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Thonis Herakleion - The Lost Egyptian Port City

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  • Thonis Herakleion - The Lost Egyptian Port City

    So apparently, ancient Egypt had a city called Thonis (Herekleion to the Greeks), that was a major rival to Alexandria. Situated on the Nile Delta, it was a powerful center of both trade and worship, having major temples to Amun (god of the sun, oft syncretized with Ra as Amun-Ra), Hopi (deific personification of the yearly Nile flooding), and later Herakles (aka Hercules) during the Greek occupation.

    Unfortunately, with the rise of Alexandria and the prioritization of it (combined with the rise of Christianity, edging out the cults of Amun and Herakles), Thonis faded from importance. And because it was apparently Venice before Venice was Venice - with a series of canals - time, earthquakes, and lack of maintenance caused Thonis to sink into the sea.

    And no one noticed or cared, apparently, because it had been fading from historical record (that aforementioned fixation on Alexandria) even before it sank. It's only in the 20th century that people found the underwater ruins and started excavating.

    For a more complete explanation, refer to this video by YouTube channel Geographics:




    Now, obviously, the explanation for the fading of Thonis - from both the surface and from memory - in the Real World is probably as described here. It became irrelevant, and fell prey to neglect and the forces of nature. Then no one bothered to write about it, save as a footnote.

    But we're not here to talk about what's realistic. We're here to talk about vampire conspiracies.

    After all, vampires are probably the sort of folks who would remember Thonis/Herakleion. Yet mortal history does not. And mortal history remembers Carthage, a city that was destroyed and its ground salted. Vampires (especially Brujah) can't stop talking about Carthage. Yet Thonis gets no mention. What gives? (Other than the obvious fact that the writers of the World of Darkness didn't know Thonis existed, probably. We don't need to mention that.)

    Who wiped Thonis from the map and from memory? Is anyone pissed about that? Did the Followers of Set take issue with that? Or are they glad, because Thonis Herakleion was a Greek-controlled center of Amun worship (and thus not Set)? Are there any secrets hidden in the underwater ruins that vampires (or other supernaturals) would prefer not to be unearthed by the maritime archaeologists?



  • #2
    One can get story seeds from antiquity almost at every period. Its understandable that Vampire the Masquerade's writers can't include every single historical event tied to Cainites. When it comes to archaeology there SO MANY contradictions on vampire history, starting with Gokekli Tepe. which is at least 12000 if one considers the astrological mapping of pillar 43. The oldest reference to a Cainite is Vasilisa who was mentioned to be twice of Baba Yaga's age, that makes her 14000 years old which was around at the time before the Sahara was a desert and of one believes some archeologists, around the time of Atlantis before it became the Richat structure (or Eye of Sahara). Yet, Vasilisa would not be old enough to be around the time of the supposedly biggest pyramid in the world of Gungnun Padang (again, if one believes a particular group of archeological perspective).

    There are many sites we don't know yet and yes, vampires might have been around in times when some of this places are forgotten. Hell, they might remember the city that inspired the tale of Ubar, Lovecraft's Nameless City or even Borges' Tlön. Perhaps also during the time of Antarctica being a green continent as it appeared in the Piri Reis map.

    Now back to Heracleion, if Herotodus was right, we already have someone in Chicago that visitied it prior the Trojan War (meaning Helena). and it sunked around 200 BC which is the exact time around the creation of the Court of Miracles. It is known that there was a 4th generation Ventrue around such times (Nefer-meri-Isis), so perhaps she was at Heracleion and the Setites tried to get rid of her by sinking the entire city, since they did this kind of things before around 1600 BC when the combined might of the clans battled Shaitain in Knossos. The time of its destruction also is the same time around the embraces of Azif in Alexandria (a known Brujah diablerist), Sahar-Hannibal in Tyre and Trajan of the Nosferatu.

    - Saga

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    • #3
      I prefer to think the city went into decline, and actually sank, all on its own.

      Vampires do not control everything - forces of nature, culture, population and economics are beyond their control and might destroy them.

      Even so, there might be vampires down there, in torpor, amid the muck and ruins.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
        I prefer to think the city went into decline, and actually sank, all on its own.

        Vampires do not control everything - forces of nature, culture, population and economics are beyond their control and might destroy them.
        While true, that's not what I asked. Because, as stated earlier, the realistic version of events is obvious, and therefore not worth discussing. The point of this thread is not "what is the most likely reason Thonis fell", but rather "what is the most interesting reason why Thonis fell".

        We're Storytellers. We have the power to make the fall of a great city of antiquity as complicated as we like.

        Even if we assume the city just went into decline, VtM has a long history of that having occurred because powerful vampires pulled strings. Perhaps, in a desire to curtail Setite influence in the Mediterranean, Roman Ventrue worked to divert trade from Thonis and towards Alexandria, which had a greater presence of Alexandrite Ravnos (as described in Dark Ages Vampire).


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        • #5
          Well a recurring pattern (esp among earlier vampires) is that they try to be builders and organizers and leaders of society (including humans) and fail utterly at it (whereas in modern nights, they do better simply by attaching themselves to the existing mortal civilization and surviving off that.)

          Alternate idea: Given the ties of Alexandria to Egypt, some sort of connection to the Setites is logical, whether direct war or (more likely) infiltration and subversion of a competitor (either to bring them down, or to take them over.) The Wikipedia Entry has an interesting detail that might be useful:

          Sanctuaries in Heracleion dedicated to Osiris and other gods were famous for miraculous healing and attracted pilgrims from a wide area.[4] The city was the site of the celebration of the "Mysteries of Osiris" each year during the month of Khoiak. The god in his ceremonial boat was brought in procession from the temple of Amun in that city to his shrine in Canopus.
          Osiris (And his 'bloodline') to say nothing of the mummies and other allies were obvious antagonists to Set. So Thonis may have been a major outpost (or even headquarters given it rivalled Alexandria) in their efforts to combat Set in Egypt. The wiki article goes on to mention 'floods, earthquakes and tsunamis' causing devastation that weakened Thonis and thats the sort of natural disasters you might ascribe to groups of ancient and mighty supernaturals waging war against one another.

          Another idea from the wiki is that Thonis was mentioned in connection to Paris and Helen of Troy. Obviously this can imply a connection between Menele and Helena (and Prias) and thus the destruction of Thonis might be tied to those three in some way (used as a base or refuge for one and destroyed by the other.)

          Those aren't mutually exclusive either, though. And as already mentioned there could be ties to the Ventrue in one way or another (a different way perhaps to tie it to Carthage and Rome?)

          This podcast describes Thonis as having 'mercenary sailors' that worked for the Pharoah, which might be a way to tie that into conflicts (it mentions later - apparently unconnected though - that piracy became an issue. And mercenaries could become pirates. A nest of Pirate Vampires working for Setites might be a reason why Brujah or Ventrue might obliterate Thonis)

          This link also mentions the city has ties to Hercules (hence the name). I can't think of any immediate connections between WoD history and Hercules but I'm sure something could be thought up.
          Last edited by Mister_Dunpeal; 09-21-2019, 11:16 AM.

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          • #6
            A fluff treatment:

            Eumenes of Cardia was born (362bce) in the Thracian city of Cardia. His father started life as a poor wagon driver, of Scythian origins. While Eumenes was growing up, his father built the business into a prosperous shipping firm, while never gaining acceptance in aristocratic society. Little did the Cardian nobles know the family was older than most cities.

            They were descended from an ancient line of Scythian revenants, the Cimmerians. The Cimmerians, rulers of the lands in which they dwelt, were said to exist partially in this world and partially in the world of the dead, though the family ties were diluted enough in Eumenes' case that he drew no powers (or revenant status) from them.

            As a youth, Eumenes was a brilliant student and a proficient wrestler, and, though handsome enough, quite shy and awkward. Phillip II, King of Macedon, personally selected him to train as a scribe (and occasional catamite) in his service. Eumenes quickly rose through the civil service to the post of administrator for a portion of the Macedonian army. On Phillip's death, his heir, Alexander (later "the Great"), hired this valued advisor as his chief secretary and administrator. Eumenes was only six years older then the new King and had long been accepted in the outer orbit of Alexander's drinking buddies and bed mates.

            As Alexander's star rose, Eumenes came along with the armies into Asia. He was not disliked by the other courtiers and generals, but his quiet, efficient administration of conquered lands did not lend itself to the sort of boasting with which one advanced one's political position in those days. "I administered a system of taxation with a 97% rate of efficiency" may be more difficult than "I personally killed a hundred Persians in battle", but is not the sort of story that gets your face put on a coin.

            Relegated to second tier status, Eumenes nonetheless was key to holding Alexander's conquests. With Alexander's death and the partition of the empire, Eumenes came to rule Cappadocia. Complicated palace politcs (too complicated to detail here) led to Eumenes being taken captive by his own guards and left to starve in a locked room.

            Eumenes was rescued by his sire, Dheunos Regs, a childe of Cappadocius. Dheunos Regs managed political affairs in the mortal world in the Eastern Meditarranean on behalf of his sire. Dheunos needed an experienced administrator to send as an advisor to the Lasombra Prince of Thonis.

            Prince Peloro of Nuraghes, a chief of a tribe of "Sea Peoples", had held the site of Thonis for a thousand years and transformed the marshy fishing village into the largest port in the Mediteranean. Lacking a competent administrator, Nuraghes had asked Dheunos to find him one. Delighted with the fledgling Eumenes, especially with his ties to the empire of Alexander, Nuraghes accepted him into his court and, in many ways, used him as a figurehead to draw attention (and attackers) away from himself.

            Eumenes, new to vampirism, was ecstatic at again being placed in a position of responsibility, if not authority. Nuraghes, for the first time since his embrace, felt something like love for the young Satrap growing within his dead heart. Together, they set about enriching the port city, building temples and harbors. Their successes, however, drew envious eyes and eventual defeat.

            In 190CE, a roving band of Setite warriors, intent on taking the city, slew the vampiric court and burnt their palace to the ground. Eumenes and Nuraghes, the lone survivors, fought back-to-back and destroyed the invaders. Nuraghes, badly injured, uttered his final words thanking Eumenes for his centuries of loyal service, grasped him tightly to his bosom, and cried bloody tears. This last of his blood sealed his fate with torpor.

            Eumenes diablerized the old shit right then and there.

            Eumenes, the sole remaining vampiric inhabitant of the largest port in the region, set about rebuilding a powerbase. Wisely distrustful of fellow vampires, he sent to his sire for a complement of Cimmerian revenants. Prince Eumenes bred them wisely and by 300 CE had a dynasty of three dozen staffing the offices of Heracleion. No other vampires were allowed to enter the city. Any who did were either destroyed outright or sent home, their minds wiped of all but a warning to stay away and vague memories of a vastly powerful force which had overwhelmed them.

            In his isolation, Eumenes began drifting into a quiet madness. First, he developed a fear of crowds, then a fear of leaving his palace. His servants brought him ten victims each night, not missed in the comings and goings of a major port. He became gluttonous and cruel. He built a stable of a hundred ghouls, who infiltrated every segment of the city. He took all meetings with servants from behind an ornate screen, hung across a deep chasm.

            He spent his nights in study, reading works from across the known world bought for outrageous sums. He mastered several foreign magics, as well as necromancy.

            Other vampires, resentful of being shut out of the city, but unable to dislodge the old dotard, met at Alexandria in 397CE and promulgated a plan. They would not attack Heracleion directly, they would starve their rival out. They maneuvered trade and political power toward Alexandria. In a matter of a few decades, Heracleion was a shadow of its old self. Empty warehouses and empty streets held more rats than people. The extensive systems of drainage and pilings maintained with the wealth of the Nile were left to rot.

            By 700CE, this echo of a city was sinking into the marsh. Alarmed, the Cimmerians and ghouls beseeched their Prince to do something. Having had his study interrupted, he killed the ghouls and ordered the Cimmerians to build a fortress haven for him and his household. They dug deep into the marshy soil, slogging away mud and building walls of scavenged stone from formerly great edifices.

            The access tunnel, dropping straight down, was lined with stacked stone supported by wood beams. Twenty meters down they struck sandstone, out of which they excavated tons of gravel. Given no precise plans by their again distracted master, the Cimmerians dug along natural faults in the stone. Organically growing to dozens of levels, each an acre or more in size, it was a true labyrinth palace.

            On the winter solstice in 1019CE, Eumenes ordered his household into the hole, and collapsed the access tunnel behind him and his servants. At first terrified, the Cimmerians, given little choice, accepted their fate and served their master. He conjured all they needed: food, clothing, air, and fresh water. In return, they gave their blood in worship of their chthonic god.

            Above ground, the rotting village subsided into the sea, mortals forgetting there had ever been a swamp there, let alone a city. The vampires of Alexandria forgot their role in its demise, but avoided it out of a superstitious awe.

            Underground, in the labyrinth, Eumenes built a cozy, inbred society. With each youth born in the glow of phosphorescent mold, an elder was sacrificed to Eumenes, keeping a stable population of a hundred souls. Wanting for no necessities, the population grew idle and bored. They took up debauched customs. The highest caste, born of the most favored revenants, disemboweled or mutilated their inferiors for fun. The master used the spoiled victims in his experiments.

            By the 2010s, though, it became clear this could not go on forever. Waste had been dealt with by piling it in the lowest levels of the labyrinth, but now there was only one level left unfilled.

            Eumenes, finally looking up from his studies, realized the gravity of the situation. Deciding a millenium of study in a cave was enough, he embraced a handful of his most loyal servants and trained them in the rudiments of vampirism. With Eumenes conjuring human-sized amphorae around his still-breathing servants, his childer punched through the old entrance at the tunnel.

            As water poured into the labyrinth, the vampires pulled as many of the sealed vessels as they could from the caverns. Most of the occupants died as their clay coffins shot buoyantly to the surface, but two dozen survived the trip.

            Spotted bobbing in the water by a fishing vessel, they were rescued. In gratitude, Eumenes killed the entire crew except one pilot who was forced to take them ashore. Taking him as a guide to this new age, and setting the ship ablaze, the community waded ashore at Abu-Qir just last night.

            Eumenes, the excitement shocking him into cogency, ordered the ship's pilot to find a safe place for the day. He led them to the basement of a tourist hotel which was closed for renovations. The revenants guarded the pilot through the day, waiting for their master to awaken. They captured a tour group and brought them to the basement for their master's breakfast.

            Tonight, at sunset, Eumenes awoke and strode out into the 21st century, for the first time having the opportunity to examine his surroundings. His first order of business is finding safe haven. His second is re-establishing contact with his clan.

            Surely, there must be a Cappadocian presence in the vast city he sees around him.
            Mechanics:

            Eumenes of Cardia was embraced as a Cappadocian of the fifth generation. Following his diablerie of Pelero of Nuraghes, Eumenes is of the fourth generation.

            He knows his clan disciplines of Auspex and Fortitude to level 4. He is skilled in Necromancy, knowing the rudiments of all the paths listed in V20, with Grave's Decay as his primary path. He is familiar with blood sorcery of a style similar to Koldunic sorcery, knowing the equivalent of Conjuring 5, Focused Mind 5, Biothaumaturgy 4, Neptune's Might 3, and Mercury 1. (Due to the ancient and idiosyncratic nature of his style, he would be hard-pressed to share any magics from modern practitioners.) He learned Dominate 4 and Potence 5 from Pelero of Nuraghes.

            His three childer are Cappadocian (see DAV20) neonates, under the blood for less than three months, and of the fifth generation. There is a personal companion of Eumenes who serves as his advisor and mate. The other two are simple bodyguards. If needed, all three are built as book standard neonates, and are blood bound to Eumenes.

            The revenant family:

            Cimmerians
            Once a family large enough to directly rule an entire kingdom on the eastern shores of the Black Sea, none remain outside Eumenes' entourage. There are only 23 left alive, only a few of whom have set foot outside of the Labyrinth until this week, having been born underground. They have reacted with terror upon seeing the modern world illuminated by the sun. Whether they adjust remains to be seen.

            Those Cimmerians who were above ground when the Labyrinth was sealed were exterminated over the centuries in the seemingly endless wars of the region. The last known survivors were killed in a battle with the Giovanni in 1809.

            Disciplines: Auspex, Fortitude, Obfuscate
            Weakness: (Memento Mori) Any mortals who encounter a member of the family is reminded, through a subtle trick of the mind, that the lives of mortals are short, and will soon end in the grave. Most humans have no idea just why the family reminds them of death, but it does. All members of the family possess the Eerie Presence flaw, suffering a +2 difficulty to all social dice pools.

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