We may never find the underwater grave of Atlantis, the golden streets of El Dorado, or the peaceful mountains of Shangri-La. By all rights, these places probably never really existed. They were just flights of our imaginations, thoughts of what wonders the world could hold.
But there are real places that are every bit as incredible as our fantasies. There are cities that, like Atlantis, were wiped clean off the face of the Earth. For hundreds of years, they lived on as nothing but stories, often ones that were so incredible that people doubted they ever really existed.
But these lost cities have been found. They weren’t just myths—they were actually out there, just waiting for us to uncover them. And if they’re real, it might just mean that there are no legends too spectacular to be true.
1. Helike: The Real-Life Atlantis
Atlantis wasn’t the only mythical Greek city that sank under the water. The city of Helike met the same fate, and it shares every bit of Atlantis’s mythic power.
According to Greek myths, Helike was destroyed by the wrath of the god Poseidon. The city’s residents had driven the Ionian tribe, who were loyal worshipers of the god of the sea, out of Helike. In his fury, Poseidon pulled the whole city under the water in a single night
Helike was destroyed in 373 BC, and for centuries, it was thought to be nothing more than parable—until it was found. In the late 1980s, two archaeologists started a quest to track it down. It took them more than a decade of work, but they found it. Over the centuries, Helike had been buried under the Earth. A mythic city was underneath their very feet.
The disaster that destroyed it, the team discovered, wasn’t exactly an act of Poseidon, but it would have felt like one. An earthquake liquefied the ground, turning the earth beneath the hapless Greeks’ feet into water as their whole city collapsed into an inland lagoon formed by the devastating tremor.