The Lighthouse of Alexandria - Top Attraction of the Ancient Alexandria
Besides the Alexandria Library, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was definitely one of the most famous ancient Alexandria attractions.
The impressiveness and importance of the Pharos lighthouse are maybe measured best by the fact that it became the etymological origin of the word "lighthouse" in Greek, French and Italian! It became a synonym for a lighthouse!
Soon after Alexander the Great founded the city, Alexandria became a very busy harbour and needed something to guide sailors into Alexandria port at night time.
Ptolemy Soter who took over the rule of Egypt after Alexander's death commisioned the construction of the Alexandria lighthouse in 290 BC.
It took 20 years to build this structure at the eastern point of Pharos Island in front of Alexandria harbour, but it was so well worth it: the lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the tallest manmade structures on Earth! It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World!
Its architect, Sostratos of Cnidus, proud of his work, wanted to have his name inscribed on the lighthouse, which Ptolemy II, the son of Ptolemy Soter, forbade him- it was his name that was supposed to be seen on this magnificent structure only!
Clever Sostrates got around this by chiselling his name onto the foundation of the lighthouse and covering it with plaster, underneath the consecration in honor of Ptolemy. Over time, the Ptolemy consecration fell off, the plaster chipped off and revealed Sostrates' inscription.
With its foundation made of stone and its build made of marble block masonry, the lighthouse of Alexandria's height was estimated at between 393 and 450 ft (120-140m), which is equal to a 40 storey modern building.
It was connected to the mainland by a man-made connection, a giant causeway, named the Heptastadion. Alexandria lighthouse was structured on 3 levels: the lowest one shaped as a massive box, then the eight-sided tower and on top a cylinder which extended up to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light was burned.
On top there was also a mirror, which reflected the sunlight during the day and the fire at night. In Roman times, there was also a statue of Poseidon atop the tower.
The destruction of the lighthouse of Alexandria happened over many centuries. First, it got badly damaged in the earthquake of 956, then again in 1303 and finally in 1323 when it collapsed.
Today, no remains of the Pharos lighthouse can be seen except for the blocks discovered by divers on the floor of Alexandria's Eastern harbour.
However, when visiting Fort Kait Bai, one of the Alexandria attractions, standing at the spot of the ancient lighthouse, try to imagine what it looked like once upon a time when the lighthouse of Alexandria took travellers' and visitors' breath away!