Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as Pharos of Lighthouse was a tower built by the Ptolemaic Kingdom in the 3rd century BC on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt to serve as the port’s landmark, and later, its lighthouse.
Between 120 and 150m
One of the earliest Skyscrapers, remained among the tallest man-made structures on Earth for many centuries, and was identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon and legends claim that its light (a reflective mirror) was visible in the harbor from 35miles.
The Lighthouse at Alexandria was designed by the Greek architect Sostratus of Cnidus.
Building served as a lighthouse, with a fire and reflective mirrors at the top during the Roman period but prior to that time, the Pharos served solely as a landmark or day beacon.
Actual time is unknown but it’s said to be constructed in 290BC
Begun by Ptolemy Soter, the ruler of the Egyptian region after the death of Alexander the Great and finished during the reign of his son, Ptolemy Philadelphos.
The lighthouse is built with 3 layers.
Lower square section with a central core to provide support
Octagonal section in the Middle
A circular section on Top
The Apex had a mirror which reflected sunlight during the day and a fire was lit at night.
The Lighthouse on coins was minted in Alexandria in the 2nd century and was even shown on Roman coins.
Made out of large blocks of light-colored stone, the walls of Pharos were strengthened with molten lead to hold its masonry together as it had to cop up with wild waves, and possibly as a result the building survived for a long period.
Constructed in over a period of about 12 years
Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a medieval fort on the former location of the building in 15th century, using some of the fallen stones. The remnants of the Pharos that were incorporated into the walls of Fort Qaitbey are clearly visible due to their excessive size in comparison to surrounding masonry.
French archaeologists led by Jean-Yves Empereur discovered remains of the lighthouse in late 1994 on the floor of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor while more of the remains have subsequently been revealed by satellite imaging.
Do you know?
It was the first lighthouse of the world.
A 16ft statue, most likely of Ptolemy II or Alexander the Great, the city’s namesake, stood at its top.
When Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt in 332 BC, Pharos was a shrine and home to Proteus, a sea god.
A stylized representation of the Lighthouse appears on the flag and seal of the Governorate and on many public services of the city, including the seal of Alexandria University.
So far, some 2250 blocks have been plotted and archaeologists believe there are at least 500 more to be registered.
When it was done, it was the tallest building in the world at the time, except for the Great Pyramid
It was the 3rd longest surviving ancient wonder after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the still extant Great Pyramid of Giza.
The city is still a metropolis in modern-day Egypt.
The city Alexandria was named by Alexander the Great. It was one of 17 cities that he named after himself
In today’s money it would have cost about 3 million dollars to build.
In 290 BC it cost 800 talents (the form of money in this time).
Food for Thought
Why the stonework would not crack under the heat of a constant fire??
In several texts, a statue is mentioned that surmounted the lighthouse and from a poet named Posidippus of Pela , who lived in Alexandria during the 3rd century BC, we learn that this statue almost certainly depicted Zeus the Savior.
Sultan Ibn Tulun (868-884) built a mosque with a dome in its place but Idrisi reported that the structure was still operated as a lighthouse in his visit in 1115 AD.
One more story goes that in 850 AD, the Emperor of Constantinople, a rival port, devised a clever plot to get rid of the Pharos and spread a rumor that there’s a treasure buried beneath the Lighthouse so the Caliph ordered to tear down the building but when only the base of the Lighthouse was left, Caliph realized the trick and stopped further destruction and then instead of a tower, a crude mosque was constructed by him.
Hats Off 🙂
Sostrates of Knidos, who designed the lighthouse, wanted to have his name carved on the structure but Ptollemy II wanted his own name carved instead but Sostrates, being a clever man, first carved his name underneath, concealed it with plaster and then carved Ptolemy II’s name. After some time the plaster worn out and his name was revealed.
It is believed that 364 rooms were built in the Lighthouse and there were also a series of wide 72 ramps creating access to the top of the lighthouse. The viewing galleries constructed on the 2nd and 3rd levels of the structure, where visitors could experience a view from nearly 400ft high.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria’s Mirror Myths
Some say it was made from a highly polished metal while others believe it was made from silver-backed glass.
Some say a powerful telescope was located at the top of the lighthouse which used refracting mirrors to magnify objects.
Some say that the mirror was used as a weapon to concentrate the rays of the sun and to set enemy ships on fire as they approached the harbor.
The lighthouse was badly damaged in the earthquake of 956, then again in 1303 and 1323 turned it to rubble and finally the stubby remnant disappeared in 1480.
Although the Lighthouse of Alexandria did not survive to the present day, it undoubtedly leaves an impact in many respects. The monument has been used as a model for many prototypes along the Mediterranean, as far away as Spain and from a linguistic standpoint, it gave its name, Pharos to all the lighthouses in the world!!