The Heinsohn Horizon: Four Sackings and a Tsunami

Textbook history for Roman Alexandria includes a series of disasters beginning in 115 AD.

In AD 115, large parts of Alexandria were destroyed during the Kitos War, which gave Hadrian and his architect, Decriannus, an opportunity to rebuild it.

After the rebuilding of Alexandria by Hadrian the textbook history of Roman Alexandria can be précised down into one simple sound bite: Four Sackings and a Tsunami.

Caracalla sacked the city in 215, but apparently respected the Mausoleum of Alexander the Great. Others to do so in the third century included Claudius II (269), Aurelian (273) and Diocletian (296) resulting in a terrible repression against the population of Alexandria which destroyed nearly the whole of the city.

Tour Egypt – In Search of Alexander the Great – Nermin Sami

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

This textbook history was obviously disastrous for the Alexandrians but it’s been a boon for Roman Historians who never let a good crisis go to waste.

First and foremost, Roman Historians have employed the Four Sackings and a Tsunami narrative to very vaguely explain away the destruction of vast quantities of ancient records and texts which would otherwise contradict their contrived historical storylines.

The Royal Library of Alexandria or Ancient Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world.

rguably, this library is most famous for having been burned down resulting in the loss of many scrolls and books; its destruction has become a symbol for the loss of cultural knowledge. Sources differ on who was responsible for its destruction and when it occurred.

Possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria include a fire set by the army of Julius Caesar in 48 BC and an attack by Aurelian in the 270s AD.

Having acclimatised the punters to very vague and vacuous narratives the Roman Historians once again deployed the Four Sackings and a Tsunami storyline to bury without trace one of academia’s greatest creations: Alexander the Great.

In the 3rd century AD, Alexander’s tomb was closed to the public, and now its location has been forgotten.

Alexander III of Macedon (20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon[a] and a member of the Argead dynasty.

He founded some twenty cities that bore his name, most notably Alexandria in Egypt.

Their very vague and vacuous narrative style has been so successful the Roman Historians have outsourced Alexandrian adventures to other historical epochs.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria, was a lighthouse built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 280 and 247 BC which has been estimated to be 100 metres in overall height.

The lighthouse was badly damaged in the earthquake of 956, and then again in 1303 and 1323.

Finally the stubby remnant disappeared in 1480, when the then-Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a medieval fort on the larger platform of the lighthouse site using some of the fallen stone.

The 10th-century writer al-Mas’udi reports a legendary tale on the lighthouse’s destruction, according to which at the time of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (705–715) the Byzantines sent a eunuch agent, who adopted Islam, gained the Caliph’s confidence, and secured permission to search for hidden treasure at the base of the lighthouse. The search was cunningly made in such a manner that the foundations were undermined, and the Pharos collapsed.

But it’s possible to have some sympathy for the Roman Historians who try to create adult narratives from Medieval Morality Tales designed to scare surfs into submission.

Herodian 4.9 – Massacre in Alexandria – 215 AD

[4.9.1] When they saw what the emperor was doing, the people rejoiced and celebrated, making merry the whole night long, but they did not know his secret intent. In all his actions Caracalla was playing the hypocrite; his true plan was to destroy most of them. The source of the enmity he was concealing was this.

[4.9.2] While he was still living in Rome, both during his brother’s lifetime and after his murder, it was reported to him that the Alexandrians were making endless jokes about him. The people of that city are by nature fond of jesting at the expense of those in high places. However witty these clever remarks may seem to those who make them, they are very painful to those who are ridiculed.

[4.9.3] Particularly galling are quips that reveal one’s shortcomings. Thus they made many jokes at the emperor’s expense about his murdering his brother, calling his aged mother Jocasta, and mocking him because, in his insignificance, he imitated the bravest and greatest of heroes, Alexander and Achilles. But although they thought they were merely joking about these matters, in reality they were causing the naturally savage and quick-tempered Caracalla to plot their destruction.

[4.9.4] The emperor therefore joined the Alexandrians in celebrating and merrymaking. When he observed that the city was overflowing with people who had come in from the surrounding area, he issued a public proclamation directing all the young men to assemble in a broad plain, saying that he wished to organize a phalanx in honor of Alexander similar to his Macedonian and Spartan battalions, this unit to bear the name of the hero.

[4.9.5] He ordered the youths to form in rows so that he might approach each one and determine whether his age, size of body, and state of health qualified him for military service. Believing him to be sincere, all the youths, quite reasonably hopeful because of the honor he had previously paid the city, assembled with their parents and brothers, who had come to celebrate the youths’ expectations.

[4.9.6] Caracalla now approached them as they were drawn up in groups and passed among them, touching each youth and saying a word of praise to this one and that one until his entire army had surrounded them. The youths did not notice or suspect anything. After he had visited them all, he judged that they were now trapped in the net of steel formed by his soldiers’ weapons, and left the field, accompanied by his personal bodyguard. At a given signal the soldiers fell upon the encircled youths, attacking them and any others present. They cut them down, these armed soldiers fighting against unarmed, surrounded boys, butchering them in every conceivable fashion.

History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius – Herodian
Translation: Edward C. Echols

In 215 Caracalla travelled to Alexandria and responded to this insult by slaughtering the deputation of leading citizens who had unsuspectingly assembled before the city to greet his arrival, before setting his troops against Alexandria for several days of looting and plunder.

But not enough sympathy to overlook the shortcomings of their favoured source.

Herodian or Herodianus of Syria, sometimes referred to as “Herodian of Antioch” (c. 170 – c. 240), was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colourful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus in eight books covering the years 180 to 238. His work is not entirely reliable although his relatively unbiased account of Elagabalus is more useful than that of Cassius Dio.

The dates of the birth and death of Herodian are unknown.

All available information concerning his life is derived from what he himself wrote, so the evidence is scarce.

The manuscript tradition is discussed in the preface of the Teubner edition (1883) by K. Mendelssohn, and summarized in the Teubner edition (1922) by K. Stavenhagen.

They conclude that there are five codices, one from the eleventh century and four from the fifteenth century.

A sixth codex, used by Aldus for the editio princeps in 1503, has been lost.

Herodian of Antioch’s History of The Roman Empire – 1961
Translation: Edward C. Echols

A couple of aspects of the Four Sackings and a Tsunami storyline are very curious.

Firstly, the opening slaughter in 215 AD invokes “streams of blood flowing through the plain” imagery that could perhaps be more appropriately applied to the closing tsunami in 365 AD.

[4.9.8] A number of soldiers perished there too; for all who were thrust into the trench alive, if they had the strength, clung to their killers and pulled them in with them.

So great was the slaughter that the wide mouths of the Nile and the entire shore around the city were stained red by the streams of blood flowing through the plain. After these monstrous deeds, Caracalla left Alexandria and returned to Antioch.

History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius – Herodian
Translation: Edward C. Echols

Secondly, the opening slaughter in 215 AD invokes “filling the ditch with bodies” and “a huge burial mound” imagery that could also be appropriately applied to the closing tsunami in 365 AD.

[4.9.7] Some did the killing while others outside the ring dug huge trenches; they dragged those who had fallen to these trenches and threw them in, filling the ditch with bodies.

Piling on earth, they quickly raised a huge burial mound.

Many were thrown in half-alive, and others were forced in unwounded.

History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius – Herodian
Translation: Edward C. Echols

Perhaps some creative writing has been spliced in between 115 and 365 AD.

Either way, it’s long been known [but not always mentioned] “mounds” mark ancient sites.

In the Delta, ancient mounds in the northern portion mark the sites of towns where a considerable population once flourished; the tombs of Roman date near Alexandria afford evidence that there has been a downward movement of the land here which will have interfered with the water-supply and water-logged the soil, thereby making the region uninhabitable until modern engineering skill has succeeded in reclaiming it from its present condition.

The Cadastral Survey of Egypt – Henry George Lyons – 1908

An exception being where the “downward movement of the land” has swallowed the site.

Naucratis or Naukratis was a city of Ancient Egypt, on the Canopic branch of the Nile river, and 45 mi (72 km) southeast of the open sea and Alexandria.

It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Greek colony in Egypt; it was a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture.

Curiously, Naucratis had mounds and subsidence.

When Petrie reached Naukratis at nightfall on 1 December 1884 the sight that confronted him was a large settlement mound, or Tell, covering an area of 950x580m, surrounded by a number of small villages on all sides (Drower 1985, 87–8).

The mound itself – or rather series of mounds – was already much cut about by sebbakhin. About one third of the mound had already been dug away, especially in the middle, where a crater had been dug down to the bottom of the ancient site.

The area was ‘heaped over with the broken pottery, which has been found and cast aside by the Arabs in their removal of about thirty feet of earth, the heaps [of sherds] being from a few inches to five or six feet in depth’ (Petrie 1886a, 9).

Discovery and Excavations: Naukratis From the 19th Century Until Today
Alexandra Villing – The British Museum

Furthermore, the settlement of Naucratis was occupied until the 7th century AD.

Naukratis continued to be occupied through the Roman period and well into the Byzantine period at least until the 7th century AD.

Naukratis retained some status, however, as games were performed there in the 3rd century AD.

They are mentioned in a papyrus document found in Oxyrhynchus that dates from c. AD 226 to 230 (P.Oxy. XXII 2338) that lists victorious poets, trumpeters and heralds at the Naukratis games.

Naukratis: A City and Trading Port in Egypt
Alexandra Villing – The British Museum

Thus, this independent observer is led to conclude the original city of Naucratis subsided in the 7th century AD while the rebuilt town of Naucratis was buried by the tsunami of 21st July 912 CE.

This conclusion is consistent with Leona Libby’s Old Japanese Cedar chronology.

Hopefully, the Kom El Deka site in Alexandria can provide some further insights.

Recent archaeology at Kom El Deka (heap of rubble or ballast) has found the Roman quarter of Alexandria beneath a layer of graves from the Muslim era.

Wikipedia is suspiciously tight lipped about Kom El Deka.

I guess it’s time to dig a little deeper…

Gallery | This entry was posted in Arabian Horizon, Catastrophism, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Old Japanese Cedar Tree, Roman Chronology. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Heinsohn Horizon: Four Sackings and a Tsunami

  1. mystic1muse says:

    Thanks for the essays.

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

  3. Martin Sieff says:

    The city of Budapest has been destroyed , sacked and otherwise forcibly conquered around 19 times by human invaders over the past 1,000 years. The Hungarian people would not be amused to be told it really only happened once and was then fictionally multiplied.

  4. malagabay says:

    A massive earthquake struck the Eastern Mediterranean region on August 8, 1303.

    The epicenter was on Rhodos, which was completely destroyed, but extensive damage also occurred on Crete and Cyprus and even in Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt.

    Thr Richter magnitude of the eathquake was estimated at 8.0, and the intensity was X on the modified Mercalli scale on Rhodos.

    There were detailed descriptions of damage in the town of Candia (Heraklio), Crete, where 26 churches in the area were destroyed and some 4,000 people lost their lives.

    In Alexandria and Cairo, walls, towers, houses and government buildings either collapsed due to the surface waves or were washed away by a large tsunami that reached as far inland as Bab al Bahr [Cairo].

    In all, 10,000 people lost their lives in Egypt. The death toll for the whole event is a matter of debate, but it is likely to have reached 25,000 people.

    Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes – 2007
    Alexander E Gates and David Ritchie

  5. Pingback: E for Epigraphy | MalagaBay

  6. Pingback: The Hecker Horizon | MalagaBay

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