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For what reason would a civilisation experiencing an almost golden age in industry and agriculture, experiencing no catastrophic plague almost all move underwater in as such that they live entirely underwater in similar sized cities as previous. The land they exist on has not changed and is still as suitable as before so for what reason would they make the move.

Edit: I would like to stress the main problem I'm having is the fact that the majority of the civilisation, although not necessarily all, need to have a reason to move underwater rather than just small groups. To bring more context for this: Our civilisation let's call them the Maya, have been prospering and the misery and failures that have long plagued their Empire have been weathering the storm that is the Great Technological Revolution, bringing new advancements that made farming easier, people healthier and allowed cities bigger and grander then ever before accommodating numbers of people that would of once filled the entire Empire ushering in a new golden age of development and prosperity. Yet this Empire chooses to risk it all and gamble on what could either be the extension or end of this era of progress with a disruptive mass migration to the depths of the sea.

To clarify once more this question is not asking the possibility or feasibility of such a move under water, but instead that if such a feat was an option although I must stress not an incredibly easy one, what reasons would force a civilisation to make this change.

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    $\begingroup$ What technology level is the civilisation? How large are the cities that need to move and how deep underwater are they going? $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Feb 8 at 23:42
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    $\begingroup$ A Shoe Event Horizon, of course. The folks want to replace those awful, exploitable feet with flippers and tails as quickly as possible. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Feb 9 at 2:16
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If as you say there is nothing "wrong" with the land and nothing is driving them into the ocean, then pretty much all answers will be pointing to something being really really "right" and more attractive and figuratively pulling them into the sea.

The actual reasons could be a list of several possibilities depending on story needs....

Essentially, it would relate to economics. The sum gain of the transition to living underwater outweighs the existing benefits of living on land.

It has to be easier and more desirable to move their entire civilisation underwater than it is to extract said resource (whatever it is) back onto land. So it has to be something that is long term viable and so hugely beneficial in some way to quality of life/health/power generation/life span etc (to name a few possible examples) that to live on land that is perfectly liveable on is just seen as not the best use of your lifetime.

As an aside, how long this transition from land civilisation to underwater civilisation takes, would vary depending on how easy it is for the powers that be to see the long-term (and short term) benefits of the move.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ditto this. The value of living under water is higher than land. $\endgroup$ – user72081 Feb 9 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ I really like this answer, especially because it brings up a basic idea I overlooked which could of led to me answering my own question very quickly, and that is that you are more likely to do something the more it benefits you as opposed to not doing it, and this is more obvious if not doing anything is negative. Inspired by Daikyu Maryu's answer this could be a war that the civilisation is unlikely to win or unwilling to fight. Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Mendeleev Feb 10 at 19:16
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  • Resources that need to be mined underwater
  • Valuables to be found in the water
  • A new species found under water that enslaves / lures them (while the new species takes the land :))
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  • $\begingroup$ As I've clarified in my edit, the focus is on the whole civilisation making this move which I feel in the case of points one and two makes less sense than small groups who could mine or retrieve these resources and return them to the general land dwelling population, and although a really interesting idea, it seems strange that this new species would drag creatures who have evolved to work best on land underwater where special arrangements need to be made, although you could probably could justify it as these new land bases were far reaching outposts rather than the servant needing homeland. $\endgroup$ – Mendeleev Feb 10 at 18:59
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Living in the ocean could provide advantages. One being war. Since the ocean is one of the least explored places on the planet, it would be the perfect place for a civilization to hide and plan out their attacks against their enemies, and it would be very hard for said enemies to fight back, since the ocean is hard to traverse.

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  • $\begingroup$ As I've commented under at_'s answer this could once again be more of a small group situation in which the army would station itself underwater or have underwater bases but the whole population would remain grounded high and dry, although I could imagine that if under threat of imminent and catastrophic war an emergency evacuation to the underwater could make perfect sense. $\endgroup$ – Mendeleev Feb 10 at 19:02
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Waterworld

If the planet in question had low land mass compared to ocean, then they may simply have run out of land to live on relative to population size/growth. Or there may be land, but formed in small, widely separated continents which are inconvenient for trade. Creating trade outposts in the ocean because they can, could provide lucrative opportunities for those who can afford it. Eventually, trade centers become rich and a population draw on their own merits.

Alien Encounter

Divers may encounter a sentient species living in the deep ocean, and wish to move closer for research and trade. Or, it could be that the continents are, for anomalous reasons, metal-poor (at least in the metals they care most about), but the oceanic crust is metal-rich. Or oil. Or valuable farming fish. Economics, as stated by all.

Expansion, Not Migration

If the land is suitable for habitation, then it does not make sense that they will leave it. Rather, it only makes sense that they would expand away from it. All species fall into the Malthusian Trap, which says that they reproduce to the subsistence level of their habitat. Another way to say it is that all species expand to fill every ecological niche that they can, humans being no exception. If you want people to leave the land, then you need to have a reason they can't/won't stay. Crop failure, dust storms, earthquakes, dangerous predators, etc. are all good reasons to leave while they can.

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Religion

If, for some reason, the priestly caste decided that living in the ocean would be preferable, they just need a story to tell why the gods have deemed it necessary, and the appropriate inducements to sway doubters who might prefer to stay. A prophecy about a coming catastrophe on land (asteroid, fire, floods, etc.) would help. Note that a similar prediction could be made by scientists, but if it is bogus, you would need a police state to ensure that none of the honest ones spill the beans (or at least, are believed).

Megalomania

If the empire is strongly authoritarian and led by an effective dictator, then you simply need a reason for said person to want to migrate. For the glory of the motherland! To prove that we can! For the glory of me!!! Because I have foreseen a glorious future under the sea!

Space Exploration

If the Maya are also entering the Age of Rocketry, they may have designs on colonizing space. Building under water presents many challenges similar to building on a moon or an orbital habitat. Especially if there is a time sensitive component involved, like an anticipated mega-caldera that could bring on an extended volcanic ash winter and destroy all structures on the planet's surface. Then, building underwater would force citizens to quickly develop technology for making structures air-tight, safe, redundant, closed, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ As mentioned in my comment under At_'s and Daikyu Maryu's answers both the Waterworld and Alien Encounter Sections fall into the difficulty of why couldn't small groups do this work or make this move as is in the case of Real World Oil Rigs or Arctic Research and just like both of these wouldn't even then likely be permanent and as for the next section, I see your point however I don't agree that a land being suitable for habitation means that a group would never leave and as stated in EveryBitHelps's answer the existence of a better option would justify this move. $\endgroup$ – Mendeleev Feb 10 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with your theory is that people live in all of the most marginal habitats on earth, because they can, despite the fact that many of them are highly undesirable (think: arctic, desert, deep jungle, etc.). And staying while others leave is the easiest thing in the world, and leaves more resources for you. $\endgroup$ – Lawnmower Man Feb 10 at 20:09

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