In almost all countries of the world, you can hear about cities that were once abandoned by their inhabitants. Some of them are known only from ancient sources, from others only settlements or sad ruins remained. But there are those that still amaze with their bewitching, unusual beauty to us and attract numerous crowds of tourists from all over the world. Witnesses of other eras and peers of ancient civilizations that have gone into oblivion, they conceal many unsolved mysteries, touching any of which is the cherished dream of any archaeologist.
How do these ghost towns come about?
Having asked this question in any non-professional audience, we, first of all, will hear about various disasters and natural disasters that destroyed the ancient Roman Pompeii and the lesser-known Herculaneum and Stabius, Judaic Sodom and Gomorrah. Some will even remember the Jamaican pirate city of Port Royal, which on July 7, 1692 was destroyed by an earthquake and then washed into the sea by the waves of a gigantic tsunami (this catastrophe made a great impression on contemporaries and was called the "Judgment of the Lord").
The list could be continued. However, of all these cities, as an exception, only a few have survived to this day. For example, the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia were not destroyed, but covered with a layer of volcanic ash.
A similar fate was in store for the Minoan city of Akrotiri, which was described in the article. "In Search of Sunken Cities".
It should be admitted that many destroyed cities were very unlucky: they died quickly and together with all their inhabitants. Therefore, there was no one to revive them in their former place.
But others, destroyed by earthquakes, catastrophic floods and all-consuming fires, have been lovingly restored by their inhabitants. New palaces, bridges and cathedrals, more beautiful and better than the previous ones, ascended in the old place, as if symbolizing the victory of the spirit of creativity and creation over the blind and merciless elements. Lisbon and Tashkent, destroyed by the most powerful earthquakes, can serve as examples of such a revival. And the city of San Salvador (the capital of the Central American state) was destroyed by earthquakes 200 times over 5 years (in 1798, 1854, 1873, 1965 and 1987). But to this day it stands in its place.
Another popular version is the destruction of cities by enemies. The most famous example, familiar to everyone from school years, is the sad fate of Carthage, in which, by order of the Roman Senate, all buildings were destroyed, and the land in their place was plowed up and sown with salt.
However, this message of Roman historians does not stand up to criticism and is easily refuted, both from the standpoint of common sense and the works of later historians from different countries and peoples.
Common sense tells us that it is not at all easy to destroy a stone city so that in its place there is a field available for agricultural work. Indeed, in 1162, Friedrich Barbarossa passionately wanted to destroy Milan and spent a lot of money and time on this, but in vain.
In 1793, a convention ordered the destruction of the rebellious Lyon. At the disposal of the commissioners of the convention who arrived there (led by the later famous Fouche) were powerful siege weapons. But, having examined the city, they were convinced of the unrealistic fulfillment of the task assigned to them. And, in general, they worked on the decree of the revolutionary government of France. Everything was limited to the destruction of several, far from the largest, buildings.
It is hard to believe that a task that proved too much for the frantic German emperor and the unyielding Jacobins was accomplished in 149 BC. e. Roman general Scipio. Salt was probably only planted on a small patch of land. And this act had a purely symbolic meaning.
And indeed upon further study stories question we learn that Carthage continued to exist and attract the attention of its neighbors. In 435 (according to other sources - in 439) A.D. e. it was captured by vandals. And in 533 Carthage was taken by the troops of Belisarius. And this city with all its surroundings became part of the Byzantine Empire.
Only during the Arab conquest of 688-670, Carthage, having ceded the capital status to Kairouan, began to empty and decline. An alien stone city, a bearer of an alien, hostile culture, was simply not needed by people from the sultry deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. In the end, only the majestic ruins remained of it, which are one of the main attractions of modern Tunisia.
This, of course, does not mean at all that other cities did not die in numerous wars.
Such was the fate of Old Ryazan, destroyed by the troops of Batu Khan: the wooden city burned down, and all its defenders and residents perished with it. There was no one to come to the ashes. And Pereyaslavl-Ryazan became the capital of the principality. The city most likely received this name from immigrants from Southern Russia, who brought with them familiar names - Pereyaslavl, Lybed, Trubezh.
But later it began to be perceived as a city that took over the glory of the former capital. In 1788 (during the reign of Catherine II) Pereyaslavl became Ryazan.
Such is the fate of Saray Berke - the capital of the Golden Horde, which in 1395 was destroyed by the soldiers of Tamerlane. The surviving residents were taken to Maveranahr. And since then, the Golden Horde has ceased to be a great state. It is believed that the remains of the Berke Saray were at the bottom of the Volga, which changed its course. And now it is hard to believe that a city once existed in the endless Volga steppe, with its size, crowded population and beauty that amazed not only Russian merchants, but also European travelers who visited it.
However, Ryazan, and Saray Berke, and many other cities that disappeared from the geographical maps perished only because their inhabitants died with them or were taken prisoner. Cities stand as long as there are people who are loving and ready to revive them again and again. And the new peoples, who came to replace the former ones, rarely needed the cities built before them. That is why Carthage lies in ruins, the city of the proud Romans in Western Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. And in the same Tunisia, not far from Carthage, you can see the perfectly preserved Roman city of Duggu.
The fate of ancient Palmyra
And in the waterless Syrian desert, in one of the oases between Damascus and the Euphrates, you can see the remains of the ancient city of Palmyra, with which they once loved to compare St. Petersburg. This name was given to the city by the Greeks and is a tracing of the Aramaic "Tadmor", which means "City of palm trees".
In time immemorial, a caravanserai was built around a source of lukewarm and slightly giving off gray water, which was called Efka. Here merchants and travelers could rest after a long journey and gain strength to continue their journey. The emergence of the city near this source is traditionally associated with the Jewish king Solomon, who built it as an advanced stronghold against the attacks of the Aramaic tribes.
During the conquest of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar, Palmyra was devastated. But, thanks to its extremely advantageous position on the most important trade routes between the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates valley, it was reborn like a phoenix from the ashes. Gradually, a state of its own, called Palmyrene, was even formed around it.
The rich trading city inevitably fell into the sphere of interests of the gaining strength of the Parthian kingdom and the Roman Empire. After the victory of the Romans, the city was ruled by the local senate, whose decisions were approved by the governor appointed by Rome. Attempts to gain independence did not bring success; during one of the uprisings, suppressed by the troops of Emperor Trajan, the city was badly damaged. But it was restored by Hadrian, who ordered to rename it to Adrianople.
Under Caracalla, Palmyra received the status of a Roman colony. After the weakening of Rome as a result of defeat by the Persians in 260, the ruler of Palmyrene, Odenatus, declared himself “king of kings”.
Palmyra reached its heyday under Queen Zenobia, who dared to challenge Rome itself, but was defeated and died in 273.
In 744, Palmyra was conquered by the Arabs, who did not want to live in a foreign city. And they began to build their dwellings outside of it. Then the city became part of the Turkish Empire, the authorities of which also showed no interest in the forgotten city. After one of the earthquakes, the last inhabitants left the city. And his remains were covered with sand.
The honor of discovering Palmyra is disputed by the Italian Pietro della Balle and the Englishman Halifax, who visited this city in the XNUMXth century and described it.
There are currently two Palmyras. Ancient - fascinates travelers with the ruins of its grandiose temples, palaces, aqueducts and colonnades. And a small town nearby, the main occupation of the inhabitants of which before the outbreak of the civil war was serving tourists arriving from all over the world.
In the spring of 2015, Palmyra was captured by ISIS militants, who destroyed many objects, including the triumphal arch (the photo of which you saw at the beginning of the article), the temples of Baalshamin and Bel. The tomb towers located near the city did not survive either.
Petra and Abu Simbel
And at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, two important discoveries were made by the outstanding Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
Before starting his travels, he learned Arabic and converted to Islam. He began to call himself Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Abdullah. And for 8 years spent in the East, no one doubted his Arab origin.
F. Schlet. Portrait bust of Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (Sheikh Ibrahim), 1867
In 1817, Burckhardt died of an intestinal infection, before he was 33 years old, and was buried in the Muslim cemetery in Cairo with all the honors due to a sheikh and a hajj.
Tomb of Sheikh Ibrahim (Ludwig Burkhart), Cairo
It was Burckhardt who discovered the lost city of Petra on the territory of modern Jordan in 1812.
Almost all of its buildings are carved into the rocks. At one time, Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom and was located on the trade route connecting the Middle East, Arabia and India. In the 363st century A.D. e. this state entered the sphere of influence of Rome, and under the emperor Trajan it was completely conquered and annexed to the Roman province of Arabia. After the earthquake in XNUMX, many residents left Petra. Gradually the city was forgotten. And only the Bedouin nomads still remembered the road to it.
Even today, an excursion to Petra is a small adventure, during which it is easy to feel like a great traveler and discoverer. The road along which we are walking turns into a narrow path that goes into a narrow gorge, niches and bas-reliefs carved into the rocks gradually appear on the sides, and then the mountains suddenly part and a huge red and pink temple appears in front of us in all its glory - the first among the stunning man-made wonders of the ancient city.
In the valley, surrounded on all sides by inaccessible mountains, there are several more temples, ruins of houses, hundreds of tombs and a huge amphitheater with 4000 seats.
Ludwig Burkhart also discovered the Abu Simbel temple complex, which is called the "Sacred Mountain" in Egyptian texts.
It is a 100-meter-high rock in which two temples were carved during the reign of Ramses II. The big one was erected in honor of Pharaoh and dedicated to the gods Amon, Ra-Horakhti and Ptah. Twice a year - on October 22 and February 22, the sun's rays illuminate three of the four statues: the sculptures of Amun and Ra get 6 minutes of sunlight each, Ramses - as much as 12, but the statue of Ptah remains in the dark.
A small temple was erected in honor of Queen Nefertari Merenmuth - the first wife of this pharaoh, and dedicated to the goddess Hathor.
During the construction of the Aswan Dam, the Abu Simbel temples were cut into blocks weighing up to 30 tons and moved to a new location, where they were reassembled.
The ruins of another ancient city can be viewed in Sudan, where Meroe is located on the eastern bank of the Nile between Khartoum and Atbara (the first settlements in its place date back to the XNUMXth century BC).
From the VI century BC. e. it was the capital of the state of Kush, which was heavily influenced by Egypt. In 23 BC. e. the country of Kush was conquered by Rome. And in the III century A.D. e. Meroe was captured by the state of Axum. Then it fell into decay and was forgotten for many centuries. Here are the ruins of the temples of Amun and the Sun, the remains of several palaces and a swimming pool. In the desert, 5 kilometers south of the city, there are 100 pyramids, in which several generations of the Kush rulers are buried.
They are much lower than the Egyptian ones (the highest does not even reach 30 meters in height). But they make a pretty strong impression. Since the traveler, who managed to get to them, can enjoy the spectacle of the chain of pyramids growing out of the dunes almost completely alone, not distracted by the invocations of camel owners or souvenir merchants that annoy tourists in Cairo or Giza so much.
Earlier, the Meroe pyramids were covered with mortar, and their bases were decorated with red, yellow and blue stars. Currently, most of them are left without tops, which were demolished in the XNUMXth century by the Italian adventurer Giuseppe Ferlini, who was looking for treasures. Unfortunately, he stumbled upon the treasure on the first try (a cache with gold rings, amulets and necklaces with pronounced Hellenistic features was discovered in the pyramid of Queen Amanishaheto). All subsequent searches were unsuccessful, but significant damage was caused to the pyramids.
In the early 90s of the twentieth century, thanks to footage received from one of the satellites, the ancient city of Iram was discovered (Iram Multicolumn - Iram zat al-imad). Sometimes it is also called Ubar (after the name of the oasis). According to legend, it was covered with sand during a storm that raged for 8 days and 7 nights. He is mentioned in the 89th chapter of the Qur'an:
"Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Adits - the people of Iram, who possessed columns, the likes of which were not created in the cities?"
Reconstruction of the city of Iram
In the next article we will talk about the lost cities of the Incas and Mayans, as well as the grandiose Buddhist cities and complexes of Southeast Asia.