Quite recently, a question on Quora got everyone’s attention. It was titled ‘What is the most expensive or historically significant item ever to be destroyed?’ Interestingly, it’s not as simple as it sounds. The old dynasties and civilisations all around the world were mostly measured by their wealth.
As long as the kings could flaunt their mansions, gardens, worship places and markets with gold, silver and other precious ornaments, they would be considered prosperous. This is the reason why no ruler left any stone unturned to showcase the wealth of its empire. It is simply how the world worked back then.
The historical significance of a city is measured by the number of inhabitants, nature of its rule, infrastructure, defence and wealth.
Here are some historically significant cities that were destroyed:
Memphis in Egypt
Memphis was the whole capital city of ancient Egypt that was built in around 2200 BCE. It had over thirty thousand residents, being one of the most populous cities of its time. The arrival of Alexander and then Christianity in the region completely cut the roots of this cult which it had in numerous pyramids.
The city used to be the center of trade and commerce. The pyramids were attributed to the gods. Most inhabitants of the city were pagans who worshiped idols placed in these pyramids along with precious ornaments. The city was abandoned and renamed repeatedly over the passage of time.
Presently located in Pakistan, Mohenjo-Daro was built in 2600 BCE. With over 35,000 inhabitants, the city was among the most advanced civilisations in the ancient world. Indus Civilisation is considered one of the oldest and it reached its high point around 2000 BCE. It had its specialised water and drainage system. The designs of streets and marketplaces show amazing resemblance with the present age.
A great flood destroyed the whole city somewhere around 1700 BCE. Its residents used to worship idols, had their own festivals and exquisite architecture. The explorers even found jewellery and toys.
Troy was a remarkable city of northwestern Turkey. Till this day, the city is remembered because of a poem by Homer named Iliad. It reconciles the Trojan War which was fought when Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta, according to Greek history.
Greeks attacked the city of Troy which was founded in 3000 BCE and besieged it. It had tall and mighty walls surrounding it. Troy was destroyed multiple times by conquests around 1900 BCE. It was rebuilt and an earthquake fractured the city in 1250 BCE.
Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
The Templo Mayor, usually called the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, was built in 1427-1440 by rulers of Aztec Empire and it was a symbol of strength for Nahua “altepetl” city-states comprising of Mexico’s alliance with Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan.
The structure representing superiority was expensive as it was built with big, heavy rocks layered one above the other with a height of 60 meters. Real human sacrifices of prisoners were made in this building during the festivals. The priceless temple was destroyed in 1521 by Spaniards for the construction of a cathedral church. The temple’s destruction meant an end for the triangular alliance.
Palmyra in Syria
Archeologists suggested that this central Syrian city was built around the second millennium BCE. It belonged to the Roman empire later on in the first century of ACE. The rich city of Palmyra had about 200,000 residents and it flourished by trade caravans.
It had Silk Road with beautifully constructed temples having precious ornaments in them. In 2 ACE, the city was destroyed by a Roman emperor named Aurelian and most of the inhabitants had converted to Christianity before converting to Islam in 4 ACE. The most recent destruction of the Syrian city has been caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.