Yesterday's Myths & Mysteries

Exploring the Sunken City of Heracleion

Once thought to be legend, the ancient city of Heracleion is beginning to reveal its mysteries.

Built in the 8th Century BC, Heracleion (known to the ancient Egyptians as Thonis) once served as a prominent trade center and port of entry for goods from Greece and other countries into Egypt. It now rests below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, covered in sand.

Researchers believe it sunk about 1,200 years ago due to rising sea levels, coupled with the soft clay and sand sediment upon which the city’s stone buildings were constructed. The city was situated “at the mouth of the River Nile delta” where it opened into the Mediterranean Sea.

Heracleion was discovered again in 2000 by French archaeologist Franck Goddio and his crew from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, where they found it 30 ft under the surface of the Mediterranean Sea in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria, Egypt.

Along with the stone structures of the trade port, archaeologists also found religious artifacts, giant stone sculptures, limestone sarcophagi, gold coins, statues of gods and pharaohs, and stone tablets, all preserved beneath the sea.

They even discovered as many as “64 ancient shipwrecks and more than 700 anchors.”

And at the center of the city, a temple to the Egyptian god Amun-Gereb.

Archaeologists are now preparing to show off their findings, and are still exploring the area to better understand the day-to-day life and goings-on in Hercaleion’s past.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.