Pharos Of Alexandria Essay, Research Paper
Amazing Ancient Structures: Pharos of Alexandria
The Pharos of Alexandria is the seventh wonder of the world. My dad is very amazed by the Seven Wonders of the World and had asked me about them a while back. Since I didn t know about them, he checked out a book that I had also looked through. These seven structures then caught my interest and I took this opportunity to research one of them. I chose to research the Pharos of Alexandria because it is not as popular as the other six Wonders such as the Great Pyramid and the Colossus.
Shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, his commander Ptolemy Soter assumed power in Egypt. He had witnessed the founding of Alexandria, and established his capital there. Off of the city’s coast lies a small island, Pharos. A legend says its name is a variation of Pharaoh’s Island. The island was connected to the mainland by means of a dike, the Heptastadion, which gave the city a double harbor. Because of dangerous sailing conditions and flat coastline in the region, the construction of a lighthouse was necessary.
The project was set up and initiated by Ptolemy Soter around 290 BC, but was completed after his death, during the reign of his son Ptolemy Philadelphus. Sostratus, a contemporary of Euclid, was the architect, but detailed calculations for the structure and its accessories were carried out at the Alexandria Library/Mouseion. The monument was dedicated to the Savior Gods, Ptolemy Soter and his wife Berenice. For centuries, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was used to mark the harbor, using fire at night and reflecting sunrays during the day. It was even shown on Roman coins, just as famous monuments are depicted on currency today.
When the Arabs conquered Egypt, they admired Alexandria and its wealth. The Lighthouse continues to be mentioned in their writings and travelers accounts. But the new rulers moved their capital to Cairo since they had no ties to the Mediterranean. When the mirror was brought down mistakenly, they did not restore it back into place. In 956 AD, an earthquake shook Alexandria, and caused little damage to the Lighthouse. It was later in 1303 and in 1323 that two stronger earthquakes left a greater impression on the structure. When the famous Arab traveler Ibn Battuta visited Alexandria in 1349, he could not enter the ruinous monument or even climb to its doorway.
The end of the Lighthouse came in 1480 AD when the Egyptian Mamelouk Sultan, Qaitbay, decided to fortify Alexandria’s defense. He built a medieval fort on the same spot where the Lighthouse once stood. He used the fallen stone and marble for his project.
In 1166, an Arab traveler, Abou-Haggag Al-Andaloussi visited the Lighthouse. He documented a great amount of information and gave an accurate description of the structure, which helped modern archeologists reconstruct the monument. It was composed of three stages. The lowest square was 55.9 m (183.4 ft) high with a cylindrical core; the middle octagonal with a side length of 18.30 m (60.0 ft) and a height of 27.45 m (90.1 ft); and the third circular 7.30 m (24.0 ft) high. The total height of the building including the foundation base was about 117 m (384 ft), equivalent to a 40-story modern building..
The design was not like the slim single column of most modern lighthouses, but more like the structure of an early twentieth century skyscraper. The three stages were each built on top of the lower, and the building was constructed of marble blocks with lead mortar. The lowest level was shaped like a massive box. Inside this section was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the top in horse-drawn carts.
On top of this section was an eight-sided tower. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue of possibly Poseidon. The lower portion of the building contained hundreds of storage rooms.
The interior of the upper two sections had a shaft with a dumbwaiter that was used to transport fuel up to the fire. Staircases allowed visitors and the keepers to climb to the beacon chamber. There, according to reports, a large curved mirror, perhaps made of polished metal, was used to project the fire’s light into a beam. It was said ships could detect the light from the tower at night or the smoke from the fire during the day up to one hundred miles away.
There are stories and much uncertainty about the form and function of the Pharos. For instance, if the beacon on the summit was a simple wood fire, then how was a constant source of fuel provided in a land with so few trees? Also, there are stories that the mirrors in the lighthouse could be used as a weapon to concentrate the sun and set enemy ships ablaze as they approached. Another tale says that it was possible to use the mirror to magnify the image of the city of Constantinople from far across the sea to observe what was going on there. Furthermore, ancient texts regularly mention a statue as standing on the top of the tower, but if this was placed above a perpetually burning fire it would surely crack. There is a debate as to whom this statue represented. For so long it was supposed to be Poseidon, god of the seas, but later scholarship has opted for Zeus. Then others suggested that there were two statues, of Castor and Pollux.
Society in the past was greatly affected by the lighthouse of Alexandria. For the sailors in the past it ensured a safe return to the Great Harbor. The Architects also saw great meaning in it for it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence, with the exception of the Great Pyramid.
Although the Lighthouse of Alexandria did not survive to the present day, it left its influence in various respects. From an architectural standpoint, the monument has been used as a model for many prototypes along the Mediterranean, as far away as Spain. From a linguistic standpoint, it gave its name, Pharos, to all the lighthouses in the world. The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself acquired the 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.