Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday's Seven Wonders - The Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was a tower built in the 3rd century BC (between 285 and 247 BC) on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt to serve as that port's landmark, and later, its lighthouse.

(A fanciful 16th-century interpretation of the Lighthouse by Martin Heemskerck)

With a height variously estimated at between 380 and 660 feet, it was 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. It may have been the third tallest building after the two Great Pyramids (Khufu and Khafra) for its entire life. Some scholars estimate that would make the tower the tallest building up to the 14th century.

Pharos was a small island just off the coast of Alexandria. It was linked to the mainland by a man-made connection named the Heptastadion. The lighthouse was built as a marker at the mouth of the harbour. Use of the building as a lighthouse, with a fire and reflective mirrors at the top, is thought to date to around the 1st century AD, during the Roman period. Prior to that time the Pharos served solely as a landmark or day beacon.

The lighthouse's designer was Sostrates of Knidos. Proud of his work, Sostrates desired to have his name carved into the foundation. Ptolemy II, the son who ruled Egypt after his father, refused this request wanting his own name to be the only one on the building. A clever man, Sostrates had the inscription:

chiseled into the foundation, then covered it with plaster. Into the plaster was chiseled Ptolemy's name. As the years went by the plaster aged and chipped away revealing Sostrates' declaration.

It is thought that the lighthouse was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for 1,500 years but was damaged by tremors in 365 and 1303 A.D. Reports indicate the final collapse came in 1326.

This completes the seven ancient wonders of the world. Next Sunday, I will start with the seven modern wonders of the world.

1 comment:

Julia Smith said...

What a great series, Bobbi! I've really enjoyed it. I love the bit about having the pharoah's name in plaster so it would crumble away over time. LOL!