There’s a reason that stories of Atlantis and other lost underwater world civilizations have long captured our imaginations. The idea that an entire city could just vanish beneath the waves is a terrifying thought. While these lost underwater cities aren’t the mythical Atlantis, that’s exactly what happened to them, and their haunting remains have been documented by divers and archaeologists.
It was called Heracleion by the ancient Greeks and Thonis by the ancient Egyptians. Once situated on the northern coast of Egypt and established as one of the most important port cities of the Mediterranean, this lost underwater world city has been sitting at the bottom of the sea that it once served. Recently excavated after 1,200 years underwater, Thonis-Heracleion has been slowly giving up its secrets.
Artifacts brought to the surface indicate the ancient city was once a massive trading center and bustling port city. More than 60 ancient shipwrecks have been found in the immediate area, along with hundreds of anchors, coins from across the sea, tablets inscribed in ancient Greek and Egyptian, and vast sculptures that were thought to have once adorned the city’s temples. Those temples have also remained eerily intact, complete with offerings and votives once given to the ancient Egyptian gods.
Like many underwater cities, the conditions that the artifacts have been submerged in for centuries have preserved them incredibly well. What hasn’t been determined exactly is how the lost city ended up at the bottom of the sea, although it’s thought to have sunk after an earthquake. Built on the already precarious series of deltas reaching out into the sea, the best guess is that the already questionably stable sand and clay eventually gave way after a tremor.
The ancient city of Phanagoria is a case of fiction and mythology becoming truth. According to Roman history, an uprising in 63 BC ended with a huge part of the ancient city being burned and the wife and children of Mithradates VI being murdered by the angry mob. For years, it was thought the whole account was just a tall tale – it was completely unsubstantiated, after all.