5 The City of Troy
From about the 12th century BC to the mid-1800s, the city of Troy was thought to be nothing more than fable—the site of the legendary war between the Greek and Trojan armies set off by the capture of the Greek beauty Helen. Troy was the seat of power of the mighty Trojan empire, and its impregnable walls manned by mighty warriors were the stuff of Homeric saga. In the middle of the 19th century, though, two archeologists, a Brit named Calvert and a German named Schliemann, began excavations in Turkish farmland, eventually revealing a plethora of ruins many now believe are the site of Ancient Troy. We’ll likely never know for sure if the ruins have revealed the real Troy, or if they are of another ancient metropolis long lost to the ages.
4 Sodom and Gomorrah
Few mythical cities have had more impact on actual humanity than the doomed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Old Testament God proved himself to be the kind of guy who solves his problems with a rather heavy handed approach when he totally destroyed these two towns with a seething storm of fire and brimstone. While it’s a safe bet that these mythical cities never existed anywhere but in the minds of the scribes writing the Book of Genesis, they still influence our culture today, especially those with more fundamental religious views.
3 Shambhala, City of Light
This mythical kingdom is considered a highly holy place for followers of both Hinduism and Buddhism. To the latter it is one of the few “Pure Lands,” or a place where the Buddha resides; many Hindus believe that Shambhala is (or will be) the birthplace of the final incarnation of Vishnu, the supreme deity. Unlike many other cities of ancient legend, Shambhala is not generally thought of as a real place that actually existed, but is rather a religious construct possibly inspired by actual locations, but truly extant only in the mind of believers.
2 El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold
For a city that almost surely never existed, El Dorado sure has consumed a lot of real blood and treasure. Why? Because it was said to be filled with treasure. This fabled City of Gold was thought by many 16th century explorers to lie somewhere in the so-called New World. Famous adventurers such as Gonzalo Pizarro (brother to Francisco Pizarro) and Sir Walter Raleigh undertook massive expeditions in search of the fabled city, only to have their hopes dashed against the rocks of reality.
The legend of Atlantis started off in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. He spoke of a place that existed some 10,000 years before the Common Era, and described it as a mighty island city filled with strong, brave, intelligent citizens. Plato created the land of Atlantis as an allegory for the fate of a too-proud people, struck down for their hubris: the entire island of Atlantis was said to have sunk into the sea in less than a day’s time. The ostensible impossibility of that occurrence coupled with the fact that Plato was obviously speaking figuratively has not stopped generations of explorers from searching for the fabled lost city, though. People claim to have located Atlantis in locations ranging from the seafloor of the Mediterranean to the waters off Florida’s coast.