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Temple of Greek Goddess Aphrodite Found Underwater at Heracleion, Egypt

Temple of Aphrodite discovered off Heracleion, Egypt
Undersea explorer Franck Goddio discovered a statue hidden for more than 1200 years in the sunken city of Heracleion, near Alexandria, Egypt. Credit: Facebook/Contemporary Explorations in Mythology LLC

A temple of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and another for the Egyptian god Amun was found off Heracleion on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast by a team of archaeologists.

The team of researchers explored the ancient port city of Thonis-Heracleion in the Bay of Aboukir, discovering the remnants of the temples in the city’s southern canal.

The sunken city was originally found in 2000, but researchers are still finding many of the lost treasures.

Aphrodite’s temple off Heracleion

The temple dedicated to the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite was identified by a number of bronze and ceramic idols found.

This find is thought to have been particularly significant as it “illustrates that Greeks who were allowed to trade and settle in the city during the time of the Pharaohs of the Saïte dynasty (664 – 525 BC) had their sanctuaries to their own gods,” the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) institute said.

A number of weapons belonging to Greek mercenaries were also found. “They were defending the access to the Kingdom at the mouth of the Canopic Branch of the Nile. This branch was the largest and the best navigable one in antiquity,” IEASM explained.

A second temple, dedicated to the Egyptian god of air, Amun, was believed to have collapsed “during a cataclysmic event dated to the mid-second century BC,” IEASM said.

“Rising sea levels and earthquakes followed by tidal waves triggering land liquefaction events, caused a 110 square kilometer portion of the Nile delta to totally disappear under the sea, taking with it the city of Thonis-Heracleion.”

“The ancient temple was once the site where pharaohs went to receive the titles of their power as universal kings from the supreme god of the ancient Egyptian pantheon,” IEASM explained.

“Precious objects belonging to the temple treasury have been unearthed, such as silver ritual instruments, gold jewelry and fragile alabaster containers for perfumes or unguents,” IEASM said. “They bear witness to the wealth of this sanctuary and the piety of the former inhabitants of the port city.”

The underwater city of Heracleion, and its Links to Ancient Greece

The lost city of Heracleion, which was once the largest port in Egypt, was discovered underwater after more than 2,000 years in the year 2000. Its legendary beginnings go back to as early as the 12th century BC, and it has many links to Ancient Greece.

Flourishing as long ago as the waning days of the Pharaohs, the city was destroyed over time, as it was weakened by a combination of earthquakes, tsunamis, and rising sea levels, according to archaeologists.

At the end of the 2nd century BC, most likely after a severe flood, the monumental buildings of Heracleion collapsed into the water. Some of its inhabitants stayed in what was left of the city during the Roman era and the beginning of Arab rule, but by the end of the eighth century AD, the rest of Heracleion had sunk beneath the Mediterranean.

Now, many of its incalculable treasures have been brought up from the watery depths to which they were banished and have been shown around the world, allowing us to get a glimpse into the Ancient Greek and Egyptian world.

Heracleion, better known by its original and Egyptian name Thonis, and sometimes called Thonis-Heracleion, was an ancient Egyptian port city located 32 km (20 miles) northeast of Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea.

Before Alexandria was even a glimmer in Alexander the Great’s eye, Heracleion enjoyed its glory days as it served as the main port of entry into Egypt for the many ships arriving from all over the Greek world.

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