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THE SUNKEN CAER SIDI OF LYONESSE

The Lost Land of Lyonesse – Legendary City on the Bottom of the Sea

The Lost Land of Lyonesse – Legendary City on the Bottom of the Sea

In Arthurian legend, Lyonesse is the home country of Tristan, from the legendary story of Tristan and Iseult.  The mythical land of Lyonesse is now referred to as the “Lost Land of Lyonesse,” as it is ultimately said to have sunk into the sea. However, the legendary tale of Tristan and Iseult shows that Lyonesse is known for more than sinking into the ocean, and that it had a legendary presence while it remained above ground. While Lyonesse is mostly referred to in stories of legend and myth, there is some belief that it represents a very real city that sunk into the sea many years ago. With such a legendary location, it can be difficult to ascertain where the legend ends and reality begins.
The story of Lyonesse most logically begins with Tristan and Iseult. The story of Tristan and Iseult is a tragic story of love and loss. It is an Arthurian tale, inspired by Celtic legend. It is said that the story was possibly the inspiration for the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, as both stories push the boundaries of love, family, loyalty, adultery, and betrayal. While the story of Tristan and Iseult can vary based upon who is telling it, the plot follows a common theme. Tristan, a young boy from Lyonesse who has been orphaned, it taken in by his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, which borders Lyonesse.
Tristan and Iseult. The End of the Song by Edmund Leighton
Tristan and Iseult. ‘The End of the Song’ by Edmund Leighton, 1902 (Wikimedia Commons)
As the years pass by, Tristan is very loyal to his uncle, as he raised him as his own son. When Tristan is grown, Mark sends him to Ireland to retrieve the fair maiden Iseult and bring her to Cornwall, as she and King Mark are set to marry. Tristan loyally follows his uncle’s orders, and journeys to Ireland.  On the return trip from Ireland, however, the pair are exposed to a love potion and fall madly in love with one another. Iseult eventually arrives in Cornwall and marries King Mark, but the love potion is very powerful, and Tristan and Iseult cannot deny their love for one another. Tristan and Iseult both love King Mark, but their love for one another is stronger. Eventually the pair is discovered and King Mark is devastated. While Tristan should be sent immediately to the gallows for adultery, King Mark harbors an affection for him, as his nephew. King Mark agrees to forgive Tristan, on the condition that Tristan return Iseult to him. Tristan does so, and he and King Mark make amends.
Iseult with King Mark, Edward Burne-Jones
Iseult with King Mark, Edward Burne-Jones, 19th Century (Wikimedia Commons)
In most variations, the sinking of Lyonesse occurs well after the stories of Tristan, Iseult, and King Mark take place. The sinking itself is not mentioned in Arthurian legend, although some say that Lyonesse sunk when Tristan left for King Mark’s court.  In Lord Tennyson’s epic Idylls of the King, Lyonesse is the location where Arthur and Mordred fought their final battle. One passage foreshadows Lyonesse’s sinking:

Then rose the King and moved his host by night
And ever pushed Sir Mordred, league by league,
Back to the sunset bound of Lyonesse –
A land of old upheaven from the abyss
By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
And the long mountains ended in a coast
Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
The phantom circle of a moaning sea.

There are some variations in the legends that surround the sinking of the land. Prior to its sinking, Lyonesse would have been quite large, containing one hundred and forty villages and churches. Lyonesse is said to have disappeared on November 11, 1099 (although some tales use the year 1089, and some date back to the 6th century). Very suddenly the land was flooded by the sea. Entire village were swallowed, and the people and animals of the area drowned. Once it was covered in water, the land never reemerged. While the Arthurian tales are legendary, there is some belief that Lyonesse was once a very real place attached to the Scilly Isles in Cornwall, England. Evidence shows that sea levels were considerably lower in the past, so it is very possible that an area that once contained a human settlement above-ground is now beneath the sea level.
Scilly Isles
Some believe that Lyonesse was a real place attached to the Scilly Isles (pictured). Source: BigStockPhoto
It is said that all that remains of Lyonesse is today’s still-standing island of Scilly. Fisherman near the Scilly Isles tell tales of retrieving pieces of buildings and other structures from their fishing nets. These stories have never been substantiated, and are viewed by some as tall tales. They also say they can see remnants of a forest when the sea is at low tide. On a more ghostly and spiritual level, some claim to hear the church bells of Lyonesse ringing during stormy times. As the legends of Lyonesse continue in today’s story-telling, it also remains a part of modern English literature. In 1922, Walter de la Mare wrote:

In sea-cold Lyonesse,
When the Sabbath eve shafts down
On the roofs, walls, belfries
Of the foundered town,
The Nereids pluck their lyres
Where the green translucency beats,
And with motionless eyes at gaze
Make ministrely in the streets./
And the ocean water stirs
In salt-worn casement and porch
Plies the blunt-nosed fish
With fire in his skull for torch.
And the ringing wires resound;
And the unearthly lovely weep,
In lament of the music they make
In the sullen courts of sleep:
Whose marble flowers bloom for aye:
And – lapped by the moon-guiled tide
Mock their carver with heart of stone,
Caged in his stone-ribbed side.

It is no surprise that the story of the sinking city of Lyonesse has come forth with many variations throughout the years. The image of a large, functioning city inhabited by thousands of people suddenly sinking into the sea, never to emerge again invokes an image that is both awesome and horrifying. From the legendary tales of Tristan and Iseult, to Arthur’s final battle with Mordred, to the stories of a city being swallowed by the sea, the tales of Lyonesse invoke a vast array of thoughts and emotions by those who wish to know more about this legendary city, and who like to believe that it’s legendary tales are founded upon a very real lost city.
Featured image: Artist’s depiction of Lyonesse being swept away (AnnoyzView)
Sources:
The Legend of Lyonesse – Lyonesse Falmouth. Available from: http://www.lyonessefalmouth.co.uk/legends/legends.html
Lyonesse – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyonesse
The Land of Arthur: Lyonesse – King Arthur’s Knights. Available from: http://www.kingarthursknights.com/theland/lyonesse.asp
Lyonesse – Princeton. Available from: https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Lyonesse.html
Lyonesse, the lost land off Cornwall – Legend of King Arthur. Available from: http://www.legendofkingarthur.co.uk/cornwall/lyonesse.htm
Tristan and Iseult – Wikipedia. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_and_Iseult
By M R Reese

CAER SIDI

If this is not to you excellent story and gaming material then you aren’t really trying…

5 Mind Blowing Underwater Cities

Lion-City-of-Quiandao-Lake,-China

No doubt we’ve all heard of the legend of Atlantis, the ancient, once great city that was lost when the ocean submerged it.To this day the legendary city has yet to be found (or proven to have ever existed) yet over the years many other underwater cities have been found, each of them as eerie as they are mind blowing.

 

1. Port Royal, Jamaicaport-royal

Once a notorious hub for pirate activity, prostitutes, booze, and raging all-night parties, Port Royal was once branded ‘the most wicked and sinful city in the world’.

That was so until June 1692 when a massive 7.5 earthquake shook the island of Jamaica, sucking Port Royal into the ocean due to it’s unstable foundations and killing over 2,000 of it’s inhabitants. Was this earthquake a fatal natural accident or was it retribution for all the sins committed within the cavity? For hundreds of years people believed the latter.

In the years since then the infamous city, once one of the largest European cities in the New World, has continued to sink and now it lies forty feet below the ocean. The sunken city is a hive for archeological exploration as amazingly many near-perfect artefacts are still being unveiled from the site.

 

2. The Pyramids of Yonaguni-Jima, Japanyonaguni-island-japan-1

To this day experts still argue over whether the Yonaguni Monument which lies underwater just off the coast of Japan is man made or simply a natural occurrence.

While there is evidence to support the natural theory, looking at the terraced stones and triangular shapes that which make up the pyramid it’s hard to believe such a monument could occur naturally. The pyramid rises a massive 250 feet from the sea floor and is a constant lure for scuba-divers for obvious reasons.

If the structure was manmade, experts suggest it was likely built during the last ice age at roughly 10,000 BCE.

 

3. Dwarka, Gulf of Cambay, IndiaDwarka,-Gulf-of-Cambay,-India

The ancient city of Lord Krishna was once thought to be merely a myth but ruins discovered in 2000 seem to be breathing life into the old Indian tale.

The story goes that Lord Krishna had a magnificent city which was made up of 70,000 palaces made of gold, silver, and various other precious metals. The city was prosperous however upon Lord Krishna’s death Dwarka supposedly sank into the sea.

The ruins are situated 131 feet beneath the ocean surface in the bay of modern-day Dwarka, one of the seven oldest cities in India. Acoustic studies have shown the ruins to be amazingly geometric, stunning experts.

Many artefacts have been recovered from the site but perhaps none more important than one which was dated to 7500 BCE, supporting the theory that the ruins may well be the ancient Dwarka.

 

4. Lion City of Quiandao Lake, ChinaLion-City-of-Quiandao-Lake,-China

Hailed as the most spectacular underwater city in the world, China’s Lion City certainly is a marvel.

Built in Eastern Han Dynasty at roughly 25-200 CE and spanning about 62 football fields in area, today Lion City can be found 85-131 feet beneath the surface of Thousand Island Lake, an area that was intentionally flooded in the 1950s to create a dam.

The sculptures that decorate the city rival the beauty of even Alexandria so it’s little wonder that Lion City is now one of China’s most popular tourist destinations.

 

5. Cleopatra’s Palace, Alexandria, EgyptCleopatra's-underwater-palace,-Egypt-.

Just off the shores of Alexandria lies what is believed to be the palace of Cleopatra, an ancient Egyptian queen. It is believed that the ruins were cast into the sea by an earthquake over 1,500 years ago and lay dormant until recent years.

Along with the royal quarters, archaeologists also believe they have found the temple of Isis alongside them. To date, more than 140 artifacts have been uncovered from the site and experts now believe they have located the tomb of Cleoplatra and an ancient museum within the ruins.

Hopefully the ruins will be opened up to divers and tourists in the years to come, allowing us all to have a closer look at the marvel that is Cleopatra’s palace.

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