Gerassimos Papadopoulos

A Seismic History of Crete


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The seismicity in Greece and in the adjacent regions is the highest in the Western Eurasia. One of the most active seismotectonic structures in that region is the Hellenic Arc and Trench (H-AT) system. The island of Crete occupies the central segment of H-AT just to the north of the front where the lithospheric plates of Africa and Eurasia converge and the former bends and subducts beneath the later. Therefore, the shallow and intermediate-depth seismicity in the area of Crete is very high. In addition, these processes produce other important geodynamic phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions along the South Aegean Sea island arc as well as tsunamis.
In Crete civilization was developed long ago, and because of this the earthquake record goes also very back in the past. The rich seismic history of Crete was documented so far in historical sources and instrumental records. However,  historical documentation is not complete and several earthquake events escaped historical record and remained unknown. In addition, some strong events of the instrumental era of seismicity are not well-studied. Therefore, there is need to review and complete further the historical seismicity of Crete. This is the first objective for writing this book.
It is worth noting that new knowledge about historical earthquakes and tsunamis in the area of Crete was accumulated from geological and archaeological observations. In addition, analytical laboratory results, e.g. for dating purposes,  and numerical modeling of tsunami waves yield new insight in the study of earthquakes and tsunamis. However, such new knowledge has not been integrated so far into a unified methodological approach as a supplement to historical and instrumental documentation. This is exactly the second  objective for writing this book.

The third reason that justifies writing this book is that three very important key-events have taken place exactly in the area of Crete: The LBA (17th century BC) or Minoan giant eruption of Thera volcano and its associated large tsunami, as well as the big tsunamigenic earthquakes of AD 365 and 1303. The repeat of such extreme events in the future would have dramatic consequences for the communities in a large part of the Mediterranean basin. Therefore, their study by all available means is a scientific challenge of high-priority.

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