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The recent discovery by marine archaeologists of an undersea city and temple-complex in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka has surprised many. It has also renewed interest in ancient civilizations which may once have existed but were then drowned by rising sea-levels. Moreover, it follows earlier discoveries of underwater buildings off the coasts of India and Japan, which were submerged centuries, even millennia, ago.

Stories of submerged civilizations exist in virtually all cultures and have done so for a very long time. Some have suggested that these stories may be folk-memories dating back to disasters which could have occurred some twelve thousand years ago when the Ice Age ended and huge amounts of water were released by melting ice. Some have speculated that the end of the Ice Age may have caused worldwide sea-levels to rise by up to two hundred feet. However, one of the most famous stories about a submerged civilization comes from a more recent period, it is a story from the Atlantic, that of a civilization called 'Atlantis'.

In more recent times, it is a fact that the sea has encroached on huge areas of land. For example some eight thousand years ago England was not an island and the English Channel and the North Sea were little more than streams, across which men walked freely from what is now England to the European mainland. Stories of now vanished civilizations also exist in the Mediterranean. And around Northern Europe, off the coasts of Cornwall and Brittany or in the Baltic off the coast of Poland, stories of towns lost to the sea in historic times abound. Locally, for example, we know for a fact that the City of Dunwich, once the See of St Felix of East Anglia, disappeared under the North Sea waves during the Middle Ages and that the coastline of Eastern England extended several miles further under what is now the North Sea.

Although myths and legends about lost cities and civilizations such as Atlantis have existed for millennia, today there is particular interest in the quest to find them. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly because according to some scientists, sea-levels are set to rise in the coming centuries on account of 'global warming'. If this occurred, then indeed large and historic coastal areas of present-day Europe and North America would indeed be engulfed.

Secondly, interest in lost cultures has increased because there are those who believe more generally that such lost civilizations may have been superior to present-day Western civilization. In other words we face today a crisis and loss of faith in Western civilization, in the superiority of which virtually all Western people and many other people believed a century ago.

There are those who are convinced that the discovery and investigation of vanished ancient cultures and city-states, with their mythical lost knowledge and legendary wisdom, will teach the Western world where it has gone wrong. After all, what 'civilization' is this Western one that has created World Wars and genocides, the power to bomb and destroy the planet several times over, raping the earth of its virgin forests and natural resources, threatening to create 'Franken-foods' and 'Franken-beings' through genetic manipulation, and now menacing the whole of mankind with an ecological catastrophe which will see the oceans boil and humanity annihilated?

Whatever the nature of now submerged 'Atlantises' which may have existed in ancient times, as Orthodox Christians we can be sure of one thing: that they were just as corrupt as present-day 'civilization'. For the simple fact is that they all existed since mankind fell into sin and corruption and death. In reality there is and has only ever been one civilization and one ancient wisdom superior to all others. And that was not in a city, but in a garden, the Garden of Eden, the only true Civilization. And the recovery of the Wisdom of that Civilization does not require expensive underwater archaeology or fantastic speculation, it merely requires the keeping of the Gospel commandments in prayerful faithfulness to the Church of Christ, the Wisdom of God.

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