Ancient Seismites



For most of us who were born and raised in cratonic interiors or at passive margins, earthquakes are the stuff of occasional newscasts about faraway mountain belts and subduction zones. We may forget what the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 did to western Europe: shocking the likes of Voltaire, thereby precipitating an intellectual revolt against the Church and helping to launch the Age of Reason. Perhaps civilizations came and went in Asia Minor because their world was sporadically rent asunder by calamitous earthquakes. Surely it is no accident, then, that the greatest centers of learning have thrived historically in places of persistent tectonic stability.