Home History Sunken city of Heracleion: the lost city of Egypt that sank under water

Sunken city of Heracleion: the lost city of Egypt that sank under water

The lost city of Thonis-Heracleion Found Submerged

by Moiz Ali
The lost city of

The sunken city of Heracleion was one of the largest and most prosperous ports in the entire world. It was also known as Thonis or Thiou. Its original location was along the Nile River between present-day Alexandria and Cairo. In 2001, French researcher Dr. Franck Goddio discovered a sunken city in Egypt. Thousands of years ago, this ancient city was destroyed by a tsunami during an earthquake. Then it sunk into the Mediterranean Sea.

Thanks to Dr. Goddio’s research, archaeologists could study this once-great sunken city in Egypt. The lost city of Heracleion is one of the best-known examples of a submerged city from this period. Its ruins are so well preserved and accessible to visitors. 

With its labyrinthine canals and crumbling monuments, 

today Thonis-Heracleion is an eerily beautiful place that combines elements from Greek and Egyptian cultures. These fascinating facts about the submerged city of  Thonis-Heracleion will give you an insight into what life would have been like for the inhabitants of this once-great city.

Thonis-Heracleion – prosperous and highly cultured city

sunken city of Heracleion

One of the most impressive facts about Thonis-Heracleion is that it was once a very cultured city. Archaeological research indicates that

it may have been a significant center of trade and commerce. Thonis-Heracleion was most likely a very attractive place to live during its heyday. Many of the city’s inhabitants were part of the merchant class. The city was also home to a large population of Greek settlers. Many inhabitants of this community were likely literate. The fact that many of the artifacts found in Thonis-Heracleion are written in Greek suggests that it may also have been home to a thriving culture.

Theories behind lost Egyptian city

One of the most popular theories about how Thonis-Heracleion was submerged is the rising sea levels. It caused the city to sink below the surface of the water gradually. Although there is no way to be certain, it seems highly likely that this was the cause. 

Another popular theory is that the city was attacked by invading forces and submerged due to these activities. 

There is evidence that the city was occupied in the 12th century BC. It was a time when the Egyptian New Kingdom was experiencing political instability. It is also possible that Thonis-Heracleion was attacked as part of a wider conflict between the Egyptians and the Hittites.

The ruins of Thonis-Heracleion – Reason

The ruins of Thonis-Heracleion were first discovered in the 19th century. Unfortunately, the site was abandoned, and the location of the ruins was forgotten. The ruins were rediscovered in the 1980s. These are now underneath the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The waters around Thonis-Heracleion have risen and fallen many times over the millennia. It means that the site has been submerged and re-emerged many times. Unsurprisingly, diving at the site is extremely challenging. Divers must follow strict protocols when exploring the submerged ruins. The waters around Thonis-Heracleion are also very deep, and divers must work in arduous conditions. 

Besides, some of the most interesting discoveries relating to this Egyptian lost city have been made underwater. This is because the sea acts as a great preservative.

The Greeks believe in the sunken city of Heracleion 

Many people know Alexandria was once known as ‘the city of the Pharaohs. Most people are unaware that,

the Greeks believed that Thonis-Heracleion was founded by the Greek hero Herakles. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons why many researchers believe the city was home to a large Greek population. Greek inscriptions and artifacts discovered in Thonis-Heracleion suggest that many Greek settlers lived among the native Egyptians. Some even became members of the ruling elite. Likely, the native Egyptians and the Greek settlers co-existed peacefully. The Greeks may have even married into Egyptian society.

Discovery of ancient Egyptian artifacts – including two mummies

Many ancient Egyptian artifacts have been found in Thonis-Heracleion. Indeed, it is likely that the site was once an important place of worship for the native Egyptians. There are also many Greek artifacts at the site, suggesting that Thonis-Heracleion was an important center of Greek culture and commerce. 

Indeed, the city may even have been a Greek colony. It is also likely that many goods from as far as India were shipped through Thonis-Heracleion. The city had a large fleet of ships, and a great deal of trade was conducted through the port at Thonis-Heracleion. The Egyptian Mummies discovered at Thonis-Heracleion are believed to be the remains of priests. They were buried at the temple during the Ptolemaic period. Other artifacts found at the site include:

  • a sculpture of the god Harpocrates
  • fragments of Ptolemaic statues
  • coins bearing images of the goddess Isis.


The sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion is eerily beautiful and extremely fascinating. The site offers an interesting insight into what life would have been like for the inhabitants of this once-great city. Indeed, the ruins are well preserved. Archaeologists have been able to piece together what the city would have looked like in its heyday. 

Sadly, many other ancient Egyptian cities have been destroyed or lost completely. However, Thonis-Heracleion is one of the best-known examples of a submerged city from this period. Because its ruins are so well preserved and accessible to visitors.

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