The Biggest Earthquakes Happened in Turkey

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Turkey, standing on some of the most major fault lines of the earth, has always been struck by earthquakes. Earthquakes are mostly caused by large elastic fractures. These elastic fractures are also called faults. When the energy accumulated at both ends of the fault line exceeds the resistance of the mass, shifts occur along the fracture and eventually an earthquake occurs. The North Anatolian Fault Line passing through our country is also world-famous and very active. I will tell the most important and destructive earthquakes ever to hit Turkey in this article.

B.C. 496 Chios Earthquake

According to Herodotus, the roof of a school collapsed in this earthquake, which occurred just before the battle of Lade in the summer of 496 B.C.

Fault Lines Underneath Anatolia
Fault Lines Underneath Anatolia

B.C. 26 Aydin, Ephesus, Sardes, Smyrna, Philadelphia (Alasehir) Earthquake

According to Tacitus, the earthquake happened at night. 12 important cities in the Roman province of Asia were destroyed. Those who tried to escape by going out into the clearing were swallowed by deep crevices. It is said that the great mountains sank, the plains rose up as new mountains. The disaster affected Sardes the most. Magnesia ranked second in terms of loss and compensation. Philadelphia was also decided to be exempt from tax during the same period. It was the largest earthquake in the memory of humanity at the time of Roman Empire, as twelve Asian cities were destroyed just in one night.

105 Asia Minor and The Roman province of Asia Earthquake

According to historian Eusebios, Aliağa (today is a part of Izmir), Pitane and Cyme were destroyed by an earthquake.

Capture of Antioch

115, Antioch Earthquake

The earthquake that caused the most deaths in Anatolian geography was the Antioch earthquake in 115. It caused a great loss of life and property in Antioch and its surroundings. Approximately 260,000 people died in the earthquake. The Roman Emperor of the time, Trajan, his successor Hadrian and consul Marcus Pedo Vergilianus were hit by the earthquake while staying to spend the winter in Antioch during their campaign against the Persians. Marcus Pedo Vergilianus lost his life, Trajan and Hadrianus survived with minor injuries, and immediately after the earthquake they started to rebuild the city.

177 Roman Smyrna, Roman Miletus Earthquake

177 Roman Smyrna, Roman Miletus Earthquake

In 177, earthquakes occurred in Izmir, Miletus and Samos islands. Izmir, which was completely damaged in this earthquake, was rebuilt by the order of emperor Marcus Aurelius.

262, Ephesus Earthquake

The earthquake devastated the cities on the western and southern coasts of Anatolia, along with the Roman city of Ephesus, in 262. The epicenter of this earthquake was most likely in the southern Aegean Sea. Reports of the period indicate that many cities were submerged underwater thanks to the Aegean Sea originating tsunami.

557, Byzantine Constantinople Earthquake

The earthquake came with underground noises, a violent storm and rain continued for days. Historians of that time wrote that “even a few stars in the sky were displaced by the intensity of the tremors.”

Roman Agora of Smyrna (Izmir)

688 Byzantine Smyrna Earthquake

A severe and destructive earthquake stroke Izmir. 20000 casualties are mentioned in historic records.

1034, Constantinople Earthquake

For the earthquake that took place in 1037, the sources state that the period lasted 140 days and the city was shaking like a cradle.

Cilicia Province of Roman Empire

1268, Cilicia Earthquake

The 1268 Cilicia earthquake was a very severe earthquake that killed more than 60,000 people. The earthquake stroke the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in southern Asia Minor. The epicenter was in the northeast of Adana city.

1509, Istanbul Earthquake

130.000 people died and 1070 buildings were destroyed in the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that took place in the Marmara Sea on September 10, 1509, during the Ottoman period. This legendary earthquake was named the Kıyamet-i Suğra (Little Apocalypse), which was said to shake Istanbul and its surroundings for 40 days.

Constantine Obelisk in Istanbul

1654, May 20, Ottoman Izmir Earthquake

The earthquake caused the collapse of mosques, collapse of many houses, and loss of many lives in Izmir. Many residents left their homes and camped in the open. Also, many European merchants had to sleep in their ships. Aftershocks were felt every day until June 25th.

3 July 1709, Foça (Phocaea), Ottoman Smyrna Earthquake

This earthquake destroyed the old Phocaea castle in the northwest of İzmir. According to the documents, 6 towers inside the castle and the west wall of the castle were destroyed. The towers on both sides of the main entrance door fell over the mosque adjacent to this door and destroyed the mosque. Most of the walls on the east side of the castle have been destroyed.

1778, July 5th, Ottoman Smyrna and Ephesus Earthquake

Earthquake happened at 02:30, lasted for 15 seconds and almost completely destroyed Izmir city. In some places the ground had been opened. Ground cracks nearby Ephesus had been reported. Casualties were more than 200 people.

A Cat in Ephesus Turkey Today

Three baths, three minarets and the Grand Mosque, many houses were destroyed. With the collapse of a mosque, 40 people were buried alive and only few of them survived. Also, in this region the area near the Agia Photini Cathedral was severely damaged as a result of the severe collapse of the ground.

1859, Erzurum Earthquake

The 1859 Erzurum earthquake occurred on 2 June at 10:30. It caused 15,000 casualties and was 6.1 magnitude.

1859, Erzurum Earthquake

1883, October 15, 3:30 pm, Cesme (Cysus) Earthquake

A devastating earthquake occurred between Urla and Cesme (Cysus). 3600 houses collapsed thanks to this earthqueake. More than 120 people have reported to be death. Cracks had been observed in the Cesme peninsula.

1928, March 31, 00:47, Izmir, Torbalı Earthquake

Many houses had been destroyed in the Meander plain and in the southeast regions of Izmir. Dozens of houses were destroyed and hundreds of them were damaged also in the western Anatolia region. Magnesia, Alaşehir (Philadelfia) and Uşak (Temenothy) were severely damaged. 30 people died due to this earthquake.

1939, Erzincan Earthquake

1939, Erzincan Earthquake

Turkey experienced the largest earthquake in the land. The earthquake of 7.9 magnitude occurred in Erzincan on 27 December 1939.

1999, Golcuk Earthquake

Golcuk earthquake has affected Turkey’s industrial capital and caused huge losses. The magnitude of the August 17, 1999, earthquake was 7.4.

2023, Gaziantep Earthquake

Gaziantep (Aintab) city was the epicenter of an 7.8 Richter scale earthquake on the sixth of February 2023 at 04:17.

Antep and Maras Earthquakes of 2023

2023, Kahramanmaras Earthquake

Kahramanmaras (Germanicea) city was the epicenter of a 7.5 Richter scale earthquake on the sixth of February 2023 at 13:24.

Fault Lines Beneath Turkey *

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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