The Lighthouse of Alexandria is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and was once the largest known building on the planet. We do not know everything there is to know about the Lighthouse of Alexandria, but what we do know is impressive. It was a beacon like no other (at the time) and possibly the first lighthouse in the world. This impressive construction was also known as the Pharos of Alexandria. Pharos was the name of the island on which is stood.
Alexandria was once the capital of Egypt. It was founded by one of the most famous and powerful rulers of all time–Alexander the Great. The idea for the Lighthouse of Alexandria came from Alexander’s successor in the city–Ptolemy I Soter. The Great Harbor in Alexandria was treacherous and there were a number of ships coming in and out of it, so he decided to have a great beacon constructed to guide the ships into the harbor. Legend has it that the mirror on the Lighthouse of Alexandria was also used to light enemy ships on fire, but that is highly unlikely. It took roughly 12 years to complete the lighthouse. It was completed during the reign of Ptolemy I’s son, Ptolemy Philidelphus.
Construction on the Lighthouse of Alexandria began in 290 BC. Ptolemy I appointed the Greek architect Sostratus to design the epic building. The architect supposedly wanted his name on the lighthouse, but Ptolemy I refused. He wanted only his name on it. Sostratus decided to carve his name in it anyway, cover it in plaster and carve Ptolemy I Soter’s name over that. The plaster eventually wore off, revealing the sneaky architect’s name. Sostratus deserved to have his name carved in the Lighthouse of Alexandria. He was the man behind a building that has been known to mankind for more than 2000 years.
Stories of the Lighthouse of Alexandria tell us that it was made of three sections. The first section was rectangular. The second section was octagonal and the third was cylindrical. It was made out of marble and mortared with lead. The interior had as many as 50 rooms inside and it was 450-600 ft. tall. Fuel could be brought in using the large ramps on the first level and a dumbwaiter system. The beacon was a fire, which may have been reflected off a large circular mirror (the one supposedly used to burn enemy ships by reflecting the sun’s rays). Many accounts of the Lighthouse of Alexandria describe a statue or statues at the top of the lighthouse. The statues may have depicted both Greek and Egyptian images. There may have been one large statue of Poseidon at the very top.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria stood for nearly 2000 years. Its demise is not precisely documented, but we do know that it was damaged by earthquakes many times between mid 900’s and early 1300’s. It is assumed that the lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake. We know that it was gone by the 1400’s when a fort was built in its place. What are thought to be pieces of the Lighthouse of Alexandria have been found in the harbor. They are now on display in a local museum.
Seven Wonders of the World-Lighthouse of Alexandria, retrieved 10/12/10, sevenwondersworld.com/wonders_of_world_lighthouse_alexandria.html
Dunn, Jimmy, Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, retrieved 10/12/10, touregypt.net/featurestories/pharoslighthouse.htm