The ancient Roman city of Neapolis was thought to have been lost to a tsunami 1,700 years ago, but archaeologists have just discovered the intricate network of this once great city that has been left behind underwater just off the coast of Tunisia. This includes numerous monuments, labyrinthine streets, and numerous tanks that at one time were used to create a Neapolis culinary specialty known as garum, a fish sauce that was wildly popular in both ancient Rome as well as Greece.
The search to find the once thriving city of Neapolis has been ongoing since 2010 and includes joint efforts from both the University of Sassari in Italy as well as the Tunisian National Heritage Institute. What really helped researchers to finally locate and discover this Roman city after so many years of hard work is that weather conditions were finally in their favor, which allowed the research team to find the 50 acres of ruins.
Mounir Fantar, the head of the research team, described how thrilled he was to finally discover Neapolis and to prove without a doubt that this Roman city was once a bustling manufacturing center of the ancient world, as ScienceAlert report.
“It’s a major discovery. This discovery has allowed us to establish with certainty that Neapolis was a major centre for the manufacture of garum and salt fish, probably the largest center in the Roman world.”
The tsunami that buried the majority of Neapolis happened as the result of an earthquake which occurred on July 21, 365 AD. The Roman historian Ammien Marcellin recorded the events of the earthquake and tsunami and it is believed that this same natural disaster also caused substantial damage on Crete and in ancient Alexandria in Egypt. In fact, the earthquake was so strong that areas of Crete were reportedly pushed up by 33 feet.
While scientists didn’t have the tools that we have today to measure earthquakes, ancient historians have said that the earthquake consisted of two tremors, with the largest one of these measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale.
— Science Channel (@ScienceChannel) September 6, 2017
Mounir Fantar explained that there were distinct signs that Neapolis had suffered badly as a result of the earthquake which eventually left much of the city underwater.
“We were looking for the port and underwater prospecting allowed us to recognize other traces, and especially to have the certainty that Neapolis suffered this earthquake in 365 AD.”
The ancient city of Neapolis was originally built in the 5th century BC and it wasn’t always Rome to whom they gave their allegiance. When the Third Punic War took place in 149-146 BC, for instance, the citizens of Neapolis were originally rooting for the Carthaginians to win. That is, until Rome finally won and took over the city.
If you’re wondering why there is so little history or references to this city, it has been suggested that it could have been some form of Roman punishment due to the city’s residents banding together and supporting Carthage instead of Rome, according to The Independent.
But despite the lack of written history on Neapolis, the team that discovered this ancient Roman city underwater will soon be giving us a new history based on their findings of life once lived in ancient times here.
[Featured Image by Hassan Ammar/AP Images]