Faculty Sponsor

Allannah Karas


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-1-2020


In his Natural History, Pliny the Elder referred to the Lydia earthquake of 17 AD as maximus terrae memoria mortalium... motus, the largest, or alternatively the greatest, earthquake in the memory of humanity, with twelve major cities of the province of Asia being destroyed. Yet, for many modern historians, the Lydia earthquake forms only a small point of interest in monographs on the Roman province of Asia or on the provincial architecture and iconography of the Imperial cult. This gap may stem from the fact that ancient historical narratives seem to discount the societal consequences of earthquakes. By concentrating their documentation of earthquakes on catastrophic narratives and benevolent relief programs by Imperial rulers, Pliny the Elder and other ancient authors seem to assume their reader's understanding of the social significance of such disasters. This silence on the human impact of earthquakes has sometimes led modern historians to assume their cultural insignificance. This interpretation, however, requires adaptation. A close examination of the ancient sources on the Lydia earthquake reveals the longer-term human and political impact of this natural disaster on the province of Asia. Specifically, this paper demonstrates how the primary sources illustrate how the provincial loyalty of Asia stood firmly behind Emperor Tiberius following the Lydia earthquake, despite many authors' concerns regarding the emperor's relationship with the disaster and its extensive after-effects.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Max Shiller is a senior undergraduate majoring in Classics, History, and Humanities. An initiate of Eta Sigma Phi and Phi Beta Kappa, Following his graduation, Shiller will continue his academic pursuits in the Classics Ph.D Program at the University of Southern California this upcoming fall. He hopes to explore similar questions as in his work on the Lydia earthquake and delve more deeply into the societal implications of natural disasters in the ancient world in his graduate studies.