Follow TV Tropes


Soiled City on a Hill

Go To
God doing some urban renewal.
The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin

“When a country goes mad, it has the right to commit every horror in its own walls.”

This is a city or civilization that is destroyed after growing so complacent, hubris-laden, and/or corrupt that it is beyond redemption. Usually the agent of destruction is divine retribution or a scourge of God but also can be the result of karmic justice, nature's revenge, Knights Templar, or even human error.

Often, the Soiled City was once a Shining City or Utopia but, humans being who they are, it fell victim to arrogance and moral degeneration. In fact, before destruction, the Soiled City can still look like a Shining City even though its gleaming exterior is really concealing rot and vileness within.

Almost always a Wretched Hive. Can also be a City Noir. The opposite or (as mentioned previously) the corrupted version of the Shining City. This trope often overlaps with Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair and is used as An Aesop. The Shadow Land of Arcadia and the Ghibli Hills; many a Farm Boy who went expecting the Shining City was lucky to escape with his life, if at all.

Water and fire are common means of a Soiled City's destruction.

The name refers to the City on a Hill, an early epithet for Boston (literally built on a hill) which in turn became an early symbol of American Utopia. Worth mentioning the original phrase was less about a city being good and more about a city being presented for the world to judge its action.

Compare with After the End, Cataclysm Backstory, And Man Grew Proud, Heel–Face Town, and Götterdämmerung. Also compare Vice City, which is a city that has never been destroyed despite being similarly infested with crimes.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • This is what ultimately ends up happening to the World of Mana in Cross Ange, due to the hubris of its creator, Embryo, and the disgust he has for the world's over-entitled pacifist-wannabes. Its inhabitants are guilty of complacency and overdependence on Mana, as they by and large have no ability to think for themselves due to Mana's effects, leading them to immediately (or for sadistic effect, slowly) turn on Princess Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi after they find out she is a Norma, muggles who are instinctively despised by them, in the first episode. By the time Ange encounters a few survivors as the world is falling apart, they angrily demand she help them; after all the crap she has been through, including them earlier cheering for her public execution, she breathlessly executes one at random so the others will run away screaming, thus leaving them (and her sister who also turned on her) to survive in the post-apocalypse aftermath after Ange and her comrades save the multiverse and are transported into the Dragon Earth to live in peace.
  • Invoked by Mammon in Make the Exorcist Fall in Love. He invites Father to face him with a Kill Sat attack in emulation of God's burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. It would've leveled the entire Japanese city Imuri was staying at if Father hadn't blocked it with the power of Archangel Gabriel.

    Comic Books 
  • As bad as Heavenside from Doktor Sleepless is (most people consider it an ironic name), it is actually a contrast to Hellside, the even worse city on the other side of the mountain where everyone died.
  • Nightwing: Blüdhaven (noted as being even worse than Gotham City, which is really saying something) is wiped out when the Society drops Chemo on the center of the city.

    Fan Works 
  • Lost Cities: Although the Heartspire is implied to have started out with good intentions, it eventually became a corrupt, tyrannical society that embraced slave labor and equine sacrifice, which caused Celestia and Luna to destroy it.
  • The Night Unfurls: After experiencing this trope first-hand that is Yharnam, which collapsed due to misuse of the Old Blood, hence the Beast Plague, the Good Hunter is determined to prevent this outcome from happening to Eostia, only using his Blood Vials on himself.
  • The Palaververse: In the backstory, Antlertis was a decadent ancient society responsible for most of the modern world's ills, which was seemingly destroyed by cosmic entities that the ruling mage-lords tried to bind to their will.
  • Quizzical plays on this in The Basements of Doom, where the treasureless lost city is just lost because it's in a dangerous area, and people just moved away.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Batman Begins, there's the League of Shadows which is an ancient secret organization that takes upon itself to destroy societies and cities that, according to their standards, have become too corrupt and decadent. ("The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome. Loaded trade ships with plague rats. Burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.") Next on their list: Gotham City. And then they show up again years later, trying to do the same thing, under the command of Ra's al-Ghul's heir Talia and Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
  • Texas City, CA in Breaker! Breaker!. An abandoned mining town re-incorporated by what the film, at first, seemed to hint was a band of traveling gypsies (but later just turned them into '70s-style corrupt hicks) and funded by bootlegging and hijacking 18-wheelers. Gets destroyed in the end by a band of vengeful truckers responding to a distress call on behalf of the film's hero, JD.
  • No Name City in the film version of Paint Your Wagon seemingly pays for its sins by being swallowed up by the Earth. (In actuality, the town collapses due to the miners tunneling under it to get at the last of the gold.)
  • The title cities in Sodom and Gomorrah are so vile and corrupt that Lot is told Jehovah has decided they must be destroyed before the sun sets. Lot is only just able to lead the Hebrews and the cities' freed slaves out of the city gates before lightning storms, earthquakes, and fiery explosions reduce the cities and their inhabitants to dust.
  • Coruscant in the Star Wars prequels shows signs of this, as does the Old Republic generally. At least, according to the Empire's propaganda. To be fair, the fact that they could and the circumstances surrounding their willingly voting in the Empire and its new and oppressive system does, ironically, illustrate it nicely. This was one of the major reasons why the New Republic went and changed its capital to the planet of Hosnian Prime in the thirty-plus-year time gap between Return Of The Jedi and The Force Awakens, and then the entire Hosnian system gets blown to pieces by the First Order's secret weapon.

  • Syl Anagist in The Stone Sky, the third book of The Broken Earth Trilogy, is revealed to be built on the oppression of people like the Thniess who are used as Human Resources. The tuners, genetically engineered people used as tools to power their Magitek engine, decide to use that engine to shut down its power source and destroy the city. However, the Earth, which turns out to be sentient and also mad at the city taking its magic, destroys things far more than the tuners originally intended.
  • Magrast in The Chronicles of Magravandias. The city is the concentrated corruption of the Magravandian empire and the palace is particularly bad.
  • In the Discworld novel Moving Pictures, this sort of divine retribution is rumoured to be what happened to the civilization that once existed around Holy Wood Hill. It's been suggested that if the gods wreaked hideous vengeance on corrupt and depraved cities, they'd certainly have done it to Ankh-Morpork by now, but it's possible they did and no one noticed the difference.
  • In the H. P. Lovecraft story "The Doom that Came to Sarnath", a group of colonists who founded the titular city razed the nearby lake city of Ib and then exterminated the Fish People who had lived there for thousands of years simply because they were ugly to look at, retaining only an idol of the lizard god that they had worshiped, Bokrug, as loot. Exactly one thousand years later, at the peak of Sarnath's prosperity, Bokrug rose from the lake and completely levelled Sarnath, leaving only the idol unharmed.
  • In the Gentleman Bastard books, Salon Corbeau is a city-state that serves as a playground for the insanely rich and shameless. Casual cruelty and violence against the powerless are institutions; noble parents give their children small animals to experiment on with new daggers and poor people are made to play a twisted version of chess on a giant chessboard for rich spectators where they are subjected to humiliating degradations. At the end of the novel, the main character sets a pirate armada on them.
  • New Babylon, by virtue of destiny, becomes this in the Left Behind books.
  • Charn from The Magician's Nephew, the prequel to The Chronicles of Narnia. The civilisation (and the entire world in which it existed) was destroyed by the Empress Jadis, who killed every single living organism just because she couldn't be queen. She kept herself preserved as Sealed Evil in a Can until two kids from another universe freed her from her slumber (they had been tempted by the Schmuck Bait-laden mechanism used to awaken her). Then she hitched a ride with the kids back to their universe, and eventually to Narnia, where she became known as the White Witch. Some of Jadis's passing comments suggest that Charn was plenty corrupt before she destroyed it, too. Nostalgic remarks about torture chambers and "the cracking of whips and the groaning of slaves" convey a pretty clear impression of what life was like there.
  • The Thran Empire, particularly the city of Halcyon, that served as Precursors to the main setting for Magic: The Gathering is shown to be one of these in its titular novel, The Thran. Even before Yawgmoth started pulling their strings, they practiced Fantastic Racism against the goblins and other species, were much more concerned with aesthetic beauty than people's safety or comfort, created a massive undercity of caves where all the undesirables (both criminals and people who merely disagreed with the way of doing things) and had a superstitious understanding of disease (which they believed was caused by evil spirits... granted that was sometimes true in Dominaria, just not most of the time. After Yawgmoth...
  • Andre Norton's "Operation Time Search". In our real world, Atlantis fell under the control of evil rulers and was destroyed. The actions of the hero prevent this, and as a result, history is changed and Atlantis survives to the present day.
  • The city of Shadukiam in The Orphan's Tales. In "The Book of the Sea" we learn about how its rich inhabitants care about nothing but aesthetics and money, devouring ridiculous delicacies made of jewels and forcing their species minorities to live in ghettos. In "The Book of the Storm," we learn of how the city met its terrible end, lost its anchoring in the world, and became the hollow nightmare city of Marrow.
  • Danu Talis, better known as Atlantis, from The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.
  • Númenor in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion. After Sauron is taken captive by the Númenóreans, he takes on a role as The Corrupter, and by the time he's done Númenor was so corrupt that it had become a militarily expansionist Evil Empire that treated its conquered peoples as slave chattel (and it was this horrible treatment that drove many Easterling and Haradrim groups to side with Sauron later on), Melkor (aka Morgoth) worship went so far as to include regular Human Sacrifice and nobody among the populace save for the few dissenters who escaped being sacrificed batted an eye when The Emperor Ar-Pharazôn decided to marry his first cousin against her will. Ar-Pharazôn is eventually explicitly said to be the greatest tyrant the world has seen since Morgoth. The final straw was when Sauron tricks them into sailing to Valinor and violating the Ban on setting foot there. As a result, the Valar call upon Eru Ilúvatar and he destroys Númenor with a giant wave, sinking it beneath the sea. The survivors, those who saw the writing on the wall and left while they could, became the Dunedain, founding the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Valyria was the greatest civilization in the Known World, but it was built on the backs of millions of slaves, most of whom it acquired through its territorial expansions. Many people tend to forget this part and mourn Valyria after its downfall during the Doom, but Tyrion Lannister, reflecting on its history, opines that Valyria was an empire built on fire and blood, and it reaped what it sowed.
  • In Victoria this happens to the US through a combination of deficit spending leading to a hyperinflation crisis, a genetically-engineered pandemic caused by spreading around scientific knowledge, and a series of oppressive laws meant to please everyone leading to growing rebellion and secession movements as the federal government becomes ever more tyrannical and dictatorial. According to the protagonists, the real failure of the United States was ever dabbling in multiculturalism and tolerance at all, straying from its solid Christian foundation.
  • The Emerald City in Wicked. Even in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz it has shades of this — although the people aren't unhappy or corrupt, the Wizard in charge is a phony playing the whole city for fools (and the city isn't even really emerald; the Wizard just makes everyone wear emerald-colored glasses so they think it is). But like everything else in Oz, the depiction is even worse in Wicked. Booze-soaked nightclubs, whores on every corner, chamberpot contents in the street, the Unionist church's Knight Templars running unchecked, and a brute posing as a wizard cheerfully exploiting all of it to keep in power.
  • Atlantis, in Plato’s original accounts (the dialogues Timaeus and Critias), became a soiled city (and island) before it sank into the sea. Details are unclear because Plato’s account is incomplete, but it’s clear the place was blessed by its patron deity, Poseidon, for many years, and became a global power as a result, before it somehow angered the gods by falling into moral decline, and was dramatically punished as a result.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sunnydale on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was doomed from the start, founded to be an epicenter of a Hellmouth and its citizens meant to be prey for demonic beings. Buffy's biggest accomplishment in early seasons, it seems, is to make the citizens realize the danger, even as it gets worse. Eventually, in the seventh season, supernatural activity becomes worse than ever, and the human populace finally has the sense to evacuate. Soon after, the showdown between the Scooby Gang and the First Evil in the Season Finale (the last season shown on television) results in the town being obliterated, reduced to a smoldering crater as the Hellmouth is closed.
    • Well, the destruction element fits, but Sunnydale is not in other respects a particularly good match for this particular trope, as it mostly lacks the karmic/maybe they had it coming aspect that is typical and arguably central to a Soiled City. While there are certainly many notable exceptions (such as a mayor who plans to slaughter and consume hundreds of innocent teenagers to complete an eldritch ritual to make himself into a power serpentine demon, or a secret military project experimenting on supernatural beings), for the most part, the citizens of Sunnydale are consistently and expressly presented as not being particularly corrupt or nefarious, just ordinary people trying to get by while dealing with both the normal challenges of modern life and the extra burden of being prey to vampires and extradimensional monsters, or unwitting victims of witchcraft. While it's clear by the third season that all but the most oblivious and self-deluding residents of the town are either vaguely or completely aware that they are living in a hell-adjacent deathtrap with a suburban veneer, it seems most are just innocent "walking happy meals" for vampires and other demons, who stay not out of any love of the occult, but just out of their Whedonesque indifference to suffering—and to be perfectly fair, property costs must be insanely low in Sunnydale, with a lot of turn-over. At least until the final apocalypse breaks the doublethink barrier and finally causes a much overdue mass exodus. But based on what we know about these people, they probably all headed immediately for the other nearby Buffyverse center of evil, Los Angeles. Or Cleveland.
  • Doctor Who gives us Gallifrey, home of the Time Lords, as a planet-wide example of this trope. As early as the classic serial "The Deadly Assassin", Gallifrey was established as having fallen into decadence and corruption long ago. By the end of the Time War, the Time Lord High Council had tried to destroy the time-space continuum to save their sorry hides. In hopeless desperation, the Doctor actually set out to destroy Gallifrey for the good of the rest of the universe. Fortunately, he and a pair of his future regenerations figured out at the last minute how to shunt Gallifrey into a separate dimension instead, protecting the rest of the universe and the remaining civilians on the planet.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Shadar Logoth. As dark and cursed as in the books, as a once-great city now abandoned since its citizens' long-ago destruction by a sinister force. As in the books, objects brought from the city carry its corruption with them, like the ruby-hilted dagger that Mat picks up.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible features the following examples:
  • In the Mahabharata, the city of Dwaraka (aka Dvārakā) sinks into the ocean after becoming corrupt.
  • The sunken city of Ys in French folklore and Celtic Mythology. It was built below sea level and surrounded by a dike with a gate that was opened to allow access for ships during low tide. Ys was destroyed by being sunk under the waves as punishment for the Princess Dahut-Ahès's and the other inhabitants' debauchery. (Although, in one version of the legend, Ys sank as a result of the Princess Dahut-Ahès getting drunk and opening the gate at high tide during a storm.)
  • The medieval city of Vineta was, according to legend, a rich and powerful port on the Baltic Sea located near the present-day border of Germany and Poland. The sinfulness of its inhabitants led God to destroy it with thunderbolts and sink it underneath a storm tide.
  • The Book of Mormon:
    • The city Ammonihah is destroyed by an army of the Lamanites after they rejected the words of the prophet and killed those that did believe. They were pretty sure God couldn't destroy their great city in a day as prophecied if they didn't repent.
    • More broadly, there are the Nephite and Jaredite nations, who did pretty deplorable things toward their ends.
  • Legend — or rather, a very questionable 19th-century interpretation of supposed ancient texts — tells of a Pacific (or originally Atlantic) Expy of the above-mentioned Atlantis called "Mu." It, too, sank into the ocean after becoming riddled with corruption.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the Greyhawk setting, the Suel Imperium was the capital of the Suloise, a nation ruled by evil sorcerers thousands of years ago, which was eventually obliterated by the Invoked Devastation which caused the cataclysm called the Rain of Colorless Fire, reducing the Suel Imperium and the whole countryside to a hostile wasteland called the Sea of Dust. Very little is known about the nature of this disaster, but some believe the Suel did it to themselves by accident trying to do something very evil.
    • In the Dragonlance setting, the Knight Templar civilisation of Istar finally overreached itself when the Kingpriest demanded godlike powers to remove evil from the world. The gods' reaction to this was the Cataclysm, which not only destroyed the city utterly, it hit the rest of Krynn so hard the calendar felt it.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The ancient Eldar both embody and subvert this trope. Their glittering, technologically dazzling civilization once dominated the galaxy, but their descent into jaded excess and hedonism led directly to the birth of the Chaos God Slaanesh and their near-obliteration during the Fall. The heartlands of the civilization are now the warp-tainted hellholes known as the Crone Worlds, swallowed up by the Eye of Terror that the Fall ripped into the fabric of realspace. However, the one part of pre-fall Eldar civilization that survived and prospered was the dark city of Comorragh — the Eldar's worst den of vice, iniquity, and depravity. It survived because it was safely concealed from prying eyes in a pocket universe between the dimensions, and is now the home base for the Dark Eldar, who continue to celebrate and indulge in the kind of vileness that brought their civilization low in the first place. And if you still don't get it, Commorragh used to have a sister city named Satom.


    Video Games 
  • BioShock:
  • The Kingdom of Zeal in Chrono Trigger. Ruled by magic-using mage-supremacists, it eventually gets knocked out of the sky because drawing your power from something that will destroy the planet when it wakes up is not a wise decision.
  • The Kingdom of Boletaria in Demon's Souls used to be called "Heaven on Earth" by those who visited it, as its knowledge of soul arts allowed them to do feats thought of as miraculous by others. But then, a hop, a skip, and a suicidally depressed king later, and The Old One was summoned to eradicate all human life on Earth. Again. This resulted in the kingdom being enveloped in a mist that turned much of its populace into soul-thirsty demons and will eventually spread through the whole world.
    • Dark Souls: The titans of fire defeated their predecessors, the stone dragons, and lorded over humanity atop titanic castles. Then King Gwyn got paranoid about his human vassals wielding dark magic and cursed them with the Darksign, driving them insane and accidentally spreading a fire-quenching disease that engulfed the fire-worshiping world. The three games are about exploring the ruins of their long-gone glory in a desperate attempt to save what remains. At the end of the third game, one of your options is to just let the world end once and for all.
  • Kirkwall from Dragon Age II, best summed up by Varric;
    Varric: Kirkwall, "The City of Chains". Long ago it was part of the Imperium, slaves coming from far and wide to work the quarries. Now it's a Free City... but I use the word loosely
    • Also, as revealed in the Trespasser DLC of Dragon Age: Inquisition, Arlathan. By the time Fen'Harel destroyed it, the magical city of immortal elves had a populace willing to murder each other over what shade of paint to trim the roof with.
  • Enderal: Ark is a zealous theocratic city-state that practices caste systems, religious fundamentalism, and isolationist policies. The end result was a sprawling undercity that houses thousands, if not millions, of starving, worm-infested beggars and cultist mobs right below a nobles district that cares more about appearing virtuous than being virtuous. The whole continent around Ark is a mess due to their isolationist policies and dogmatic laws, as bandits roam the roads while the priest-guards refuse to do more than dummy practice. Near the ending, an army of disgruntled ex-priests and fanatic atheist invaders from another continent marched on the overcity to raze it, while the undercity was either flooded with neurotoxin by the city watch or also purged by the army. And then The Cleansing happened, killing everyone in Enderal and depending on the ending, possibly all of Vyn.
  • The Fallout universe in general is this. Capitalists vs Communists got so out of hand that both sides became extremist caricatures ruled by deluded conspiracies and the world got nuked over real good.
    • Fallout 3: In the decades preceding the game, the Pitt, formerly the industrial giant Pittsburgh, was a lawless Polluted Wasteland inhabited by rape gangs, raiders, slavers, and various horrific mutants. Upon discovering the city, Lyons' chapter of the Brotherhood of Steel initiated the Scourge, which wiped out most of the population except for a few unmutated children who were placed into initiate training, one of which was Paladin Kodiak. After being left for dead in an explosion and rescued by scavengers, Paladin Ashur became the leader of the city.
    • Nipton from Fallout: New Vegas was populated by gamblers, thieves, and prostitutes, until the Legion laid waste to the town and executed or enslaved the residents.
  • Final Fantasy XIV
    • The Allagan Empire is revealed to be this. Once a technologically advanced society with a literal Crystal Spire, its emperor made a Deal with the Devil in a bid for more power, causing him to seal Bahamut into Dalamud and use him to power said crystal spire to fulfill his end of the bargain; the attempt created a massive earthquake that wiped their civilization out. The Fractal Continuum museum in their artificial Floating Continent of Azys Lla (the only other place of Allagan origin besides Dalamud that survived their fall) highlights their arrogance and Azys Lla itself shows how far they'd fallen before the Fourth Umbral Calamity.
    • Endwalker shows this to be the fate of the Garlean Empire, itself a technologically advanced society, one that was violently expansionist and xenophobic. By the time the story of FFXIV starts back in 1.0, they had managed to annex the far eastern nation of Doma and the Eorzean region of Ala Mhigo, only to end up losing both in Stormblood and wind up forced on the backfoot, to the point that the powers that were considered using chemical weapons (which would've led to the world's being thrown back to the stone age in a Bad Future, as revealed in Shadowbringers). The only thing that stopped that was the Emperor's son killing him and taking the throne, but even this leads to the Empire being brought to the verge of collapse when said Emperor's son purposly orchestrates his homeland's destruction just to pick a fight with the Warrior of Light. By the end of the story, Garlemald is spared from total annihalation, albeit left in such a devastated state that it is unlikely to become a global superpower ever again.
  • In Hector: Badge of Carnage, the villain's plan is to use a Hate Plague on the residents of Clapper's Wreake so that they kill each other, wiping the slate clean and allowing him to create a better city.
  • In Mega Man Zero, Neo Arcadia has become this by the time of the fourth game, with Weil having taken over after the death of Copy X and the Four Guardians, and is ultimately reduced to a crater by Craft when he uses Ragnarok in an attempt to kill Weil, who survives.
  • Pathologic features a Soiled City in a Steppe. Depending on the ending you end up with, this trope is more or less relevant.
  • In Phantasy Star II, the entire human civilization of the Algo system is dependent on Mother Brain. This leads to complacency, and the world is unable to handle it when she starts going bonkers on them. This turns out to be by design: Mother Brain was created by the aliens from Earth, who also had a technologically advanced civilization that collapsed when their penchant for using technology to bend nature to their will led to their homeworld's destruction.
  • As Jill Valentine herself notes in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis's intro, Raccoon City, a town controlled by Umbrella, first ends up as ground zero of a zombie outbreak, before getting nuked into a crater to halt the spread.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End has the legendary pirate city of Libertalia. Founded by Henry Avery and an assortment of other pirate captains from The Golden Age of Piracy, it was lauded as a haven of freedom and opportunity. However, this was all a con to lure in other pirates so the ruling captains could kill them and steal their treasures for themselves. Even for those who did live there, instead of prosperity for all, the crew and their families were stuck living as commoners while the captains built palatial mansions for themselves. And then, on top of the classist strife, the captains rather predictably began in-fighting among themselves and killing each other off until the only ones left were Avery and his Number Two Thomas Tew, who ended up fighting until both died when Avery tried to sail off on his own with all of the collected plunder.

  • Wapsi Square: Atlantis, hands-down. Their reaction to the First Chimera turning rampant and glassing a continent? "We want an army of those." Though what happened to them is so downright horrible that they are pitied by the cast: a succubus got into the chimera's head, messed with their Brain Uploading protocols, and teleported all the babies into the ocean where they drowned while their mothers were teleported to the worst wastelands on the planet where they starved, froze, or dehydrated to death. The remaining Atlanteans were locked up inside a supercomputer and forced to watch the only survivors die slow and agonizing deaths, driving them mad.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: Newtopia, the capital city of Amphibia, though not exactly a Wretched Hive, has been at the source of many socio-cultural and economic problems in Amphibia, such as a Fantastic Caste System which exploits and disadvantages the toads and frogs in other parts. Then it's revealed that the city was once an imperialistic regime of interdimensional Planet Looters a thousand years ago who used the Music Box to pillage and genocide other worlds, although this legacy has been forgotten by everyone sans Andrias and the Core over generations. In the final season, thanks to the resurgence of the very same ancient evil empire which Newtopia originally gave birth to, Newtopia itself has been reduced to ruins and everyone has apparently either joined the bad guys or left. The closing credits in the series finale show that the ruins of Newtopia and the flying castle have been abandoned whilst Amphibia's inhabitants rebuild elsewhere, showing that Amphibia's dark past has been fully put to rest once and for all and it can never again threaten Amphibia's present.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Ba Sing Se, capital of the Earth Kingdom, was once the greatest city in the Avatar: The Last Airbender world. But over time, thanks to Evil Chancellor Long Feng and his Secret Police, it has degenerated into an Orwellian dystopia where brainwashing abounds, poor people are kept in segregated neighborhoods, and people are forbidden to even mention the war that's been raging outside the city for a hundred years. And just when Long Feng was arrested and things were starting to look up, Princess Azula of the Fire Nation infiltrated Ba Sing Se, got the Secret Police on her side, and finally captured the city and the entire Earth Kingdom. Unusually for this trope, though, Ba Sing Se was never actually destroyed. At the end of the series, it was retaken by the Earth Kingdom, and the Secret Police was brought under heel. The final scene in the series has the heroes relaxing in Iroh's tea shop in the city, while Aang and Katara kiss outside.
    • Sequel Series The Legend of Korra: Though Republic City was founded as a symbol of peace and cooperation, and is perhaps the world's main center of technological advancement, it's also filled with both bending criminal syndicates and a large homeless population, and is run by unelected bureaucrats who aren't doing much with the unequal treatment of non-benders. These tensions eventually erupted into war, with the anti-bending Equalist terrorists managing to momentarily take control over the entire city. It's implied that Republic City has been working on its problems since then, with the introduction of actual elections, though crime and political corruption still are abundant.
    • Sadly enough, it's also revealed in season three of Korra that Ba Sing Se, despite its technological modernization, remains a wretched and segregated hive 70 years after the events of the original series, due to its selfish and tyrannical queen and her Secret Police (the same organization as the original series's). When a band of anarchists assassinate said queen and bring down the walls separating the different social classes, the entire city instantly dissolves into chaos.
  • The Empire of Thundera in Thunder Cats 2011. The Cats of Thundera are a Proud Warrior Race who believe themselves a Superior Species and practice Urban Segregation, Fantastic Racism, and enslavement of species like Lizards and Dogs. They employ a Fantastic Caste System, where tailed Cats and Specific minorities live in a Fantastic Ghetto that exists below the upper level's Shining City, Bright Castle, and gardens of the nobility. The city is conquered overnight by Mumm-Ra and his collaborators the Lizard army and Plundered of all its valuables while surviving Cats hide in the wilderness or are taken as slaves.

    Real Life 
  • On the Arabian Peninsula, there was Iram of the Pillars — the "Atlantis of the Sands." In Islamic legend, Iram of the Pillars (also known as Ubar) was a city of untold riches that was buried under the desert sands as punishment for defying God. Long thought to be a myth, satellite photos and recent archeological excavations have indicated such a city probably existed until around 300 AD — about 300 years before the birth of The Prophet Muhammad, i.e. long enough for it to become the stuff of legend.
  • Rungholt was a thriving German merchant city on the North Sea coast until it was destroyed by a storm tide in 1362. Legend attributed its destruction to the rampant greed of its citizens and acts of sacrilege against God.
  • The low-lying Dutch city of Saeftinghe was a prosperous trading center from the 14th to the 16th century until much of the land surrounding it was lost to a disastrous flood in 1570. The city itself was abandoned in 1584 when, during the Dutch War for Independence, Dutch soldiers were forced to destroy the dike that protected Saeftinghe resulting in its sinking into the marshy bogs of the Schelde River. In Dutch folklore, Saeftinghe was an ornately rich but avaricious city that ultimately paid for its greed by sinking into the salty marshlands after being cursed by a merman for refusing to set his captured mermaid wife free.
  • Port Royal was an open haven for pirates and smugglers during the 17th century with an economy largely based around boozing, whoring, and stealing. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692 that caused it to sink into the sea.
    • Perhaps most impressive are the multiple tsunami waves that also hit the city in its destruction. For years scientists thought the accounts of multiple great waves hitting the city must be an exaggeration until geological surveys of the area showed it was indeed possible for a tsunami to enter the harbor, hit one side, rebound, hit the other side, rebound and repeat.
  • Nationwide examples can be seen in regimes that fell to revolution after becoming plagued with corruption and inequality: for example, Bourbon France, Tsarist Russia, and Fulgencio Batista's Cuba.
  • The incredibly deadly and destructive Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 represents a real-life inversion of this trope. After the quake shook the city for five minutes, most of the population took refuge on the waterfront where, 40 minutes later, a tsunami hit. In the aftermath, virtually everything that hadn't collapsed or gotten flooded was destroyed by fire. Because the city wasn't much of a Wretched Hive, the quake struck on All Saints' Day, and the city's Red Light District (built on higher, more solid ground) was spared, it led to a lot of philosophical exploration of theodicy, i.e., why do bad things happen in a world governed by a good deity? Most of the Enlightenment's great thinkers were influenced by the Lisbon Earthquake, with Kant and Voltaire writing works that discussed it directly.
  • Saint-Pierre, Martinique, the "Paris of the Caribbean", was destroyed twice, first by a hurricane in 1780, then more completely by a volcanic eruption in 1902.
  • Bayocean, Oregon, founded in 1906, was envisioned to be "the Atlantic City of the West", with a hotel, a dance hall, and numerous homes, but due to concerns with crossing treacherous Tillamook Bay, a jetty was built to calm the bay's waters. Unfortunately, this attempt to control Mother Nature backfired (two jetties were needed for a proper solution, and the town could only afford one), and the changed bay current began eating away at the sand beneath the city. From 1932 to 1971, the town slowly fell into the sea, starting with the huge indoor swimming pool and ending with a garage. The second jetty was built in the 1970s, allowing the sand on the spit to reaccumulate. Nothing but a plaque at the end of the Bayocean Peninsula County Park marks the spot of the town now.
  • Christian fundamentalists of all stripes are known to attribute natural disasters to God's wrath against America for its perceived sinful behavior, be it legal abortion, rising secularism, or public acceptance of LGBT people. The Westboro Baptist Church (of "God Hates Fags" and funeral protest infamy) is notorious for this, going so far as to celebrate natural disasters and terrorist attacks as divine retribution for the legalization of same-sex relations and openly call for God to destroy the United States.
  • The Mont Granier landslide (on the night between November 24–25 of 1248) is the most destructive European landslide. It razed five villages (and partially destroyed two others) in Savoy. An explanation from the era was that the landslide was a divine punishment against a man who just expelled a local community of monks to live at their former place (coincidentally, said monks took shelter in a small church in the area, which was spared from the destruction). Said "divine punishment" killed more than 5,000 people to hit a single one...