These Four Natural Disasters Wiped Out Entire Cities and Civilizations

Helike ruins
Helike ruins

2. The Tsunami That Sunk Helike

Any history buff can recall some of the major Greek city-states, such as Athens and Sparta. One city that is rarely mentioned among the majors is Helike, a once bustling city that was wiped out by a tsunami in the winter of 373 B.C. Once, the city was the seat of the Achaean League, a collection of Greek city-states in northern Greece, and seemed destined for a great and influential future. Nature, or perhaps Poseidon himself, said otherwise.

In fact, Homer even recalls the city in his epics, stating that the city fought in the Trojan war. The soldiers from Helike apparently fought on the side of the Greeks and opposed Troy. Whether or not this epic battle of ancient history is more myth than truth, Helike was important enough to share some of the spotlight.

Reports indicate that in the days leading up to the catastrophe, animals began to flee the area, heading away from the city and the ocean. Reports also indicate that people witnessed immense columns of flame and smoke.

Then, one night the city simply disappeared and all of its citizens were wiped out. At the time, 10 Spartan ships were anchored in the nearby bay, and were also lost. Efforts to recover bodies were largely unsuccessful. The tragedy was contributed to Poseidon, and the fact that the citizens of Helike were unwilling to give their statue, or even a model of their statue to Ionian colonists.

After the tragedy, the former city-state became a sort of tourist attraction for ancient Greeks and visitors from far away lands. With the city completely submerged by water, people would sail over it and marvel at the statues and remains of buildings. It is believed that the city-state may have even been the inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.

After some time the city was buried over by silt and became lost. In 2001, it was rediscovered.