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Interesting Facts about the Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the tallest man-made structures for almost 1,000 years and survived almost 22 earthquakes! Interesting right? Read this Buzzle article to find out many more such amazing facts about this wonder of the Ancient World.
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Fact about the Lighthouse of Alexandria
Which is the Oldest?
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the longest surviving ancient wonder, followed by the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

In 1994, French archaeologists discovered some ruins in the waters off the Alexandria coast. Large blocks and artifacts were discovered. These blocks belonged to the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Built by the first Ptolemy, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, also called The Pharos Lighthouse, was the only ancient wonder with an actual purpose. It was built to guide the sailors into the harbor. Situated on the Pharos island, Egypt, it is a fine example of ancient architecture. The lighthouse was a source of revenue and an important landmark for the city.

History

Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria in the year 332 BCE.

After his death, his general Ptolemy I Soter announced himself as the king. He built the city and commissioned the construction of the lighthouse.

Pharos was a small island connected to Alexandria by a mole called Heptastadion. According to some sources, Alexander was told to conquer the island of Pharos in a dream.

Alexander named 17 cities after himself, but Alexandria is the only city to survive and is still prosperous.

Unfortunately, Alexander could not see this beautiful structure in his most famous city, as he died in 323 BCE.

Construction

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built between 280 and 247 BCE. It took around 12 - 20 years for its construction. Ptolemy I died before its completion, so it was inaugurated by Ptolemy's son, Ptolemy Philadelphus.

The construction cost around 800 talents, which in today's times is equivalent to 3 million dollars.

The lighthouse was approximately 450 ft tall. The lowermost section was a square, the middle was octagonal, and the top was circular.

Limestone blocks were used to construct the lighthouse. They were sealed with molten lead to withstand the strong waves.

There was a circular staircase to the top.

A huge curved mirror reflected light during the day, and a fire was kept burning at night on the top.

The light from the lighthouse could be seen as far as 35 miles away.

Unconfirmed sources say that the mirror was also used to detect and burn enemy ships.

There were 4 statues of God Triton on the four corners on the top and the statue of Zeus or Poseidon in the center.

The designer of the lighthouse was Sostratus of Cnidus. Some sources credit him as the financier as well.

Legend has it that Ptolemy did not allow Sostratus to inscribe his name on the walls of the lighthouse. Even then Sostratus wrote "Sostratus of Cnidus, son of Dexiphanes, to the Gods protecting those upon the sea" on the wall, then put plaster on it, and wrote Ptolemy's name. After some years, the plaster came off and the real inscription was revealed.

Destruction

Two earthquakes, in 1303 and 1323 CE, greatly damaged the lighthouse.

Although it survived almost 22 earthquakes, it finally collapsed in 1375 CE.

In 1349, well-known Arab traveler, Ibn Battuta visited Alexandria, but could not climb the lighthouse.

In 1480, the remnant stones were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay on the same site.

Importance

The monument became an ideal model of a lighthouse and has a lot of architectural significance.

The word "lighthouse" originates from "pharos" in many languages like French, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria is mentioned by Julius Caesar in his writings.

It remains as a civic symbol of the city of Alexandria. It is used on the flag and seal of the Governorate, and also on the flag of Alexandria University.

One of the greatest monuments of ancient world, this tower is now underwater in ruins. It is possible to swim around the ruins with diving gear.
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Published: July 29, 2014
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