Lighthouse of Alexandria: the wonder of wonders

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was a tower built in the 3rd century BC. C. (between 285 and 247 BC) on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt, to serve as a reference point for the port and as a lighthouse. With an estimated height of 134 meters. It was one of the highest man-made structures for many centuries, and was identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the World by Antipater of Sidon. It would be knocked down by the effects of an earthquake at the beginning of the 14th century.

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Drawing by archaeologist Hermann Thiersch (1909)

The lighthouse was built in the 3rd century BC. After the death of Alexander the Great, the first Ptolemy (Ptolemy I Soter) was announced as king in 305 BC. C., and commissioned its construction shortly after. The building was completed during the reign of his son, the second Ptolemy (Ptolemy II Philadelphus).

It was built by the architect Sostratus of Cnidus during the reign of Ptolemy II on the island of Pharos, in front of Alexandria. It consisted of a large tower on which a nocturnal bonfire marked the position of the city to the navigators, given that the coast in the area of ​​the Nile delta is very flat and lacked, therefore, any reference for maritime navigation.

Its height reached 134 meters and in its construction were used large blocks of glass that were placed in the foundations to prevent erosion and increase resistance against the force of the sea. The building, erected on a platform with a square base, was octagonal in shape and was constructed of marble blocks assembled with molten lead. In the highest part a large metallic mirror reflected the sunlight during the day, and at night it projected the luminosity of a large bonfire at a distance of up to fifty kilometers.

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The Lighthouse on coins minted in Alexandria in the second century (1: reverse of a coin of Antoninus Pius, and 2: reverse of a coin of Commodus).

Along with the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the lighthouse managed to survive intact a millennium. However, it was severely damaged by the earthquakes of 1303 and 1323 to the point that the seasoned Arab traveler Ibn Battuta wrote that he had been unable to enter the ruins.

The remains disappeared in 1480 when the Sultan of Egypt Qaitbey used the stone blocks of the ruins to build a fort.

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Lighthouse remains found in the Mediterranean Sea.

Currently there is a reconstruction project of the lighthouse (estimated at 40 million dollars), propelled by several countries of the European Union (France, Germany, Italy and Greece) that are willing to include the Lighthouse in the ambitious project Medistone, conceived to recreate and preserve the architectural monuments of the Ptolemaic era.

Pharos gave rise to the word «lighthouse» in most Romance languages: Castilian (lighthouse), Catalan (far), French (phare), Galician (lighthouse), Italian (lighthouse), Portuguese (lantern) and Romanian (far ); besides the Germanic language, English, (pharos).

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The lighthouse in modern
  Flag of Alexandria.

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