The Realm of Poseidon: Submerged Cities

Could there be historic ruins under these waves?

Ancient geographers, writers and local legend often whisper of powerful earthquakes, tsunamis and submerged cities. For example, the submerged ancient city of Helike (pronounced e’lici) which was once believed to be myth.

In 373 BCE a temple and sanctuary of Helikonian Poseidon was extremely popular throughout the ancient world, and second only in religious importance to Apollo’s Delphi. According to ancient accounts five days before the submerging “all animals and vermin fled the city” followed by “immense columns of flames”. On a single winters night the entire city and ten Spartan ships were dragged beneath the waves, covered by sea, leaving not an inhabitant alive. Only fragments projecting out of the sea were left.

This event caused a shock wave throughout the ancient world. A massive rescue attempt of 2000 men  to recover  bodies was unsuccessful.

Over a hundred years later, ancient philosopher Eratosthenes visited the site and observed a submerged statue of Poseidon, “holding in one hand a hippocamp “, where it posed a threat to those who fished with nets. In 174 CE the traveler Pausanias reported that the submerged ruins could still be seen under the water, “but not so plainly now as they were once, because they are corroded by the salt water“.

Over the centuries, Roman tourists sailed over the site, admiring the city’s statuary.

Eventually the site silted over and was lost to myth. But slowly the delta became dry land again due to silt and a local tectonic uplift. It wasn’t until 2001 when archaeologist rediscovered this lost city on the Corinthian Gulf, buried in an ancient lagoon.

But discovery moves in curious ways as archaeologist were in for a surprise when they discovered an even older town, dated 2000 years before Helike; destroyed by the same fate. Helike has been described by many as the “time capsule of antiquity” and many archeological discovers continue to be unearthed.

Numerous excavations are carried out in the Helike delta each summer. More detailed information about the discovery and ongoing excavations can be found at the following links: and

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