One of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World :: Light House of Alexandria

The lighthouse of Alexandria was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired that name. The connection of the name with the function became so strong that the word “Pharos” became the root of the word “lighthouse” in the French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages. Pharos Lighthouse stood on the eastern point of Pharos Island some distance from the city center of Alexandria.

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Constructed at the beginning of the third century BC over a period of about twelve years and at an enormous cost and using considerable slave labor, Pharos Lighthouse was completed and inaugurated by the first Ptolemy’s son, Ptolemy Philadelphus, in 283. Prior to its destruction, it underwent a number of modifications by later rulers. The architect was Sostratos, a Greek from the Asia Minor city of Cnidus, whose name also appears on the sanctuary of Appolo at Delphi and on Delos.

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Though only the king’s name was allowed on buildings erected during their reigns in the period, Sostratos got around this by also carving his own with a dedication, which was then covered with plaster.

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This light house of Alexandria was one of the wonders among all the seven wonders of the world, which was constructed to serve a practical purpose. Besides being a marvelous example of architectural elegance, it ensured a safe return for the sailors to the Great Harbor. The mirror that was mounted at the top of the lighthouse could reflect light more than 35 miles off-shore. The scientists were fascinated by this mysterious mirror.

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The Lighthouse at Alexandria was designed by the Greek architect Sostratus of Cnidus. It was constructed of a light-colored stone that was reinforced with molten lead. This would have protected the walls from crashing ocean waves. It stood in three levels: a lower square level with a strong core to provide support, an octagon-shaped center level, and a circular level on top. At the peak of the lighthouse was a mirror that reflected the light of the sun at day, and a fire was lit each evening.

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The Lighthouse stood for nearly 1,500 years until it was badly damaged in a series of natural disasters. In 956 AD and yet again in 1303 and 1323. The lighhouse succumbed to earthquakes that eventually sent it crumbling on to itself and also on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. Other possiblities to its destruction indicate a tidal wave that may have toppled the lighthouse and also helped to destroy the palaces and port structures close to the shore. After the destruction the Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a medieval fort on the former location of the lighthouse using some of the fallen stone. There are remnants of the Pharos that were incorporated into the walls of Fort Qaitbay. The fort still stands today.

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Why it is a wonder of ancient world? Because It’s height and its exemplary robustness made the lighthouse of Alexandria unique. Indeed it was exposed to a strong wind coming from the sea, that is why it should be inevitably resistant enough. This edifice is the symbol of the technical exploit shown by the Egyptians. Furthermore it was one of the first lighthouses.

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