Alexandria is a port city situated on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt established in 331 BCE by Alexander the Great. It was the website of the Pharos (lighthouse), among the seven wonders that the ancient world, and the legend Library of Alexandria and was as soon as the most critical cultural facility of the ancient world, rivalling also Athens, Greece.

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The city developed from a small port recognized as Rhatokis after ~ the arrival of Alexander that laid the end the simple design for what that wanted and also then left to proceed his occupation of Persia. The city to be further occurred under the Ptolemaic dynasty (323-30 BCE) right into the greatest city the its time and also would later come to be a famous center of early on Christianity. It additionally became well known for the religious strife which result from the clash that pagan, Jewish, and also Christian faiths after the rise of Christianity in the 4th and 5th century CE. Amongst the most memorable occasions of this duration the martyrdom the the Neo-Platonic thinker Hypatia the Alexandria in 415 CE.

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After Christianity ended up being the dominant faith, pagan sites such as the temple of Serapis and the Serapion - both associated with the Library of Alexandria - were destroyed and the pundits who taught and also studied there fled for an ext tolerant regions. As soon as the Muslim-Arabs dominated the region in the 7th century CE, other old sites approximately the city met the exact same fate and also the once an excellent metropolis the Alexandria decreased further.

Foundation through Alexander

After overcoming Syria in 332 BCE, Alexander the good swept down into Egypt with his army. He established Alexandria in the little port city of Rhakotis through the sea and set about the task of turning it right into a an excellent capital. That is said that that designed the setup for the city which to be so significantly admired later on by the historian Strabo (l. 63 BCE-21CE) that wrote,

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The city has actually magnificent public precincts and also royal palaces i m sorry cover a fourth or even a third of the entire area. For simply as each of the emperors would, from a love of splendour, add some ornament to the general public monuments, for this reason he would carry out himself in ~ his own expense with a residence in addition to those currently standing.

Alexandria attracted scholars, scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, artists, & historians.

The palaces and grand dwellings Strabo mentions did not exist at the time Alexander founded the city. Although that was substantially admired through the Egyptians (and to be even claimed a demi-god by the Oracle in ~ Siwa), Alexander left Egypt only a few months after ~ his arrival to march on tire in Phoenicia. It was left to his commander, Cleomenes, to develop the city Alexander had envisioned.

While Cleomenes achieved a good deal, the full development of Alexandria came under the rule of Alexander\"s general Ptolemy and the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty which followed. After ~ Alexander\"s fatality in 323 BCE, Ptolemy brought his body back to Alexandria to be entombed and, complying with the wars of the Diodachi, started rule of Egypt indigenous Alexandria, replacing the old resources of Memphis. Tyre had actually been an important city for trade and also commerce in the region and, ~ its damage by Alexander, Alexandria fill the void which had actually been left. Carthage (which largely became so prosperous owing to the bag of Tyre) was still a young harbor town once Alexandria started to thrive. The historian and scholar Mangasarian writes,

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Under the Ptolemies, a heat of Greek kings, Alexandria quickly sprang right into eminence, and, accumulating society and wealth, became the most powerful metropolis the the Orient. Serving as the port of Europe, it attractive the profitable trade of India and Arabia. Its industries were enriched v the gorgeous silks and also fabrics native the bazaars the the Orient. Wealth carried leisure, and also it, in turn, the arts. That became, in time, the house of a wonderful library and also schools of philosophy, representing every the phases and the most delicate shades the thought. At once it to be the general id that the mantle the Athens had actually fallen ~ above the shoulders of Alexandria. (5)


Gold Octadrachm that Ptolemy II & Arsinöe II

The city grew to become the biggest in the known human being at the time, attracting scholars, scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, artists, and also historians. Eratosthenes (l. C.276-194 BCE) calculation the circumference of the planet to in ~ 50 miles (80 km) at Alexandria. Euclid taught at the college there. Archimedes (l. 287-212 BCE) the an excellent mathematician and astronomer may have taught there and was definitely studied there. The greatest engineer and mathematician of his day, Hero (also known as Heron, l. 10-70 CE) to be born and also lived in Alexandria. Hero was attributed with amazing accomplishments in engineering and technology including the first vending machine, the force-pump, and a theatre the automated figures who danced, among his various other inventions.

The library that Alexandria to be completed by Ptolemy II (285-246 BCE) who sent out invitations to rulers and also scholars asking them to add books.

The Library of Alexandria

The library, begun under Ptolemy ns (r. 305-285 BCE) to be completed through Ptolemy II (r. 285-246 BCE) who sent invitations to rulers and also scholars questioning them to add books. Follow to chroniclers Oakes and Gahlin:

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There to be room for approximately 70,000 papyrus scrolls. Many of the items to be bought however other method were occasionally used. In order to procure desire works, all ships entering the harbour were searched. Every book found was required to the Library where it was decided whether to provide it earlier or confiscate it and replace it with a copy. (230)

No one knows how many publications were hosted in the library at Alexandria yet estimates have been do of 500,000. That is claimed that note Antony gave Cleopatra 200,000 publications for the library but this case has to be disputed since antiquity. Mangasarian writes,

After its splendid library, whose shelves supported a freight more precious 보다 beaten gold, possibly the most stupendous edifice in the city was the temple of Serapis. That is claimed that the building contractors of the famed temple the Edessa boasted that they had succeeded in producing something which future generations would certainly compare through the holy place of Serapis in Alexandria. This ought to suggest an idea the the vastness and also beauty of the Alexandrian Serapis, and also the high esteem in i m sorry it to be held. Historians and connoisseurs insurance claim it was one of the grandest monuments of Pagan civilization, second only to the holy place of Jupiter in Rome, and also the inimitable Parthenon in Athens. The Serapis temple was constructed upon an artificial hill, the climb to which was by a hundred steps. The was not one building, but a large body of buildings, every grouped about a main one that vaster dimensions, increasing on pillars of huge magnitude and graceful proportions. Some critics have advanced the idea the the builders of this masterpiece to plan to do it a composite structure, combine the diverse elements of Egyptian and Greek art right into a harmonious whole. The Serapion was pertained to by the ancients as marking the reconciliation between the architects the the pyramids and also the creators of the Athenian Acropolis. It stood for to your minds the mix of the massive in Egyptian art with the grace and also the loveliness that the Hellenic. (6)

When Carthage increased to the height of her power, Alexandria was fairly unaffected as trade had long to be established and the city posed no danger to the sea power of the Carthaginians. Also after the loss of Carthage adhering to the Punic wars (264-146 BCE), once Rome came to be supreme and Alexandria fell under she sway, the city continued to be prosperous and continued to entice visitors from almost everywhere the world.

The boosting tensions in Rome between Julius Caesar and Pompey an initial impacted Alexandria negative in 48 BCE. Prior to this date, though the city absolutely experienced its share of problems, it stayed a steady environment. Complying with the battle of Pharsalus, however, in ~ which Caesar defeated Pompey, Pompey fled to Alexandria seek sanctuary and was eliminated by the co-regent Ptolemy XIII. Caesar arrived and, whether genuine or feigned, claimed outrage in ~ the death of his previous friend and ally. That then declared martial law, took end the royal palace, and sent because that the exiled co-regent Cleopatra VII. In the civil war which ensued much of Alexandria was burned including, follow to some scholars, the renowned library.


Roman Alexandria

Following Caesar\"s assassination in 44 BCE, his right-hand man, Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) came to be Cleopatra\"s consort and also left Rome because that Alexandria. The city came to be his base of operations end the next thirteen years until he and also Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian Caesar in ~ the battle of Actium in 31 BCE. The following year, Cleopatra and Antony both committed suicide and, with her death, the Ptolemaic line involved an end. Octavian became an initial emperor that Rome and also took the location `Augustus\". Alexandria now came to be a simple district of the Roman empire under the rule of Augustus Caesar.

Augustus consolidated his strength in the provinces and also had Alexandria restored. Scholars who argue versus Julius Caesar\"s role in the burn of the great library allude to the reality that over there is proof it was still extant under the regime of Augustus and also that travellers were still attracted to the city together a chair of learning. Alexandria to be again ruined in 115 CE in the Kitos War and also was again restored, this time through the Emperor Hadrian, who, together a man of learning, took an excellent interest in Alexandria. Follow to tradition, the Greek Septuagint (the Greek translate into of the Bible) was written in Alexandria, perfect in 132 CE, in order the it can take the place amongst the great books of the library in the city.

Religious scholar were said to regular the library because that research and also Alexandria had long attracted world of countless different faiths that vied for dominance in the city. Under Augustus\" power there to be disputes between Jews and pagans and, together Christianity prospered in popularity, the Christians added to the general public unrest. After ~ the roman inn emperor Constantine the good (l. 272-337 CE) happen the Edict that Milan in 313 CE (decreeing spiritual tolerance), Christians to be no much longer liable because that prosecution under the law and began come not just demand more religious rights, but an ext vociferously assault the pagans and also the Jews.

Christianity & the decrease of Alexandria

Alexandria, which had been a city that prosperity and learning, came to be an arena of spiritual contention between the brand-new faith the the Christians and the old belief of the pagan majority. The Christians increasingly felt bold sufficient to strike at the signs of the old belief in an effort to topple it. Magasarian writes,

It is not so much religion that renders the character of a people, together it is the people who identify the personality of their religion. Faith is only the resume of the national ideas, thoughts, and also character. Religious beliefs is nothing yet an expression. That is not, because that instance, the word or the language which creates the idea, yet the idea i beg your pardon provokes the word right into existence. In the same way religion is just the expression the a people\"s mentality. And also yet a man\"s religion or philosophy, while the is yet the product that his own mind, exerts a reflex influence upon his character. The child influences the parent, of whom it is the offspring; language influence thought, that which, originally, the was however the tool. So it is with religion. The Christian religion, as soon as it got into power, rotate the human being about. (8)

Perhaps nowhere an ext than in Alexandria to be this turn-about an ext apparent. Under the power of Theodosius i (r. 379-395 CE) paganism to be outlawed and also Christianity encouraged. In 391 CE the Christian Patriarch Theophilus followed Theodosius\" lead and also had all the pagan holy places in Alexandria ruined or converted into churches. By the year 400 CE Alexandria was in constant religious turmoil and, in 415 CE, this brought about the murder of the Neo-Platonic theorist Hypatia and, according to some scholars, the burn of the an excellent library and also the complete destruction that the temple of Serapis. Alexandria decreased rapidly after this date with scholars, scientists, and thinkers the all self-controls leaving the city for safer locales.


The city became steadily impoverished after the increase of Christianity, both financially and culturally, and became increasingly a battlefield for warring faiths. That was dominated by the Sassanid Persians in 619 CE. The Christian oriental Empire under Heraclius re-claimed the city in 628 CE yet lost it come the invading Arab Muslims under Caliph Umar in 641 CE. The pressures of the Christian Byzantines and also the Muslim Arabs then dealt with for manage of the city, and also Egypt, until the Arabian forces prevailed in 646 CE and also Egypt fell under Islamic rule. The churches were now ruined or transformed into mosques and also Christian legend claims that that was right now that the great library was burned by the Muslim conquerors.

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What to be not ruined by war was taken under by nature and, by 1323 CE, many of Ptolemaic Alexandria to be gone. The good lighthouse was steadily damaged by earthquakes as was lot of the port. In 1994 the first discoveries were made well-known of a number of relics, statuary, and also buildings in the harbor of Alexandria. These have actually been steadily excavated by Professor Jean-Yves Empereur and his team who proceed to lug to irradiate the lost golden e of Alexandria.