Our world has a great many lost cities wrapped in legend and mystery. It is believed that they were once been teeming with life and activity, but were lost because of war, migration or natural disasters. Many of those ancient cities have since been found. Many more of them remain only in legends.
National Geographic has compiled a list of ten of the most legendary lost cities that continue to attract the interest of historians, archaeologists and adventurers to this day:
Hidden among deserts and mountains, Petra – a city carved in rock, bearing sings of Assyrian, Egyptian and even Roman architecture is one of Jordan’s most valued treasures. This city is the heritage left from Nabataeans – brave warriors and incredibly talented lapidarists who lived in the south of Jordan more than two thousand years ago.
Throughout the years archaeologists have found castles, temples, tombs, an antique amphitheatre and many other structures. The western world had no idea of the existence of Petra up until 1812. It was first discovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Researchers say the city was at its peak approximately 500 years ago, when it was an important hub for silk and spice trade.
The legendary city of Atlantis was first mentioned by Plato in his ‘Dialogues’. He described it as a modern civilization with a powerful fleet, which apparently conquered most of Europe. Some say Atlantis was originally located in the Atlantic Ocean not far from Gibraltar. Atlantis apparently sunk to the bottom of the ocean as a result of a natural disaster after a failed attempt to conquer Athens.
Although Plato’s story about Atlantis is often explained with the author’s fantasy, the civilization he described has been a source of inspiration for many writers throughout human history.
City of the Caesars
The City of Caesars is a mythical place in South America. It is often called the City of Patagonia or the Wandering City. It is believed this city was located in Patagonia, in a valley of the Andes between Chile and Argentina. Although this city was actively sought during the colonization of South America, no evidence was found to suggest such a place had ever existed.
Legends say the City of Caesars was thriving and rich; that there was a lot of gold, silver and diamonds. One legend says the city was located in the Andes between two mountains – one was made of gold and the other was made of diamonds.
For a long time, this city, which was located in Turkey, was considered a city that only existed in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. However, this city was finally unearthed by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 19th century. He determined that remains of the city are composed of nine archaeological layers, the oldest of which dates back to 3000 B.C.
The Golden City is one of the most legendary cities. It was allegedly located in the El Dorado Empire in the jungles of South America. The city was ruled by a powerful ruler and it was apparently rich with gold and precious stones. The Spanish Conquistadores tried to find this city in the 16th century.
Memphis, which, according to legend, was founded by Pharaoh Menes in 3100 B.C., was the capital of ancient Egypt and its administrative centre for hundreds of years. Its ruins are found some 20 km away from modern-day Cairo. During its golden age, Memphis was a significant economic, political, religious and cultural centre. The fall of Memphis possibly occurred as a result of rapid decline of economic influence, which came as a result of the rise of Alexandria in the Hellenistic Age.
Angora region in Cambodia was the largest pre-industrial era city with a well-developed infrastructure. Angora was the cradle of the Khmer Empire. Its golden age took place approximately in the period between the 9th century and the 13th century. The Angkor temple is the largest religious temple in the world. 1431 marked the beginning of the city’s decline, because invaders had driven out the local ruler and thereby cause a massive migration of local residents.
The White City
Ever since the conquering of America in the 16th century, there have been countless legends about an ancient city hidden deep in the jungles of Central America, in the east of Honduras. This city, sometimes referred to as White or the Monkey God’s Lost City, was considered nothing short of a myth.
It was found only recently.
An expedition of American and Honduras scientists departed to La Moskitia region in Honduras in March 2015. Thanks to LIDAR technology, which measures an object’s height using a laser beam generated by an aircraft, it was possible to locate ruins of man-made structures. Researchers concluded those were the remains of the ancient lost city. A pyramid and a collection of stone sculptures, which could have been part of ancient burial rituals were found there. Scientists believe structures found there could be 3000-3400 years old.
The Roman city of Pompeii, which was located some place close to where modern-day Naples is located, was completely wiped out in an eruption of the Vesuvius Volcano on 24 August, 79 AD. The city was unearthed by pure accident in 1599. Archaeologists discovered the city remained the same as it was before the eruption of the volcano. Streets and houses complete with furniture, people and animals who failed to escape their fate were found under metres of ash.
The ancient city of Machu Picchu was a sacred Inca site located in an isolated place, high in the mountains of Peru, near Urumba Valley. Residents left it after South America was conquered by the Spanish. Conquistadores never found it, however. No one knew of its existence until it was found by historian Hiram Bingham. It was initially believed that Machu Picchu was a prison complex, but recent research proves it was property of Inca emperor Pachacuti.