Modern outlook on the source of the 551 AD tsunamigenic earthquake that struck the Phoenician (Lebanon) coast

Amos Salamon, Rachid Omira, Motti Zohar, Maria Ana Baptista

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On July 9th, 551 AD, a strong earthquake followed by a noticeable tsunami and another destructive shock hit the littoral zone of Phoenicia, currently Lebanon. The sequence of events was associated with active faults in the region, but the source able to explain both seismic and tsunami effects is still a matter of open debate. This article contributes to unlocking this enigma by providing a modern analysis of the historical accounts of macroseismic effects, earthquake environmental and tsunami effects, and archaeoseismic findings. Here, we conduct seismotectonic research, evaluate the intensities of all the associated effects, and perform coseismic deformation and numerical tsunami modeling to infer the most likely source. Our results suggest that either the thrust system noted as Mount Lebanon Thrust underlying Lebanon and crops out at the seabed offshore of the coast or the intermittent transpressive Tripoli-Batroun-Jounieh-Damour fault zone along the Lebanese coast are the best candidate sources for the 551 AD earthquakes and tsunami. Both of these sources allow us to better explain the macroseismic, morphological and tsunamigenic effects. Remarkably, the notable uplift of the coastal, marine-cut terraces along the Lebanese littoral zone is well reproduced by the coseismic uplift associated with these sources, thus also clarifying the considerable drawback of the sea and limited inundation reported by the historical accounts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8893-8929
Number of pages37
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jul 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Beirut
  • Coseismic deformation
  • Historic earthquake
  • Intensity map
  • Lebanon
  • Tsunami scenarios

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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