Alexandria from space, March 1990
Layout of the ancient city
The Greek Alexandria was divided into three regions:
- the Royal or Greek quarter, forming the most magnificent portion of the city. In Roman times Brucheum was enlarged by the addition of an official quarter, making up four regions in all. The city was laid out as a grid of parallel streets, each of which had an attendant subterranean canal;
- The Jews' quarter
- forming the northeast portion of the city;
- occupied chiefly by Egyptians (from Coptic Rakotə "Alexandria").
Two main streets, lined with colonnades and said to have been each about 60 metres (200 feet) wide, intersected in the centre of the city, close to the point where the Sema (or Soma) of Alexander (his Mausoleum) rose. This point is very near the present mosque of Nebi Daniel; and the line of the great East–West "Canopic" street, only slightly diverged from that of the modern Boulevard de Rosette. Traces of its pavement and canal have been found near the Rosetta Gate, but better remnants of streets and canals were exposed in 1899 by German excavators outside the east fortifications, which lie well within the area of the ancient city.
Alexandria consisted originally of little more than the island of Pharos, which was joined to the mainland by a mole nearly a mile long (1260 m) and called the Heptastadion ("seven stadia" — a stadium was a Greek unit of length measuring approximately 180 m). The end of this abutted on the land at the head of the present Grand Square, where the "Moon Gate" rose. All that now lies between that point and the modern "Ras Al Teen" quarter is built on the silt which gradually widened and obliterated this mole. The "Ras Al Teen" quarter represents all that is left of the island of Pharos, the site of the actual lighthouse having been weathered away by the sea. On the east of the mole was the Great Harbour, now an open bay; on the west lay the port of Eunostos, with its inner basin Kibotos, now vastly enlarged to form the modern harbour.
In Strabo's time, (latter half of 1st century BC) the principal buildings were as follows, enumerated as they were to be seen from a ship entering the Great Harbour.
- The Royal Palaces, filling the northeast angle of the town and occupying the promontory of Lochias, which shut in the Great Harbour on the east. Lochias (the modern Pharillon) has almost entirely disappeared into the sea, together with the palaces, the "Private Port" and the island of Antirrhodus. There has been a land subsidence here, as throughout the northeast coast of Africa.
- The Great Theatre, on the modern Hospital Hill near the Ramleh station. This was used by Caesar as a fortress, where he withstood a siege from the city mob after the battle of Pharsalus
- The Poseidon, or Temple of the Sea God, close to the Theatre
- The Timonium built by w:Mark Antony
- The Emporium (Exchange)
- The Apostases (Magazines)
- The Navalia (Docks), lying west of the Timonium, along the sea-front as far as the mole
- Behind the Emporium rose the Great Caesareum, by which stood the two great obelisks, each of which become known as “Cleopatra's Needle”, and were transported to New York City and London. This temple became, in time, the Patriarchal Church, though some ancient remains of the temple have been discovered. The actual Caesareum, the parts not eroded by the waves, lies under the houses lining the new sea-wall.
- The Gymnasium and the Palaestra are both inland, near the Boulevard de Rosette in the eastern half of the town; sites unknown.
- The Temple of Saturn; site unknown.
- The Mausolea of Alexander (Soma) and the Ptolemies in one ring-fence, near the point of intersection of the two main streets
- The Musaeum with its famous Library and theatre in the same region; site unknown.
- The Serapeum, the most famous of all Alexandrian temples. Strabo tells us that this stood in the west of the city; and recent discoveries go far as to place it near “Pompey's Pillar” which was an independent monument erected to commemorate Diocletian's siege of the city.
The names of a few other public buildings on the mainland are known, but there is little information as to their actual position. None, however, are as famous as the building that stood on the eastern point of Pharos island. There, the The Great Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, reputed to be 138 meters (450 ft) high, was sited. The first Ptolemy began the project, and the second Ptolemy completed it, at a total cost of 800 talents. It took 12 years to complete and served as a prototype for all later lighthouses in the world. The light was produced by a furnace at the top and the tower was built mostly with solid blocks of limestone. The Pharos lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century, making it the second longest surviving ancient wonder next to the Great Pyramid of Giza. A temple of Hephaestus also stood on Pharos at the head of the mole.
In the first century, the population of Alexandria contained over 180,000 adult male citizens (from a papyrus dated 32 CE), in addition to a large number of freedmen, women, children and slaves. Estimates of the total population range from 500,000 to over 1,000,000, making it one of the largest cities ever built before the Industrial Revolution and the largest pre-industrial city that was not an imperial capital.
* Major Cities near Alexandria
- Ma7tet El-Raml
Source: Wikipedia in English