Alexandria in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

al-eg-zan'-dri-a (he Alexandreia). 1. History: In 331 BC, Alexander the Great, on his way to visit the Oracle of Amon seeking divine honors, stopped at the West extremity of the Delta at the isle of Pharos the landing- place of Odysseus (Od. iv.35) His keen eye noted the strategic possibilities of the site occupied by the little Egyptian village of Rhacotis, and his decision was immediate to erect here, where it would command the gateway to the richest domain of his empire, a glorious city to be called by his own name. Deinocrates, greatest living architect, already famous as builder of the Temple of Diana, was given free hand and like a dream the most beautiful city of the ancient or modern world (with the single exception of Rome) arose with straight, parallel streets--one at least 200 feet wide--with fortresses, monuments, palaces, government buildings and parks all erected according to a perfect artistic plan. The city was about fifteen miles in circumference (Pliny), and when looked at from above represented a Macedonian cloak, such as was worn by Alexander's heroic ancestors. A colossal mole joined the island to the main land and made a double harbor, the best in all Egypt. Before Alexander died (323 BC) the future of the city as the commercial metropolis of the world was assured and here the golden casket of the conqueror was placed in a fitting mausoleum. Under the protection of the first two Ptolemies and Euergetes Alexandria reached its highest prosperity, receiving through Lake Mareotis the products of Upper Egypt, reaching by the Great Sea all the wealth of the West, while through the Red Sea its merchant vessels brought all the treasures of India and Arabia into the Alexandria docks without once being unladen. The manufactories of Alexandria were extensive, the greatest industry however being shipbuilding, the largest merchant ships of the world and battleships capable of carrying 1,000 men, which could hurl fire with fearful effect, being constructed here. This position of supremacy was maintained during the Roman domination up to the 5th century during which Alexandria began to decline. Yet even when Alexandria was captured by the Arabs (641) under the caliph Omar, the general could report: "I have taken a city containing 4,000 palaces and 4,000 baths and 400 theaters." They called it a "city of marble" and believed the colossal obelisks, standing on crabs of crystal, and the Pharos, that white stone tower 400 ft. high, "wonder of the world," to be the creation of jinn, not of men. With oriental exaggeration ...

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