Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria is also known as the Pharos. This tower was built between 285-247 B.C. on the Egyptian island of Pharos. It was an early landmark and lighthouse.

Estimates put its height at between 377-492 feet tall. It’s no wonder that it was identified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Only two buildings at the time were taller – the two Great Pyramids of Khufu and Khafra.

The Pharos was first built to serve as a landmark for navigation. It was later used as a lighthouse in the first century A.D., when the Romans added reflective mirrors and a fire. The fame of Pharos was known as far away as China, where a writer of the Song Dynasty wrote of a great pagoda lighthouse built in Egypt. This account from 1225 A.D. describes the huge building and its history.

Other ancient tales describe how the lighthouse was visible from 35 miles away.

The tower was made of large stone blocks. Over time, the walls were strengthened by adding molten lead to hold the masonry together. This could explain why the Pharos survived so long, despite being pummeled by the sea for centuries.

Two earthquakes in the early 14th century caused extensive damage to the lighthouse. In 1480, a fort was built on the island, using the fallen stone for construction.

Today, the modern word for lighthouse in many Romance languages is derived from “Pharos” – faro (Italian), farol (Portuguese), phare (French), far (Romanian).

Echoes of the influence of the Pharos Lighthouse can still be seen in the design of early Islamic mosques. Their minarets are created using a three-stage design that is remarkably similar to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, a testament to the influence of this mighty building.

Graphic reconstruction of the lighthouse according to a comprehensive study of 2006. Courtesy Wikipedia.
The Pharos of Abuqir, an ancient funerary monument thought to be modeled after the Pharos at Alexandria, with which it is approximately contemporaneous. Courtesy Wikipedia.