How Society Would React to Modern Earthquake, If They Only Believed in Myths

Topics: Earthquake, Plate tectonics, Seismometer Pages: 8 (2800 words) Published: May 5, 2013
Research Paper

How society would react to modern earthquake, if they only believed in myths

Earthquakes have been a mystery to humans for thousands of years. They have been speculated and written about. But what if we as twenty first century humans did not understand how earthquakes worked? How would we respond to an earthquake if we only believed that earthquakes were created by angry gods or mischievous animals? In ancient time catfish, snakes, elephants, and turtles were all associated with earthquakes. The civilizations believed that these animals were either below the earth or holding it up and that their movement caused the quake. The Greeks believed that it was the god’s anger that caused the earth to shake. The Scandinavians’ believed that it was their god Loki that caused the quakes. Anaxogoras, Archelaus, Thales, all had early theories on what really caused earthquakes but it was not until the 1960’s that we truly began to understand what caused them. An earthquake is a shaking of the ground caused by sudden breaking and movement of tectonic plates. The edges of the tectonic plates are marked by faults. Most earthquakes occur along the fault lines when the plates slide past each other or collide against one another. Mitigation is an important tool in keeping yourself, your property, and others safe when an earthquake strikes. Ancient, and even in some recently, cultures believed that the safest way to protect oneself from earthquakes, was to sacrifice animals, and in some cases humans, to the gods, so that the gods would not be angry with them.

Earthquakes began to be associated with catfish in the Edo Period, Namazu is the name of a giant catfish that lives in the depths of the earth causing earthquakes with his rumbles, that can only be contained by the god Kashima. Kashima restrains Namazu by standing on him, but is sometimes distracted by other business (De Wolf, p 11). When Kashima is distracted or left for a ceremony, Namazu would clatter about, causing an earthquake (Brumbaugh, 1999, p 2). The Indian culture believed that the earth is held up by four elephants that stand on the back of a giant turtle. The turtle then stands on a cobra, making for an extremely unstable foundation. The earth trembling is caused when one of the animals move (Brumbaugh, 1999, p 2). India has other beliefs about earthquakes, because of their long history of devastating earthquakes; they also believed that seven serpents were the guardians of the seven sections of the lowest heaven. They also took turns holding up earth. When one finished and another moved in place to take over, people on earth felt the ground move and shake (Brumbaugh, 1999, p2). The Greeks usually used the gods to describe earthquakes. Poseidon, the god of the sea was also known as earth shaker, was said to be the cause of earthquakes. When he became angry he would strike the ground with his trident and cause an earthquake (Brumbaugh, 1999, p 4). This Homeric Hymn specifically refers to Poseidon as the earth shaker. "I begin to sing about Poseidon, the great god, mover of the earth and barren sea, the sea god who is also lord of Helikon and broad Aigai. O Earth Shaker, two-fold is your god-given prerogative, to be a tamer of horses and a savior of ships. Hail, Poseidon, black-maned holder of the earth! , have a kindly heart, O blessed one and come to the aid of sailors!"( Athanassakis, 2004, p57). The god Loki in Scandinavia was held responsible for earthquakes. Loki was said to be tied to a rock in a cave underground as punishment for killing his brother. A...

Cited: Athanassakis, A. N. (2004). The homeric hymns (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Boer, J., & Sanders, D. T. (2005). Earthquakes in human history: the far-reaching effects of seismic disruptions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Brumbaugh, D. S. (1999). Earthquakes: science and society. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
De Wolf, C. (2011). Kashima & the Catfish. Commonweal, 138(8), 10-11.
Hyndman, D. W., & Hyndman, D. W. (2011). Natural hazards and disasters (4th ed.). Australia: Brooks/Cole.
Nur, A., & Burgess, D. (2008). Apocalypse: earthquakes, archaeology, and the wrath of God. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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