The Kourion Earthquake Killed Thousands in the Eastern Mediterranean

Page 2 of the earthquake's account. Please CLICK HERE if you have not yet read Page 1.
A number of contemporary chroniclers have commented on the devastation and death caused by the massive earthquake on the morning of July 21st 365AD. But while the overall scale of the destruction in the Eastern Mediterranean region will forever remain a matter of conjecture, the fate of one young Christian family has been well documented at Kourion, one of the ancient city-kingdoms of Cyprus.

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The Earthquake Devastated Kourion in July 365AD

Ancient Kourion

The second quake destroyed the house instantly, crushing its inhabitants and burying them under masses of stone and roof tiles, the older couple still covering themselves with their arms, and Camellia smothered face-down during her desperate struggle to escape. Next to her died the mule she had been trying to comfort.

 

Christian Symbol from Kourion
Chi-Rho Cross from Kourion

So violent was the quake’s force that the eight hundred pound stone trough it had been tethered to was hurled across the stable and cracked like an egg shell before coming to rest against its south-east wall.

Stone Trough which the Mule was tethered to
This Stone Trough which the Mule was tethered to was
thrown against the wall and cracked by the quake.

Clinging to one another in their bed, the young family across the courtyard met an equally tragic fate.

Unlike the house itself, the outbuilding in which they had been sleeping was not as solidly built as the main residence, thus offering them at least some chance of survival following its collapse. Their quarters, however, were adjacent to what is assumed to have been Kourion’s municipal market building, an imposing two-storey structure built of stone blocks weighing many hundreds of pounds. Already weakened by the earthquake’s first wave, this building toppled outward and smashed through the roof above the terrified family.

During the last seconds of his life, the husband’s sole concern was for the protection of his wife and child.

As their bedroom collapsed, its roof broken by the thunderous crashing of countless stones, this lion-hearted father used the only thing he had to shield those he loved...

...his own body.

In a last, desperate act, he threw himself across his family an instant before they were crushed by the disintegrating market building.

The position of this man plainly shows that he had been thinking only of his wife and child, for he was unearthed as he had died, his body covering them, the Christian ring only inches from his hand.

  Skeletal Remains of the Christian Family found at Kourion.

But for this obviously Christian symbol on the ring, there would have been little indication of the couple’s religious beliefs. As it stands, however, the presence of a single piece of jewelry which openly proclaimed its wearer as a Follower of the Way, from a time only about fifty years after the end of Christian persecution within the Roman empire, has shed new light on our Faith’s history and provided a uniquely touching reminder of Christianity’s family values and its enduring resilience even in the face of three hundred years of Roman oppression.

The Earthquake House, as it became known to archaeologists, where these events took place, is set on one of ancient Kourion’s south-east facing slopes overlooking the coast. Once a magnificent, indeed by the standards of its day, almost palatial residence, it must have commanded a truly wonderful view of the local amphitheatre about two hundred and fifty yards away, and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.

But by the time of that July morning’s tragic events, it had already suffered some damage from two minor tremors in 332AD and 342AD, had fallen into a state of general disrepair, was no longer the opulent dwelling it was originally constructed to be, and stood no chance against the violence unleashed upon it by nature.

The Room in which the Christian Family Died
The room where the young Christian family was unearthed

According to Seismological studies only a scant nineteen seconds passed between the start of the initial shocks and the end of the quake's second wave which completely destroyed the house. One can only imagine the sheer unadulterated terror felt by these early Christians during the last, chaotic moments of their lives.

Measuring between seven and eight on the Richter Scale, the earthquake which killed the young family and the house’s other residents, who were most probably their immediate family, has since been termed the ‘365 Crete Earthquake’ by seismologists.

Limited Edition Pilgrimage Rings placed on the Site where the Christian Family were killed
Each 18k Gold Pilgrimage Ring is taken to the site
where the Christian Family was unearthed.

The effects of this quake were devastating, causing ruin and death throughout the entire Eastern Mediterranean region and as far afield as Alexandria on the North African coast, which was hit by a major tidal wave shortly afterwards. Indeed, this cataclysmic event is now thought by many seismologists to be responsible for the island of Crete rising a staggering ten yards from the sea in just a few seconds and completely razing every single town upon it to the ground.

Whatever the case may be, there is ample literary evidence to suggest that this particular earthquake was without doubt one of the most destructive seismic events in recorded history, an event so completely devastating it left few physical traces in its wake.

For this reason alone, the young family’s discovery was in itself of colossal archaeological value, yet it is the father's ring which helps to bring a fresh perspective to a previously little-known aspect of our early Christian history.



Kourion Basilica Arch
'In This Triumph'
One of our Gifts

The Market Wall which collapsed onto the Christian Family
Wall of the Municipal Market Building adjacent to the Family's room

Walls of the Kourion Market which collapsed on the Family
The corner of the Market Wall which fell and crushed the Family

Coastal Cliffs of Kourion
The Coastal Cliffs
at Kourion

Pilgrimage Rings placed at the site of the Family's death at Kourion
Photo Record of the Pilgrimage Rings placed at the Earthquake House

Replica Christian Fisherman Lamp
Replica Christian Oil Lamp One of our Gifts

Pedestal in the Kourion Agora
Ruins near Kourion's Ancient Town Center

Kourion Amphitheater seen from the Earthquake House
Kourion's Amphitheater seen from the
Earthquake House.

Map of the 365AD Crete Earthquake
The Great Earthquake of July 21st, 365AD killed an estimated 50,000 people.
Click Image to Enlarge

4th Century
Eyewitness Account from Alexandria

"Slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake and shudder, and the sea was driven away, its waves were rolled back, and it disappeared, so that the abyss of the depths was uncovered and many-shaped varieties of sea-creatures were seen stuck in the slime; the great wastes of those valleys and mountains, which the very creation had dismissed beneath the vast whirlpools, at that moment looked up at the sun's rays."
Ammianus Marcellinus
Res Gestae...

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