20 Miles North-east of Alexandria lied the remains of a once prosperous city called Heracleion, until very recently. Named after the Greek god Heracles, or Hercules, the city was full of perfectly preserved antiquities, including statues of the Egyptian god Hapi, goddess Isis, an unknown Pharaoh, together with hundreds of other smaller statues of Egyptian gods, gold coins, charms, and amulets, among others. The amulets show a couple of gods including Isis, Osiris and Horus.
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The captivating story of Hercules was probably the reason why it was named after him. Legend has it that Hercules’ 12 labors killed Hydra and captured Cerberus that guarded the gates to the underworld.
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Close to 1500 years ago this city was swallowed up by the Mediterranean Ocean. It’s beautiful architecture and sculptures seem to have been preserved by the mud and the sand under the ocean. Archaeologists have discovered this once beautiful and vibrant city, and are unearthing the artifacts from deep down the ocean one by one.
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This mysterious city was thought to be a folklore, until its discovery. Tales of how rich the port city was and how the most beautiful woman in the world at the time, Helen of Troy and her lover Paris visited the city now have a high likelihood of being true. From the archaeologists’ stand-point, the city was the most important port in Egypt, and it was the link between it, Greece, and other parts of the Mediterranean. In fact, the city was mentioned by 5th Century BC historian Herodotus who recounts Helen of Troy setting to sail 1000 ships to this city of ‘great wealth’.
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French marine archaeologist Frank Godio is the one behind this discovery. He stumbled upon it when he was out in search of Napoleon’s war ships that were said to have sunk in the same waters in 1798. So far, with the help of the Oxford Center for Maritime Archaeology together with Egypt’s Department of Antiquities, 64 ships and 700 anchors have been discovered around the region, showing just how important the port was. From archaeological findings, the city seems to have had a religious importance too.
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Heracleion probably had its prosperity due to the naturally navigable channel. Another artificial one seems to have been dug to accelerate trade activities. The city contains mummified remains of animals sacrificed to the Egyptian supreme god Amun-Gereb. There is a possibility that much more will be revealed in due time.
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The hieroglyphic engravings on the pillars will reveal to the world the political, social, economic and religious life of the city, with the help of the Rosetta stone whose inscriptions cracked the hieroglyphic code. Until then, the world will be waiting with bated breath.