The Amazing Sunken Cities Of The Ancient World

Published August 2, 2011
Updated January 22, 2024

Forget Atlantis. These real sunken cities of the ancient world that every bit as incredible as the legend.

Neptune Reef

Wikimedia CommonsThe gates to the Neptune Memorial Reef, off the coast Key Biscayne, Florida.

We may never find Atlantis, but the real world is full of sunken cities every bit as incredible as the Greek myths.

They’re in every corner of the world; great, ancient cities that have been pulled under the water through earthquakes and storms. The palaces of great emperors and queens, the great cities of the ancient world, and even a lost city of pirates have sunken to the bottom of the sea.

Cleopatra’s Kingdom, Alexandria, Egypt

Cleopatra's Sunken Palace

ImgurSphinxes and statues from Cleopatra’s sunken palace.

Lost for 1600 years, the royal palace of Cleopatra was discovered off the shores of Alexandria. A team of marine archaeologists, led by Frenchman Franck Goddio, began excavating the sunken city in 1998.

When the last Queen of Egypt was alive, she’d kept a great palace on the island of Antirhodos. The whole island was a land of luxury. Any sailor who docked on its shores would be greeted by a great column of pillars, each adorned with a crown, leading their way to queen’s palace.

It was a massive, beautiful palace, surrounded by sphinxes and statues of goddesses; a pleasure island so beautiful that it was said to rival Rhodes, the greatest of the Greek islands.

Cleopatra's Palace

ImgurSphinxes and statues from Cleopatra’s sunken palace.

But 400 years after she died, Cleopatra’s palace was racked by earthquakes and tsunamis that submerged the whole island under the sea. And there, buried underwater, it lay hidden for 1600 years.

When it was finally uncovered just 20 years ago, some of the most incredible artifacts were still intact. The marine archaeologists found the red granite columns that welcomed new visitors, great statues and art, and even the foundation of Cleopatra’s lost palace.

Lost Cities Of The Ancient World

ImgurA broken statue in one of the great sunken cities.

Today, much of that has pulled out of the sunken city. 20,000 relics of the past have been pulled out of the sunken city and sent off the museums of the world.

But the Egyptian government plans to bring the sunken city back to life. They plan on creating an underwater museum and holding tours of what was one Cleopatra’s palace, letting any one of us tour a real-life Atlantis, still submerged under the sea.

Sunken Cities Of The Ancient World Cleopatra's Palace

ImgurA sphinx from what was one Cleopatra’s palace.

Among the discoveries were the foundations of the palace, shipwrecks, red granite columns, and statues of the goddess Isis and a sphinx. The Egyptian Government plans to create an underwater museum and hold tours of the fantastic site of the ancient sunken city.

Exploring the ancient ruins of Cleopatra’s sunken city.
Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.