Heracleion, also known as Thonis, was an ancient lost Egyptian city near Alexandria whose ruins are located in Abu Qir Bay. It was known as early as the 12th century BC but its importance grew during the waning days of the Pharaohs, the late period, when it was Egypt’s main port.
It was believed that Helen of Troy and Hercules had visited the city, and that the city had even gained its name from Hercules (Herakles in Greek).
There was also a large temple dedicated to the Greek hero at the city center. Pharaoh Nectanebo I made many additions to the temple in the 4th century BC.
This city must have sanked into Mediterranean Sea around 6th century AD due to major earthquakes and floods. The ruins submerged in the sea were finally located and rediscovered in the year 2000.
For centuries it was thought to be a legend, a city of extraordinary wealth mentioned in Homer, visited by Helen of Troy and Paris, her lover, but apparently buried under the sea.
In fact, Heracleion was true, and a decade after divers began uncovering its treasures, archaeologists have produced a picture of what life was like in the city in the era of the pharaohs.
The city, also called Thonis, had its life at the heart of trade routes in classical times and now they are becoming clear, with researchers forming the view that the city was the main customs hub through which all trade from Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean entered Egypt.
Archaeologists are unearthing the mysteries of Heracleion, uncovering amazingly well-preserved artifacts that tell the story of a vibrant classical-era port.
Findings to date include:
- The remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that covers the sea bed
- Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone
- Giant 16-ft statues along with hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods
- Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian
- Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi believed to have once contained mummified animals
- Over 700 ancient anchors for ships
So far, 64 ancient shipwrecks and more than 700 anchors have been unearthed from the mud of the bay, the news outlet notes. Other findings include gold coins, weights from Athens (which have never before been found at an Egyptian site) and giant tablets inscribed in ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian. Researchers think that these artifacts point to the city’s prominence as a bustling trade hub.
Researchers have also uncovered a variety of religious artifacts in the sunken city, including 16-foot stone sculptures thought to have adorned the city’s central temple and limestone sarcophagi that are believed to have contained mummified animals. Giant 16 foot statues have been uncovered and brought to the surface while archaeologists have found hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods on the sea floor. Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian have also been brought to the surface. Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi were also recently uncovered by divers and are believed to have once contained mummified animals, put there to appease the gods.