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Seven Wonders of Ancient World/Lighthouse of Alexandria

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It took 20 long years to complete the second wonder higher after pyramid of Cheopes,namely Lighthouse of Alexandria. It was a structure truly impressive tall around 134 meters even though some historians dissent on this estimate and place its height between 103 and 118 meters that it would be anyway remarkable.  

Lighthouse of Alexandria has been without doubt the most useful wonder among all, since it was erected to increase safety of maritime traffic entering and leaving and it was dedicated to Zeus Soter(“saviour”) precisely to protect and guide safely the sailors of the period. Lighthouse project was ordered by Ptolomy I and carried out by his successor Ptolomy II. Ptolomy I has been an ancient macedonian general,he was bodyguard of Alexander the Great,but even earlier childhood friend of the great conqueror. The premature death of Alexander unleashed fierce wars of succession to divvy up his immense empire,wars that were called“wars of diadochi”.          

Ptolomy I proclaimed himself pharaoh of Egypt and he began the egyptian hellenistic period that continued until the reing of Cleopatra,last queen of Egypt. Sostratus of Cnidus is reffered in ancient sources as architect of the work even though in some inscriptions he’s believed to be even financier, such thesis is not shared by several scholars. The work was built in the port of Alexandria specifically in the lighthouse island and it represented one of the buildings most advanced and effective produced by hellenistic technology. Lighthouse indeed allowed to report the location of the port to the ships,thanks to the help of special bronze mirrors specially polished than during the day reflected the sunlight while as regards the night fires were lit. Unluckly have not been found descriptions about the workings of lighthouse but it is certain that it had a great success due to its utility so much that in that period were built, for the most part hellenistic mediterranean, several other similar lighthouses but of lower height. Unfortunately much of the  hellenistic scientific technological knowledge was lost so much that the reconstruction of lighthouses started just in XII century with the construction of famous Lighthouse of Genoa that was built presumably between 1128 and 1139.

Possible appearance of Lighthouse of Alexandria

According to testimony of Flavius Josephus lighthouse could be spotted about 48 kilometers away,that is the limits of the possible of its height and of the curvature of earth! Lighthouse rested on a square base which hosted the rooms of the staff and ramps to carry the fuel. Verticality was created by an octagonal tower on which rested a cylindrical structure where there was a statue of Zeus or Poseidon,later replaced by the Helios one!

Lighthouse was the most longeve of the seven wonders, except the pyramid of Cheopes,in fact it remained in operation for about sixteen centuries as long as it capitulated to the power of nature that manifested itself through two earthquakes which did not spare to the building; the first was the earthquake of Crete in 1303 and 20 years later occured the fatal one in 1323!

In 1968 were discovered some underwater remains of lighthouse,but only in 1994 was financed a bigger expedition to try to document in a more detailed way what remained of the structure; the mission managed to find out big granite blocks weighing between 50 and 60 tons crushed often into small pieces inlcuding 30 sphinxes and columns with obelisks of the reign of Ramses II. UNESCO is trying to protect remains of lighthouse by inserting them as “protection of underwater cultural heritage”.

Underwater remains of Lighthouse of Alexandria

Remains of the glorious building which has supported and lighted several sailors over the centuries,will rest forever in the bottom of Mediterranean,but the memory of such stunning wonder of ancient world will remain unforgettable in history of the whole mankind!

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