Diodorus (1. Century BC) on the Destruction of Helice and Bura

“When Asteius was archon at Athens, the Romans elected six military tribunes with consular power, Marcus Furius, Lucius Furius, Aulus Postumius, Lucius Lucretius, Marcus Fabius, and Lucius Postumius. During their term of office great earthquakes occurred in the Peloponnese accompanied by tidal waves which engulfed the open country and cities in a manner past belief; for never in the earlier periods had such disasters befallen Greek cities, nor had entire cities along with their inhabitants disappeared as a result of some divine force wreaking destruction and ruin upon mankind.

The extent of the destruction was increased by the time of its occurrence; for the earthquake did not come in the daytime when it would have been possible for the sufferers to help themselves, but the blow came at night, so that when the houses crashed and crumbled under the force of the shock, the population, owing to the darkness and to the surprise and bewilderment occasioned by the event, had no power to struggle for life.

The majority were caught in the falling houses and annihilated, but as day returned some survivors dashed from the ruins and, when they thought they had escaped the danger, met with a greater and still more incredible disaster. For the sea rose to a vast height, and a wave towering even higher washed away and drowned all the inhabitants and their native lands as well. Two cities in Achaia bore the brunt of this disaster, Helice and Bura,1 the former of which had, as it happened, before the earthquake held first place among the cities of Achaia.

These disasters have been the subject of much discussion. Natural scientists make it their endeavour to attribute responsibility in such cases not to divine providence, but to certain natural circumstances determined by necessary causes, whereas those who are disposed to venerate the divine power assign certain plausible reasons for the occurrence, alleging that the disaster was occasioned by the anger of the gods at those who had committed sacrilege. This question I too shall endeavour to deal with in detail in a special chapter of my history.”

source: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0084%3Abook%3D15%3Achapter%3D48%3Asection%3D4

Greece, 1. Century BC, pagan; text; city: Helice

Strabo on the flooding of Helice

Strabo, a Greek geographer and historian whol lived from around 60 BC to 20 AD writes in his Geographica:

“For the sea was raised by an earthquake and it submerged Helice, and also the temple of the Heliconian Poseidon, whom the Ionians worship even to this day, offering there the Pan-Ionian sacrifices. … Helice was submerged by the sea two years before the battle at Leuctra. And Eratosthenes says that he himself saw the place, and that the ferrymen say that there was a bronze Poseidon in the strait, standing erect, holding a hippo-campus in his hand, which was perilous for those who fished with nets.

And Heracleides says that the submersion took place by night in his time, and, although the city was twelve stadia distant from the sea, this whole district together with the city was hidden from sight; and two thousand men who had been sent by the Achaeans were unable to recover the dead bodies; and they divided the territory of Helice among the neighbours; and the submersion was the result of the anger of Poseidon, for the Ionians who had been driven out of Helice sent men to ask the inhabitants of Helice particularly for the statue of Poseidon, or, if not that, for the model of the temple; and when the inhabitants refused to give either, the Ionians sent word to the general council of the Achaeans; but although the assembly voted favorably, yet even so the inhabitants of Helice refused to obey; and the submersion resulted the following winter; but the Achaeans later gave the model of the temple to the Ionians.”

thanks to Jasmin Hettinger for the lead.

Animals leave first

Stories often mention that the behaviour of animals announces approaching floods. This is an exceprt from a text by the Roman writer and natural scientist Claudius Aelianus (c. 175 – c. 235 AD) about the flood that submerged Helice (nothern Pelepones, Greece).

“Fünf Tage bevor Helike zugrunde ging, flohen alle Mäuse, Wiesel, Schlangen, Käfer und andere Tiere solcher Art in einer großen Anzahl entlang der Strasse, die nach Coria führt. Als die Einwohner Helikes sahen, dass dies geschah, wunderten sie sich; dennoch konnten sie keine Vermutung über den Grund machen. Die dem Auszug jener Tiere am nächsten gelegene Bürgerschaft, ging, nachdem sie nachts durch eine Erdbeben erschüttert worden war, zugrunde und wurde durch überflutende Wassermassen zerstört; und zugleich mit der Stadt gingen auch zehn Schiffe der Spartaner, die damals zufällig bei dem Hafen vor Anker lagen, durch dieselbe Überschwemmung des Meeres unter. Es geschieht, wenn die Gerechtigkeit den Dienst der Tiere nutzt, um Rache an gottlosen Menschen zu nehmen.” (Aelian, De natura animalium, 6, 19)


english translation:

“Five days before Helice perished, all the mice, weasels, snakes, beetles, and other such animals fled in great numbers along the road that leads to Coria. When the inhabitants of Helice saw this happening, they marveled; yet they could make no conjecture as to the reason. The citizenry nearest to the exodus of those beasts, after being shaken by an earthquake at night, perished and were destroyed by flooding waters; and ten Spartan ships, which happened to be at anchor near the port, perished along with the city by the same inundation of the sea. It happens when justice uses the ministry of animals to take vengeance on ungodly people." 
(Aelian, De natura animalium, 6, 19)