91 Alexandria Facts: Library, Lighthouse, History, And More

Arpitha Rajendra
Feb 29, 2024 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Feb 01, 2022
Edited by Lara Simpson
Read more fun Alexandria facts here.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.5 Min

Several genius scientists were from Egypt, like Eratosthenes and Archimedes.

Due to today's city, scholars find it hard to study each phase of the city. However, archeologists are excavating to learn more about ancient history.

Alexander the Great was the one who found Alexandria city approximately around 331 BC. Egypt's third-largest city is Alexandria, after Cairo and Giza. Alexandria is also the primary economic center and Africa's seventh-largest city. The famous Alexander was named Alexander III of Macedon, was an ancient Greek king of Macedonia kingdom. Locals call it the 'Bride of Mediterranean.' By population, Alexandria is Earth's 79th-biggest urban area, and it is also Africa's ninth most extensive urban area, the Arab world's fourth-biggest city, and the Mediterranean's biggest city.

Facts About Alexandria

Excavation for studies of the Hellenic city faced two problems - some areas underwater and lack of space. The developing modern city and modern buildings stand directly on the ancient one, making it impossible to find space to dig.

  • This city became the Hellenic Civilization's major center during the Ptolemaic dynasty.
  • It was also the cultural center and an intellectual center throughout the Hellenistic period and the late antiquity of the ancient Mediterranean.
  • The ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt, faced constant wars, so only a little of it made it into the modern world.
  • One of the ancient monuments that still stands today is the Roman triumphal column, Pompey's Pillar on Alexandria's acropolis.
  • One of Alexandria's most popular tourist attractions is the Maamoura beach.
  • Although just a decade old, the Stanley bridge provides a magnificent view of the whole city and the Mediterranean sea.
  • Kom Al Shoqafa tomb or Catacomb is treated as Seven Wonders of Middle Ages and the Greek Noble family's final resting place.
  • Alexandria National Museum was opened on December 31, 2003, and has around 1,800 ancient artifacts, which tell stories of Egypt and Alexandria.
  • Many of the artifacts in the Alexandria National Museum were brought from other Egyptian museums.
  • Roman Amphitheatre in the city contains a stage with 700-800 seats around it.
  • Alexandria's Greek Orthodox Church and Coptic Orthodox Church assume the ancient heritage of Christianity.
  • Along the Mediterranean Sea and at the northern coast of Egypt, Alexandria extends around 25 mi (40 km).
  • Art around the city resembles ancient decorations of Hellenic city's old architectural styles, particularly in Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
  • Borg El Arab Airport is Alexandria's current principal airport.
  • Some more museums in the city are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Cavafy Museum.
  • The oil and natural gas pipelines from Suez make it an important industrial center and a popular tourist destination.
  • The city experiences a hot desert climate and a hot steppe climate at the border.
  • The city sometimes experiences hail and sleet with rain and severe storms.
  • The Citadel of Qaitbay is built on the same site as the popular lighthouse on the sea coast of the Mediterranean.

Facts About Alexandria's Library

The Great Library of Alexandria was a sector of Mouseion, a large research institution. Mouseion was devoted to the nine art goddesses called the Muses. An expelled Athenian in Alexandria, Demetrius of Phalerum, may have proposed the idea of a universal library to Ptolemy I Soter, who would have probably established this idea.

  • The Library plan itself may have been done after his son, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, succeeded.
  • This ancient library quickly received numerous papyrus scrolls due to the well-funded, aggressive policies of Ptolemaic kings for acquiring texts.
  • Although it is not known the number of scrolls were housed in the library, an estimate states that it was between 40,000-400,000.
  • In the third and second centuries BC, numerous influential and important scholars worked in the Alexandria library, like Apollonius of Rhodes, Callimachus, and Zenodotus of Ephesus.
  • A daughter library was set up under the rule of Ptolemy III Euergetes in the Serapeum of Alexandria.
  • Although the precise layout of this library is unknown, ancient sources describe the library to have Greek columns, several scrolls, gardens, lecture halls, meeting rooms, and a reading room.
  • Galen, a Greek medical writer, states that every book found on the ships coming to the port was taken to the library to copy by formal scribes.
  • Not only did Mousieon house the library, but it also hosted international researchers, philosophers, poets, and scholars, who received complimentary lodging and food, as per Strabo, a Greek geographer.
  • Zenodotus of Ephesus was the first head librarian. He worked on the establishments of greek lyrical poets and recognized content for Homeric poems.
  • Zenodotus is popular to have created a glossary of the unusual and rare set of words, organized alphabetically, the first person ever to be known for using the method of alphabetical ordering for organizing.
  • The 120-book catalog consisting of works by numerous authors called Pinakes was compiled by Callimachus, a poet and a scholar.
  • Apollonius of Rhodes succeeded Zenodotus as the library's second head librarian.
  • Legend states that during Apollonius' librarianship, Archimedes, the inventor and mathematician, visited the library.
  • Around 200 BC, Aristophanes of Byzantium was appointed the fourth head librarian.
  • During Aristophanes' librarianship, literary criticism was high, dominating the scholarly output of the library.
  • In the second century BC, numerous scholars studied medicinal works at the Alexandria Library.
  • The sixth head librarian, Aristarchus of Samothrace, was reputed as one of the most outstanding ancient scholars.
  • There were many scrolls within a single piece. It is said that King Ptomely II Philadelphus set 500,000 scrolls as the library's objective.
  • Alexandria Library was filled, as a research institute, with works in natural sciences, physics, astronomy, and mathematics.
  • Books for Alexandria Library were purchased from Rhodes and Athens that were Ancient Mediterranea's primary book markets.
  • The Bibliotheca Alexandrina opened in 2002, a cultural center and research library to honor the ancient Alexandria Library.
  • The Bibliotheca Alexandrina contains the most extensive archives of French books on the entire African continent.
  • The Bibliotheca Alexandrina also has the largest digital set of ancient manuscripts in the world.
The Great Library of Alexandria was one of the most symbolic and most extensive libraries in the ancient world.

Alexandria's History

Radiocarbon dating of lead contamination and seashell fragments display human activity in Alexandria during the Old Kingdom periods and again around 1000-800 BC, after which activity ceased.

  • As per ancient sources, there was a trading post in this location, during the period of Rameses the Great for trading with rete, which was long gone when Alexander the Great arrived.
  • Rhakotis was an Egyptian fishing village around since the 13th century BC that later transformed into a city.
  • Alexander wanted to form a huge Greek city on the coast of Egypt to bear his name, so he selected the Alexandria site.
  • The city was organized by Dinocrates of Rhodes, covering a region of about 9 mi (14.4 km).
  • After the foundation was laid, Alexander went away from Egypt and did not return to the city during his lifetime.
  • Ptolemy Lagides, Alexander's general, took control over Egypt after Alexander's death in 323 BC, and Ptolemy brought the body with him.
  • Ptolemy buried Alexander in Memphis and built a tomb in Alexandria, which would become a tourist destination for most ancient Egyptians.
  • Ptolemy finally announced himself as Ptolemy I Soter, a pharaoh, then declared Alexandria his capital.
  • Alexandria became the world's largest city in a century and remained so for many more years.
  • Not only did Alexandria city grow to be the center of Hellenism, but it also became the world's biggest urban Jewish community.
  • The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh called Septuagint was composed in this city.
  • Through the third century BC, Monumental buildings were built in the city.
  • The early Ptolemies carefully maintained the three largest ethnicities in its population - Egyptian, Jewish, and Greek.
  • The emperor Augustus officially brought Egypt and Alexandria under his Roman rule in 30 BCE.
  • The tomb of Alexander was closed off for the public in the third century AD, and today its location is unknown.
  • The city became the focal point of church government and Christian theology.
  • Kom El Deka, an archeological area in this city, with remains dating back between the fourth and seventh centuries AD, included lecture halls, public baths, theatres, houses, and workshops.
  • Alexandria fell under the rule of Muslim conquest by the army of Amr ibn al-As, the commander of this army.
  • With the Arab Conquest, the city saw an end to 975 years of Greco-Roman rule.
  • Years later, in 956 AD, 1303 AD, and 1323 AD, Alexandria experienced many earthquakes.
  • During the Crusades, the city grew to be a major metropolis and flourished due to trade with Venetians, Genoese, and Araganoese.
  • This city stayed as the main port for Mediterranean trade under the rule of the Mamluk sultanate.
  • Alexandria played a significant part during military operations in the expedition of Napolean in 1798 to Egypt.
  • In 1801, the British expedition arrived and took control, and Alexandria was free after 150 years of British rule.
  • In the 19th century, the city saw development under the ruler of Egypt, Mohammad Ali's industrialization program.

Alexandria's Lighthouse

Ancient Egypt's Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty built a lighthouse named Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as Pharos of Alexandria, under the rule of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The estimated overall height of this lighthouse was 330 ft (100 m).

  • It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and one of the world's tallest manufactured structures for several centuries.
  • From 956 and 1323 AD, three earthquakes critically damaged the lighthouse, turning it into an abandoned ruin.
  • After Giza Pyramids, Pharos Lighthouse is the second-longest sustaining ancient wonder.
  • In the 14th century, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was demolished by an earthquake.
  • In the third century BC, the Pharos of Alexandria was built.
  • The Ptolemy I Soter became king in 305 BC after Alexander died, and a few years later, he commissioned the construction of the lighthouse.
  • The construction cost 800 silver talents and took 12 years to complete.
  • The tower was mostly built with granite and limestone sold blocks, and its top furnace produced the light.
  • Scientific analysis of the limestone and sandstone blocks pointed towards Wadi Hammamat quarries in the east Alexandria's desert.
  • As per Arab authors, the tower was composed of three tapering tiers - a circular section at the top, an octagonal section in the middle, and the lower square section have a core in the center.
  • In the 10th century, Al-Masudi wrote that an inscription on the sea-side face was dedicated to Zeus.
  • In 1154, Al-Idrisi, a geographer, visited this lighthouse, where he noted that the wall openings were present across the rectangular shaft. At the base, the filling agent between the masonry block was lead.
  • The apex of the lighthouse had a mirror to reflect sun rays in the day, and at night, a fire was lit.
  • In 1166 AD, an Arab traveler provided the full description of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
  • After the destruction by the Crete earthquake, a Moroccan explorer and scholar called Ibn Battuta, who passed through the city, accounted for the destructed lighthouse.
  • It was noted that this wrecked monument was noticeable only by the entrance ramp and rectangular tower.
  • Both 796 and 951 AD earthquakes partially damaged and cracked the lighthouse.
  • The 956, 1303, and 1323 AD earthquakes caused the structural collapse of the lighthouse.
  • After the 956 AD earthquakes, the documented repair was installing an Islamic-type dome after the statue on top of the monument collapsed.
  • In 1916, Gaston Jondet first described submerged ruin in Alexandria's old port.
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria was rediscovered in 1968 near this old port.
  • An expedition sponsored by UNESCO consisting of marine archaeologists led by Honor Frost reached the site.
  • French archaeologists cataloged as many as 3,300 pieces of the structure in 1995.
  • Today's Alexandria museums consist of 36 restored pieces of this structure.
  • As per legend, the lighthouse was built to guide ships at night into the port.

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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