Reading Informational Text, Reading Literature, Earth Science
Material Type:
Upper Primary, Middle School
4, 5, 6, 7
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Earthquakes
  • Mythology
  • Opinion
    Creative Commons Attribution

    Education Standards

    Earthquakes: Comparing Mythology and Science


    Read the explanation the ancient Greeks had for earthquakes.  Then read the explantion we use today.  Then compare the two.  

    Why are there earthquakes?

    Earthquakes: Comparing Mythology and Science 

    Read the Greek Mythological Explanation and Scientific Explanation of Earthquakes.   Then answer the questions.  

    Greek Mythological Explanation 

    Once, there were twelve Titans, or gods.  The king of the Titans was Chronos, the god of time.  The word “chronology”, comes from Chronos. Chronos was told by an oracle (someone who could foretell the future) that he would be defeated by his children.  Chronos didn’t want that, so every time that Rhea, his wife, gave birth, Chronos swallowed the child. Rhea got tired of this, so when she gave birth to Zeus, her sixth child, she hid him in a cave on the Isle of Crete and gave Chronos a stone wrapped in a blanket.  Chronos swallowed the stone, thinking that was the end of that.  

    Zeus was raised by Amalthea, a goat.  One day, while he was playing with her, he accidentally broke off one of her horns.  He felt terrible, and to make it up to her, he blessed the horn, so that whoever owned the horn had everything they wanted.  This is the “horn of plenty” or, as the Romans called it, "cornucopia" that we see at Thanksgiving.  

    When Zeus grew up, he wanted to rescue his sisters and brothers.  Remember that gods cannot be killed, so his siblings were still alive.  Zeus pretended by be Chronos’s cupbearer and served Chronos his after-dinner drink, which Zeus had poisoned.  Chronos became ill and threw up his other five children (Hades, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, and Hestia), who came out fully grown and none the worse for wear.  

    Needless to say, Chronos was furious.  He called for his brothers and sisters, the other eleven Titans. The Titans and the Children of the Gods (as Zeus and his siblings were known) fought.  With a little luck, the Children of the Gods (or the Olympians, as they are also known) managed to trap the Titans in Tartarus, a cave deep underground. Although the Titans have never managed to escape, they sometimes get frustrated in their jail, and bang on the walls and stomp on the floor.  This is what causes the earthquakes common in Greece.  


    Scientific Explanation of Earthquakes 


    At one time, the land of Earth was altogether as a single land mass.  This was known as Pangaea, which was made up of several tectonic plates.  A tectonic plate is a huge slab of floating rock. Over time, these tectonic plates slid apart.  

    The plates are constantly moving.  We can’t feel it because they move REALLY slowly.  But occasionally, the edges of the plates, called faults, come together.  The faults can get stuck, but the plates keep moving. Pressure builds up as the plates try to go somewhere and the faults are stuck together.  Finally, the plates slip, causing an earthquake.  


    Imagine a calm pool of water.  If you drop a rock in the center of the water, you will see a ripple.  That ripple will spread out, but the center is affected the most. The ring in the center is the easiest to see because it is the strongest.  That center is called the epicenter.  In an earthquake, the epicenter is where the two faults meet. Just as the rings are strongest where you dropped the stone, the epicenter of an earthquake is always the strongest, i.e., worst.  And, just like the ripples spread out in the water, the ripples of an earthquake spreads out over a large area.  

    The rippling that you see is when a stone is dropped in water is caused by waves.  In an earthquake, the waves are called seismic waves.  The seismic waves travel at 20 times the speed of sound!  The size, or magnitude, of the seismic waves can be measured to tell us how bad the earthquake is.  Scientists use the Richter scale to measure seismic waves.  On the Richter scale, an earthquake measuring up to 2.9 is generally not felt by people.  There are more than 100,000 of these earthquakes every year.  An earthquake measuring 8.0 or higher has a lot of destruction and many people usually lose their lives.  There are about 3 of these each year.  

    Now answer these questions:  

    1. How are these two explanations similar? 

    2. How are these two explanations different?  

    3. Which explanation did you like better?  Why?  

    Earthquakes and Mythology Video

    Earthquakes and Mythology