The word Wanderlust is defined by the English Dictionary as a strong desire to travel. I think it is fair to say that many of us in the UK are experiencing Wanderlust at the moment, myself included.
In 2017 I published two website posts about fictional places you could visit in the real world. You can read those article here and here. This is a sequel to those posts, of sorts. This time we are looking at fictional places that may have existed. Their existence is neither proven nor unproven.
I hope you enjoy.
1) Garden of Eden.
Although the Garden of Eden appears in several tales in the Christian Bible it is most well known for being the setting for the Adam and Eve story. God places Adam and Eve, the first man and woman in existence, into the garden to live with all of lives luxuries. He issues the pair one rule, not to eat the apple of knowledge that hangs from the forbidden tree. The devil, disguised as a snake, sneaks into the garden and persuades the pair to eat said apple. As punishment for this, God banishes them both from the garden and its location was forever lost to man.
Historians have long debated the location of the Garden of Eden or at least the location that inspired the setting. The Bible offers scant clues. It describes the Garden as being the source of four tributaries, meaning rivers. Some candidates for its location or at least its inspiration include the Persian Gulf, Armenia or most interestingly for us, Iraq.
The reason Iraq is interesting is because this is also the supposed place of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Hanging Garden of Babylon is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only world wonder whose existence is unconfirmed. The raises the question of how it became a world wonder if no-one has visited it?
(Quick side note: I made a video about the Seven Wonders of the World on YouTube two years ago. Link is below if you want to check it out.)
The few documents that we have from that time period fail to mention any sort of garden. It is possible that the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Babylon are the same thing. It is also possible that the hanging Garden of Babylon was confused for the very real hanging Gardens of Nineveh, created by King Sennacherib.
I like to think that we are yet to discover the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, similar to how Troy was thought to be a mythical location before it was rediscovered in 1870.
2) El Dorado – The City of Gold.
The idea of El Dorado is the result of wishful thinking and greed.
In 1536 the Spanish conquistadors were colonising the New World when they heard about El Hombre Dorado, a ritual of the Muisca people. The Muisca people lived in modern day Columbia and the El Hombre Dorado ritual involved a man covering himself in gold dust and swimming into Lake Guatavita, in order to perform a sacrifice to the gods. The witnesses to this ceremony would then throw golden trinkets into the lake as their sacrifices. When the Spanish arrived they killed all the men, raped the women, took the children as slaves and stole as much gold as they could.
The Spanish reasoned that if the story of the golden man, El Hombre Dorado, was real then the stories they had heard about El Dorado the city of gold were also real. This logic made its way back to Europe and soon all of the world powers wanted to be the first to discover El Dorado.
None of the searches for the city were successful but they were also not completely fruitless. The conquistadors were so eager to find the city that they made detailed maps of South America that later Europeans added to. This resulted in accurate maps documenting the area that would later inspire Google Maps.
By the 1800’s people generally accepted that the City of El Dorado was fictional but some brave or foolish explorers still hunt for the city today. You can go online and book yourself onto a hunt for the city… if you have money to waste.
Everyone knows the story of Atlantis but not everyone knows about the idea of Atlantis.
The first document we have mentioning Atlantis is a play written by Plato. In the play we hear how Atlantis was built by Poseidon the greek God of the sea after his argument with Athena over the founding of Athens. The island of Atlantis is about the size of modern day Texas and had advanced technology allowing it to defend it self against invaders. Eventually Zeus decreed that the inhabitants of Atlantis should be drowned for their pride and ordered Poseidon to sink the city with a giant wave. The details change in each retelling but the core of the story always remains the same, The Atlantians were defeated by their own hubris.
The reason researchers took Atlantis very seriously was because Plato went into minute detail describing the city. He mentioned the governments, the layout of the city and most importantly where to find it, at the bottom of the central Atlantic. The inhabitance of the ancient world did not have deep sea diving equipment so they weren’t able to do a complete search but even with our technology we have been unable to find the island. It is hard to lose something the size of Texas but in two thousand and five it was estimated that we had only explored twenty percent of Earth’s oceans.
So could Atlantis be waiting somewhere in the remaining eighty percent?
Probably not. Plato wrote about Atlantis almost nine thousand years after its sinking and he had a habit of creating new islands and cultures just to prove a point in his writing.
We may be able to piece together what events inspired the story of Atlantis. One thousand years before Plato there was the Minoan Eruption. The Minoan Eruption was an volantic eruption on the island of Santorini now modern day Thera. This eruption destroyed most of the island and blasted some parts of it back into the sea. According to some records this eruption was felt as far as Ancient China. Similar to how we compare disasters to Pompeii, the Ancient world would compare it to Santorini.
It is fair to say that everyone in England is at least familiar with a few traits of the King Arthur legend, whether that be Excalibur, The Lady in the Lake or the Holy Grail. One such element the general public might be familiar with is Camelot the home of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Before we examine the potential Camelot sites scattered around the UK we need a quick history lesson into the legend of King Arthur. It helps to think of the King Arthur story in layers.
- The Annales Cambride. This was written in the 900’s and gives us our first reference to Arthur. The texts says that in 516AD Arthur won the Battle of Baton and in 537AD Arthur and Modrid fell. The text does not identity Arthur as a King nor does it not tell us who Modrid was and what exactly was meant by fell.
- Historia Regum Britanniae. The regum Britanniae was written in 1100’s by Geoffrey of Monmouth who laid the groundwork for the Arthurian mythos. Monmouth establishes the characters of Merlin, Uther Pendragon, Guinevere and Modrid the traitor. He also add the story of Excalibur to the myth.
- At an unknown point between 1100 and 1200 Chretien de Troyes added the character of Lancelot and created the famous love triangle between King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. Chretien de Troyes mentions that Camelot was home to Arthur and his knights and adds a quest for a grail. It is suspected that De Troyes died before completing this story.
- The Vulgate Cycle was written in the 1200’s and finishes the story of the grail by adding several religious elements. The authors of the Vulgate Cycle added many other Christian elements including making Merlin half demon. It is around this time that the backstory of famous knights such as Sir Percival and Sir Gawain are developed.
- Le Morte d’Arthur is perhaps the most famous version of the legend. It was written by Thomas Malory in 1485 and contains all elements of the King Arthur legend in one text.
- The Lull. The tales of King Arthur went out of fashion at the start of the First World War. This was partly due to the myths being predominent in the idea of chivalry, a code that was destroyed by the harsh realities of trench warfare.
- Revival. After World War Two, The King Arthur myths were brought back to the public’s consciences. These new stories are often re-imagined for a modern day audience sometimes placing Arthur in the modern day or adding urban fantasy elements to the story.
As you can see the idea of Camelot was added one thousand years after the first mention of King Arthur. Some locations hinted at to be Camelot include Tintagel in Cornwall (also cited as King Arthur’s birth place and childhood home), Caerleon an old Roman fort in Wales, Carduel modern day Carlisle, Winchester which was the capital city of Wessex under King Alfred the Great, Cadbury Castle in Somerset previously known as Camalet, Colchester the captain city in Roman times or any British location that once bore Camel in it’s name.
Okay, this last one is a bit of a cheat as Themiscyra is a real place you can visit.
Themiscyra, also known as Paradise Island or the Amazon Isles, is well known as the home of DC’s Wonder Woman and the Amazon warrior race. The Island made its first appearance alongside Wonder Woman in 1941 and its first on screen appearance in 2017. Due to the complex nature of comic books plots there is no clear history of how the Island came to be or where exactly it is located. In most cases the Island exists outside space and time and no man can willingly enter it unless they have the permission of a resident. Steve Trevor, a pilot from World War Two, crash lands near the Island and is nursed back to health by Princess Diana who later takes the mantel of Wonder Woman and journeys with her lover to America to fight in the Second World War.
The origins behind the Wonder Woman’s mythos are… interesting to say the least. The character of Wonder Woman was created by American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston who worked under the pen name Charles Moulton. While Marston created the character, Wonder Woman’s appearance was based of Marston’s wife, Elizabeth, and their life partner, Olive Byrne. Marston lived in a polyamorous relationship with Elizabeth and Olive and their lifestyle greatly effected the Wonder Woman mythos. Although all three creators wanted Wonder Woman to an icon for feminism, in her earlier appearances Woman Woman’s powers would disappear if her hands were tied by her bracelets and if she uttered the phrase ‘I submit’. Criticism has also been aimed at Themiscryra for being a male sexual fantasy. Thankfully the modern incarnation of Wonder Woman has distanced herself from the past.
The 2017 the Wonder Woman film used Italy to depict scenes on the island due to the real Themiscyra being somewhat less glamorous. Themiscyra is an ancient Greek town in northeastern Anatolia on the southern coast of the Black Sea. Unfortunately I was not able to find a picture of the real Themiscryra due to Google’s algorithm showing me pictures of Gal Gadot in Italy but we can briefly touch upon how the film portrays the Amazon warrior women.
The Amazon warriors feature heavily in greek mythology. They play a role in the labours of Hercules and also appear in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. Due to this many believed that they were as fictional as Greek Gods themselves. However archaeologists discovered four tombs at the start of 2020 which contained female skeletons buried with weapons and armour. Similar burial sites have been uncovered in Greece, Turkey and Russia proving that female dominate societies did exist and were not limited to main land Greece. Unfortunately lots of misconceptions have risen about these cultures and further confusion arose when the Amazon River was named. Among these misconceptions is that the Amazon woman kept males as slaves, that the woman would chop off their right breast in order to better use a bow and that they were unable to ride horses.
I hope you enjoyed this list and I’ll see you next time. Take care and stay healthy.