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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

The term Pharos refers to both the Island connected to Alexandria by the Heptastadion (constructed in the Ptolemaic period) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria that is found on the island. 

The island itself had the advantageous location of being situation between both of Alexandria's harbors. Like the city proper, it too was subject to the changing waves of dominant forces in Alexandria. For example, during the Christianization of Alexandria the the Church of the Archangel Raphael was constructed on the island (Finneran, Alexandria: City and Myth).

The Lighthouse, called on of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, is estimated to have been about 400 ft high with a flame visible for 70 miles (Stille, "Resurrecting Alexandria") (note: these numbers are disputed and indefinite). Called "a beacon to sailors" it guided the seafarers through the reefs safely into the harbor with its blazing nighttime fiery light (Haas,1997). In Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Haas likens the changing role the Pharos to Alexandria's transformation from the Ptolemaic period to the period of Islamic dominance. While the Pharos was once an invitation to sailors to trade in Alexandria's cosmopolitan city, later Arab geographers describe the Pharos as a watchtower on the lookout for enemy forces. 


Posted at Nov 30/2010 04:05PM:
ian: in terms of significance we can consider not only its functional value for facilitating transport by its symbolic role as a marker of the city's grandeur and prominence.