Istanbul earthquake history

When the earthquake in Istanbul

Istanbul, known as Constantinople in history, was founded in 326 by the Byzantine emperor Constantine in the city of Bizantion.

Istanbul’s first earthquake records start from this date. The main sources of the earthquake history of Istanbul are the books, diaries and notes written by the historians of the Roman-Byzantine period and Ottoman historians.

There are some very interesting details about earthquakes in Istanbul throughout the history:

1- The major earthquakes in Istanbul take place every 250 years on average.

2- Earthquakes usually occur in August.

3- Istanbul earthquakes, solar eclipses and Halley’s comets are usually on the same dates.

Istanbul earthquake risk map :


Earthquake risk in Istanbul

A big earthquake occurs every 250 years in Istanbul. (The epicenter of the earthquake of August 17, 1999 is different and therefore not counted as an earthquake in Istanbul)

According to historical records, there were 6 earthquakes in the Marmara fault line from 557 to 1766. The shortest time period between two earthquakes is 200 years and the longest period is 308 years. The average time frame is around 242 years. If 1766 is added to 242 years, the result is 2008. According to this calculation the expected Istanbul earthquake was late.

1- The first earthquake recorded in Istanbul occurred in 342 AD, 16 years after the city was founded. According to the historians of the period, this earthquake was felt more violent in eastern Istanbul. It is estimated that the center of this earthquake is in the vicinity of Izmit or Sakarya. In this earthquake, there was not much damage in the center of Istanbul, but there was severe damage in the Anatolian side, Izmit and Sakarya regions.

2- 16 years after this earthquake in August 358 AD in Izmit (Nicomedia) was a much larger earthquake occurred. The city was almost erased from the map. This earthquake was felt even in Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia in the west. In the east, it is told that it is felt until Giresun and Ordu. There were terrible fires in the city after this earthquake. The repair work lasted for years, the city was rebuilt but lost its former glory. The historian Marcellinus mentions that as a result of the earthquake around 150 villages and towns were destroyed, some people were buried in the ground, the city remained in the dark for hours after the sun was born and thousands of survivors left the area.

3- Only seven years after this disaster, Istanbul experienced an earthquake again on July 21, 365. The epicenter of the earthquake is the island of Crete, which appears to be far from Istanbul. The earthquake scale was 8.5. This earthquake was felt throughout the Mediterranean region and Istanbul. Tsunamis sank ships on the coast of Egypt and Libya, and many cities at the seaside were damaged.

4- Istanbul survived this earthquake with little damage, but the earthquake that occurred in April 407 was felt strongly in Istanbul and the city was heavily damaged. Many houses have been demolished, ships sank, many people have died.

5- There was another earthquake in Istanbul in 412 which damaged the city walls.

6- In 437, there was another earthquake in Istanbul that destroyed many houses.

7- 10 years later, in 447, there would be another earthquake causing great loss of life and damage.

8- In April 460, there was a severe earthquake in Çanakkale, Balıkesir and Bursa. This earthquake was felt in Istanbul. In this earthquake, all of Erdek and many towns and villages of Çanakkale are completely destroyed. The place consists of gigantic slits and large pits. Many people die. The region cannot survive for a long time after the earthquake. This earthquake causes minor damage in Istanbul.

9- In an earthquake that occurred in Thrace region in 466, it caused slight damage in Istanbul.

10- A severe earthquake occurs in Izmit and its vicinity in September 477. Izmit and its surroundings have been erased from the map in this earthquake. Istanbul was affected by this severe earthquake. Many buildings were destroyed and walls were damaged. The resulting tsunamis led to floods in areas close to the sea. Aftershocks have lasted for days.

11- Only 10 years later, the earthquake in September 487 caused heavy damage in Istanbul. This earthquake is felt even in Muğla and Aydın regions.

12- After this earthquake, the peace of Istanbul, which has not seen an earthquake for about 40 years, is disrupted by a severe earthquake in 526. In this earthquake, a large number of houses, towers, public institutions were destroyed and there was a great loss of life.

13- In August of 542, after 16 years without earthquake, a very severe earthquake occurs in Istanbul. Istanbul, Izmit, Sakarya and Yalova are also damaged. Walls, churches, houses, public buildings are greatly damaged. After the earthquake, some people flee to other regions.

14- Only one year after this earthquake, 543 September, a violent earthquake destroyed Erdek. Damage is caused in Istanbul, which is trying to wrap the wounds of the previous earthquake.

15- In August 554, a major earthquake occurred in Istanbul and Izmit, causing great damage. Interestingly, the day before the earthquake, there was an earthquake in the Aegean Sea.

16- In 557, one of the most known earthquakes in Istanbul occurs. The earthquake that occurred in 557 is in the south of the islands which are the fault line which is expected to be an earthquake today. In this earthquake, the majestic dome of Hagia Sophia collapses and many people die. The fact that there was a night earthquake increased the loss of life. There are promises about the earthquake in the hymns of today’s Orthodox churches.

17- In 611, an earthquake with moderate damage occurs in Istanbul. After this date, there was not a severe earthquake until 740 in Istanbul.

18- In October 740, the people of Istanbul remembered the earthquake painfully. A very large destruction occurs. Due to the collapse of the coast, the shape of the coast changes, the city walls are largely destroyed, thousands of people die.

19- After a break of 50 years, a severe earthquake in Istanbul in 790. The epicenter of the earthquake is the famous fault line passing from the south of the islands. Byzantine emperor and city leaders leave Istanbul for a while and the people live in tents for months.

20- As a result of the earthquake in 861 in Istanbul, some of the water resources such as river and lake around the city have been destroyed. In historical documents, it is stated that people therefore suffer from thirst.

21- The earthquake in 989 in the South Marmara fault line is very severe. The damage was not only limited to Istanbul but also led to destruction in cities such as Izmir, Bursa and Iznik. There is an interesting detail about this earthquake in historical records. This earthquake occurs on the night of the Halley star. Some people who saw the Halley star left the city and made the right decision.

22- In August 1032, another earthquake occurred in eastern Istanbul.

23- An earthquake in Thrace in 1064 affected Istanbul and Çanakkale. Many buildings were destroyed.

24- The violent earthquake in the famous marmara fault line in 1296 affected Istanbul very severely. It was a huge loss of life.

25- In 1323, a more severe earthquake occurred in the south marmara fault line. There was a lot of life and property loss.

26- The earthquake in 1489 in Istanbul caused damage to some buildings.

27- A very severe earthquake occurred in Istanbul in 1509. This earthquake is called ” small doomsday ” in the Ottoman records. The epicenter of this earthquake is the marmara fault line. There are detailed records in the Ottoman archives about this earthquake. Some houses close to the beach are lost in the sea, the ground is split and the sand gushes, as a result of the tsunami the walls of some houses are destroyed. For the restoration of the city, thousands of workers from all over the country were brought and repair work continued for years.

28- The earthquake that took place in May 1556 demolished Erdek, which had been destroyed many times before. The earthquake that caused great damage in Erdek also affects Istanbul.

29- The earthquake in 1659 in the Aegean Sea also causes a moderate damage in Istanbul.

30- In May 1719, there was a severe earthquake in the vicinity of Izmit and caused severe damage especially in the Gulf region. This earthquake affects Istanbul and causes damage.

31- After 35 years, the other part of the gulf fault line in 1754 breaks and causes a severe earthquake.

32- On 22 May 1766 in Istanbul, there is another terrible earthquake in the morning. The fault in the south of the islands completed an average period of 250 years and caused a great destruction. Thousands of people die in this earthquake, there are no buildings that are not damaged, tsunamis occur. Many people died in Çanakkale, Edirne, Bursa and Balıkesir.

33- Only 10 years after this big earthquake, in 1786, there was an earthquake in Istanbul. There is not much loss of life in this earthquake, but damaged buildings become.

34- The earthquake that took place in Bursa in 1855 and caused serious damage to the city also caused damage in Istanbul.

35- In the 1877 earthquake in the Marmara Sea, the islands were damaged and some parts of the coast collapsed.

36- The severe earthquake in Izmit in 1894 caused the death of 135 people in Istanbul Grand Bazaar. Dam is damaged. Yalova and Sapanca undergo great destruction.

37- After this date, the last major earthquake occurs in Istanbul affecting 17 August 1999. The epicenter of the 17 thousand 480 people died according to official records in Golcuk earthquake.

North Anatolian Fault :

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