It is the lighthouse of Alexandria, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The strange lighthouse and the city of Alexandria are closely related to Alexander the Great, one of the most outstanding generals in history.
Alexander the Great (356 BC – 323 BC) was the son of King Philip II of Macedon and his fourth wife, Princess Olympias of Epirus. He is considered a great emperor, invincible military genius, who left many political imprints and valuable military lessons for posterity.
Right from the age of 20, Alexander the Great achieved many glorious feats, becoming the ruler of the Marcedonian Empire, and at the same time mastering many large lands. Over the next 10 years, this military genius led his army, in turn conquering vast lands such as Greece, Egypt… to contribute to creating a vast empire and mighty.
Alexander the Great is considered one of the greatest military geniuses in history. Photo: Wp
In 331 BC, while traveling through northern Egypt, Alexander the Great founded a city named after himself. Less than three years after the start of his campaign to conquer the Persians, Alexander the Great had seized control of the eastern coastal region of the Mediterranean.
In the Nile Delta, the king of Marcedonia decided to establish a seaport to ensure control of his seas, and to establish a trading center to replace the Phoenician city of Tire, where he just leveled.
Alexander the Great quickly found a perfect location for the new city. It is a strip of land connected to the Nile via the westernmost branch of the plain, and protected by Lake Maryut to the south.
In his biography of Alexander the Great, the Greek historian Plutarch chronicles an ominous event in the process of city planning. Accordingly, when observing the layout of the roads and canals of the new city, Dinocrates, Alexander’s architect, because there was no chalk, he used barley flour as a substitute.
But not long after Dinocrates finished his work, a large flock of birds appeared, causing the sky to darken and they devoured all the flour. At first, Alexander was worried because he thought it was a bad omen, but the oracles told him that it was a sign that the new city would provide life to the whole world.
The city of Alexandria needs a lighthouse
The location of the city of Alexandria, where the famous lighthouse was located in the ancient world. Photo: NatGeo
The city of Alexandria is roughly shaped like a perfect rectangle between the sea and Lake Maryut. Contemporaries compared the city to chlamys, an ancient Greek cloak.
Alexandria received its water supply through a canal connected to the Canopic branch of the Nile Delta. In fact, Alexandria’s extensive sewers and boulevards are rare in the eastern Mediterranean. The city is divided into 5 regions. However, nearly a quarter of the extension is in the location of royal palaces and gardens.
In Alexandria, the deep harbor should be suitable for ships with large drafts. In fact, the port in this city is protected by islands from dangerous winds from the north.
However, since there is no compass or navigational tools, it is difficult to find the direction by looking at the coastline. Moreover, in the area around the Nile Delta there were no mountains or cliffs, and the coast was just swamps and deserts stretching endlessly. Meanwhile, the land is so low that it is like hiding behind the sea.
In addition, there is another potentially dangerous natural element that is a large stretch of land that is barely submerged, but no one can see it if not familiar with the coastal waters.
In fact, many sailors find that they discover the strip when they think they are about to dock, but as a result, their ships will run aground on this strip. In particular, the last difficult barrier is the reef pulling in front of Alexandria, which can pose a fatal danger to sailors and ships docked if the wind is not favorable. Therefore, the port in Alexandria needed a lighthouse, but not every lighthouse would be.
The dream of Alexander the Great and the strange lighthouse
The location of the lighthouse in Alexandria was chosen carefully. Off the coast of Alecandria is a small island called Pharos. It is honored in Greek culture because at Pharos, Menelaus, one of the Greek warriors in the Iliad and Odyssey, was stranded on his return from the Trojan War.
The historian Plutarch says that it was the poet Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, who appeared in Alexander the Great’s dreams to speak of the island of Pharos: “Now, off the coast of Egypt, there is an island bobbing in the waves in the middle of the ocean. They call it Pharos… There’s a nice little harbor there.”
When Alexander the Great awoke, he began to search for the island and when he saw it, he said that Homer was not only an admirable poet but also a very wise architect.
The place chosen to build the main lighthouse was in the westernmost part of Pharos. The lighthouse tower is a strange architectural work. It was taken from the island of Pharos. From there, pharos means “lighthouse” in Greek.
Painting of lighthouse in Alexandria. Photo: NatGeo
The initiator of the construction of this lighthouse was Ptolemy I Soter, a general under Alexander the Great, and also a Macedonian nobleman, who gained control of Egypt after Alexander’s mysterious death. in 323 BC.
The lighthouse project was completed during the reign of his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
The lighthouse in Alexandria looks very magnificent, with a construction cost of up to 800 talents (equivalent to about 23 tons of silver), consuming about 1/10 of the entire treasury of the king.
This particular lighthouse has done its job perfectly. Specifically, during the day, sailors can use the lighthouse for navigation. When night comes, they can also safely spot the harbor thanks to the light emitted by the lighthouse.
Because it is more than 90m high, sailors can see the lighthouse from nearly 55km away.
In particular, the fire burning at the top of the lighthouse is so bright that it can be mistaken for a star in the dark night. The smoke alone made it possible for sailors to see the lighthouse from far away during the day. At that time, because wood was very scarce in Egypt, many scholars believe that the ancients used oil or papyrus to light the lighthouse.
Some scholars have even considered the possibility that the lighthouse at Alexandria had an ancient fog siren. This whistle will sound when the coast is covered by clouds. Arab scholars describe that there were terrible voices coming from the tower. However, the exact mechanism for audible warnings has yet to be determined.
The famous lighthouse in the ancient world
With its unique scale, height and architecture, the lighthouse in Alexandria quickly gained many admirers. In ancient Greece, this lighthouse symbolized the might of Alexander the Great and the dynasty of Plotemy.
Some ancient scholars have included the lighthouse in their list of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
Even Roman coins in Alexandria dating from 81 and 192 have an image of this lighthouse. Although extremely famous and proudly iconic, in the end the lighthouse could not stand the ravages of time.
According to historical records, in the 1st period BC, Cleopatra VII, the last queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty, ordered the restoration of the lighthouse for the first time.
The lighthouse in the city of Alexandria is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Photo: NatGeo
Nearly 700 years later, when the Arabs conquered Egypt, the lighthouse at Alexandria is still standing. However, gradually, under the impact of earthquakes that shook Egypt in the Middle Ages, the lighthouse was destroyed.
In the 14th century, Ibn Battutah, a famous Moroccan explorer, expressed his sorrow at the unfortunate state of the lighthouse.
In 1477, when the lighthouse at Alexandria became a ruin, a Mamluk monarch ordered the use of the remains of the spire to build the Citadel of Qaitbay, one of the most important defensive strongholds along the line. Mediterranean coast, which still exists today.
Source referenced article: NatGeo, Livescience, Thoughtco