I've seen others ask why the Wraith didn't react sooner, attacking with greater numbers and frequency after the Atlantis expedition wakes them but what about those 100 centuries previous when they could've either destroyed or salvaged the city with literally no resistance?

Granted they knew there were no other Ancients in the Milky Way Galaxy so wouldn't have had a huge new feeding ground to encourage them to chase after the Ancients but they could've at least closed the door on their return by destroying the city.

The show makes it clear they knew exactly where to look for it. We even see a Qeen actually swimming a mile at the depth the city had been but even if that's an unreliable indicator they had thousands of years to figure out how to operate in that environment or defeat the shield and salvage the wreckage.

Meanwhile we're told the Wraith have greatly inferior power sources and hyperdrives compared to the Ancients, which you would think they would want to improve even without an immediate outside threat given they aren't a unified culture.

I've seen all the episodes and I'm inclined to think it's simply a matter of plot but hopefully someone can cite or at least imagine an internally consistent explanation for this.

  • 4
    They thought it had been destroyed
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 21:00
  • 1
    Why? All the Ancients did was leave. We never see them engage in the general sneakyness that humans of Earth routinely do. This is a large part of why the Wraith fall for the deception when the Atlantis team figured out how to cloak the city and fake it's destruction. There is no comparable event in the Ancients' evacuation. If nothing else looking for wreckage would prove otherwise and be the next logical step.
    – John LA
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 21:26

3 Answers 3


All signs point to the Wraith thinking that the city had been obliterated by their energy beams and/or the depth of their descent underwater.

MCKAY: Ten thousand years ago, when the Ancients were under siege from the Wraith, they sank the city in order to dissipate the Wraith's energy blasts in the water. This way, the shield was able to hold far longer than it ever could on the surface. So, now, we submerge the city. The water attenuates the satellite's beam intensity, buys us some more shield time.

SGA: First Strike

As the ship sank, the remaining Ancients placed the Atlantis into a 'slumber' and then abandoned the city. On ultra low power, and with a shield that prevents Wraith beams from penetrating the ship, the Atlantis was most likely invisible to the wraith and presumed destroyed.

Certainly the Queen who was leading the attack never received a rescue mission from her utterly loyal followers (SGA: Submersion) so they would have had to have had a blindingly good reason to believe that there was no point whatsoever in going down after her.

  • Wraith loyalty is extremely conditional between Queens and even their higher subordinates like Tod and that one who distrusts Te'la when she's his rightfull leader. Obviously that Queen couldn't be rescued before being replaced be that 5 seconds or 5 hrs. It doesn't explain why they assumed the city was destroyed or why they would ignore it afterward when it's wreckage would've been like gold.
    – John LA
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 21:45
  • 2
    @JohnLA - It was well below the level at which the Wraith can operate. If it's not on their scopes and not showing on sensors, you'd have to assume it was crushed.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 21:47
  • You're basically arguing Wraiths lack Object Constancy, that it you cover their eyes you must've stopped existing :) Seriously though, if they can build hyperspace ships they can bootstrap a submarine drone and verify the cache of tech the Ancients kept from them really was destroyed. Just not in a day maybe.
    – John LA
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 21:52
  • 2
    @JohnLA - If there's really no reason to assume that it's not destroyed (as evidenced by its extreme depth and the absences of its crew on the scene afterwards), there's no compelling reason to go and kill yourself looking at the wreckage
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 22:10
  • Drones ≠ suicide. Investigation preceeds conclusions. Even the wreckage warrants it. But If anyone went down looking they'd also find the previous Queen who couldn't be ousted while she was around. If rescued by any recovery effort she would either kill her successor or plunge the Wraith into civil war. New Queen wouldn't want that. Likewise after their coalition falls apart no faction would sit back and let another get those technical goodies. This might have made the planet Atlantis was on off limits to Wraith, explaining why they had so long before the Wraith eventually came knocking..
    – John LA
    Commented Oct 11, 2019 at 22:19


  • It is never actually stated.
  • From the attack while the SGC was present we know the Wraith are not big into investigating/searching.
  • Chances are the city was submerged with no enemy in range and the Wraith just counted it as a victory.

It is never explicitly stated what actually happened. This video is the closest we get to any information. All we know is that they 'could win every conceivable battle, but saw no way to win the war, so they submerged their great city and left.

From the series we know that the SGC successfully tricked the Wraith into thinking they had blown up the city while under siege. They detonated a nuke above the shield and while the mushroom cloud was expanding safely away from the city and scrambling the enemy sensors they used a puddle jumper to cloak the city and make it appear they used the self destruct on the city rather than it fall into the Wraith's possession.

This fooled the Wraith and they left... they didn't look for wreckage, the stargate, ZPMs... nothing. They just left with the assumption it was all destroyed.

Given the Wraith were tricked by this and they did not search for any salvageable wreckage it is fairly easy to see the Wraith not searching for anything after the Alterans submerged the city.

I think it is fairly obvious that they would have submerged the city while there was no enemy craft in orbit to see their actions and when the next wave of enemies showed up to continue the battle they saw no city to attack.

The Wraith would have assumed the city was destroyed or (more likely in my opinion) they would have assumed the city left the planet altogether.

From that video link we also know that after they submerged the city the remaining population left through the gate back to Earth. It also makes sense that those who remained to go through the gate would have had a Plan B of some sort had the Wraith actually investigated and found the city at the bottom of the ocean - possibly even their own self destruct protocol...

At about 3:40 this video has some of the council deliberation from the episode when Weir went back in time. As the Alterans discussed Weir's time travel they mention that 'our actions were successful in preserving the city for 10k years' so whatever plans they enacted were enough to trick the Wraith that the city was no longer there...

Either way, with no city at the coordinates they had previously attacked and no significant searches in the area for any evidence they Wraith would have just left and begun their hibernation.


Forgetting everything else....Atlantis still had it's shield and the Wraith had no way of breaching it, especially not with the water attenuating their weapons energy.

Plus the only thing keeping the Wraith unified was the common enemy, once the Ancients left it was probably a free for all to claim territory.

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