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A map of Alexandria harbour, showing Antirhodos Island, where Cleopatra's Temple was located before 365AD.



After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, he founded Alexandria. For nearly a millennium, Alexandria was the Mediterranean’s bustling port, with Antirhodos Island inside the harbour. Then Alexandria was washed into the Mediterranean Sea in AD 365. Cleopatra may not have been interned in the Temple Palace, but the port of Thonis-Heracleion was also sunk by the same tsunami, along with other close by settlements.


Antirhodos (sometimes Antirrhodos or Anti Rhodes) was in the eastern harbor of Alexandria, Egypt, on which a Ptolemaic Egyptian palace was sited. The island was occupied until the reigns of Septimius Severus and Caracalla and it probably sank in the 4th century, when it succumbed to earthquakes and a tsunami following an earthquake in the eastern Mediterranean near Crete in the year 365. The site now lies underwater, near the seafront of modern Alexandria, at a depth of approximately five metres (16 ft).

Descriptions of the island were recorded in classical antiquity by Greek geographers and historians. Strabo described a royal house on Antirhodos in 27 BC and wrote that the island's name ("counter-Rhodes") derived from the island's rivalry with the island of Rhodes. Antirhodos was part of Alexandria's ancient royal port called the Portus Magnus, which also included parts of the Lochias peninsula in the East and the island of Pharos in the West. The Portus Magnus was abandoned and left as an open bay after an earthquake in the 8th century.










In 1996, underwater archaeology in the harbour of Alexandria conducted by Franck Goddio located the island and found that it was on the opposite side of the harbour from where it was placed by Strabo. The excavations showed that the island had been occupied from before the founding of Alexandria and that it was totally levelled and prepared for construction around 250BC.

The island was small (about 500 hectares or 1,200 acres) and fully paved, with three branches leading in different directions. The main branch was 300 metres (1,000 ft) long and had an esplanade facing the site of the Caesarium temple on the mainland seafront.

On the esplanade Goddio uncovered the remains of a relatively modest (90 metres by 30 metres) marble-floored 3rd century BC palace, believed to have been Cleopatra's royal quarters. On another narrow branch of the island there was a small Temple of Isis which had at its entrance a life-size granite statue representing a shaven-headed Egyptian priest of the goddess Isis carrying a jar topped with an image of Osiris. A pair of granite sphinxes flanked the statue, one of which had the head of Cleopatra's father.

Between the branches on the eastern side of the island there was a small port with docks. Here there was a series of 60 columns, each 1 metre in diameter and 7 metres in length, made of red Egyptian granite and topped with a decorated crown. Ancient paintings indicate that the columns acted as the ceremonial gateway to the island. The wreck of a 30-metre long 1st century BC or 1st century AD Roman ship has been identified in the vicinity of the port. Evidence from a hole in the ship's hull suggests that it could have sunk after being rammed by another boat.

The site of Mark Antony's uncompleted palace, the Timonium, has also been located on the island. Other finds include a colossal stone head thought to be of Cleopatra's son Caesarion, and a huge quartzite block with an engraving of a pharaoh and an inscription indicating that it depicts Seti I, father of Ramses II. Some of the pharaonic objects on the site had been brought from Heliopolis by the Ptolemaic rulers and re-used to construct their buildings. The remains on the island do not seem to date from later than the Ptolemaic period, suggesting the palace may have been abandoned soon after Cleopatra's death and the absorption of Egypt into the Roman Republic.


The abandonment also suggests that Cleopatra was not entombed in the palace, but elsewhere.






The search for Cleopatra's elusive tomb, has been at various locations along the Egyptian coast, including Taposiris Magna.



Perhaps most significant, he has found that much of ancient Alexandria sank beneath the waves and remains remarkably intact. Using sophisticated sonar instruments and global positioning equipment, and working with scuba divers, Goddio has discerned the outline of the old port’s shoreline. 





On August 21, in A.D. 365, the sea suddenly drained out of the harbor, ships keeled over, fish flopped in the sand. Townspeople wandered into the weirdly emptied space. Then, a massive tsunami surged into the city, flinging water and ships over the tops of Alexandria’s houses, according to a contemporaneous description by Ammianus Marcellinus based on eyewitness accounts. That disaster, which may have killed 50,000 people in Alexandria alone, ushered in a two-century period of seismic activity and rising sea levels that radically altered the Egyptian coastline.













Map of the Mediterranean where umpteen cities have been lost to the sea, including Alexandria



The Mediterranean Sea is awash with sunken treasures. When Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 BC, his companion, Ptolemy I, laid claim to Egypt as his domain. He founded a dynasty that was to rule for three hundred years from Alexandria. Ptolemy II made Alexandria the center of culture and founded the Alexandria Library and Museo, the first research center and “think tank.” The Pharos Lighthouse was built, and it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its beam of light could be seen for thirty miles.





Queen Cleopatra's royal barge, last of the Pharoahs      Egyptian royal barge, sails and oars for propulsion      Ancient Egyptian royal funeral barge, or solar boat      Pharoah Khufu's royal barge, solar boat for the afterlife



Cleopatra's royal barge on the Nile, last of the Pharaoh Queens - Khufu's royal barge - solar boat for the afterlife









The ocean has swallowed umpteen civilizations, just in the past 10,000 years. We may never discover other lost towns and cities, such as to understand our past, or even explore those we know of, unless the secrets of the ocean are shared.


Ocean awareness, or literacy is not presently high on academic agendas. It is a shocking statistic that we know more about Outer Space, than we do our underwater kingdom. Televised documentary programmes have done a great deal to make life under the waves more popular, highlighting the marine litter problem that is of major concern to oceanographers and biologists. With plastic now seen in the remotest corners of the globe and deepest trenches of the ocean.





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