• Recently Discovered: The Roman Past in Deep Waters

By Knowledge Tribe


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“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” – Edmund Burke

In this day and age, the human growth is rapid. We are moving forward and surprisingly quickly at that, in every field. But, with that growth comes the wonder and the need in fact, to know what was left behind. Civilisations have come and gone, forming a solid base for the society to build upon. It is important for us to understand the past to grasp the present. For this very reason, wielding knowledge, many people go out in the hidden corners of the world, looking for traces of our past. Recent searches have given to us the secret chamber under the Great Pyramid of Giza and new weapons from the Vikings. All this adds to our large repertoire of knowledge that is helping us understand the past of our beloved blue planet.

Ruins of Mesa Verde (Image courtesy: Pixabay)

The nature of earth’s existence becomes clearer through such finds. One such find happens to be ruins of cities, many underwater. While, we have not yet found Atlantis… not yet, not yet, BUT we have made some progress!

Tunisian and Italian teams of archaeologists have found two submerged Roman cities.

In September 2017, a 50-acre expanse of submerged Roman ruins was discovered off the Tunisian coast. Named ‘Neapolis’ or ‘New City’, this was a city that was submerged underwater by a tsunami in 365 A.D., and is directly under Nabeul, an Arabian settlement in Tunisia. The settlement is about 1700 years and was swept underwater when a massive tsunami engulfed the Mediterranean, levelling the entire coast as well as the ancient city of Alexandria. A study was published in 2013 that estimated that an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter Scale wiped the city clean… ouch!

The search for the site was started in 2010, and the first sighting they had of the city was in the beautiful summer of 2017.

The search led to the discovery of streets, monuments as well as 100 tanks that were used to make ‘garum’; a fish-based sauce that was eaten in the ancient Roman Empire. The sauce and its traces were found too late though, alas, it had expired a few hundred years ago. The discovery of these tanks led to the establishment of the fact that Neapolis was a large-scale manufacturing city of garum as well as salt fish.

Archaeologists studying the ruins of Neapolis (Image courtesy: Ancient Origins)

About the City

The city dates to the 9th-5th century B.C. and is part of a large chunk of North African history due to its constant change of ruling factions. It was ruled by the Greeks in the beginning, followed by Carthaginians, then the Romans and finally the Arabs. There is very little available in terms of written record of the city itself, and whatever little we know, comes from the records of Ammien Marcellin, a Roman soldier and historian. The city was disputed during the Third Punic War between Carthage and the Roman Republic and was won over by the Romans, of course.

Another city was discovered around the same time as Neapolis. This was called ‘Baiae’ and it was found under the modern-day location of Gulf of Naples, Italy. It is known as the Las Vegas of the Roman Empire as the wealthy people are believed to have partied it up here. But, what was once a paradise of the rich, soon ascended 400 metres inland, and eventually underwater due to volcanic activities. Research underwater has shown how the rich had built large mansions for themselves. Several tiles floors and mosaic statues were discovered which are proof to the richness of the city.

Statues from Baiae (Image courtesy: Ancient Origins)

The divers found villas, temples and various statues that would have been part of people’s personal collections. It is said that the city hosted mineral water and great climate making it a favourable place to be in. The city had been frequented by the likes of Julius Caesar, Nero and Cicero. While the city was home to hedonistic pleasures of the empire, it soon faced its doom. By the 8th century it was raided by the Saracens and experienced complete desertion by 1500. After a while, the city drowned due to aforementioned reasons.

Intricate flooring at Baiae (Image courtesy: Ancient Origins)

#Did You Know

Ancient Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro wrote about the island, as a place of no boundaries and rules. Originally built as a port, it soon became a getaway for a lot of Roman elites. It so happened that its fame is what led to its invasion and doom. Well, you know what they say, what goes up, must come down! We often feel that we have found a lot and know a lot, but it is humbling to note that we have not even touched the tip of the iceberg, what with our planet being jusssssst the billions of years old. While we may know a little, the earth remains a perfect mystery to all of humankind.

 

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