The Lighthouse of Alexandria was the world’s first lighthouse. Construction began in 290 BC and lasted twenty years. Except for the Great Pyramid, it was the tallest building in the world when it was completed. It was constructed on the island of Pharos to aid in the navigation of trade ships into Alexandria, Egypt’s busy harbor. Several earthquakes damaged the lighthouse, and it eventually became an abandoned ruin. French archaeologists discovered some of the lighthouse’s remains in Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor in 1994.
The Alexandria Lighthouse is also known as the Pharos of Alexandria.
Alexander the Great gave the city of Alexandria its name. He named 17 cities after himself, but Alexandria was one of the few that survived. It is still a thriving city today.
Alexander the Great passed away in 323 BC. The Alexandria Lighthouse was constructed beginning in 290 BC, many years after Alexander the Great’s death.
Egypt’s ruler, Ptolemy Soter, decided to build the lighthouse to guide sailors into the port.
It would have cost around three million dollars to build in today’s money. It cost 800 talents in 290 BC (the form of money in this time).
It is believed to have been built of limestone blocks.
The lighthouse’s lowest level was 100 feet square and 240 feet tall. The second level was about 115 feet tall and had eight sides. The third level was a 60-foot-tall cylinder with an opening at the top to allow for a space where a fire could burn to light the way for sailors at night. On top of this was a statue of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
The Alexandria Lighthouse stood approximately 450 feet tall.
People could climb the stairs inside the lighthouse to reach the beacon chamber.
There was said to be a large mirror inside, possibly made of polished bronze. The mirror’s purpose was to project a beam of light from the fire’s reflection.
Three earthquakes wreaked havoc on it. It was abandoned and demolished after the last earthquake. This made it possible for sailors to see the beam at night. The smoke from the fire was important during the day because it guided sailors. Both the light beam and the smoke could be seen from up to 100 miles away.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to have survived. The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is the second longest surviving structure, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria is the third longest.
The last remaining stone from the lighthouse was used to construct the Citadel of Qaitbay by the Sultan of Egypt Qaitbay in 1480. The citadel was built on the same island as the lighthouse.
Julius Caesar mentions the Alexandria Lighthouse in his writings.
Today, the lighthouse symbol appears on the flag of the Alexandria Governorate as well as on the city’s seal. It’s also on the Alexandria University seal.