From Legend to Reality
Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) is a city lost between legend and reality. Before the foundation of Alexandria in 331 BC, the city knew glorious times as the obligatory port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world. It had also a religious importance because of the temple of Amun, which played an important role in rites associated with dynasty continuity. The city was founded probably around the 8th century BC, underwent diverse natural catastrophes, and finally sunk entirely into the depths of the Mediterranean in the 8th century AD.
Prior to its discovery in 2000 by the IEASM, no trace of Thonis-Heracleion had been found. Its name was almost razed from the memory of mankind, only preserved in ancient classic texts and rare inscriptions found on land by archaeologists. The Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) tells us of a great temple that was built where the famous hero Herakles first set foot on to Egypt. He also reports of Helen’s visit to Heracleion with her lover Paris before the Trojan War. More than four centuries after Herodotus’ visit to Egypt, the geographer Strabo observed that the city of Heracleion, which possessed the temple of Herakles, is located straight to the east of Canopus at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the River Nile.
Franck Goddio and divers of his team are inspecting the statue of a pharaoh. The colossal statue is of red granite and measures over 5 metres. It was found close to the big temple of sunken Heracleion.
Head of a colossal statue of red granite (5.4 m) representing the god Hapi, which decorated the temple of Heracleion. The god of the flooding of the Nile, symbol of abundance and fertility, has never before been discovered at such a large scale, which points to his importance for the Canopic region.
Franck Goddio and his team with a colossal statue of red granite (5.4 m) representing the god Hapi, which decorated the temple of Heracleion. The god of the flooding of the Nile, symbol of abundance and fertility, has never before been discovered at such a large scale, which points to his importance for the Canopic region
On a barge the colossal triade of the temple of Heracleion has been raised together with the assembled fragments of a huge stele. The pharaoh, the queen and the god Hapi are represented in red granite. All about 5 meters high, dated to the 4th century B.C. The red granite stele (found in 17 pieces) is assembled. It dates from the 2nd century B.C
This gold object (11 x 5 cm) was found during the preliminary exploration of the southern sector of Heracleion. It is engraved with a Greek text of five and a half lines. It is an example of a plaque that act as a signature for foundation deposits in the name of the king, Ptolemy III (246–222 BC), responsible for building.
Bronze statue of Osiris, the assassinated and resurrected king-god. It is adorned with the atef crown. The typical insignia of power (crook and flail) are missing. Its open eyes are accentuated by fine gold sheets.
Franck Goddio with the intact and inscribed Heracleion stele (1.90 m). It was commissioned by Nectanebo I (378-362 BC) and is almost identical to the Naukratis Stele in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The place where it was to be situated is clearly named: Thonis-Heracleion.
One of the finest finds from the bay of Aboukir is a remarkable Graeco-Egyptian product of the Ptolemaic era – a statue of a Ptolemaic queen in dark stone. Found at the site of Heracleion, the statue is certainly one of the queens of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Most likely, a representation of Cleopatra II or Cleopatra III, dressed as goddess Isis.
Bronze statuette of pharaoh of the 26th dynasty, found at the temple of Amon area at Heracleion. The sovereign wears the “blue crown” (probably the crown of the accession). His dress is extremely simple and classical: the bare-chested king wears the traditional shendjyt kilt or loincloth