Main  Contacts  
Table of contents

useful industry; and now and then, for a brief period, these peaceful 

vocations would be wholly suspended and set aside by a revolt or by a 

civil war, waged by rival brothers against each other, or instigated by 

the conflicting claims of a mother and son. These interruptions, 

however, were comparatively few, and, in ordinary cases, not of long 

continuance. It was for the interest of all branches of the royal line 

to do as little injury as possible to the commercial and agricultural 

operations of the realm. In fact, it was on the prosperity of those 

operations that the revenues depended. The rulers were well aware of 

this, and so, however implacably two rival princes may have hated one 

another, and however desperately each party may have struggled to 

destroy all active combatants whom they should find in arms against 

them, they were both under every possible inducement to spare the 

private property and the lives of the peaceful population. This 

population, in fact, engaged thus in profitable industry, constituted, 

with the avails of their labors, the very estate for which the 

combatants were contending. 


Seeing the subject in this light, the Egyptian sovereigns, especially 

Alexander and the earlier Ptolemies, made every effort in their power to 

promote the commercial greatness of Alexandria. They built palaces, it 

is true, but they also built warehouses. 


One of the most expensive and celebrated of all the edifices that they 

reared was the light-house which has been already alluded to. This 

light-house was a lofty tower, built of white marble. It was situated 

upon the island of Pharos, opposite to the city, and at some distance 

from it. There was a sort of isthmus of shoals and sand-bars connecting 

the island with the shore. Over these shallows a pier or causeway was 

built, which finally became a broad and inhabited neck. The principal 

part of the ancient city, however, was on the main land. 


The curvature of the earth requires that a light-house on a coast should 

have a considerable elevation, otherwise its summit would not appear 

above the horizon, unless the mariner were very near. To attain this 

elevation, the architects usually take advantage of some hill or cliff, 

or rocky eminence near the shore. There was, however, no opportunity to 

do this at Pharos; for the island was, like the main land, level and 

low. The requisite elevation could only be attained, therefore, by the 

masonry of an edifice, and the blocks of marble necessary for the work 

had to be brought from a great distance. The Alexandrian light-house was 

reared in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, the second monarch in the 

line. No pains or expense were spared in its construction. The edifice, 

when completed, was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. It 

was indebted for its fame, however, in some degree, undoubtedly to the 

conspicuousness of its situation, rising, as it did, at the entrance of 

the greatest commercial emporium of its time, and standing there, like a 

pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, to attract the welcome gaze 

of every wandering mariner whose ship came within its horizon, and to 

awaken his gratitude by tendering him its guidance and dispelling his 



The light at the top of the tower was produced by a fire, made of such 

combustibles as would emit the brightest flame. This fire burned slowly 

through the day, and then was kindled up anew when the sun went down, 

and was continually replenished through the night with fresh supplies of 

fuel. In modern times, a much more convenient and economical mode is 

adopted to produce the requisite illumination. A great blazing lamp 

burns brilliantly in the center of the lantern of the tower, and all 

that part of the radiation from the flame which would naturally have 

beamed upward, or downward, or laterally, or back toward the land, is so 

turned by a curious system of reflectors and polyzonal lenses, most 

ingeniously contrived and very exactly adjusted, as to be thrown forward 

in one broad and thin, but brilliant sheet of light, which shoots out 

where its radiance is needed, over the surface of the sea. Before these 

inventions were perfected, far the largest portion of the light emitted 

by the illumination of light-house towers streamed away wastefully in 

landward directions, or was lost among the stars. 


Of course, the glory of erecting such an edifice as the Pharos of 

Page 3 from 8:  Back   1   2  [3]  4   5   6   7   8   Forward