1. Atlantis: The Utopian City:
Whether or not Atlantis actually existed, the idea of this utopian city has enthralled many to such an extent that numerous books, movies and documentaries have glamorized it and sought to solve the mystery of its disappearance. As recently as February 2009, an aeronautical engineer made headlines worldwide when he claimed to have found Atlantis using the Google Ocean tool, which allows users to comb through thousands of photos of ocean landscapes. To date, the jury is still out on the matter of whether the underwater city off the northwest coast of Africa is actually Atlantis.
2. Carthage: The War-torn City:
Similar to ÂTroy, the city of Carthage was situated in a highly coveted spot in the Mediterranean near modern-day Tunisia. Carthage was founded by the Phoenicians (probably around 800 B.C.) as a trading post in North Africa, directly across from the toe of bootlike Italy. Though its prime location brought the city great prosperity, it also caused 150 years of war — mainly with Rome — that eventually led to Carthage’s demise. The First Punic War (260-241 B.C.) showcased Rome’s superior naval tactics and resulted in Carthage’s resounding defeat. During the Second Punic War (218-201 B.C.), Carthage battled Rome for rights to Spain and was once again soundly defeated. Rome even managed to outsmart Carthage’s legendary military tactician, Hannibal.
3. Troy: The Legendary City:
Few epic tales are studied more than “The Odyssey” or “The Iliad,” penned by Homer around 800 B.C. These fictional poems describe the Trojan War. The city of Troy was located in what is now modern-day Turkey, sandwiched between Asia and Europe. Because of its accessibility, Troy was a cultural hotbed and ideal trade locale. Homer’s epic poems describe how Helen, the stunning wife of Sparta’s King Menelaus, allegedly ran off with a Trojan prince named Paris. This affair reputedly caused the Trojan War and earned Helen’s reputation as the face that launched a thousand ships. Menelaus launched a huge offensive on Troy, resulting in the war that may have involved a notorious wooden horse, Achilles and a number of other famous tales.
4. El Dorado: The Imaginary City:
The origin of El Dorado, which is Spanish for “The Gilded One,” dates back to the 16th or 17th century, when European explorers in South America first heard tales about a fabulously wealthy American Indian chief who was perpetually covered in gold dust [source: National Geographic]. The city — supposed to be located somewhere in the northern portion of South America — was said to be chock-full of precious gems and gold. Thousands of explorers have tried in vain to locate this city of riches, and many of them have died in the process from a variety of causes, including disease and starvation.
5. Pompeii: The Buried City:
The ruins of Pompeii weren’t disturbed until they were discovered in 1748 and archaeologists began the excavation process [source: The History Channel]. Archaeologists never expected the near-perfect preservation of the buildings and objects that had been buried for more than 1,500 years. They were even able to create molds of the people trapped underneath the debris. Though their bodies had long since turned to dust, the air pockets where they were trapped remained intact. Once filled with plaster, the molds rendered a striking likeness of the volcano’s victims, trapped in various states of evacuation [source: National Geographic].