From Fable To Fact: Heracleion
By Stephanie Kelly
Not far from Alexandria, in the modern day Aboukir Bay, was the location of a city written into history. Heracleion, also referred to as Thonis, was described as a glorious port of entry to Egypt for all of the Greek world. It was believed, thanks to the writings of Herodotus in the 5th century BC, that Thonis-Heracleion was
a magnificent city and housed a Temple of Amun. Another record of Heracleion was done around the 1st century BC by a geographer named Strabo. Strabo stated that the city of Heracleion was located straight
east of Canopus off of the River Nile. The belief developed from the historical writings and appear to state
that Thonis-Heracleion would of been founded in the 8th century BC as a religious, cultural and trading hub
until it’s demise in the 8th century AD.
Herodotus was a well known, and well respected, Greek Historian whose writing held a certain unquestioned value in his time earning him the title of the Father of History. Herodotus wrote, in The Histories, of a
marvelous great temple that was built at Heracleion to mark the spot where the famous hero Herakles first placed his foot on Egyptian soil. Also in this book he notes that Helen, of Troy, visited Heracleion with Paris
not long before the start of the Trojan War. I must add that many historical records in The Histories have also been disproven either by research, science or discovery.
With the two mentioned sources and only a few inscriptions found concerning Thonis-Heracleion, many scientists began to put it in the same classification as Atlantis, a fable. At the exact time that most historians and scientists had written off this mysterious city, in steps Franck Goddio. Mr. Goddio was a well known treasure hunting historian who was set on finding ancient ship wreckage and battleships from the 18th
century. He had many reason to believe that there were many ships lost to the sea in the Aboukir Bay. In
2000, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, agreed that his search of the Aboukir Bay could find
some of the lost vessels and treasures, thus granting him access in cooperation with the Council. Little did ESCA or Goddio know that they were about to discover the truth behind Thonis-Heracleion.
After just a few days of mapping the area and setting out grids for exploration, the teams noticed something very strange. It appeared to be a large, man-made, structure. Around 6.5 kilometers off the coast, this group
of historians found what appeared to be a temple. After marking the building on their maps, planning their dive
and procedures, drivers left the ship in an attempt to identify this mysterious creation.
One can only imagine the excitement, surprise and shock these men felt when they found markings and artifacts that indicted this was the Temple of Amun and Khonsou, Khonsou is Herakles in Greek. Almost immediately the hunt for lost vessels became the excavation and recovery of artifacts from the temple.
Things such as jewelry, coins, ceramics, and statues were all located rather quickly. It was as if this temple was frozen in time at the bottom of the sea.
It didn’t take much time for the researchers, historians, scientists and divers to understand what they had
just found. One inscription said Thonis another inscription said Heracleion. Thonis-Heracleion was not a
fable after all, it was, in fact, a truly eloquent city lost in time to the depths of the Bay it was built to protect.
Not only was the temple mentioned by Herodotus found but docks with Egyptian style anchors were also found. Goddio did manage to find what he was searching for though, over 60 wrecked ships in the Bay
though they dated back from the 6th to 2nd century BC!
This is another Ancient Mystery that is just starting to come to light. What caused this city to disappear?
Could this city of caused many of the unexplained experiences that had been reported over that last few centuries in and around the bay? Where does this take the research into other cities that were thought to be fables or mythological stories?