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Pharos Lighthouse

The History Of Pharos Lighthouse

The Pharos Lighthouse was one of the earliest known lighthouses and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It stood on a small island almost a mile off the coast in the eastern harbor, commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter I around 297 BC, and inaugurated 15 years later by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

Dimensions and Description

The lighthouse was around 425 feet tall, rising in three levels with a square base, an octagonal second tier, and a round tower holding the beacon. The beacon was lit up by a fire burning in the tower, and then reflected by a huge polished bronze mirror out to sea. Strabo wrote in the 1st century AD that the light could be seen by sailors up to 31 miles from shore. Numerous classical, Arab, and European travelers mentioned it in their writings, and the Pharos continued to shine over the treacherous rocks of Alexandria harbor for more than 1500 years.

After the Arab conquest, the Pharos began to be neglected, and by the 10th century, it had greatly deteriorated due to earthquakes and subsidence. It finally collapsed during an earthquake in the 14th century. In the breakwater immediately north of Fort Qait Bey, Jean-Yves Empereur and his team discovered what is believed to be many gigantic fallen blocks from the Pharos tower.

Qait Bey is a massive fort built by an Arab sultan in the last 15th century that now marks the original position of the lighthouse and incorporated many of the original blocks in its construction. Qait Bey Fort has undergone many enlargements and reconstructions and is now the home of the Naval Museum.

Just west of Alexandria in Abuqir, a 55-foot-tall structure was built as a funerary monument by Ptolemy II Philadelphus and is reputed to be a scale replica of the Pharos lighthouse.

Updated On April 21, 2020