Location Pharos, Alexandria, Egypt
Coordinates 31°12′50″N 29°53′08″E
Year first constructed c. 280 BC
Tower shape Square (below), octagonal (middle) and circular (top)
Height 393–450 ft (120–137 m)
Range 47 km (29 mi)
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria (/ˈfɛərɒs/; Ancient Greek: ὁ Φάρος τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας), was a lighthouse built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom between 280 and 247 BC which was between 393 and 450 ft (120 and 137 m) tall. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world for many centuries. Badly damaged by three earthquakes between AD 956 and 1323, it then became an abandoned ruin. It was the third longest surviving ancient wonder (after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the extant Great Pyramid of Giza) until 1480, when the last of its remnant stones were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay on the site. In 1994, French archaeologists discovered some remains of the lighthouse on the floor of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbour. The Ministry of State of Antiquities in Egypt has planned, as of late 2015, to turn submerged ruins of ancient Alexandria, including those of the Pharos, into an underwater museum.
Three-dimensional reconstruction based on a comprehensive 2006 study
Pharos was a small island located on the western edge of the Nile Delta. In 332 BC Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria on an isthmus opposite to Pharos. Alexandria and Pharos were later connected by a mole spanning more than three-quarters of a mile, which was called the Heptastadion (“seven stadia”—a stadium was a Greek unit of length measuring approximately 180 m). The east side of the mole became the Great Harbour, now an open bay; on the west side lay the port of Eunostos, with its inner basin Kibotos, now vastly enlarged to form the modern harbour. Today’s city development lying between the present Grand Square and the modern Ras al-Tiin quarter is built on the silt which gradually widened and obliterated this mole, and Ras al-Tiin represents all that is left of the island of Pharos, the site of the lighthouse at its eastern point having been weathered away by the sea.
The lighthouse was constructed in the 3rd century BC. After Alexander the Great died of a fever at age 32, the first Ptolemy (Ptolemy I Soter) announced himself king in 305 BC, and commissioned its construction shortly thereafter. The building was finished during the reign of his son, the second Ptolemy (Ptolemy II Philadelphus). It took twelve years to complete, at a total cost of 800 talents, and served as a prototype for all later lighthouses in the world. The light was produced by a furnace at the top, and the tower was said to have been built mostly with solid blocks of limestone. Strabo reported that Sostratus had a dedication inscribed in metal letters to the “Saviour Gods”. Later Pliny the Elder wrote that Sostratus was the architect, which is disputed. In the second century AD the satirist Lucian wrote that Sostratus inscribed his name under plaster bearing the name of Ptolemy. This was so that when the plaster with Ptolemy’s name fell off, Sostratus’s name would be visible in the stone.
We ate lan unbelievable lunch 100 yards from the fortress that was built of stone from the collapsed lighthouse. We had sweeping views of the harbor of Alexandria and the city skyline over the water.
Pics of lunch and a recap of the day to follow in next post.