Underwater Heritage in Alexandria: The Lost Palace of Cleopatra.
Queen Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII Philopator) was the last ruler of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty and the last Queen of Egypt. Cleopatra was a mighty Egyptian Pharaoh; equally famous for her rule as for her beauty and love affairs with the Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Ascending to the throne at the age of 18, Cleopatra ruled Egypt from 51 BC – 30 BC before her tragic suicide. This coincided with the death of her lover Mark Antony and the loss Egypt’s independence as the country became another province of the Roman Empire. The City of Alexandria was Cleopatra’s capital of Egypt (founded in 332BC by Alexander the Great) and the home of her palace. An ancient Egyptian palace was built to symbolise the ruler’s power and so it would’ve been truly incredible- a spectacular building complex consisting of grand and highly decorated pillars and statues. Sadly, it was believed that some of Cleopatra’s city, palace and Alexandria’s lighthouse (a lost wonder of the world) were lost for ever, destroyed by an earthquake and tidal waves.
However, in the 1990’s a French archeologist, Franck Goddio, discAlexandriaovered the ancient writings of a Greek historian named Strabo. Strabo described the great city of Alexandria and an island just of its shore called Antirhodos, an island which was home to Queen Cleopatra’s palace. Frank Goddio was now determined to find this lost palace.
After 10 years of planning Giddio’s team began to explore the lost, sunken island of Antirhodos. The team was guided only by the ancient historians descriptions but they began to find clues. First, they found a wreck of an ancient 30m long cargo ship containing jewelry, hairpins, rings and glass cups. Then they found the remains of an ancient dock with a series of giant, 7m high and 4ft in diameter, columns made out of Egyptian red granite and decorated with ancient paintings-one magnificent entrance!
In 1998 Goddio finally found the remains of the ancient city and Cleopatra’s spectacular palace.
Within this palace complex the team then discovered incredible intact artefacts, coins, pottery, vases, basins, statues, columns, marble floors and all manner of other beauties that had not been seen for nearly 2000 years. So far, 20,000 ancient objects have been discovered. One of the most impressive finds brought to the surface was 1 of 2 large granite Sphinx’s guarding the entrance of a small, unexpected temple within the grand palace complex. This Sphinx’s has actually been identified to represent Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII Autletes. Other exciting finds include a very grand statue of the Egyptian god Isis and a gigantic stone head believed to be of Caesarion, the son of Cleopatra and her lover Julius Caesar. Goddio’s team also managed to find the wooden foundation of Cleopatra’s palace, carbon dating it to approximately 200 years before her birth. Thus, it is believed Cleopatra actually inherited the palace.
Why was Cleopatra’s palace submerged?
Scientists believe a few centuries after Cleopatra’s reign (1400 years ago) there was a terrible earthquake and a huge tsunami in Egypt, which hit the coast of Alexandria. It is this natural disaster, they believe, which resulted in the island of Antirhodos sinking with the, once great, royal harbor, palace and lighthouse.
Today you can actually dive down to see the ancient Island of Antirohodos Island what’s left of Cleopatra’s sunken palace under the sea of Alexandria.
Some of the contents of this page are sourced from go UNESCO