Greece's Most Incredible Underwater Ancient Cities and Temples
In 2015, archaeologists discovered an Ancient Greek city beneath the Aegean Sea. Estimated to be around 4,500 years old – the 12-acre Bronze Age settlement includes three horseshoe-shaped foundations on the wall line, which Julien Beck of the University of Geneva speculates are part of watchtowers that were used to defend the city. Beck adds that this was the first time archaeologists found these types of defensive structures from this prehistoric Greek era.
"The importance of our discovery is partly due to the large size. There must have been a brick superstructure above a stone foundation. The chances of finding such walls under water are extremely low. The full size of the facility is not yet known." They also found paved city streets, structures of different shapes and sizes, as well as pottery, blades, and stone tools characteristic of the third millennium BC. This was, of course, not the first time for archaeologists to find a submerged Ancient Greek settlement. From the 5,000-year-old city of Pavlopetri to the 2,000-year-old Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Greek peninsula has more than its fair share of sunken structures and settlements.
Perhaps the most notable of these discoveries is the classical Greek city of Helike – known in certain archaeological circles as “the real Atlantis.” What’s truly interesting and tragic about Helike is how it was destroyed overnight by a massive earthquake followed by a tidal wave in 373 BC – at a time when ancient Greece was reaching the peak of its civilization. This was what fuelled the myths about Helike being sunken by Poseidon, the Olympic god of the sea.
The BBC recalls how the unearthing of Helike can be traced back to 1988, thanks to a hunch by archaeologist Dora Katsonopoulou. Before the discovery, Helike was considered by many to be a myth. Apart from its attachment to Poseidon’s mythic wrath, this was due to the fact that ancient references to the city often contradicted each other, and even when the texts pointed to the Gulf of Corinth for the city’s location, nothing was found in that area. After reassessing the ancient texts, Katsonopoulou figured out that the city might not be under the sea, but under sea level, as the texts refer to Helike sinking into a poros, which could be an inland lagoon.
Recalling how Helike was destroyed, it made sense for an earthquake in the area to be big enough to liquefy the ground and sink an ancient inland city – followed by a tsunami that then filled the resulting sinkhole to form a lagoon. And over the years, this lagoon would have silted up, hiding the remnants of whatever was beneath. As it turns out, Katsonopoulou’s hunch was right. In 2001, her team finally unearthed a classical Greek city in the estimated location based on the lagoon theory – just a couple kilometres from the Gulf of Corinth.
The slow excavation of Helike continues to this day, proof that the city is no myth – and as some argue, proof of Poseidon’s wrath. Apart from being representative of the former glory of Ancient Greece, the confirmation of Helike’s existence also continues to fuel the relevance of the ancient Greek god of the sea, whose mythic presence and wrath is still represented today in modern culture. He has been reference in everything from movies to comics, and more recently in modern games of different genres. The imagery found in the Lord of the Ocean online slot by Novomatic is directly inspired by the legendary Greek god, complete with visual references to the city of Atlantis and Poseidon's signature trident.
Meanwhile, in the acclaimed God of War video game series, Poseidon is the first god that the protagonist encounters, as well as the first boss battle in the third instalment of the game. Whether or not Poseidon did or does exist, there are enough sunken cities in and around the Greek peninsula to solidify his myth well into modern times. And as more of these ancient cities, temples, structures, and settlements are unearthed by archaeologists, both the Greek god of the sea and the ancient lost city of Atlantis will likely become more relevant in the modern zeitgeist.
CREDIT: By Spiridon Ion Cepleanu - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
CREDIT: By Drekis - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Our Mobile Application
Check out Our Mobile Application "Ancient Greece Reloaded"