7 Interesting Facts about Cleopatra’s Underwater Palace

Of all the interesting underwater historical discoveries, Cleopatra’s sunken palace is easily one of my favourites. It’s been about 2 years since my last post (sorry), but I decided now is probably as good a time as ever. Why? Because I’m in lockdown of course. 

cleopatras sunken palace diver
Image source: Wessam Atif

 Moving on. Amongst the many underwater discoveries that I obsess over for no reason, Cleopatra’s underwater palace is particularly interesting.


What we previously knew about Cleopatra’s sunken palace

According to what we knew before the discovery, ancient texts told of a “royal house” in Antirhodos, which is an island off the coast of Alexandria in Egypt. Together with the fabled Lighthouse of Alexandria, Cleopatra’s palace was thought to have been lost to sea due to earthquakes, a tsunami, or some other natural disaster. Most likely, that theory is correct.

The interesting part is that although we generally knew the location of this palace, and also generally assumed that it was now underwater, yet it remained unfound until its discovery by Franck Goddio in 1996.  

The other interesting thing is that the site was found under just 5 meters of water.
If a site is located roughly where historians knew it was, and was known to be underwater, and was under only 5 meters of water, yet took over a millennia to discover, we can only imagine what other interesting things we may find lurking just off the coast. 

That being said, here are some interesting facts about Antirhodos and Cleopatra’s sunken palace.  

1.    The island was fully paved

Antirhodos was not a large island, and measured 300 meters in length and 50 meters in width. The island had fully paved roadways with 3 branches. The main branch led seafront, facing the Caesarium Temple on the mainland. 

2.    A tiny city on a tiny island

antirhodos sphinx, cleopatra underwater palace
Sphinx from Antirhodos at the Cleopatra exhibition in California. Source.

The sunken island of Antirhodos was not large, yet included several buildings of significance. Aside from Cleopatra’s royal quarters, we also find a temple to Isis, a port with small docks, an uncompleted palace for Mark Antony, as well as many life size and larger statues of Pharaohs, priestesses, and two Sphinxes.

3.    A colossal stone head of Cleopatra’s son was found amongst the ruins

Image source: Franck Goddio

This head is made from granite and is said to depict Caesarion, son of Cleopatra and Caesar. Based on the size of the head, the statue would have stood 5 meters tall.


4.    The site is over 2,000 years old

Carbon dating of the wood used in one of the piers near the palace was traced back to 250 B.C. While the site was undoubtedly the royal palace of Cleopatra, we now know that it was built well before her time.


5.    Antirhodos was likely abandoned

None of the remains seem to date after the Ptolemaic period, suggesting that the island may have been abandoned after the death of Cleopatra.


6.    Divers can still examine the site

Image source: Wessam Atif
  Most of the artifacts from Antirhodos have been removed and can currently be seen in museums. However, divers may still explore the ruins, including huge granite stones with ancient hieroglyphics, palace columns, and even Sphinx statues.


7.    The discovery & discovery of Cleopatra’s palace could be a testbed for future underwater Archaeology

 Since the discovery of Antirhodos in 1995, we hope that this can pave the way for future historians and archaeologists to use modern technology that we have available to uncover more of the ocean’s mysteries. This may include magnetometers, as used by Franck Goddio and his team, or more modern technology such as LIDAR.    

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About Flame Rozario

A self-proclaimed Crypto-anthropologist with a personal interest in ancient intelligent civilizations, underwater archaeology, and the truth that lies behind the legend. I write about a combination of fact, fantasy, and my own personal theories. Why? Because I can.