1202 Syria earthquake

The 1202 Syria earthquake struck at about dawn on 20 May 1202 (598 AH) with an epicenter in southwestern Syria. The earthquake is estimated to have killed around 30,000 people. It was felt over a very wide area, from Sicily to Mesopotamia and Anatolia to upper Egypt, mostly affecting the Ayyubid Sultanate and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The cities of Tyre, Acre and Nablus were heavily damaged. A magnitude of Ms 7.6 has been estimated with damage up to XI on the Mercalli intensity scale.

1202 Syria earthquake
1202 Syria earthquake is located in Syria
1202 Syria earthquake
Local date20 May 1202 (1202-05-20)
Local timeDawn
Magnitude7.6 Ms
Epicenter33°30′N 36°00′E / 33.5°N 36.0°E / 33.5; 36.0Coordinates: 33°30′N 36°00′E / 33.5°N 36.0°E / 33.5; 36.0
Areas affectedAyyubid Sultanate
Kingdom of Jerusalem
Max. intensityXI (Extreme)

Records of the earthquakeEdit

A large earthquake or series of earthquakes is described in many written sources during the period 1201–1202 (597–598 AH). It is unclear as to whether they refer to a single mainshock with several large aftershocks or more than one unrelated earthquake. Given the rarity of such large events in this area it has been considered more likely that the reports all refer to the same mainshock.[1] Other workers have recognised two separate events, the earlier (Ms  7.5) on 6 June 1201 and the latter (Ms  6.8) on 20 May 1202, occurring on two different (but contiguous) segments of the Dead Sea Transform.[2]


The distribution of reported damage strongly suggests that the earthquake resulted from movement on a segment of the dominantly strike-slip Dead Sea Transform.[3] Detailed studies of recent sediments along the line of the Yammoûneh Fault, which borders the Beqaa Valley, support movement on this fault as the most likely origin for the 1202 earthquake.[4] Field evidence of the 1202 earthquake rupture has been reported from the displacement of the walls of the Vadum Iacob Crusader fortress (at Tell Ateret)[5][6] and from displaced stream channels in the Bet Saida Valley.[7][8]

The tsunami reports associated with this earthquake are unlikely to be directly caused by the movement of the fault as none of the fault displacement happened beneath the sea. Most large tsunamis recorded in the eastern Mediterranean are thought to be the result of seismically triggered underwater landslides.[9]


The Yammouneh fault

Areas affectedEdit

The earthquake was felt from Sicily in the west to northwestern Iran in the east, and from Constantinople in the north to Aswan in the south. The affected areas – listed by decreasing order of the intensity – were, in today's terms, Lebanon, central Palestine, western Syria, Cyprus, northern Israel, Jerusalem, Jordan, southern Turkey (Antioch, Lesser Armenia, eastern Anatolia), Sicily, Iraq and Iran, Egypt (as far south as Aswan), Constantinople and Ceuta.[10]

The greatest damage was reported from Mount Lebanon, Tyre, Acre, Baalbek, Beit Jann, Samaria, Nablus, Banias, Damascus, Hauran, Tripoli and Hama (VIII–IX on the Mercalli intensity scale).[3][10]


The tsunami probably associated with this event was observed in eastern Cyprus and along the Syrian and Lebanese coasts.[10][9]


Although a figure of 1,100,000 deaths is often quoted for this earthquake, it includes all deaths for the year in question, including those from the famine and subsequent epidemics caused by the failure of the Nile flood that year.[10] A more realistic estimate of 30,000 deaths has been made from the analysis of contemporary records.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b National Geophysical Data Center / World Data Service (NGDC/WDS): NCEI/WDS Global Significant Earthquake Database. NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (1972). "Significant Earthquake Information". NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. doi:10.7289/V5TD9V7K. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Khair, K., Karakaisis, G.F. & Papadimitriou, E.E.P. 2000. Seismic zonation of the Dead Sea Transform Fault area. Annali di Geofisica, 43, 61–79" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b Ambraseys, N.N. and Melville, C.P. 1988. An analysis of the Eastern Mediterranean earthquake of 20 May 1202, in History of Seismography and Earthquakes of the World, edited by W.H. Lee (Academic, San Diego, CA), 181–200.
  4. ^ "2005. Daëron, M., Klinger, Y., Tapponier, P., Elias, A., Jacques, E. & Sursock, A. Sources of the large A.D. 1202 and 1759 Near East earthquakes. Geology, 33, 529–532" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 November 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  5. ^ Marco S.; Agnon A.; Ellenblum R.; Eidelman A.; Basson U.; Boas A. (1997). "817-year-old walls offset sinistrally 2.1 m by the Dead Sea Transform, Israel" (PDF). Journal of Geodynamics. 24 (1–4): 11–20. Bibcode:1997JGeo...24...11M. doi:10.1016/s0264-3707(96)00041-5.
  6. ^ Ellenblum R.; Marco S.; Agnon A.; Rockwell T.; Boas A. (1998). "Crusader castle torn apart by earthquake at dawn, 20 May 1202". Geology. 26 (4): 303–306. Bibcode:1998Geo....26..303E. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1998)026<0303:CCTABE>2.3.CO;2.
  7. ^ Marco S.; Rockwell T.K.; Heimann A.; Frieslander U.; Agnon A. (2005). "Late Holocene activity of the Dead Sea Transform revealed in 3D palaeoseismic trenches on the Jordan Gorge segment". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 234 (1–2): 189–205. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2005.01.017.
  8. ^ Wechsler N.; Rockwell T.K.; Klinger Y.; Štěpančíková P.; Kanari M.; Marco S.; Agnon A. (2014). "A Paleoseismic Record of Earthquakes for the Dead Sea Transform Fault between the First and Seventh Centuries C.E.: Nonperiodic Behavior of a Plate Boundary Fault". Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 104 (3): 1329–1347. Bibcode:2014BuSSA.104.1329W. doi:10.1785/0120130304. S2CID 54590859.
  9. ^ a b Salamon, A.; Rockwell, T.; Ward, S. N.; Guidoboni, E.; Comastri, A. (2007), "Tsunami Hazard Evaluation of the Eastern Mediterranean: Historical Analysis and Selected Modeling", Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 97 (3): 705–724, Bibcode:2007BuSSA..97..705S, doi:10.1785/0120060147
  10. ^ a b c d Mohamed Reda Sbeinati; Ryad Darawcheh; Mikhail Mouty (2005). "The historical earthquakes of Syria: an analysis of large and moderate earthquakes from 1365 B.C. to 1900 A.D." Annals of Geophysics, Vol. 48, N. 3, June 2005. pp. 381, 389–391, 410. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2015.