Lighthouse of Alexandria world wonder was also called as the Pharo’s lighthouse. It’s situated in Pharo’s island some distance from the city centre of Alexandria. It was built in the 3rd century BC with enormous cost and slave labour. It was built by the Egyptian Pharoah Ptolemy but he died before completing the project. It was completed by his son Philadelphus in 283 BC. It was built over a period of twelve years. It was probably destroyed by an earthquake. Before its destruction, it underwent many modifications by many rulers. Philadelphus held a huge celebration before inaugurating the lighthouse.
The architect of this lighthouse was Sostratos a Greek from Asia. In those days only names of kings were allowed to be engraved in monuments. But Sostratos engraved his name on the lighthouse, but this was plastered and the name of Ptolemy was engraved on the plaster. But as time passed by the plaster peeled off and only the name of Sostratos remained as “Sostratos of Cnidus, son of Dexiphanes, to the saviour gods, for sailors”.
Lighthouse of Alexandria world wonder – structure
The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired that name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word “Pharos” became the root of the word “lighthouse” in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages
There are two detailed descriptions made of the lighthouse in the 10th century A.D. by Moorish travellers Idrisi and Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh. According to their accounts, the building was 300 cubits high. Because the cubit measurement varied from place to place, however, this could mean that the Pharos stood anywhere from 450 (140m) to 600 (183m) feet in height, although the lower figure is much more likely.
The design was unlike the slim single column of most modern lighthouses, but more like the structure of an early twentieth-century skyscraper. There were three stages, each built on top of one other. The building material was stone faced with white marble blocks cemented together with lead mortar. The lowest level of the building, which sat on a 20 foot (6m) high stone platform, was probably about 240 feet (73m) in height and 100 feet (30m) square at the base, shaped like a massive box. The door to this section of the building wasn’t at the bottom of the structure, but part way up and reached by a 600 foot (183m) long ramp supported by massive arches. Inside this portion of the structure was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the top in animal-drawn carts.
On top of that first section was an eight-sided tower which was probably about 115 feet (35m) in height. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up another 60 feet (18m) to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue, probably of the god of the sea, Poseidon
There is speculation that the Lighthouse housed a large curved mirror, probably made of polished metal, that was able to project out into the Mediterranean for 30 miles. There is some doubt this was possible as the Earth’s horizon may have prevented this from happening. It was also been said that the mirror collected the Sun’s rays to be so powerful that it could burn ships at sea. Most likely this was implausible. Nonetheless, the Lighthouse of Alexandria served a functional role as a landmark for mariners and a symbol of power and technological advancement in the ancient world.
A Moorish geographer from Spain, Idrisi, who visited the tower in 1115 AD, was so impressed with the structure that he numbered all of its stairs and measured the height of its balconies, bazaars and tower. Fifty years later, another Morrish scholar, undertook an examination of the tower and tells us that the base tier rested on massive blocks of red granite and that the blocks were joined not by mortar but by molten lead so as to reinforce the structure against the heavy pounding of the sea.
The Lighthouse stood for nearly 1,500 years until it was badly damaged in a series of natural disasters. In 956 AD and yet again in 1303 and 1323. The lighthouse succumbed to earthquakes that eventually sent it crumbling onto itself and also on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. Other possibilities to its destruction indicate a tidal wave that may have toppled the lighthouse and also helped to destroy the palaces and port structures close to the shore. After the destruction, the Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a medieval fort on the former location of the lighthouse using some of the fallen stone. There are remnants of the Pharos that were incorporated into the walls of Fort Qaitbay. The fort still stands today.
Supposedly, the light from the tower could be seen from almost 100 miles out to sea, though this seems a little far-fetched. Even Thiersch’s work is suspect, with a hot fire burning beneath a copula supported on columns. One must wonder how the stonework would not crack under the heat of a constant fire. Yet, in several texts, a statue is mentioned that surmounted the lighthouse and from a poet named Poseidippos of Pella, who lived in Alexandria during the third century BC, we learn that this statue almost certainly depicted Zeus the Savior, though he may have been accompanied by Poseidon, the lord of the waves. However, others have suggested that two statues depicted the Dioscuri, who were the twin sons of Zeus and Leda and protectors of seafarers. In fact, a gem which has recently been examined suggests that in fact the beacon on the lighthouse may have been open and the statue, or perhaps a number of statues may not have surmounted the building but stood on a lower level.
regardless of the beacon and statues, many scholars now believe that the lighthouse did not take on a purely Greek style, as it has so often been portrayed. The Ptolemies mixed their own culture with that of the Egyptians, and in building the lighthouse, it is now believed that they probably borrowed from the pharaonic tradition, using Egyptian stone, though the stone may have been covered in white marble. It must have been a very solid building, for it survived for nearly two millennia (until the fourteenth century AD), making the better of violent storms and even large titles waves, such as the one that affected the eastern Mediterranean in 365 AD. Only earthquakes finally got the better of it. Between 320 and 1303 AD, there were twenty-two earthquakes that shook Alexandria that were severe enough to be mentioned by ancient writers. During this period, we have considerable records regarding the structure’s life.
Lighthouse of Alexandria world wonder – process of destruction
In 796, the lighthouse may have lost its upper tier, which apparently went without repair for about a century. We are told that afterwards, Sultan Ibn Tulun (868-884) built a mosque with a dome in its place. However, this seems to conflict with Idrisi’s report that the structure still operated as a lighthouse in his visit in 1115 AD. The account of this mosque may come from an unlikely tale that part of the lighthouse was demolished through trickery. The story goes that in 850 AD, the Emperor of Constantinople, a rival port, devised a clever plot to get rid of the Pharos. He spread rumours that buried under the lighthouse was a fabulous treasure. The caliph supposedly ordered the building to be torn down, and as the Arab workers began dismantling the cylindrical tower, the huge mirror of polished metal slipped away from its base and crashed into the sea. The beacon chamber was then stripped down as well as the eight-sided middle section and its two balconies. With only the base of the Lighthouse remaining, the caliph realised that he had been tricked and halted the further destruction. He then ordered his workmen to start rebuilding the tower, but since the damage was now too extensive, the project had to be abandoned and instead of a tower, a crude mosque was constructed. Idrisi’s report appears to completely negate this tale, though there are a number of reports of such a mosque surmounting the second tier.
in 950 and again in 956, parts of its surface cracked and to stabilise it, the lighthouse was reduced by some 22 meters in height. In 1272, the famous Sultan, Salah el-Din (Saladin) undertook restoration work, but alas, his work was in vain because on August 8th, 1303, a major earthquake shook the whole eastern Mediterranean. This was to be the end of the Seventh Wonder of the ancient world, as attested to by a maritime map preserved at Montepellier that dates the quake and notes that the lighthouse was totally destroyed. Actually, there remained some ruins of the structure for decades to come. A traveller named Ibn Battuta visited Alexandria twice, once in 1329 and again in 1346. In the first visit, he was still able to climb the ramp and reach the door of the tower, but on the second visit, the lighthouse was in such ruins that he could no longer get near it. These ruins remained for just over a century until the Mamluk sultan Qait Bey finally had them cleared away in order to construct his fort which still stands there today. Supposedly, it uses some of the stone blocks form the Lighthouse in its walls.
However, the story of Pharos Lighthouse does not end here. In 1962, a young diver searching for fish at a depth of 24 feet, spotted fragments of an immense statue, one piece alone measuring more than 20 feet in length. Egyptian naval divers, together with an expert from Alexandria’s um were summoned to the area and verified the young man’s report, concluding that the sculpture was a fragment of the colossal statue of Poseidon. Then, in the fall of 1994, a team of archaeologicGreco-Roman Museal scuba divers under the direction of Jean-Yves Empereur, also located very large blocks of stone that are believed to have been a part of the lighthouse, though there is a profusion of objects superposed from different periods. Some of this material came from structures in the Nile Delta and from Heliopolis and may have been used in the lighthouse, though there is a growing notion that the Pharos might have been a part of a greater complex with both civic and religious functions.
However, it is known that, after the Cypriot king, Pierre I de Lusignan, sacked Alexandria over two days in 1365, the Mamluk rulers of Egypt attempted to block the entry to the eastern harbour by jettisoning rubble from the crumbling ancient city. This fact might have provided a partial explanation for the wealth of remains lying in this patch of the sea but it was not sufficient to account for the presence of certain massive blocks weighing between 50 and 75 tonnes. Furthermore, the disposition of the largest blocks, running in a north-easterly line from the foot of the fort, firmly suggested a monument of considerable size and height falling into the sea. This has convinced researchers that they have indeed found the remains of the lighthouse. Some of the remains, including sphinxes, columns, capitals, colossi and fragments of inscribed obelisks, together with two massive segments of the lighthouse, are now on exhibit in an open-air museum near Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria.
Lighthouse of Alexandria world wonder – some interesting facts
|The Lighthouse at Alexandria is also known as the Pharos of Alexandria.|
|The city Alexandria was named by Alexander the Great. It was one of 17 cities that he named after himself, but Alexandria was one of the few to survive. It is still a prosperous city today.|
|Alexander the Great Died in 323 BC. The Lighthouse at Alexandria was built beginning in 290 BC, many years after Alexander the Great’s death.|
|Ptolemy Soter was the ruler of Egypt who decided to build the lighthouse to guide sailors into the port.|
|In today’s money it would have cost about three million dollars to build. In 290 BC it cost 800 talents (the form of money in this time).|
|It is thought to have been constructed of limestone blocks.|
|The lowest level of the lighthouse was 100 feet square and 240 feet high. The second level had eight sides and was about 115 feet tall. The third level was a 60 foot high cylinder that had an opening at the top to allow a space where the fire burned to light the way for sailors in the night. On top of this was a statue in honor of Poseidon, the god of the sea.|
|The Lighthouse at Alexandria was approximately 450 feet tall.|
|Inside the lighthouse there were stairs that allowed people to climb to the beacon chamber.|
|It was reported that there was a large mirror inside, possibly made of polished bronze. The purpose of the mirror was to project a beam of light from the reflection of the fire.|
|It was damaged by three earthquakes. After the last earthquake it was abandoned and fell to ruins. This allowed sailors to see the beam at night. The smoke from the fire was important during the day as it guided sailors during the day. Both the beam of light and the smoke could be seen as far as 100 miles away.|
|The Great Pyramid of Giza is the longest surviving of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The second is the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the third longest to survive.|
|In 1480 the last the lighthouse’s remaining stone was used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay by the sultan of Egypt Qaitbay. The citadel was built on the same island where the lighthouse once stood.|
|Julius Caesar mentions the Lighthouse of Alexandria in his writings.|
|Today the city of Alexandria uses the symbol of the lighthouse on the flag of the Alexandria Governorate as well as on their seal. It also appears on the seal of Alexandria University.|