Last modified: 2008-03-29 by ian macdonald
Keywords: governorate | alexandria | iskandariyah (al-) | lighthouse |
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image by Jaume Ollé
Source: Official website of the Egyptian government
image by Jaume Ollé
Source: Vexilologie [vex] #35 & 38
The Alexandria lighthouse was built under the reign of Ptolemeus
II Philadelphes (283-246 BC). It was a 135-m high tower, on the top
of which a burning fire was reflected by mirrors to be seen from a
long way off at sea. The tower collapsed down in 1302.
On top of the tower stood a statue of Zeus Savior.
Grand Atlas de l'Archéologie (Encyclopaedia
Universalis ed., 1985) shows the fac-simile of the fragment of the
papyrus Didot (IInd century BC), kept in Louvre Museum in Paris (AE/E
7172). The fragment includes two epigrams by Poseidippos of Pella, a
poet from the beginning of the IIIrd century BC.
The first poem is a ten-line dedication of the lighthouse addressed to Proteus, Poseidon's son, marine God, seal Shepherd and Lord of the island of Pharos according to Homer:
'This safeguard of the Greeks, this watchman of Pharos, O! Lord Proteus, was erected by Sostratos, son of Dexiphanes, from Cnide [a city in Asia Minor]. In Egypt, Thou shall not have observation posts on heights of islands: the bay which welcomes the vessels spreads level with the waters. [I guess contrary to the rocky coats of the Greek islands.] Therefore, standing up straight, a tower, which can be seen from infinite distance in the daytime, stands out against the sky. In the dark, the sailor shall notice quite quickly in the middle of the waves the big fire burning on top, and shall sail straight to the bull's Horn, and he shall not fail reaching Zeus Savior, O! Proteus, the one who sails in these parts.'
The lighthouse was ca. 100-m high (Petit Larousse
Illustré, quoted above, says 135 m). The first story was a
high square bastion of 60-m width. The second story was octogonal and
30-m high. The third story was circular and 7-m high: it was the
socle of the colossal statue of Zeus Savior, Protector of the
The island of Pharos was connected to the mainland by a pier of more than one kilometer, called Heptastadion [Stadion, which gave 'stadium', was a Greek length unit, 147-192 m], which delimited two harbours.
If you look at the two images of the flag shown above, you will notice that none of them fits the archaeological description of the lightouse, which is represented on the flags more like a candle or a TV-tower.
Ivan Sache, 30 May 2001