Earthquakes are a consequence of the motions of the planet's tectonic plates, yet predicting when and where they may occur, and how to prepare remain some of the shortcomings of using scientific knowledge to protect human life. A devastating Mw 7.0 earthquake on October 30, 2020, offshore Samos Island, Greece was a consequence of the Aegean and Anatolian upper crust being pulled apart by north-south extensional stresses resulting from slab rollback, where the African plate is subducting northwards beneath Eurasia, while the slab is sinking by gravitational forces, causing it to retreat southwards. Since the retreating African slab is coupled with the overriding plate, it tears the upper plate apart as it retreats, breaking it into numerous small plates with frequent earthquakes along their boundaries. Historical earthquake swarms and deformation of the upper plate in the Aegean have been associated with massive volcanism and cataclysmic devastation, such as the Mw 7.7 Amorgos earthquake in July 1956 between the islands of Naxos and Santorini (Thera). Even more notable was the eruption of Santorini 3650 years ago, which contributed to the fall of the Minoan civilization. The Samos earthquake highlights the long historical lack of appreciation of links between deep tectonic processes and upper crustal deformation and geological hazards, and is a harbinger of future earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, establishing a basis for studies to institute better protection of infrastructure and upper plate cultures in the region.