The Greek geographer Strabo (8.7.2) wrote: “For the sea was raised by an earthquake and it submerged Helike and the temple of Helikonian Poseidon . . . And Eratosthenes says that he himself saw the place, and that the ferrymen were saying that a bronze Poseidon stood erect in the strait, holding in one hand a hippocamp, which was dangerous to those fishing with nets. And Herakleides says that the submersion took place by night in his time and, although the city was twelve stadia [2 km] distant from the sea, this whole district together with the city was hidden from sight; and two thousand men who were sent by the Achaeans were unable to recover the dead bodies.”

The Greek traveler Pausanias visited the site and wrote (7.24.5 ff.): “Forty stadia [7 km] from Aigion is a place on the sea called Helike . . . where the city of Helike stood . . . This was the type of earthquake that overturns the ground, and together with that, they say, another disaster happened to Helike in the winter: namely, the sea surged against a great part of the land and encircled the whole of Helike. And the flood so covered the grove of Poseidon that only the tops of the trees remained visible. Because when the god suddenly quaked, the sea advanced together with the earthquake, and the wave dragged down Helike with all its people. The ruins of Helike are also visible, but not so plainly now as they were once, because they are corroded by the salt water”

The Greek historian Diodoros of Sicily wrote (15.48): “Great earthquakes occurred in the Peloponnesos accompanied by floods which engulfed the open country and cities in a manner past belief . . . The blow came at night, so that . . . the majority who were caught in the ruined houses were annihilated, and when day came some dashed from the ruins and, when they thought they had escaped the danger, met with a greater and still more incredible disaster. For the sea and the wave rose to a vast height, and as a result all the inhabitants together with their land were inundated and disappeared. Two cities in Achaea bore the brunt of this disaster, Helike and Boura. Before the earthquake Helike was first among the cities of Achaea.”

According to the Roman writer Aelian (On Animals 11.19): “For five days before Helike disappeared, all the mice and martens and snakes and centipedes and beetles and every other creature of that kind in the city left in a body by the road that leads to Keryneia. And the people of Helike seeing this happening were filled with amazement, but were unable to guess the reason. But after these creatures had departed, an earthquake occurred in the night; the city subsided; an immense wave flooded and Helike disappeared, while ten Spartan vessels which happened to be at anchor were lost together with the city”.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote (Metamorphoses 1.263): “If you seek for Helike and Boura, once cities in Achaea, you will find them beneath the waves; and the sailors still show you the sloping cities with their buried walls.”

Approximate dates of sources:

  • Herakleides..........390-322 BC
  • Eratosthenes........276-194 BC
  • Diodorus...............80-20 BC
  • Strabo..................64 BC-23 AD
  • Ovid.....................43 BC-17 AD
  • Pausanias............143-176 AD
  • Aelian..................170-235 AD

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