The ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion was once a legend, something known to modern man only by myth and ancient historians.
So when its ruins were discovered by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio in 2000, no one was expecting to find it.
However, despite all odds, they stumbled upon the decrepit but magnificent underwater city and, with it, a peek into its glorious past.
A city lost between legend and reality, Heracleion, also known as Thonis, was once believed to be a myth.
It had legendary beginnings, rumored that Helen and Paris of Troy had been stranded there before the Trojan War began. It was even said that Hercules himself had visited the city, giving it its distinct name.
Ancient historians Herodotus, Diodorus, and Strabo also mentioned the legendary city.
Yet, despite its substantial presence in Greek history, prior to its discovery in 2000, no trace of the city had been found. Until then, scholars weren’t even sure that Heracleion and Thonis were one and the same city.
However, with the relatively recent discovery, scholars have gained insight into Heracleion.
With beginnings that date back to the 12th century BC, the formerly thriving city enjoyed a period of extraordinary wealth. It served as an obligatory port of entry into Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world. It also held religious importance, likely because of its temple of Amun.
It vanished over 1,200 years ago, presumably due to major earthquakes and floods, only to be buried under the sand and mud for over a millennium.
Heracleion has an overall research area of 11 by 15 kilometers and is located near Alexandria, Egypt in Abu Qir Bay. The 13-year excavation unearthed several objects, including…
- Over 60 ships that were buried in the thick clay sand of the sea bed
- Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone
- Large 16-foot statues and hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods
- Slabs of stone inscribed in ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian
- Several small limestone sarcophagi that are believed to have once contained mummified animals
- Anchors for over 700 ships