Bygone Geography I: Forgotten Cities

June 8, 2020 Category: History

Generally speaking, collective memory is formed according to any given community’s (desired) legacy.  As might be expected, this does not necessarily correspond to what really happened.  If something–be it a person, an event, or the existence of an entire metropolis–does not play a key role in the favored historical narrative, it will eventually be discarded as time goes by.  This is especially the case when it comes to sacred histories and national origin stories.

False memory is either a matter of remembering things that never actually happened (the Mandela Effect) or omitting things that actually happened (selective forgetting).  While the former are fascinating (mythical cities that are likely figments of people’s imaginations), the latter will be addressed in the present piece.

The erasure of historical facts can be illustrated by major cities that no longer exist: neither in fact NOR in the minds of those who are now living.  This is not to be confused with FICTIONAL cities that, it is supposed, no longer exist–as with, say, the Edenic “Arcadia” in Greek legend; or “Camelot” in English legend.  Note, for example, what was posited in Judaic lore as the first city: that of Enoch in the land of Nod…which likely corresponded to a Sumerian or Assyrian city in Chaldea (perhaps Ur.)  Sanctified folklore is a funny thing, and often involves as much confabulation as obfuscation–a fact of which we are reminded every time we hear tales of the lost city of Atlantis…or of El Dorado.

The aim here is to point out the demise of ACTUAL urban centers (that is: social hubs that were commercially and/or geo-politically significant enough to have played a notable role in history). {1}  This is a good way to illustrate that our present understanding of the world AS WE NOW KNOW IT rarely reflects salient facts about the world as it used to be.

Here, we will look at over FIVE HUNDRED cities that no longer exist; and see how many of them still play a role in our collective memory.  (Spoiler alert: Not many.)  Here’s a chance to survey the great metropolises that, once a major force in the world, no longer exist–either physically or in our collective memories.  What happened to Kart-Hadasht?  It was a Phoenician metropolis–likely founded by Queen Dido of Tyre.  Then it became became a Punic / Carthaginian port.  It no longer exists; yet we now refer to it as “Carthage” in history books.

In western Arabia (corresponding to “Thamud” in the Koran; present-day Hijaz), there were several cities that no longer exist.  Three of the most notable were in the north, on the Mesopotamian frontier: Adummatu [alt. “Dumah”] (Sumerian; later rendered “Dumat al-Jandal” in Arabic), Hira[h] (the Lakhmid capital; near the site of Mohammedan “Kufa”), and Dedan (Lihyanite, then Nabatean; later rendered “Al-Ula” in Arabic).

In eastern Arabia (known at the time as “Dilmun”), there was the city of “Gerrha”.

And in the south (Yemen / Hadhramaut), there were the Minaean / Qatabanic oasis settlements of Timna and Qarnawu; as well as the Himyarite cities of Shabwa and Zafar [alt. “Dhafar”]. {2}  Further back in time, there were the Sabaean cities of Kaminahu, Haramum, Marib (site of present-day “Sana’a”), Nash[a]n, and Nash[a]q…all of which later became Minaean.

Arabia is not the only place where this happened.  In Anatolia, there was a prehistoric urban center now referred to as “Chatalhoyuk”.  At one point, this may have been the largest human conglomeration on the planet.  Meanwhile, the city of “Arkaim” in central Asia dates back to the 20th century B.C.

Chinese civilization dates back to the Bronze Age as well. {5}  Behold ten of the great cities in China that are long-gone:

  • Lou-lan [Kang-ju Sogdian / Uyghur]
  • Huo-zhou [Yuan / Ming; alt. “Gao-chang”; “Kara-khoja”; Kang-ju Sogdian / Uyhgur]
  • Da-ding (Jurchen)
  • Xuan-Quan
  • Cadota [a.k.a. “Niya”; “Jung-jue”; Han]
  • Wang-cheng [later site of Luo-yang; Zhou]
  • (Yan)-Xia-du [Zhou, then Yan]
  • Ye [Wei]
  • Fushi-cheng
  • Gao-Chang [alt. “K[h]ar[a]-[k]Hoja”; “Huo-zhou” in Chinese] and Ordu-balik [alt. “K[h]ar[a]-balghasun”; “Mu-balik” / “Kharbalgas” in Mongolian] (Uyghur / Gok-turk); Xi-zhou (Tang); later “Khocho” / “Qocho” / “Idiqut” at the site now known as Gao-Chang in Xin-jiang.

In my essay on the “Forgotten Diaspora”, I reviewed the history of the [k]Hazars.  Here are eight of THEIR major cities:

  • Balanjar
  • Samandar
  • [k]Hazaran
  • Samosdelka
  • Sarighsin (alt. “Saksin”); later the Kipchak “Sarai”, capital of the Golden Horde
  • Xacitarxan; later the site of “As[h]trakhan”
  • S[h]arkil
  • Atil (Semitic: “Khamlij”)

We can travel across the globe and encounter numerous other instances.  Here are 130 other major cities that no longer exist:

  • Hrocas Burh [alt. “Roxburgh”] (Pictish / Scottish)
  • Birka (Norse / Viking)
  • Tartessos and Kelin (proto-Celtic Iberian)
  • Carissa (Turdetani Andalusian)
  • Bocchoris (Roman Andalusian)
  • Reccopolis (Visigoth Andalusian)
  • Noreia (Celtic Alpine)
  • Marklo (Saxon)
  • Lugdunum (Roman Gaul)
  • Aquincum (Roman Pannonia)
  • Phasis [of Kolkis] (Greco-Kartvelian; i.e. Old Georgian)
  • Sarepta [rendered “Zarephath” in Biblical Hebrew], Dor, Arwad, and M-R-T [alternately rendered “Amrit” / “Marat”; Hellenic “Marathus”] (Phoenician)
  • Sulkoi (Punic / Carthaginian / Sardinian)
  • Tharros (Phoenician / Sardinian)
  • Utica, Leptis Magna, Tharras, Kerkouane, and [h]Adrumet[um] (Phoenician, then Numidian / Punic / Carthaginian, then Roman)
  • Ruspina (Punic Tunisian)
  • Mansuriya (Fatimid Tunisian)
  • Napata, Kerma, [Old] Dongola, and Meroe (Nubian)
  • KRTN [alt. “Kirthan”; a.k.a. “Cirta”] and Tugga (Numidian Berber; Punic)
  • Djenne-Djenno (Malian)
  • Gedi (Swahili)
  • Great Zimbabwe (Shona)
  • Kyrene [alt. “Cyrene”] (Libyan)
  • Sijilmasa (Moroccan Berber)
  • Kohaito, Aksum [Hebrew: Kitor], and Adulis (Sabaean / Aksumite)
  • Opone and Malao (Abyssinian Berber)
  • Kilwa Kisiwani (Swahili)
  • Kurkuma [alt. Gurgum; Karkemish] and Bogaz-köy (Hurrian / Assyrian)
  • Azalzi / Izala [later Achaemenid; then Syriac: “Merida”; later rebuilt as Kurdish “Merdin”], Washukanni, and Urkesh (Hurrian)
  • Purushanda, Hattusha, [Ka]nesh[a], Kadesh [not to be confused with the Midian / Canaanite city of the same name], Melid(du) [also Akkadian, Luwian, and Urartian; located at Arslan-tepe], Alala[k]h, Wilusha / Wilusia, Nesha / Anisha, and Kussara (Hittite)
  • Tuwanuwa [later called “Tyana” in Cappadocian Greek] (Hittite / Luwian)
  • Hattina and Kunalua / Kinalua / Kalneh [of Pattin / Unqi] (Luwian)
  • Mu[t]-sa[t]-sir, Arzashkun [Armenian: “Ardzik”], and Erebuni (Nairi / Urartian)
  • Sis, Ani, Turuspa [alt. Tushpa / Tosp; Van; Shamirama-kert], Artsakh(i), Tigrana-kert [alt. Tigrana-van; Nakhi-je-van], Kummuh [alt. Shamu-shat; Samosata; briefly “Antiochia in Commagene”], Arta-shat [alt. Artaxata], and–during the Middle Ages–Dvin (Armenian)
  • Arpad [alt. Hittite / Luwian], Amida [the site of present-day Diyarbakir], and Sam’al [likely the site of the antecedent Hittite colony, “Yadiya”] (Aramaean)
  • Kabyle, Istros [alt. Histria; originally Milesian, later Roman], Eion, Panticapaeum (originally Milesian, later Turkic and Byzantine), and Seuthopolis (Thracian)
  • Gordion / Gordium, Amorion / Amorium, and Derinkuyu (Phrygian)
  • Juliopolis [alt. “Basilaion”; originally Galatian], Tamatarcha, and Phanagoria [originally Greek, then Turkic] (Byzantine) {3}
  • [Old] Ryazan [dubbed “Pereslavl” by the Kievan Rus] (Slavic; then Russian)
  • Maghas (Alan)
  • Teleda (Azeri)
  • Kuhna [g]Ürganj [alt. Old Urgench], Takshashila, and Firozkoh [Ghorid] (Sogdian; Persio-Indian)
  • Sagala / Sakala (Greco-Indic / Scythian) {21}
  • Mouru /  Margu / Merv [alt. Seleucid “Antiochia Margiana”] (Persian, then Greco-Bactrian and Kushan, then Sogdian, then Oghuz Turkic, then Uzbek)
  • Tara-maith[o] (Greek / Persian / Sanskrit); then Ta-li-mi (Kushan); then Tu-mi (Chinese); then [Old] Termez (Turkic) [not to be confused with the new Termez, erected nearby]
  • Bolghar (Volga Bulgar)
  • Balasag[h]un / K(h)ar(a)-Balg(h)as(-un) / Go-Balik / Ordu-Balik / Mu-balik / Quz Ordu and Ordu-kent [alt. “Suyab”] (Turkic / Mongolian / Sogdian) {22}
  • Beitian and Kroran(a) [alt. “Loulan”] (Kang-ju Sogdian)
  • Chimgi-Tura and Isker / Qashliq [a.k.a. “Sibir”] (Tatar; Turko-Mongolian)
  • Qara Qorum [alt. “K[h]ar(a)-korum”], Sarai, Avarga [capital during Mongol Empire], and Otrar [originally “Parab” in Persian; then “Kang-ju” in Chinese] (Mongolian)
  • Almalik (Karluk)
  • Besh-balik (Uyghur)
  • Jiaohe / Yarghul (Jushi / Tocharian)
  • Melikawat (Khotanese / Tocharian)
  • Wanggeom-seong [Gojoseon], Sabi [Baekje], Jolbon and Gungnae [Goguryeo], and Gyeongju [Silla] (Korean)
  • Yamatai and Asuka (Japanese)
  • Lamphun / Haribhunjaya and Pagan (Mon / Burmese)
  • Sukhothai and Ayutthaya (Siamese) {6}
  • Angkor and Mahendra-parvata (Khmer)
  • Indra-pura [alt. Dong Duong; now the site of Da Nang], Simha-pura [now the site of Tra Kieu], and My Son (Cham-pa / Vietnamese)
  • Ma-i (Philippine)
  • Muaro Jambi (Sri-Vijaya)
  • Pagar-Ruyung (Sumatran)
  • Wilwatikta [alt. Trowulan] (Majapahit)
  • Pakuan Pajajaran [alt. “Dayeuh Pakwan”] (Sundanese / Javanese)
  • Nan Madol (Micronesian)

In the Americas, there were many cities–most of which ceased to exist pursuant to the arrival of European colonialists in the 16th century.  In the plains of central North America, there was a metropolis that archeologists now refer to as “Cahokia”–an urban center that was well over triple the size of Paris at the time.  Here are forty more:

  • Caral (the oldest city in the Americas, dating to 2,600 B.C.; pre-Incan)
  • Sipan, Pañamarka, and Gua-Kocha (Moche / Chimu)
  • Huaricanga (Norte Chico)
  • Kuelap (Chachapoyas)
  • Cahuachi (Nazca)
  • El Tajin, Te-ayo[k], and Cempoala (Totonac)
  • Tula (Toltec)
  • Angamuco, Azcapotzalco, Xochicalco, Teotihuacan, and Tenochtitlan (Nahuan / Aztec)
  • Saksay-waman [at Cusco], Chuqi K’iraw, Tiwanaku, Choquerquirao, as well as the semi-mythical cities of “Cuidad Perdida” [the Lost City of the Sierra Nevada] and “Paititi” (Quechua / Tahuantinsuyu / Inca)

Mayan cities included:

  • Pelenque
  • Becan
  • Uxmal
  • Tikal
  • Hol-mul
  • Calak-mul
  • complex on the Aguada Fenix plateau
  • Dzibilchaltun
  • Kaminaljuyu
  • Coba
  • Caracol
  • Oxwitik [“Copan”]
  • Mayapan
  • Yaxchlan
  • Yaxha
  • Nakbe
  • Chichen Itza

Also notable are the cities at Monte-grande in the Amazon; as well as El Seibal and El Mirador.  (Mythical cities like the “lost city of gold” are discussed in the Appendix.)

We often forget that the world as we think of it now is not the world as it has always been.  We are perfectly aware that the world has changed over time, and that it is different now from how it used to be.  The point is that we subconsciously think of history through a lens that is only appropriate for today.  While certain things are timeless (moral principles, logic, and basic standards of weal / dysfunction), we are apt to misread history by thinking of other eras in terms that we derive from present circumstances.  “What did Paris used to be like in Classical Antiquity” is a nonsensical question, as the place where the city now exists wasn’t PARIS.  Indeed, EUROPE wasn’t even a thing.

It is worth exploring other regions of the world, in which urban centers have changed EVEN MORE.

In Mesopotamia, there were innumerable major cities that have been lost to time–as with the fabled Chaldean city known as “Ur” [literally, “city” in Old Assyrian], in which was found the largest Ziggurat ever built. {7}  This includes the first city in the world, Eridu[g] (dating to the 54th century B.C.), putative home of the god, Enki; and site of the first king, “Alulim”.  Here are FIFTY of the most notable Mesopotamian cities that no longer exist–most of them Sumerian / Akkadian:

  • Uruk / Eresh
  • Umma
  • Mardaman [site of present-day Bassetki, in Kurdistan]
  • Dur-Gurgurri [alt. “Bad-tibira”]
  • Dur-Kurigalzu (Kassite)
  • Dur-Katlimmu
  • Dur-Sharrukin
  • Aburru [alt. “Abarsal”] (Mariote)
  • Upi[ja] / Akshak  [“Opis” in ancient Greek]
  • Larsa
  • Isin
  • Nippur
  • Zimbir / Sippar[a] (location of the Tablet of Shamash; the cylinder of Nabonidus; and the tablets on which the Epic of Gilgamesh were composed)
  • Kish
  • Harbidum
  • Rapiqum
  • Lulubum
  • Simurrum
  • Malgium
  • Ma-al-gi-im [alt. “Malgium”]
  • Lagash
  • Assur [alt. “Ashur”]
  • Akkad [alt. “Agade”], which would serve as the capital city of the Akkadians
  • Nuzi / Gasur
  • Nagar / Nawar
  • Nabada
  • Zabala[m]
  • Nineveh (the ruins of which were razed by “Daesh” in 2015)
  • Harran[u]  [Greek: “Karrai”, Romanized to “Carrhae”; Hebrew: “Haran”; referred to as “Hellenopolis” by the Greco-Romans]
  • Kutha
  • Nehardea (Judaic)
  • Pum-bedit[h]a (Judaic) {8}
  • Sura (Judaic)
  • Khattushash
  • Kazallu
  • Tarbisu
  • Girsu
  • Adab / Udab
  • Eshnunna
  • Barsip[pa]
  • Shuruppag (later Chaldean)
  • Kalhu [perhaps the Biblical “Calah” or “Nimrud”]
  • Kan Digirak [“Gate of God”; Akkadian: “Bab-ili”; Hellenized to “Babylon”]
  • Kardban-dad (Old Persian; “Mahuza” in Parthian; “Mahoze” in Syriac; “Al-Mada’in” in Arabic)
  • Arrap[k]ha (Akkadian) {9}
  • [k]Tesfon [later: Persian “Ctesiphon”]
  • Alkosh
  • Mari (later: Nabataean)
  • Charax Spasinou (Characene / Mesene)
  • Irridu (Mittani / Hittite)

Many of those cities later became Assyrian.  Assyrian cities outside of Mesopotamia included:

  • Shekhna / Shubat-Enlil
  • Emar
  • Terqa / Sirqu
  • Halabiye
  • Ekallatum (originally Amorite)
  • Tuttul (originally Amorite)
  • Emesa
  • Rasappa / Resafa (Hebrew “Rezeph”; Greek “Raphes” / “Rhesapha”; Byzantine “Sergiopolis” / “Anastasiopolis”; Latin “Risapa”)
  • Apamea [not to be confused by the Median city by the same name; nor with the Greco-Roman city by the same name in Syria]
  • Imgur-Enlil (Syriac: “Bet Labat”; Romanized to “Balawat”)
  • Tushhan (originally Mitanni, now in Kurdistan)
  • Kyinda (Assyrian), then Anazarbos (Cilician Greek), then Dio-Caesarea / Caesarea ad Anazarbum / Anazarba (Roman), then Justin-opolis (Byzantine), then Ayn Zarba (Arab), then Anazarva (Armenian)

None exist anymore.  Later, Arab cities arose in southern Mesopotamia–such as Wasit and Al-Qadisiyya[a]…as well as the city of Hatra [“Beit Elaha” in Syriac; referred to as “Al-Hadr” in Arabic] farther north.  They are long gone–and mostly forgotten–as well.

Meanwhile, in Persia, there were also many cities.  Tun [alt. “Taban”] was once a bustling metropolis, founded by the Medes / Elamites; and is now just a small town called “Ferdows”, home of the most famous medieval Persian author.  Here are 27 more Persian cities that no longer exist:

  • Dur Untash (Elamite)
  • Anshan (Elamite)
  • Hagmatana [Greek: “Ekbatana”] (Elamite, then Median) {10}
  • Shush (Elamite) [Greek: Sousa; now the site of Susa]
  • Karkashshi [Greek: “Garkasia”]
  • Ganzak [as “Gazaka”, it served as the capital of the kingdom of Atropatene; Latin “Ganzaga”; Arabic “Janza”] (Median, then Achaemenid, then Parthian, then Sassanian, then Armenian)
  • Haozdar (Achaemenid)
  • Pasargad[ae] (Achaemenid)
  • Zranka (Achaemenid) [in Drangiana; now the site of Zaranj]
  • Parsa [Greek: “Persepolis”] (Elamite / Median, then Achaemenid, then Sassanian) {11}
  • Taryana (Achaemenid), then Ormizd-Ardashir (Sassanian) {12}
  • Gor (Achaemenid), then Ardashir-Khwarrah (Sassanian)
  • Seleucia / Zeugma (Parthian)
  • Patigrabana [site of present-day “Mashhad”] (Parthian)
  • Nisa [alt. “Partha-u Nisa”; later “Mithradat-kert”] (Parthian)
  • Dur[a] Europos (Parthian)
  • Artemita / Chalasar (Parthian), then Dasta-kert (Sassanian)
  • Abi-ward (Sassanian)
  • Ni-Shapur (Sassanian)
  • Gonde-Shapur [from “Gund-dez-i Shapur; rendered “Beth Lapaṭ” in Syriac; “Bendosabora” in Greek] (Sassanian)
  • Istakhr (Sassanian)
  • Hdatta [Syriac: “New-kert”] (Sassanian)
  • Laodikeia [Median]
  • Apamea [Median; not to be confused with the Persian city by the same name on the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia OR with the Greco-Roman city by the same name in Syria]
  • Beyhagh [alt. “Sabzevar”] (Indo-Iranian; Bactrian)
  • Baxtri / Baxli / Bahlika [Greek: “Baktra”; “Balkh”] (Indo-Iranian; Bactrian)
  • Konji-kala [now the site of Ashkabat] (Khwarezmian)

In the Levant, there were many cities that no longer exist–most of them Amorite. {20}  The oldest Semitic (i.e. Canaanite) cities were Ebla, Emar, and Ugarit (now the site of Ras Shamra).  The Phoenician cities of Byblos, Siduna (now “Sidon”), and Tyre still exist.  Here are 32 more from the distant past:

  • Bo[t]zra (Edomite)
  • Kabzeel (Edomite)
  • Elath (Edomite)
  • Kedar (Midian / Moabite)
  • She[c]hem / Sichem
  • Dothan [Biblical home of Joseph and Elisha]
  • Alala[k]h / Alakhtum (originally Amorite, though also Hittite)
  • Kedesh (Tyrian)
  • La[c]hish
  • Laish (later rendered “Dan”; alt. “Leshem” / “Laysha”)
  • Jarmuth
  • Usha
  • Shaaraim
  • Keilah
  • Yizre-El [Romanized: “Jezreel”]
  • Jericho (now occupied by a town of the same name)
  • Megiddo
  • Ashkelon (Phoenician, then Philistine)
  • Jabneh (renamed “Jamnia”, Greco-Roman; “Ibelin”, medieval Latin; “Yibna”, Arabic; now the site of the Israeli city of “Yavne”)
  • Has[h]ura [later rendered “Hazor”]
  • Gazru [later rendered “Gezer”]
  • Yenoam
  • Gadara (in Perea)
  • Amathus (in Perea / Gilead)
  • Ramot[h] (in Perea / Gilead)
  • Bet[h] Haram [Roman: “Livias”] (in Perea / Gilead)
  • Dibon [alt. “Old Dhiban”] (Moabite; in Perea / Gilead)
  • Sin (in Syria)
  • Caesaria Palaestina [Maritima] (not to be confused by cities named “Caesaria” elsewhere)
  • Kapharnaoum [Capernaum] (in Galilee)
  • Samaria (after the region by the same name) [later named “Sebaste” by the Romans]
  • Aburru / Abarsal

There were also Canaanite cities that were distinctly Philistine–as with Gath, Timnath / Timna[r], Gerar, and Ekron. {13}  And some were distinctly Aramaean–as with Adinnu, Hadatu, and Gozan[a]. {14}

East of the Jordan River, in Gilead / Moab / Nabataea (and Midian farther south), the Canaanite city of Pel [alt. “Sela”] was renamed “Rekem[e]” by the Midianites.  It was then referred to as “Rakmu” by the Nabataeans, who made it their capital.  We now refer to it by its Greco-Roman moniker: “Petra” [simply meaning “rock”].  Once the major Levantine mercantile and religious hub (of the Nabataeans), it is now only ruins.

This happened with other Nabataean cities as well–such as Hegra (originally “Dedan”; later rendered “Al-Hijr” / “Mada’in Saleh”), the resurrected “Ebla”, Haluza / Halasa (a.k.a. “Chellous” / “Eloysa” in Greek; “Khalasa” in CA), Leuke Kome, Avdat (a.k.a. “Obodat”), and Tadmur (more famously known by its Romanized moniker, “Palmyra”).

In Egypt, there was a long-lost Amratian / Gerzeh city now referred to as “Nagada”.  There was also a major Hyksos city named “Itj-Tawy”.  Here are thirty more:

  • Per-Wsjr [Greek: “Bousiri”; Arab: “Abusir”]
  • Per-Wadjet [Greek: “Bouto(s)”]
  • Per-Atum [Greek: “Hero-opolis”; Semitic: “Pi-thom”]
  • Per-Ramesi-su [later rendered “Pi-Ramesses”]
  • Per-Amun [Greek: “Pelousion”; Roman: “Pelusium”; Semitic: “Sin”]
  • Per-Bast(et) [Greek: “Boubastos”, Romanized to “Bubastis”; Coptic: “B[o]ubastis”; Hebrew: “Pi-Beset”]
  • Hat-wuret / Hut-waret [Greek: “Avaris”]
  • Menefer [Greek: “Memphis”; Hebrew: “Noth”]
  • Kiemro [Greek: “Naukratis”]
  • Zau [alt. “Sais”]
  • Abdju [Greek: “Abydos”; not to be confused with the Greek city by the same name in Mysia]
  • Menouthis [Greek: “Isiopolis”] (Greco-Roman)
  • Herakleion [alt. “Thonis”] (Greco-Roman) {15}
  • Sena [Greek: “Pelousion”; Roman: “Pelusium”; Aramaic: “Seyan”; Hebrew: “Sin”]
  • Akhet-Aten [Semitic: “Amarna”]
  • Behdet [Greek: “Edfu”]
  • Nenj-nesu[t] [Greek: “Herakleo-polis”]
  • Nekhen [Greek: “Hierakon-polis”]
  • Nekheb [Greek: “Eileithyias-polis”]
  • Khemenu [Greek: “Hermou-polis”; Coptic: “Shmun”]
  • Aw[a]nu / Iunu [Greek: “Helio-polis”]
  • D’nt / Djanit [Coptic: “Thennisi”; Greek: “Tanis” / “Tinnis” / “Tennis”] {16}
  • Tjenu [Greek: “Thinis”]
  • Wase[t] [Greek: “Thebai”; Anglicized to “Thebes”] {17}
  • Hebet [Greek: “Hibis”; now the site of Kharga]
  • Ta-ynt-netert [alt. “Tantere”/ “Tentyra”; “Nekhen-tori”; Romanized: “Dendera”]
  • Tahpanhes [Greek: “Daphnae Pelusium”; Hebrew: “Taphnas”]
  • Shedet [Greek: “Krokodilo-polis”; Coptic: “Phiom”; Romanized: “Arsinoë”; Arabized: “Fayyum” / “Faiyum”]
  • Berenike [Greek: “Troglodytika”] (Ptolemaic)
  • Myos Hormos (Ptolemaic)

Note that almost every city ended up being assigned a Greek moniker.

In Greece, many cities no longer exist–as with the storied city-states of Salamis and Kition [Latin: Citium] (on Cyprus); Sparta [“Lakedaemon” in Laconian Greek], Pellana, and Corinth (on the Peloponnese; i.e. Lakonia); Miletus (in Ionia); and Troy (originally the Hittite “Wilusha”, in Troas). {18}  Others are possibly mythical, such as Oichalia in Thessaly (see Appendix).  Here are 75 more:

  • Knossos (Minoan)
  • Akrotiri (Minoan)
  • Phaistos (Minoan)
  • Zakros (Minoan)
  • Vlochos (Minoan)
  • Thera on Kalliste [Santorini] (Minoan, then Phoenician, then Dorian)
  • Kydonia (Crete)
  • Phaistos (Crete)
  • Gortyn[a] (Crete)
  • Karthaia (Kea)
  • [h]Alikarnassos [Roman: “Halicarnassus”] (Mycenaean)
  • Mykene / Mukanai [Roman: “Mycenae”] (Mycenaean)
  • Orchomenus (Boeotia)
  • Orchomenus (Arcadia)
  • Lykosoura (Arcadia)
  • Bassai (Arcadia)
  • Teuthis (Arcadia)
  • Phigaleia (Arcadia)
  • Megalopolis (Arcadia)
  • Iolcus (Aeolia)
  • Pergamon [later: Pergamum] (Aeolia)
  • Aigai[ai] [Roman: Aegae[ae]; Ottoman Turk: Nemrut-kale / Kalesi] (Aeolia / Cilicia)
  • Eretria (Euboia)
  • Pella (Macedonian)
  • Aigai (Macedonian)
  • Heraclea Lyncestis (Macedonian)
  • Kourion (Cyprus)
  • Segesta, Eryx, and Entella (originally Elymian; Sicily)
  • Nisaea / Megara (Attica)
  • Kolophon (Ionia)
  • Apasa [Arzawan / Luwian]; Ephesus [Achaean / Mycenaean Greek] (Ionia)
  • Stagira [Macedonian] (Ionia)
  • Teos (Ionia)
  • Pylos (Achaea) {19}
  • Helike (Achaea) {15}
  • Dyme (Achaea)
  • Boura (Achaea)
  • Pellene (Achaea)
  • Aigeira (Achaea)
  • Sikyon (Achaea)
  • Tenea (Achaea)
  • Ancient Messene (Achaea)
  • Araethyrea / Arantea / Phlius (Achaea)
  • Argos [Argead; now the site of a town by the same name] (Achaea)
  • Phokaia [Roman: “Phocaea”]
  • Pleuron (Aetolia)
  • Calydon (Aetolia)
  • Sybaris (Magna Graecia)
  • Segesta / Aigesta (Elymian)
  • Eryx (Elymian)
  • Entella (Sicanian)
  • Bouthroton / Buthrotum (Epirus)
  • Dodona (Epirus)
  • Termessos (Pisidia)
  • Sagalassos (Pisidia)
  • Etenna (Lydia / Pisidia)
  • Sardis (Lydia)
  • Pelopia [Roman: “Thyateira”; now the site of “Akhisar”] (Lydia)
  • Amyklai [Roman: “Amyclae”] (Sparta / Laconia)
  • Abydos [not to be confused with the Egyptian city by the same name] (Mysia)
  • Knidos (Caria)
  • Patara [later: “Arsinoe”] (Lycia)
  • Arnna [later: “Xanthos”] (Lycia)
  • Perperene [alt. “Theodosioupolis”, not to be confused by cities in Arcadia, Armenia, and Osroene that went by the same name] (Mysia / Anatolia)
  • Perge (Pamphylia / Anatolia)
  • Kummanni (Kizzuwatna)
  • Oshakan, Tushpa, Musasir / Ardini (Urartian / Shurili)
  • Hassam / Hassuwa / Khash-shum (Hurrian / Armani-Subartu / Shupria)
  • Termessos (Anatolia)
  • Laodikeia Combusta [alt. “Laodicea”; a.k.a. “Claudio-laodikia”] (Pisidia / Anatolia) [not to be confused with other Greek cities that went by the same name in Arcadia, Phrygia, and Pontus; or the Phoenician / Syrian cities that are now Beirut and Latakia; or the one in Media / Persia now named “Nahavand”]
  • Phanagoreia [later: (k)Hazarian; then Genoese “Matrega”] (Crimea)
  • Myrmekion (Crimea)
  • Hermonassa [later, (k)Hazarian “Tamantar-khan”] (Crimea)
  • Olbia (Scythia)

Note that one of the oldest settlements, Akrotiri (a Minoan colony on Santorini that dates back to the 5th millennium B.C.) was never a city.

A slew of Greco-Roman cities that no longer exist–such as Ikonion, which later became the Roman “Iconium”, then “Claudio-conium”, then “Colonia Aelia Hadriana”.  (The city was originally Hittite; and later Phrygian.  It would become the site of Seljuk city of “Konya” in the 11th century.)  Here are 40 more (no longer extant) Roman cities that were formerly Greek:

  • Chalcedon (Bithynia)
  • Nikaea (Bithynia)
  • Sirmium (Pannonia)
  • Dioclia (Thrace / Illyria)
  • Sirmium (Thrace / Illyria)
  • Derbe (Galatia)
  • Lystra [dubbed “Colonia Iulia Felix Gemina” by the Romans] (Galatia)
  • Krenides [later “Philippoi”; Romanized to “Philippi”] (Anatolia)
  • Dardanos [Roman: “Dardanium” / “Dardania”] (Troas)
  • Tenea [Trojan] (Troas)
  • Perge / Perga (Pamphylia)
  • Kyzikos [Roman: Cyzicus] (Mysia)
  • Etruscan “Clevsin” [Greek: “Klysion”; Roman: “Clusium”] (Etruria)
  • Etruscan “Cisra” [Greek: “Agylla”; Roman: “Caere”] (Etruria)
  • Etruscan “Veii” [Greco-Roman: “Veius”] (Etruria)
  • Etruscan “Velch” / “Velx” [Greco-Roman: “Vulci”] (Etruria)
  • Scylletium / Scolacium /  Minervium (Bruttium)
  • Oscan, then Etruscan, then Roman “Pompeii” (Campania)
  • Syedra (Cilicia)
  • Pantikapaion [Roman: Panticapaeum; now the site of Kerch] (Crimea)
  • Cherson[esos] [alt. “Khersones”] (Taurika; i.e. Crimea)
  • Hyele [alt. “Ele[a]”; Roman: “Velia”] (Magna Graecia)
  • Euboean, then Etruscan “Kumai” (Magna Graecia)
  • Euboean “Naxos” (Magna Graecia)
  • Euboean “Kume” / “Kuma[i]” (Magna Graecia)
  • Greek “Poseidonia” [Roman: “Paestum”] (Magna Graecia)
  • Greek “Thourioi” / “Thouriom” [Roman: “Thurii” / “Thurium”; alt. “Copia(e)”] (Magna Graecia)
  • Akragas (Magna Graecia)
  • Eryx (Sicilia)
  • Thannuris (Byzantine in Syria)
  • Gadara [Seleucid: “Antiokheia Semiramis”] (Syria / trans-Jordan)
  • Apameia [a.k.a. “Shepham” in Hebrew; not to be confused with the Persian city by the same name in Mesopotamia; nor with the Median city by the same name] (Syria / trans-Jordan)
  • Amathus (Syria / trans-Jordan)
  • Livias (Syria / trans-Jordan)
  • Cyrrhus [Greek: Kyrrhos / Hagiopolis] (Syria / trans-Jordan)
  • Resaena [alt. “Rhesaina”; a.k.a. “Theodosiopolis”] (Syria / trans-Jordan)
  • Gerasa [based on the Assyrian “Garshu”; later rendered Jerash in Arabic] (trans-Jordan)
  • Scythopolis [now the site of “Beit She’an”] (trans-Jordan)
  • Apollonia [rendered “Sozusa Palaestina” by the Byzantines; “Arsuf” by the Arabs] (Levant)
  • Sufetula [Berber: Sbeitla] (Tunisia)

Other Roman cities included Alba Longa on the Italic Peninsula, the port city of Lavinium (just outside Latium), and Sirmium (formerly Illyrian, in Pannonia); as well as Conimbriga (Lusitania) in what is now Portugal.

In Barat[a] (from the Hindu Kush, across India into Bengal) many cities no longer exist–the oldest of which was Harappa, located in the Sindh (from the Indus Valley civilization, which began over five millennia ago). {4}  Two other major cities of the Indus Valley civilization were Lothal and Kukkuta[r]-ma [alt. “Mohenjo-Daro”].  There was also Lanka[-puri], a quasi-mythical island city that may have been located on Sri Lanka.  Here are thirty more long-lost Indian cities:

  • Tos[h]ali  [alt. “Toshala”; “Kalinga”]
  • Taks[h]a-s[h]ila  [alt. “Taxila”]
  • Rakhi-Garhi
  • Dhola-vira
  • Ganveri-vala
  • Kapila-vastu (Shakya)
  • Pushkala-vati (Gandhara)
  • Chandra-ketugarh (Bengal)
  • Durjaya [Pala / Kamarupa] (Bengal)
  • Mahas-thangarh [Bangarh] (Bengal)
  • Gauda [alt. Gour; a.k.a. “Lakhnauti”] (Bengal)
  • Ayodhya / Saket[a]
  • Dvaraka  [alt. “Dvaravati”, purported birthplace of Krishna; now the site of Dwarka]
  • Vijaya-Nagar[a]  [City of Victory]
  • Kushi-Nagar[a] [alt. Kusha-wati; Kushi-nara]
  • Nagar[a]-Junakonda
  • Ahi-kshetra [alt. “Ahichchhatra”]
  • Sanchi
  • Hampi
  • Kaushambi [Pali: “Kosambi”] (Vatsa)
  • Patta-dakal
  • Raja-griha [a.k.a. “Giriv-raja”; now “Raj-gir”]
  • Patali-putra / Kusuma-pura (Magadhan, then Mauryan) [now “Patna”; Bihar]
  • [r]Ishipatan[a] [alt. “Mriga-dava”; a.k.a. “Sarnath”]
  • Hastina-pur[a]
  • Mahishmati (Haiheya / Avanti)
  • Lodarva (Rajput)
  • Muciri / Muziris [a.k.a. “Muracippattanam”]
  • Mansura (Abbasid; in Sindh)
  • Anuradha-pur[a] (Tamil / Sinhalese; in Sri Lanka)
  • Polonnaruva (Sinhalese; in Sri Lanka)

Many of these cities have been mostly forgotten; as their relevance to the incipient cultures waned at some point in the past.  Thus few of them play a prominent role in contemporary folklore.  As far as many of us today are concerned, they may as well have never REALLY existed…if if we like to leave them in some of our stories.

Who would have guessed that in a single Endnote, I could enumerate 350 cities that were once a significant part of our world, but no longer exist?  Barring a few of the more celebrated cases (we’re all aware of the legends of Babylon, of Sparta and Troy, and of the grandeur of Angkor Wat), what were once societal centers are now mostly lost to history.  Our world has changed significantly over the ages; and so, then, has HOW WE THINK ABOUT our world.

If one were to go to the area in which any of these cities once existed, to what extent does the prevailing historical narrative REFLECT the existence of these cities (as they actually were)?  The answer in most cases: Not much.

In creating “histories” to suit ourselves, just as much is jettisoned as is fabricated.  After all, elision and confabulation tend to go hand in hand (hence sins of both omission and commission).  Just as unscrupulous as remembering what never really happened, we often fail to have any memory of certain things that transpired.  (For example, how many Lebanese now recognize Sidon to be “Siduna”, the original capital of Phoenicia?)

But for the enterprise of modern archeology, such urban centers–often hubs of entire societies–would now be lost to history; as the days that they played a key role in hallowed folklore have long since passed.  Barring a few instances, the folklore that now survives has no use for such places.  So far as we’re now concerned, they needn’t be part of history.  If something does not serve a purpose in a sacred history, then it will not be included.  So far as many are concerned, such places may just as well have never existed.  Any role they might have played in ACTUAL history is a moot point; and so is summarily elided.  (We often forget that elision rarely announces itself as elision; and so ascribe to the final product a historical fidelity that does not actually exist.)

Of course, several of these places remain in folklore to this day, and so have not been forgotten altogether; yet MOST of them do not remain in our most cherished historical accounts.  How many of these places survive in the collective memory of those who now live in the same region?  It is safe to say that today, far more people know about, say, Las Vegas (Nevada) or Hollywood (California) than about ANY of these cities.  What we KNOW invariably ends up being a function of what we care about in our own lives.

The point here is simple: When ENTIRE METROPOLISES can be erased from Grand Narratives, then our capacity for obfuscation is plain to see.  Surely, then, people and events can be omitted from the official record with nary the bat of an eyelash.  Such redactions in our “collective memory” typically occur in whatever manner that the powers-that-be wish.  To reiterate: The FACT OF the redaction is itself redacted…along with that which was redacted.  If it no longer suits the prevailing narrative, then its salience steadily evaporates over time.  (Rarely does it vanish overnight.  Amnesia tends to happen over the course of generations.)

The selective omission of places illustrates how collective memory works.  But the same goes for the FABRICATION of places–nay, of entire lands (as I show in the Addendum).  If something farcical is needed to bolster the desired narrative, then it will be furnished–and clandestinely inserted–as needed.  And so a humble Jewish carpenter from Nazareth can be made into god incarnate…and a Qurayshi merchant can be rendered the Seal of all Abrahamic prophets.  Even the AUTHORS THEMSELVES of the sanctified folklore can be conjured to serve a purpose (as I also show in the Addendum).

History is–in large part–recorded by the victors; which means it is recorded in the manner that they see fit.  SACRED histories–meanwhile–are largely CREATED BY the victors (to serve their purposes).  False (collective) memory–as well as its corollary, False Consciousness–is not a glitch; it is a feature.  It is often confabulated by design…a design that does not announce itself in the confabulation.

And so it goes: Sacred histories are typically engineered to serve the interests of those in power; and upheld by those who’s power is predicated on the MAINTENANCE OF those histories.  Hence the importance of disinterested-ness in conducting historical inquiries.  Vested interests can only serve to sabotage scholarship of ANY kind; and this is especially so when it comes to fleshing out what REALLY HAPPENED.  Setting aside coveted narratives is no easy task when we find ourselves LIVING BY those very narratives.

At the end of the day, we remember what we want to remember; and end up forgetting what we’d prefer to forget.  This is usually not done deliberately (that is: as a matter of calculation).  We are often unaware of the architects–or even the architecture–of the stories that we like to tell ourselves about what’s REAL.

Over FIVE HUNDRED cities have been enumerated in this essay…only a few of which remain in our folklore.  The point here is simple: If people can indulge in (strategic) forgetting when it comes to entire metropolises (for which there is still material evidence), surely they can do so for people and events (for which scant evidence is available, in the form of documentation).  This is especially the case when those who wrote the favored accounts want us to remember only certain things…and forget everything else.


{1  In this survey, I include only significant urban centers; not settlements (e.g. Mesa Verde) or palaces (e.g. Machu Picchu) or fortresses (e.g. Sikayauvati in Persia, Kyz Kala at Masada, Sigiriya in Sri Lanka) or necropolises (e.g. the Naqsh-i Rustam in Persia) or temple complexes (as with Dahshur in Egypt, Gobekli Tepe in Anatolia, or Ghagha-Shahr in Sistan)…of which their have been innumerable, scattered across the globe.  There have likely been thousands of small colonies that have been lost to time.  Archeology has uncovered a plethora of important sites that may have been large towns, but do not qualify as having been major cities.  It is, of course, not big news that most of these are long-gone.}

{2  Now the site of Beihan.  Note: The Arabian “Timna oasis” is not to be confused with the site of “Timna” in the Negev desert, site of Egyptian copper mines from the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age.}

{3  This city was originally “Hermonassa” (Greek).  It was then re-named “Tmutara-khan” (Cimmerian, then [k]Hazar)…before being overtaken by the Byzantines.}

{4  Other major sites in the region do not quite qualify as having been cities–such as Kalibangan and Rakhi Garhi.}

{5  There were also unknown cities at Liye [Chu, then Qin], Yan-shi, Zheng-zhou, and Yin-xu [Shang].}

{6  Towns by the same name now exist at both sites.}

{7  Interesting tid-bit.  While “Ur” meant “city” in the original Assyrian, it means “fire” in the Semitic languages (both Hebrew and Aramaic).  So when the 1st-century Hebrew scribe, Jonathan ben Uzziel transcribed Genesis 15:7, in which Abraham was said to have “been brought from Ur of the Chaldeans”, he wrote it as Abraham having been delivered from the fire of the Chaldeans; hence tales of the furnace in the Book of Daniel.}

{8  “Pumbedit[h]a” was the Aramaic name, which was rendered “Pallgutha” in Syriac.  The Hellenic moniker was “Pallacottas”.  It is roughly the site of present-day Fallujah.}

{9  Now the site of Kirkuk.}

{10  Now the site of Hamadan.}

{11  Now the site of Takht-i Jamshid.}

{12  Now the site of Ahvaz.}

{13  Ashkelon is now the site of the town of Asqalan in the Gaza strip.  The ancient Philistine cities of Gaza [from the Egyptian “Ghazzat”; later “Azzati”] and Ashdod remain in modern forms.}

{14  Minor towns like Be’er-Sheva [Seven Wells] and Sepphoris [alt. “Tzipori”; a.k.a. “Dio-Caesaraea”] are not counted here.  Nor are apocryphal cities like “Shittim” in Moab [Arabic: “Abila”] and “She’arayim” in the Valley of Elah.  Nor are quasi-mythical settlements like Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar in the plains of Gilead.  See also footnote 20 below.}

{15  Possibly the basis for the legend of Atlantis.}

{16  Tanis was referenced in “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” as the hidden location of the Ark of the Covenant.}

{17  This included the “Karnak” and “Luxor” temple complexes.}

{18  The well-known name “Troy” is derived from the Greek “Troia”.  The Romans referred to the city as “Ilium”, based on the Archaic Greek “[w]Ilion”…which was, in turn, based on the Hittite moniker, “Wilusha”.}

{19  Achaea corresponds to what we now call the Peloponnese.  Pylos now exists as a small town, built on the same site.  This is a common phenomenon.  Resurrecting the name does not entail contiguity–as is also the case with, say, Ryazan in Eastern Europe, Tarsus in Anatolia, Babylon in Iraq, Kermanshah in Persia, Urgench in Bactria, or Ayutthaya in Thailand.}

{20  There are several semi-mythical cities that are Biblical–such as Gibeon, Ai, Tirzah, Aphik, Sukkot, Horonaim, Bochim, Ziklag, Arimathea, She’arayim, Tarshish, Debir (a.k.a. “Kiriath-Sepher”), Eglon, as well as the Idumean port-cities of E[t]zion-Geber and (Midian) Elath.  This is in addition to the so-called “Levitical Cities” (e.g. Gibbethon and Ben-e-Barak).  There is an archeological site that indicates a settlement corresponding to the port-city of “Dor”; but there is limited archeological evidence for most of these fabled cities (see footnote 14 above).  For a survey of fictional places in the world’s many folkloric traditions, see the Appendix.}

{21  Now the site of the Punjabi city of “Sialkot”.}

{22  “Ordu” means capital; “Khara” / “Balik” means city.}

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