The Great Lighthouse at Alexandria - Seven Wonders

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Ships of the ancient world sailing the Mediterranean bound for Alexandria always knew where to find the port. For the Pharos the amazing lighthouse of Alexandria was visible from 43 kilometres out at sea. The Great Lighthouse at Alexandria is one of the seven wonders of the ancienf world and one of the seven wonders of the world.

At the summit of the Pharos was a huge mirror. Legend says that in it one could see all that was passing in the distant city of Constantinople. The glass, it is said, could be turned to concentrate the rays of the sun like a burning glass and so burn ships while they were still 160 kilometres out at sea.

Fanciful though this may be, there is no doubt that the Pharos was an awe inspiring work of wonder. It was built, about two centuries before Christ, in white marble in the form of eight (some historians say four) towers, one above the other and each smaller than the one below it. The light was provided by a great brazier kept constantly burning.

It was not the first lighthouse of the ancient world, but undoubtedly it was the father of them all. Pharos in various forms has been adopted as the word for lighthouse in many languages. In Latin a lighthouse is pharus; in Spanish and Italian it is faros; in French phare; and pharos has not been obsolete for very long in the English language.

When the Arabs conquered Egypt the Pharos lit the way for Moslem ships, which caused the Christian Emperor of Constantinople to send a spy to Alexandria to destroy it. The trick used by this spy was incredible. Approaching the Caliph, Al-Walid, the spy declared, "Sir, it is said that there is a wonderful treasure buried under the Pharos. It was put there by the ancients when they began building. No finer collection of gold and jewels than is in those foundations has ever been seen by mortal man".

The Caliph fell for the trick. Stone by stone the Pharos was dismantled. It was not until it was nearly halfdown that he suspected a plot. But, although they tried hard, the Arabs couldn't put back the work they had destroyed. And the final tragedy occurred when the famous mirror fell and was broken into a thousand pieces.

In 1375 an earthquake shook Alexandria and hurled the ruins of the ancient tower, a mass of formless stone, into the sea. There, on the seabed of Alexandria harbour, some of it still remains all that is left of the great light that once lit the ancient world.

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