Earthquakes appear in the mythology of many cultures.
This makes sense since most of the populated areas of the world have experienced earthquakes. Often, Earth is said to be carried on the back of an animal, such as a tortoise, dragon, fish, or frog. Earthquakes resulted from the animal’s movement.
Ancient Greek philosophers had various earthquake theories, which depended on what they thought Earth was made of. One said that Earth’s interior was caving in; the inside of Earth must be empty. Still another maintained that fire inside Earth caused the tremors. Another said tremors were felt when the winds inside Earth rushed about.
The Roman poet Ovid claimed that earthquakes occurred when Earth got too close to the Sun and trembled from the star’s great heat and radiance.
Earthquakes have often been blamed on people. People’s sinfulness would anger the gods so much that an earthquake would be sent as punishment.
Even in more scientific times, people blamed others for earthquakes. In Boston, Benjamin Franklin was accused of tempting quakes by putting up his new invention: lightning rods.
Perhaps most surprising is that some of these theories cite factors—such as fire, water, and electricity—that arise in the scientific study of earthquakes.