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Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski

Pharos of Alexandria
Drawing © by Harold Oakley.
It seems that this drawing was fashioned after one
by A. Forestier in his book:
Les Ports submerges de l'Ancienne lle de Pharos.

Alexandria was the center of commerce between Europe and the East. It was also the focal point of Greek and Semitic learning. Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greed (Septuagint) and Philo, a Jew, produced a synthesis between Greek philosophy and Jewish theology.

The island of Pharos is a limestone base from the River Nile. Homer first mentions Pharos in the Odyssey:

There is an island called Pharos in the rolling seas off the mouth of the Nile. ... In this island is a sheltered cove where sailors come to draw their water from a well and can launch their boats on an even keel into the deep sea.

Homer states Pharos was a day's sail from Egypt. This was unsound information as Pharos was already in Egypt. There are several tombs of Ptolemaic times (305-30 B.C.) It is thought that the first builder at Pharos was Ptolemy I, Soter (305-282 B.C.). Ptolemy I inherited Alexander the Great's Egypt after Alexander's death in Babylon, in 323 B.C.. He was a friend of Alexanders who rose to a famous general. He was said to have captured Alexander's body and taken it to Alexandria to be buried in the mausoleum in the Sema. Originally Alexander was to be buried in the Macedinian royal burial frounds at Vergina, next to his father, Phillip II. No one has ever found his body there. It is thought that it may have washed into the sea, because of the instability of the harbor in the past (Clayton).

Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great of Macedon in 332 B.C. He was said to have "liberated" Egypt from the Persian overloads who had succeeded the last of the native pharaohs called Nectanebo II of the Thirteenth Dynasty. The summers in Alexandria were not as hot as those in Upper Egypt, where the ancient Pharaohs lived. Before the Macedonians, this island was known as the home of the sea-god Proteus. There was a small fishing village there known as Rhacotis. Alexander thought this village would make a good place for his capital. The new city of Alexandria was founded and designed by the architect Dinocrates of Rhodes. Dinocrates followed the principles of a grid for town planning. This idea was first devised by Hippodamus of Miletus. Hippodamus "invented" the grid system of streets (Clayton).

Some days on Pharos were temperate. This island was laid to waste by Julious Caesar because the population there opposed him in favor of their Queen Cleopatra VII. Anthony and Cleopatra lived in their palace built for the Ptolemies. There were many aristocratic houses that were descended from the Macedonian soldiers and officials who came to Egypt with Alexander the Great. The Ptolemies, who kept their blood pure by inbreeding became Macedonian pharaohs. And from that time on, educated people in Alexandria, spoke both Greek and Egyptian.

There was a standing army of mercenaries in Alexandria. Ptolemy IX spoke of an oppressive element who wished to rule rather than obey. Thus the aristocracy of Alexandria consisted of mercenaries and household Troops, Roman officers, Macedonian courtiers, Greek and Egyptian officials, some wealthy Europeans, Syrians, Jews, and Egyptians (in times later on). Professors and scholars of the museum were a class of their own and were patronized by the court of Cleopatra. The population of Alexandria was said to be around 300,000 during the later years of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Saint Mark made his first Christian convert in Alexandria in the year 45 A.D. In the second century, a Cathechetical school was founded to bring Chritianity to the educated class. Clement and Origen were members of the Christian community at Alexandria. They went into the desert and contemplated God. They rejected earthly lives and their pleasures. Virginity was the highest ideal for the times.

Clement of Alexandria:

Clement of Alexandria (c 150-c 215) was born into a wealthy family, and raised in Athens, Greece. Clement received a fine education in Platonic philosophy, including immersion in Gnostic scriptures. He studies in Italy and the Eastern Mediterranean before settling in Alexandria. Clement became a pupil of Pantaenus, leader of the Christian Catechetical school.

Clement converted to Christianity and he became one of the first Gnostic fathers, in 190, he taught at the same school where he received his learning. In 202, he fled Alexandria at a time of persecution of Christians, by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. Clement was then employed by a former student; Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem. He found refuge there until his death.

Clement was considered to be the founder of Neoplatonism. Clement's best known writings were The Paedgogos (The Teacher) and Stromateis (Miscellanies). He was the first writer to introduce "mystical" and "mystically" into Christian literature. He also introduced ideas of human "divination," or "becoming like God," as the goal of Christian perfection (King, Ursula. Christian Mystics: The Spiritual Heart of the Christian Tradition. New York: Simon & Schuster Editions, 1998).

The Library at Alexandria was famous in the ancient world. It housed half a million scrolls. The library was accidentally set on fire first by Julius Caesar when he tried to conquer the island. At this time, Alexandria housed many great works, by many philosophers and clergy. Tragically, the great library of Alexandria was burnt, a second time, by the Christians in 391 A.D. and then again by order of the Caliph Omar in 641 A. D. and with that fire went the accumulated learning of the world (Weigall, Arthur, "The Alexandria of Anthony and Cleopatra," Wonders of the Past by Sir J.A. Hammerton, editor. New York: Wise & Company, 1037, 1234-1238


  1. The Pharos of Alexandria
  2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. Zeus of Pheidas (the Sculpture)
  4. The Colossus of Rhodes
  5. The Pyramids of Egypt
  6. The Temple of Artemis.
  7. The Tomb of Mausolus


Clayton, Peter A. and Martin J. Price. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993.

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