Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Lighthouse of Alexandria

Well out of all ancient Wonders only The Lighthouse of Alexandria had a practical use aside from its architectural significance. From centuries it ensured safe return to Harbor for Sailors. If we look at the structure of this ancient building even architects will agree that it was the tallest building on Earth. It was having great fascination for scientists because of its mysterious mirror. The mirror’s reflection can be seen more than 50km (35 miles) offshore.

This Great Lighthouse is located on the ancient island of Pharos now it’s within the city of Alexandria, Egypt.

After the death of Alexander the Great his commander Ptolemy Soter gained the power in Egypt and he established his capital in Alexandria. There was a small island off of the city’s coast called Pharos, it is said that Pharos is variation of Pharaoh’s Island. The island was connected to mainland through the means of a dike, which gave the city a double harbor. Because of flat coastline and dangerous sailing conditions that’s why a lighthouse on coast was needed.

Ptolemy Soter initiated the project in 290BC but his son Ptolemy Philadelphus completed it after his death. Its architect was Sostratus who belongs to same era of Euclid but details about its structure and accessories are carried out in Alexandria Library. The monument was dedicated to Savior Gods Ptolemy Soter and his wife Berenice. For centuries the Lighthouse of Alexandria had guided the sailors and ships to have a safe voyage   to harbor.

Later Egypt was conquered by the Arabs and in their writings and travelers accounts the Lighthouse is mentioned also. But new Arab rulers moved their capital to Cairo. The mirror of the Lighthouse was taken down mistakenly and it was not restored back into its place.

In 956 AD there was a destructive earthquake in Alexandria that caused some damage to the Lighthouse also. The earthquakes in 1303 and 1323 destroyed it almost completely as its mentioned by famous Arab traveler Ibn Battuta that when he visited Alexandria in 1349 he could not enter the ruinous monument or even climb to its doorway.

The final marks in history about the Lighthouse came in AD 1480, that time Egyptian Mamelouk Sultan Qaitbay decided to strengthen the Alexandria’s defense. He built a fort on the same location where the Lighthouse once standing, and in building of fort Lighthouse fallen marble and stones were used also.

From six vanished Wonders of the World the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the last one. Though there is sufficient accurate knowledge about its exact location as its described in ancient accounts such as those by Strabo and Pliny the Elder give the brief description of the Lighthouse that it was having a mysterious mirror could reflect the light tens of kilometers away and its also said that mirror was used to burn off the enemy ships.

There is detailed information about the Lighthouse given by an Arab traveler Abu Haggag Al-Andaloussi he visited there in 1166 AD. His description about the Lighthouse helped a lot the modern archeologists for reconstruction of the monument. The Lighthouse was composed of 3 stages the lowest square, 55.9 (183.4 ft) high with a cylindrical core; the middle octagonal with a side length of 18.30 m (60 ft) and a height of 27.45 m (90.1 ft); and 3rd circular 7.30m (24 ft) high. The total height of the Lighthouse building including its foundation was 117 m (384 ft) that’s equal to a 40-story modern building. From inside the internal core was used as shaft to lift up the fuel needed for fire. The fuel for fire was used in night and in day the mirror was used for reflection of the light.

Though the Lighthouse of Alexandria won’t exist now but it had left great influence in different aspects for archeologists.


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