Roman Villa may have been buried.

The Villa Romana del Casale is a large and elaborate Roman villa or palace located about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily.
The villa and artwork contained within date to the early 4th century AD.

The villa was damaged and perhaps destroyed during the domination of the Vandals and the Visigoths… The site was abandoned in the 12th century AD after a landslide covered the villa

The villa was almost entirely forgotten, although some of the tallest parts of the remains were always above ground…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_Romana_del_Casale

In Tunisia the submerged ruins of Neapolis have recently been discovered.

Ruins of the ancient Roman settlement Neapolis have reportedly been discovered submerged off the coast of Tunisia, giving further credibility to historical accounts that it was wiped from the map by a massive tsunami.

The underwater city was found near Nabeul by archaeologists from the National Heritage Institute Tunisia and Italy’s University of Sassari in an expedition that has taken seven years.

Researchers believe Neapolis, whose ruins also dot the landscape above ground in the north-eastern town of Nabeul, was hit by unstoppable waves in 365 AD, report AFP.

Long-lost Roman city of Neapolis discovered off Tunisia – RT.com – 1 Sep, 2017
https://www.rt.com/news/401726-neapolis-tsunami-roman-city/

And in Southern Spain there was destruction and many deaths.

Google Translation
Many more data is offered by Lafuente Alcántara about the earthquake of July 21 of the year 365, its description is as follows:

A violent earthquake was felt in the provinces of Granada and other provinces of the empire, and the waves of the Mediterranean boiled like the worst storm, many beaches away from Malacca, from Exi, from Abdera, the beaches were dry.

They had been bathed by the waters: the fish, lacking in their natural element, were caught by hand on the sand without nets or hooks, absorbed by the inhabitants of the coast, they saw the depth of the abysses, which filled with water maybe from the beginning.

After a few hours the sea retreated with furious impetus: the ships, which had run aground on the sand, were thrown with irresistible thrust into the earth, and some crashed against the buildings of the nearby cities.

The waters flooded the riverside villages, drowning a multitude of families.

The news of this disaster, described by Amiano and other contemporary historians, spread shortly. and he frightened the inhabitants of the empire so much that many considered him a precursor of greater calamities.

Others believed that the end of the world was near, and that God announced it in that way, so that sinners could prepare their consciences and purge their sins with austere rigors.

LAFUENTE ALCANTARA, M.: Historia de Granada, comprendiendo la de sus cuatro provincias Almería, Jaén, Granada y Málaga. Granada, 1843, págs. 235-236. TAPIA, J. A.: Historia de la Baja Alpujarra (Berja, Adra y Dalías). Almería, 1965, pág. 36 y ss.

The studies of historical seismicity in Andalusia – Manuel Espinar Monreno
Andalusian Institute of Geophysics and Seismic Disaster Prevention, p.124

http://www.solosequenosenada.com/misc/terremotos/Estudios_de_sismicidad_historica_en_Andalucia.pdf

Perhaps it’s time to dig a little deeper…

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2 Responses to The Heinsohn Horizon: 21st July 365 AD

  1. Martin Sieff says:

    The evidence for a major catastrophic event in 365 AD is clearly extremely strong,

    One should also remember the supposed earthquake and fire from heaven events that stopped the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem two years before.

    From center for Online Judaic Studies:
    “Ammianus Marcellinus reported that “terrifying balls of flame kept bursting forth near the foundations of the Temple,” burning some of the workers to death and putting a stop to the enterprise. (10) Gregory of Nazianzus wrote of “a furious blast of wind” and “a flame [that] issued forth from the sacred place.” (11) Ephraem noted that there were winds, earthquakes and lightning, and that a “fire came forth.”

    On should add that if the Heinsohn reconstruction as valid, Julian’s fatal campaign against the Persians and his well-attested decision to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple would have occurred only 10-20 years or so after the Romans under Titus destroyed it. Yet the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius most notably give not the slightest hint that they knew Constantine, his successors, Julian or Valentian even existed.

    The tsunami, earthquake and related catastrophes of 365 AD should be see as an ultimately fatal blow to the recovery of the Roman Empire in the West.

    It came 130 years after the 235 AD cosmic catastrophe that decimated the population of the entire Empire, especially in the West.

    One should also note that the military structure of the Roman Army in the fourth century AD was radically different from that of the Augustus-through-Hadrian era when they could still rely on masses of excellently equipped and trained ground troops moving slowly but systematically. Constantine and his successors, including Julian rely on much smaller numbers of fast moving mounted troops hence the obsession with stirrups.

    Once again, there is not the slightest hint anywhere of ANY interaction or mutual awareness by first century AD and fourth century AD Roman rulers and administrators, which would be impossible if they really coexisted over the same territories at the same time.

  2. Pingback: Enigmatic Egypt: Roman Ruination – Nile Delta | MalagaBay

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