The Lighthouse of Alexandria (The Ancient Wonders Series Book 1)

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It is easy to imagine that in the 3rd century BC it was difficult to recover more solid stones in other regions, but this is what was done for the part of the lighthouse most at risk: Angles of the building, frames of the doors and windows, which were built of granite from Aswan. One finds such a way of building at Fort Qaitbay.

The fitting of the stones is quite surprising, as far as we know. The description of the assembly of the lighthouse is little known, it is a hypothesis. The manufacturers obviously did not use mortar to tie the stones together but used an old grooving technique.

They were visibly assembled on a bed of molten lead, acting as a shock absorber. What is factual is that the rate of lead in the sea around the archaeological site is important, according to Jean-Yves Empereur, the French archaeologist in charge of maritime excavations. In fact it is easy enough to know what the lighthouse of Alexandria looked like, as it is represented many times on ancient documents.

Ancient, but not enough to be contemporary with the monument, so there is always a part of interpretation in its representation, however weak. But to be honest, the lighthouse of Alexandria is probably the wonder of the World that is best known, aesthetically speaking, apart from the Pyramid of Cheops, of course. One notices the famous lighthouse which has no equivalent in the world in terms of structure and solidity; for, independently of what is made of excellent stones of the kind called caddzan, the foundations of these stones are sealed together with molten lead, and the joints are so adherent that the whole is indissoluble, that the waves of the sea, on the north side, continually strike this edifice.

They ascend by a broad staircase, built in the interior, as are ordinarily those which are practiced in the towers of the mosques. The first staircase ends towards the middle of the lighthouse, and there the edifice becomes narrower by its four sides. In the interior and under the staircase were built rooms.


Starting from the middle gallery, the lighthouse rises to its summit, narrowing more and more, not beyond, however, that a man can always make the turn while ascending. From this same gallery one ascends again, to reach the summit, by a staircase of dimensions narrower than those of the lower staircase. The lighthouse is pierced, in all its parts, with windows destined to procure daylight for persons ascending, and so that they may properly place their feet in ascending.

The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, reconstructed

This edifice is singularly remarkable, on account of its height as well as its solidity; it is very useful in that it lights night and day of fire to serve as a signal to navigators; the people of the ships recognize this fire and are directed accordingly, for it is visible from a maritime day [ miles] away.

During the night, it appears as a brilliant star; during the day one distinguishes the smoke. The entrance to the Lighthouse is very high. It is accessed by a long meter ramp. This is based on a series of arches [ Once we reached the top of the first floor, we measured its height above the ground with a piece of rope to which we attached a stone. We found In the center of the terrace of this first floor, the building was prolonged, but with an octagonal shape [ This second floor was higher than the first.

On entering we saw a staircase which consisted of eighteen steps, and we debouched in the center of the second terrace.

The building was still prolonged in a cylindrical form [ We entered and ascended thirty-one steps to reach the third floor, the height of which we measured with our rope: 7. On the terrace of this third floor, there was a mosque with four doors and a dome. Learn more about Dimensions of the lighthouse.

The lighthouse of Alexandria is a monolithic building that measured m high. It was on 3 floors: On the ground, a heavy square building, on which was built another octagonal building. At the top, the third floor was cylindrical. This form with three levels is found in other lighthouses of the Greek Empire, that of Taposiris Magna is an example. The access door was fairly high in relation to the ground, so the lighthouse had an access ramp on the first floor, a ramp which was mounted on sixteen impressive arches. But here it was useless to defend access to the lighthouse, the ramp was therefore hard, not removable.

The first floor was built on a platform about ten meters high, it was pyramidal and square. The building itself was hollow and contained an access ramp on the second floor and about fifty rooms, so it was a real urban complex, not at all a simple block of solid retaining stone. These various rooms were used for the service of the lighthouse. There were rooms for the staff who kept the fire at the top, others for storing wood for its food. The ramp was wide and allowed the passage of oxen to carry the wood towards the top of the lighthouse, it was illuminated by a series of windows, small and long, arranged along the ramp and thus, outwardly offset compared to others.

This part of the lighthouse was 71m high and at its summit was a terrace equipped with a high railing of 2,30m and carved Tritons blowing in horns, a means of preventing accidents at sea. The second floor was 34m high, about half the first.

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It was octagonal in shape and as for the first floor it was hollow, but unlike it it was equipped with an internal staircase, not a ramp. It must be said that at this level the lighthouse was too narrow to make a ramp, so it was at the top of the first floor that the beasts of burden climbed the wood to burn at the top, for the rest of the trip, it had to be done by hand. The third floor was the lowest, only 9m. It had a cylindrical shape and was equipped with an internal staircase.

At the top of the lighthouse there was a statue of Zeus, it is known that it was installed there during the first half of the third century BC. But the different representations of this statue through time leaves a doubt about its replacement during the following centuries. An object found in Asia Minor and representing the lighthouse shows us a statue with a boat oar, which would identify it with Poseidon, the Roman God. It could be credible for two reasons. If it is true that ancient history tells us that Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire, it is not unusual to find a Roman God at the top of the most emblematic tower of Alexandria.

The 7 Wonders of the Ancient World

But this proposition is not really valid, as the Romans only conquered Egypt three centuries later 30 years BC. What is more, we find an intaglio hard stone engraved in hollow of the first century AD which shows Zeus on the lighthouse, proof that the statue would have remained in its place during 4 centuries. How to be sure of the chronology of the statues set up at this summit? Difficult because the Roman Empire having banished all pagan representations from , but in a witness assures that there was a statue of Helios at the top of the lighthouse. Yet the Roman Empire was already Christian, and it seems normal that at this site a statue of Christ should have been implanted.

Note however that there were other statues on the lighthouse, along its base. Some have been found recently, they have been taken out of the waters of the port. One of them would be Queen Berenice represented in Isis with her husband represented in Pharaoh. Isis was a glorified goddess on the island of Pharos, as was Poseidon. Little information has been received on the operation of the lighthouse, but there is not much to discover, obviously.

The fire was lit on the highest part, the one on which there was the statue. It was important, visibly powerful, and it was maintained day and night. In the daytime, it was the smoke which directed the boats, at night it was the brilliance. It appears that the lighthouse of Alexandria was visible to 50Kms in the round. In order to feed it, a large quantity of wood had to be stored in the first floor of the tower. A ramp, as indicated in the description, was the inner circle.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria Remains Underwater, Egypt

Oxen were able to circulate there, stepping the trunks regularly for storage. The suite had to be done manually, the stairs becoming too narrow for the beasts of burden. In the course of time it is possible to switch to other fuels, especially oil. Some sources indicate that the lighthouse was equipped with reflective mirrors to increase its visibility, it seems to be false. In any case, it is not credible, in the current state of knowledge. It is difficult to follow the lighthouse in time, because the testimonies of this period are missing.

It is known that the Emperor Anastasius I had renovations of the submerged subsoil to a certain Ammonios. In the French bishop Aroulfe explains in a document the role of the tower of Pharus, its operation, and the reason why it is important to enter safely in the port. He takes the opportunity to point out that the island is surrounded by pious massifs intended to support the banks. The lighthouse of Alexandria, built at one time, has obviously not undergone any major changes during its existence. In fact, the modifications were essentially natural.

It was an earthquake that destroyed the third floor of the lighthouse during the tenth century. Lying on the ground, the summit was never rebuilt. In his place the sultan Ahmed Ibn Tulun, who ruled the city, had an oratory built, giving the lighthouse a mosque role and in the process, it was the highest mosque in the world. If you observe the minaret that this sultan built in Cairo, you will find that it follows the same architectural form as the lighthouse of Alexandria: Square at the bottom, octagonal at the center and cylindrical at the top.

In a second earthquake struck him again, more violently.