526 Antioch earthquake – 20 May

526 Antioch earthquake – 20 May

The 526 Antioch earthquake hit Syria (region) and Antioch in the Byzantine Empire in 526. It struck during late May, probably between May 20–29, at mid-morning, killing approximately 250,000 people. The earthquake was followed by a fire that destroyed most of the buildings left standing by the earthquake. The maximum intensity in Antioch is estimated to be between VIII (Severe) and IX (Violent) on the Mercalli intensity scale.

The estimated magnitude of the earthquake is 7.0 on the surface wave magnitude scale. It was followed by 18 months of aftershocks. Intensity estimates on the Mercalli scale are VIII–IX for Antioch; VII for both Daphne, a suburb of Antioch, and the port town of Seleucia Pieria.

The earthquake caused severe damage to many of the buildings in Antioch, including Constantine’s great octagonal church Domus Aurea built on an island in the Orontes River. Only houses built close to the mountain are said to have survived. Most of the damage, however, was a result of the fires that went on for many days in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, made worse by the wind. The Great Church was destroyed by the fire seven days after the earthquake.

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