The supposed Egyptian earthquakes of 184 and 95 B.C. Critical review and some lines of research in historical seismology using Greek papyri from Egypt

R. Mazza


In the context of a project to update the data collected in the catalogue of Guidoboni et al.(1994), we noticed that two Egyptian earthquakes of 184 and 95 B.C. mentioned in the catalogue of Ambraseys et al. (1994, p. 20) were not included. A search to verify whether these two events should be added to the list of seismic events in the ancient Mediterranean area led to the conclusion that the two Egyptian earthquakes of 184 and 95 B.C. never occurred. The texts cited by the authors (a papyrus and an inscription) seem to deal with other events; in fact the word seismós, which has among others the meaning of 'earthquake', in these sources means 'blackmail' or 'extortion'. This conclusion leads to further discussion of relationships between ancient history and historical seismology and in particular of the use of Greek papyri from Egypt to study ancient earthquakes. A research project on Greek papyri, which will also consider other kinds of evidence such as Coptic literary and documentary texts, has been initiated by a group of researchers belonging to the SGA, in order to continue investigation of ancient earthquakes in the Mediterranean area.


Historical earthquakes;Egypt;papyri;supposed earthquake

Full Text:



We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it (Read more).

Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X