Lighthouse of Alexandria

From Academic Kids

The Lighthouse of Alexandria (often called the "Pharos of Alexandria" after the island on which it resided), was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

It was built in the 3rd century BC and remained operational until it was largely destroyed by two earthquakes in the 14th century.

The Pharos of Alexandria, an ancient lighthouse, is depicted in this hand-coloured engraving by Martin Heemskerck. The  stood on an island in the harbour of  and was over 134 m (440 ft) tall.
The Pharos of Alexandria, an ancient lighthouse, is depicted in this hand-coloured engraving by Martin Heemskerck. The lighthouse stood on an island in the harbour of Alexandria and was over 134 m (440 ft) tall.

It was a tower that is estimated to have been 134 m (440 ft) high, at the time one of the tallest man-made structures on Earth. It was built of blocks of white stone. The tower was made up of three stages, a lower square with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and at the top a circular section. At its apex was positioned a mirror which reflected sunlight during the day; a fire was lit at night. As it can be seen from images of the Lighthouse on Roman coins struck by the Alexandrian mint, there were four statues of tritons blowing horns, one on every corner of the building. Also in the Roman period there was a statue atop the tower.

Legend has it, the fire from the lighthouse could be used to burn enemy ships before they could reach shore. However, this is highly unlikely due to the lack of modern optics and reflective technology in the time period in which the lighthouse existed. Probably more accurate is the claim the light from the lighthouse could be seen 35 miles (56 km) out to sea.

Missing image
The Pharos of Alexandria.

Pharos later became the etymological origin of the word 'lighthouse' in many Romance languages, such as French (phare), Italian (faro), Portuguese (farol) and Spanish (faro).


Pharos was a small island just off the coast of Egypt, with its artificial connection to the mainland (the Heptastadion) forming one side of the harbour of Alexandria. As the landscape in the area was very flat and lacking in the kind of landmark used at the time for navigation, a marker of some sort at the mouth of the harbour was deemed necessary. The lighthouse was built by Sostratus of Cnidus in the 3rd century BC, the project having been initiated by the first Hellenistic ruler of Egypt, Ptolemy I of Egypt, a general of Alexander the Great placed as "protector of the land" or "Satrap". After Alexander died unexpectedly at 33 yrs old, Ptolemy Soter (Saviour, named so by the inhabitants of Rhodes) made himself king in 305 BC and began construction of the Lighthouse shortly thereafter. The building was finished during the reign of his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphos.


With the exception of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the lighthouse survived the longest of the Seven Wonders. It was severely damaged by two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323, to the point that the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta reported not being able to enter the ruin. Even the stubby remnant disappeared in 1480, when the then-Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, used the rubble to help build a fort at a nearby location.

See also


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