Lost Cities Of Antiquity I Oxford Open Learning


    Lost Cities Of Antiquity

    From Atlantis To Pompeii

    The legend or true history of a Lost City is something that has captivated the human imagination since time immemorial. Remnants of ancient civilisations, shrouded in mystery, they evoke a sense of mysticism and curiosity, and keep us fascinated still thousands of years later.


    Plato’s Allegory and the Hubris of Nations

    Atlantis, a fictional island mentioned in Plato’s work Timaeus and Critias, serves as an allegory for the hubris of nations.

    Described as a naval empire ruling the Western world, Atlantis attempted to conquer ‘Ancient Athens’ but fell out of favour with the gods as a result. It was said to have been submerged into the Atlantic Ocean as punishment. Whilst playing a minor role in Plato’s work suggests it is only a fiction, Atlantis and its fall continues to inspire literature and imagination. Renaissance writer Francis Bacon explored the allegorical elements in the utopian novel, New Atlantis. In the modern day, its presence can be seen in popular culture, such as Disney’s animated film Atlantis: The Lost Empire.


    Babylon, the real life ancient Mesopotamian capital, evokes visions of grandeur. But whilst Babylon did exist, at its heart lies an enduring legend – the Hanging Gardens.

    The city, situated along the lower Euphrates River, thrived under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, who reigned c. 605–c. 561 BCE. His reign marked Babylon’s zenith. It boasted monumental structures, bustling markets, and a vibrant cultural scene. The city’s famous Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, supposedly defied gravity. With tiered terraces adorned with lush trees and flowers, it is said they floated above the city. But what were they in truth? A romantic ideal, a lost treasure, or perhaps a garden built in another city, Nineveh?

    Nebuchadnezzar’s Gift

    Legend has it that Nebuchadnezzar II constructed the gardens for his Median queen, Amytis, who missed her homeland’s green hills. Berossus, a Babylonian priest, chronicled this tale.

    Legacy and Dispute

    The Hanging Gardens’ location itself eludes us. No Babylonian texts actually mention them, and archaeological evidence remains absent. Were they mythical, destroyed, or hidden elsewhere? We may never know, but their allure persists—a testament to the power of the human imagination. So enduring is their impact, they are still regularly referenced in popular culture, featuring in everything from Taylor Swift’s Evermore album to television shows such as Stargate Atlantis.

    Pompeii: A City Frozen in Time

    The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius

    Pompeii, located near Naples in Italy, was a bustling Roman city until disaster struck in 79 AD. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii, along with nearby Herculaneum and villas, under layers of volcanic ash and pumice. Remarkably preserved, the excavated city provides a unique snapshot of Roman life frozen at the moment of catastrophe. Its population of approximately 11,000 enjoyed luxurious private houses, public buildings, and intricate artworks. Organic remains, including human bodies, decayed over time, leaving voids that allowed archaeologists to create plaster casts of poignant figures in their final moments.

    Pompeii’s Construction Techniques

    Recent excavations in Pompeii have shed light on ancient Roman construction methods. Archaeologists unearthed a building site that revealed how iconic structures like the Colosseum and the Pantheon were built. By studying the ruins, we gain insights into the craftsmanship, materials, and engineering skills employed by Roman builders.

    The Allure Of The Lost

    Lost cities, real or not, continue to intrigue us, their stories bridging the gap between past and present. Whether it’s the mythical Atlantis or the haunting ruins of Pompeii, these ancient remnants remind us of the impermanence of civilisations and the enduring fascination they hold.


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    Jessica is a freelance copywriter and content writer based in Richmond-Upon-Thames. With a degree in English Literature from University College London, she has experience as a private tutor for 14-18 years olds and adult learners. She has also worked in Widening Participation as a Mentor, Student Ambassador, and Student Leader. As someone who achieved A-Levels through distance-learning, Jessica has first-hand experience of the unique challenges and rewards that distance-learning offers. She regularly contributes content to educational websites including eNotes and Tutorful.