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Georgia L. Irby

The Mediterranean Basin is prone to earthquakes, and ancient thinkers sought to explain their causes either through myth (Poseidon’s wrath) or natural philosophy (dry and wet exhalations, trapped subterranean winds). Notable theorists include Thales, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Epicurus, Posidonius, Lucretius, and Seneca the Younger. Historians and geographers (including Thucydides, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, and Pausanias) described severe earthquakes and their effects on geology (diverting bodies of water or causing bodies of water and/or land masses to appear or disappear, such as Atlantis), populations, and infrastructure (e.g., the complete annihilation of Helice and Boura). Among particularly noteworthy seismic events are those that occurred in Laconia in 464 bce, along the Malian Gulf in 426 bce, at Rhodes in 227/6 bce (toppling the famous Colossus of Helios), one extending from the Levant to Euboea (of unknown date), the quake affecting Campania (especially Pompeii and Herculaneum) in 63/63 ce, and at Smyrna in 178 ce.