One of the biggest mysteries of all time is the sudden disappearance of the Utopian city of Atlantis about which Plato wrote 2,300 years ago and is believed to have had existed some 9,000 years before his birth. Nobody still has any genuine clue about its whereabouts today despite all the technological advances. One of the many theories that emerged over the years is that it was consumed by the sea and its ruins can still be found underwater somewhere like many other beautiful ancient cities.
Though it cannot be certainly said that Atlantis wasn’t just a fictional city and might still exist under the sea, over the years, the archaeologists have discovered many ancient cities and palaces that now only exist underwater. This gives us the hope that there might be many more which are waiting to be discovered and one day Atlantis might also be one of them.
Here are 5 ancient extremely beautiful ancient cities that now exist silently underwater.
1. Heracleion, Egypt
For centuries, the ancient city of Heracleion was believed to be a sort of legend despite the fact that it was mentioned plenty of times in the ancient Greek texts. When French archaeologists in the year 2000 found the ruins of a city 30 feet underwater near Alexandria, Egypt, the perception of Heracleion being a myth was removed.
The earliest references about the city confirm that it was well-established as early as 12th Century BCE and the name of the city was supposedly derived from the name of the son of Zeus- Heracles, to commemorate the first visit of him to Egypt.
According to the accounts of the Greek historian Herodotus, Heracleion was also the very city which was visited by Paris and Helen right before the Trojan War. The city started to sink underwater during the 3rd Century AD. Slowly, the foundation on which the city was built started to liquefy and it drowned completely by 8th Century AD.
2. The city in the Gulf of Cambay, India
Towards the end of the year 2000, the oceanographers of National Institute of Ocean Technology while attempting to measure the extent of marine pollution in the Gulf of Cambay took some sonar photographs of the ocean floor. At that time, without realizing, that they were on the brink of an astounding discovery.
Months after that when they were analyzing the images taken, they understood that they had unknowingly taken photographs of ruins of something that looked like a vast ancient city. In the following year, the ruins were extensively studied, artifacts were recovered and attempts were made to find out how old the city was.
Though the exact age of the city is still debatable, carbon dating of some of the ruins analyzed showed that it could be well over 9,000 years old. If true, it contradicts the general assumption that cities of such vastness only emerged around 4500 years ago. Also, it being geographically located where the city of Dwarka is mentioned in the ancient Indian texts that was founded by Hindu deity Krishna, makes it a fascinating discovery.
3. Shi Cheng, China
Unlike the other underwater cities listed in this article, China’s Lion City which is originally called Shi Cheng and had existed for more than 1300 years was but purposefully flooded in the year 1959 by the Chinese Government till it was fully submerged when it felt the need of building an artificial lake for a hydroelectric project.
Prior to that, more than 3,00,000 people who lived in the ancient city, which once used to be a center of politics and economics, were evacuated.
The city exists now 130 feet underwater and extremely well-preserved, and if it weren’t for the water, a civilization could still make it home. It has become a ‘time capsule’ protected from wind, sun and rain and a popular tourist attraction for scuba divers.
4. Baiae, Italy
Baiae, in its prime between 100 BCE and 500 AD, was a city of the super-rich and famous for its lavish life and wickedness. Powerful personalities like Julies Caesar and Nero all had magnificent villas there. Though the entire city had not gone underwater, a large part of it is now submerged due to local volcanic eruptions. Much of its artifacts, statues, and buildings are incredibly preserved, which proves that water consumed the city at a fast pace and people hadn’t had the time to move the properties.
It is located 10 miles west of Naples, Italy and since its discovery lately, it has boomed as a tourist destination. Many are diving into the waters to have closer look at the ancient and most important of cities of Rome to get a feel of history.
It is believed that with the invasion of Muslim raiders in the 8th Century, Baiae was left devastated and by the year 1500 AD, the city was completely deserted after Malaria attacks.
5. Palace of Cleopatra, Egypt
French archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team in the 1990s set out on a quest to discover the palace of the most famous empress of ancient times Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, based specifically on the location described by Greek Historian Strabo who lived between 63 BC and 23 AD.
Strabo had mentioned in his writings that the palace of Cleopatra was located on the island of Antirhodos, which was on the shore of the ancient city of Alexandria. Guided by only this description, Goddio and his team, eventually discovered the lost palace of Cleopatra in the late 1990s about 10 meters underwater.
Since pinpointing the palace, about which little was known before, archaeologists have discovered numerous sphinxes, statues, temples, and artifacts that confirmed it was indeed what they were searching for. It is believed that the palace sank underwater about 1,400 years ago after earthquakes and was quickly forgotten until it was rediscovered.