Lighthouse of Alexandria: photos, description, history and interesting facts.

Lighthouse of Alexandria - one of the oldest engineering structures of mankind. It was built between 280 and 247 BC. er on the island of Pharos, located off the coast of the ancient city of Alexandria (the territory of modern Egypt). Thanks to the name of this island, the lighthouse was also known as Faroese.

The height of this grand structure, according to various historians, was about 120-140 meters. For many centuries it remained one of the tallest structures on our planet, second only to the pyramids at Giza.

Start of construction of the lighthouse

Computer model of the Alexandria lighthouse

Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, was conveniently located at the crossroads of numerous trade routes. The city developed rapidly, more and more ships entered its harbor, and the construction of the lighthouse became an urgent need.

Some historians believe that, in addition to the usual function of ensuring the safety of seafarers, the lighthouse could have an adjacent, equally important function.In those days, the rulers of Alexandria feared possible attacks from the sea, and such a colossal structure as the Lighthouse of Alexandria could serve as an excellent observation point.

Initially, the lighthouse was not equipped with a complex system of signal lights, it was built after a few hundred years. At first the signals to the ships were given by the smoke from the fire, and therefore the lighthouse was effective only in the daytime.

The unusual design of the Lighthouse of Alexandria

Three-dimensional layout of the Lighthouse of Alexandria

Such a large-scale construction for those times was a grand and very ambitious project. However, the construction of the lighthouse was completed in a very short time - it lasted no more than 20 years.

In order to build a lighthouse between the mainland and the island of Faros, a dam was built in a short time, along which the necessary materials were delivered.

To tell briefly about the lighthouse of Alexandria is simply impossible. The huge structure was built of solid marble blocks interconnected for greater strength with lead staples.

The lower, largest level of the lighthouse, was built in the form of a square with a length of sides of about 30 meters.The corners of the base were designed strictly in the cardinal directions. The premises located on the first level were intended for storing the necessary supplies and the residence of numerous guards and lighthouse workers.

In the underground level, a reservoir was built, the supply of drinking water which should be enough in case of even a long siege of the city.

The second level of the building was made in the form of an octagon. His facets were oriented in exact accordance with the rose of the winds. It was decorated with unusual statues of bronze, some of which were movable.

The third, main level of the lighthouse was built in the shape of a cylinder and a large dome crowned it. The top of the dome was decorated with a bronze sculpture not less than 7 meters high. Historians still have not come to a common opinion, whether it was the image of the god of the seas, Poseidon, or the statue of Isis-Faria, the patroness of seamen.

How was the third level of the lighthouse arranged?

Virtual reconstruction of the third level of the lighthouse

For that time, the true miracle of the Lighthouse of Alexandria was a complex system of huge bronze mirrors. The light from the fire, constantly burning on the top of the lighthouse, was reflected and amplified many times by these metal plates.In the ancient chronicles wrote that the shining light coming from the Lighthouse of Alexandria, was able to burn the ships of the enemy far into the sea.

Of course, this was an exaggeration of the inexperienced guests of the city, who for the first time saw this ancient wonder of the world - the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Although in fact the light of the lighthouse was visible more than 60 kilometers, and for ancient times it was a huge achievement.

A very interesting engineering solution for that time was the construction inside the lighthouse of a spiral staircase ramp, along which the necessary firewood and combustible materials were delivered to the upper tier. Uninterrupted work required a huge amount of fuel, so the carts harnessed by mules constantly climbed and descended the inclined stairs.

The architect who built the miracle

Reconstruction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the statue of Poseidon

During the construction of the lighthouse, the king of Alexandria was Ptolemy I Soter, a talented ruler, during which the city became a thriving commercial port. Having decided to build a lighthouse in the harbor, he invited one of the talented architects of the time, Sostrath of Knidsky, to work.

In ancient times, the only name that could be perpetuated on the erected structure was the name of the ruler.But the architect who built the lighthouse was very proud of his creation and wanted to preserve for posterity the knowledge of who really was the author of the miracle.

Risking to incur the wrath of the ruler, he carved an inscription on one of the stone walls of the first level of the lighthouse: “Compose from Cnidia, son of Dextyphan, dedicated to the savior gods for the sake of navigators”. Then the inscription was covered with layers of plaster and on top of it were laid carved praises to the king.

A few centuries after construction, pieces of plaster gradually fell off, and an inscription appeared that retained the name of the person who built one of the seven wonders of the world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, in stone.

First of its kind

Ancient coins with the image of the Lighthouse of Alexandria

In ancient times, in different countries often used the flame and smoke of fires as a warning system or to send signals about the danger, but the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the first specialized building of its kind in the world. In Alexandria, it was called Pharos, after the name of the island, and all the lighthouses that were built after it were also called pharos. This is also reflected in our language, where the word "headlamp" means a source of directional light.

An ancient description of the Lighthouse of Alexandria contains information about unusual "living" sculptures, statues, which can be called the first simple machines. They turned, made sounds, performed simple actions. But these were not at all chaotic movements, one of the statues pointed to the sun, and when the sun went down, the hand automatically fell. In another figure, a clock mechanism was installed, which marked the beginning of a new hour with a melodious ring. The third statue was used as a weather vane, showing the direction and strength of the wind.

A brief description of the Alexandria lighthouse, made by his contemporaries, could not convey the secrets of these statues or the approximate layout of the ramp along which the fuel was delivered. Most of these secrets are lost forever.

Lighthouse destruction

Image of Alexandria Lighthouse

The light of the fire of this unique structure showed the road for many centuries to seafarers. But gradually, during the decline of the Roman Empire, the lighthouse also began to decline. Less and less money was invested in maintaining it in working order, and the harbor of Alexandria was gradually shrinking due to the large amount of sand and silt.

In addition, the area where the lighthouse of Alexandria was built was seismically active. A series of strong earthquakes caused him serious damage, and the disaster of 1326 finally destroyed the seventh wonder of the world.

Alternative version of the destruction

In addition to the theory explaining the collapse of a colossal structure by insufficient financing and natural disasters, there is another interesting hypothesis about the causes of the destruction of the lighthouse.

According to this theory, the blame for everything was the great military significance that the lighthouse had for defending Egypt. After the country was conquered by the Arabs, the Christian countries, and above all the Byzantine Empire, hoped to recapture Egypt from the people. But these plans were hampered by the observation point of the Arabs, located on the lighthouse.

Therefore, there was a rumor that the treasures of the Ptolemies were hidden somewhere in a building in ancient times. Believing, the Arabs began to dismantle the lighthouse, trying to get to gold, and in the process damaged the system of mirrors.

After that, the damaged lighthouse continued to function for another 500 years, gradually decreasing. Then it was finally dismantled, and in its place a defensive fortress was erected.

Possibility of recovery

Fortress built on the foundation of the lighthouse

The very first attempt to restore the lighthouse of Alexandria was made by the Arabs in the XIV century BC. e., but it turned out to build only a 30-meter semblance of a lighthouse. Then construction stopped, and only after 100 years, the ruler of Egypt, Kite Bay, built in its place a fortress to protect Alexandria from the sea. At the base of this fortress remained part of the foundation of the ancient lighthouse and almost all of its underground structures and the reservoir. This fortress still exists today.

Often, enthusiasts, historians consider the possibility of recreating this famous building in its pristine state. But there is one problem - there is practically no reliable description of the Lighthouse of Alexandria or its detailed images, on the basis of which one could accurately restore its appearance.

Touch history

Underwater archaeological discoveries

For the first time, some fragments of the lighthouse were discovered by archaeologists at the bottom of the sea in 1994. Since then, an entire quarter of ancient Alexandria was discovered by the expedition of the European Institute of Underwater Archeology at the bottom of the harbor, the existence of which scientists had never guessed. Under the water remained the remains of many ancient buildings.There is even a hypothesis that one of the buildings found may be the palace of the famous Queen Cleopatra.

The government of Egypt in 2015 approved a large-scale reconstruction of the ancient lighthouse. In the place where it was built in ancient times, they plan to build a multi-storey copy of the great lighthouse. Interestingly, the project envisages the construction of a 3 meter underwater glass hall, so that all lovers of ancient history can see the ruins of the ancient royal quarter.

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