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A L E X A N D R I A, the Great Ancient City



Alexandria of Egypt is a Mediterranean country on the west region of the Delta Nile. Its population has risen to 3,000,000 people in the last years, among whom there live several Greeks too, together with other Europeans. It is the second largest city in Egypt and the most important port, actually being the only commercial harbour in the country. It is situated on the northwestern peak of the Delta Nile, on a narrow piece of land, which separates the sea from Lake Mariout. It is a cosmopolitan centre and the seat of many schools and museums.


Alexander the Great, the son of Philip, King of Macedonia, after his father’s death tried to continue the panhellenic expedition against the Persians under his command. He became the dominator of Asia Minor after two sole battles and he liberated all Greek cities, to which he rendered their independence. Consequently, he conquered several Phoenician towns, which were very powerful military harbours. However, the most decisive move made by Alexander was the invasion to Egypt in 332 BC. The Egyptians, who could not tolerate Persian occupation, received Alexander as a liberator and they honoured him as a god, namely as a Pharaoh.

Alexander went as far as town Kanovo and disembarked on Lake Mariout, the exact place where Alexandria lies today. There he built the city in 332, which was right opposite the crannog Pharos, on the remains of an ancient Egyptian village. Alexander was absolutely certain that that specific region was most suitable for a city to be built on that would later have great chances of development. The Macedonian king felt the desire to get down to work as quickly as possible. In fact, it was he himself who dictated the places where the market, the temples to ancient Greek gods and the one of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, as well as the wall that surrounded the city should be built. Deinocrates, the architect, was assigned in charge of the colossal task.

Later on, Ptolemy A’, Queen Cleopatra’s father, linked the coast to the island Pharos with an artificial isthmus. In this way, the great port was walled up to the west and thus made secure. Soon Alexandria became a major trading and cultural centre, as well as the capital of the Ptolemy kingdom due to its key position. At that time the population of Alexandria counted no more than 300,000 people, among whom Greeks, Israeli and Egyptians. On the island Pharos they built a gigantic lighthouse, in order to help sailors move their vessels about safely at night. That masterpiece, work of the architect Sostrates Dexiphanes, was included in the Seven Miracles of the ancient world and offered great services to trade, navigation and generally economic growth of Alexandria.

The population of Alexandria had a common language, the Hellenic. Alexander the Great contributed to the spreading of the Attic dialect, which was named “coene”, namely common, and it is known as the dialect of Alexandria. The Old Testament was also translated into this dialect, the translation becoming famous as the one “of the seventies”.

Alexandria, in general, played an important role in the cultural life of the Greeks and the whole Mediterranean civilization. Brechia, a contemporary historian and archaeologist, compares ancient Alexandria with the present city of Paris and that of Florence of the Medici.

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