The Magnificent Lighthouse Of Alexandria

by Shirley Williams
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In 1994, French archaeologists dove underwater in the Alexandria harbor to seek out the location of the historically famous lighthouse of Alexandria. This salvage inspection was guided by information provided from a dive team who believed they might have discovered the lighthouse’s location in the 1960s. The 1960s diving team had marked a significant sight using underwater satellite imagery. This imagery confirmed that the early divers had found one of the Seven Wonders of the World-the Alexandria lighthouse.

More about the Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Pharos, or lighthouse, of Alexandria, once existed at the entrance to the harbor of Alexandria. This structure welcomed many seafarers that came to the city from all over the Mediterranean Sea. Historically, the lighthouse of Alexandria represented the excellence and grandeur of Egypt during Ptolemaic times.

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Alexander and his troops marched across the border of Egypt and seized power in 332 B. C. This was the beginning of the Egyptian Greek Era. The Egyptians welcomed him as a conquering hero. He had previously taken control of the Persian Nile Delta without a fight. When Alexander took over Egypt, he began looking for a place to build a spectacular city named after him. He chose the small Egyptian town of Rhacotis, which became the Egyptian section of Alexandria. Once the city’s construction began, Alexander left Egypt to the care of his governors and went on to conquer other cities.

Ptolemy I eventually took over Egypt from Alexander and made the city of Alexandria one of the richest and most significant places in the world. Ptolemy I’s goal was to create Alexandria as one of the intellectual and cultural centers of the world, rivaling even Athens. One of the main developments of Ptolemy during this period remains the Museum of Alexandria and its Great Library. This museum became a center for teaching and research and boasted the most massive accumulation of books in the world at that time.

The Lighthouse

After creating the museum, Ptolemy I went on to make Alexandria one of the most important and wealthiest shipping ports in the world. One of the first steps in this goal included building the Alexandria lighthouse to become a guide for travelers and traders. Ptolemy I began the building of this landmark in 290 B.C. His son completed the tower in 280 B.C.

Description of the Alexandria Lighthouse

The Alexandria lighthouse was the first lighthouse to be constructed during this era. Experts estimate that the lighthouse was about 120 tall. The tower, which was located on a rocky island, contained huge blocks weighing 70 tons each. It stood three stories high. The third story was cylindrical and topped with a huge statue of the god Zeus. But the most significant aspect of the Alexandria lighthouse was its beacon, which burned both night and day. People in the harbor could see the lighthouse beacon from up to 50 kilometers away. The lighthouse was the tallest structure of its time.

No one knows precisely why the lighthouse ended up in the harbor. Some historians think that the building’s demise happened due to the numerous earthquakes that occurred in the area. The most significant of these earthquakes occurred during 1203 and 1323. This magnificent structure’s blocks still sit at the bottom of the sea.

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