“Myth is an attempt to narrate the whole human experience”

Hi again! So the other night I refused to study for exams anymore and ran out of friends with whom to play Super Smash Brothers (Melee!), so I somehow ended up on Science Daily going through their awesome articles, then transitioned to Wikipedia, learned something new, and thought I would share.

Being the rabid fan of Indiana Jones that I am, and archaeology and mythology in general, I have always loved learning about the more abstract bits of history.  The really cool stuff that was potentially the result of aliens (not the stuff I am learning in my Classical Archaeology class right now that involves the statistical analysis of Pompeian housing structures and whatnot).  And I’ve always been a sucker for the borderline impossible things like Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster (Nessie exists, I know it!), Crystal Skulls, and Atlantis.  And while Atlantis is in all likelihood nothing more than a bedtime story made up by Plato and never taken seriously until semi-modern-day archaeologists decided to start looking for it, there may be a scientific basis for a lost city underwater.  And it just so happens that Helike, Greece may be this inspiration.

Helike was a thriving Greek city, one of the largest in Achaea, and an important port city in Ancient Greece.  That is, until it completely disappeared, literally overnight, during 373 BCE.  Like the city of Atlantis, it was swallowed by an earthquake that caused a massive tsunami to flood the city and wipe it from the face of the earth.  And like Atlantis, it was thought to be a myth of ancient lore – that is, until Helike was discovered in 2001 by archaeologists.

The myth is that Helike was punished for its disobedience by the wrathful Poseidon.  Poseidon was the patron god of the city and he was angry that they potentially dishonored Ionian (Greek) colonists of Asia.  Ironically he is the same patron deity as Atlantis’ and, perhaps more ironically, he is the god of earthquakes and of the sea.

What I found most interesting about this story is that the city wasn’t lost right away, and there  are reports of people sailing to the city to look for survivors, and later to try to salvage statues and stone.  It also became a sort of tourist hot spot for ancient Greek and Roman travelers.  Strabo and Ovid, among others, were known to have sailed over the city, whose deteriorating walls and statues could be seen through the waters above.

Due to the similarities between the events at Helike and the story of Atlantis, historians have proposed that this city may have been some of the inspiration for Plato’s references to the lost city of Atlantis.  Slowly, as silt built up and began to cover the city, it was lost to memory until it was rediscovered by the research efforts of Dora Katsonopoulou and her research team.  They have painstakingly uncovered remnants of the city walls during the dry season (hence why in the picture above there isn’t actually any water visible) and every summer continue to make advancements in their research.

So there you have it, all you Atlantis-believers out there.  Don’t give up hope, Helike-believers were victorious in the end and you may be too!  (But probably not, so accept that Atlantis most likely didn’t exist)

What’s coming soon:

Whoa, this is kinda weird right?  Curious yet?