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Alexandria (in Egypt): Iskandariyeh. Alexandria was a city
founded by Alexander the Great, and it was in Alexandria that Alexander the
Great was buried. Alexandria was the capital of Egypt under the Ptolemies.
It was a large seaport city, mainly Greek, with a strong Jewish community.
Acts 18:24; 27:6; 28:11
Acts 18:24 - And a
certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in
the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
Acts 27:6 - And
there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us
Acts 28:11 - And
after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in
the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
Alexandria (λεξάνδρεια, and in Cicero's time written Alexandrēa). The name of
several cities founded by Alexander the Great, and named after him. Of these,
the most important are:
The capital of Aegyptus (q.v.) under the Ptolemies, ordered by Alexander to be
founded in B.C. 332. It was built on the narrow neck of land between the lake
Mareotis and the Mediterranean, opposite to the island of Pharos, which was
joined to the city by an artificial dike. On this island a great light-house was
built in the reign of Ptolemy. Map of Ancient Alexandria. Philadelphus (283
B.C.). Under the care of the Ptolemies, as the capital of a great kingdom, and
commanding by its position all the commerce of Europe with the East, Alexandria
soon became the most wealthy and splendid city of the known world. It was
celebrated for its magnificent library, founded by the first two Ptolemies. The
library suffered severely by fire when Iulius Caesar was besieged in Alexandria,
and was finally destroyed by Amrou, the lieutenant of the calif Omar, in A.D.
651. Under the Romans, Alexandria retained its commercial and literary
importance, and became also a chief seat of Christianity and theological
learning. Its site is now covered by a mass of ruins. Outside the walls, to the
south, the column of Diocletian (“Pompey's Pillar”) still remains; but the two
obelisks known as “Cleopatra 's Needles,” which once adorned the gate-way of the
royal palace, have been removed—one to London in 1878, and one to New York in
1881. The modern city stands on the dike uniting the island of Pharos to the
mainland. - Harry Thurston Peck. Harpers Dictionary of
Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1898.
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ALEXANDREIA -IA or--EA (ἡ Ἀλεξάνδρεια: Eth. Ἀλεξανδρεύς, more rarely
Ἀλεξανδρίτης, Ἀλεξανδριώτης, Ἀλεξανδριανός, Ἀλεξανδρῖνος, Ἀλεξανδρίνης,
Alexandrinus; fem. Ἀλεξανδρίς: the modern El-Skanderish), the Hellenic capital
of Egypt, was founded by Alexander the Great in B.C. 332. It stood in lat. 31°
N.; long. 47° E. (Arrian, 3.1, p. 156; Q. Curt. 4.8.2.) On his voyage from
Memphis to Canobus he was struck by the natural advantages of the little town of
Rhacôtis, on the north-eastern angle of the Lake Mareotis. The harbour of
Rhacôtis, with the adjacent island of Pharos, had been from very remote ages (Hom.
Od. 4.355) the resort of Greek and Phoenician sea-rovers, and in the former
place the Pharaohs kept a permanent garrison, to prevent foreigners entering
their dominions by any other approach than the city of Naucratis and the Canobic
branch of the Nile. At Rhacôtis Alexander determined to construct the future
capital of his western conquests. His architect Deinocrates was instructed to
surveythe harbour, and to draw out a plan of a military and commercial
metropolis of the first rank. (Vitruv. ii. prooem.; Solin. 100.32; Ammian.
22.40; V. Max. 1.4.1.) The ground-plan was traced by Alexander himself; the
building was commenced immediately, but the city was not completed until the
reign of the second monarch of the Lagid line, Ptolemy Philadelphus. It
continued to receive embellishment and extension from nearly every monarch of
that dynasty. The plan of Deinocrates was carried out by another architect,
named Cleomenes, of Naucratis. (Just. 13.4.1.) Ancient writers (Strab. p. 791,
seq.; Plut. Alex. 26; Plin. Nat. 5.10. s. 11) compare the general form of
Alexandreia to the cloak (chlamys) worn by the Macedonian cavalry. It was of an
oblong figure, rounded at the SE. and SW. extremities. Its length from E. to W.
was nearly 4 miles; its breadth from S. to N. nearly a mile, and its
circumference, according to Pliny (l.c.) was about 15 miles. The interior was
laid out in parallelograms: the streets crossed one another at right angles, and
were all wide enough to admit of both wheel carriages and foot-passengers. Two
grand thoroughfares nearly bisected the city. They ran in straight lines to its
four principal gates, and each was a plethrum, or about 200 feet wide. The
longest, 40 stadia in length, ran from the Canobic gate to that of the
Necropolis (E.--W.): the shorter, 7-8 stadia in length, extended from the Gate
of the Sun to the Gate of the Moon (S.--N.). On its northern side Alexandreia
was bounded by the sea, sometimes denominated the Egyptian Sea: on the south by
the Lake of Marea or Mareotis; to the west were the Necropolis and its numerous
gardens; to the east the Eleusinian road and the Great Hippodrome. The tongue of
land upon which Alexandreia stood was singularly adapted to a commercial city.
The island of Pharos broke the force of the north wind, and of the occasional
high floods of the Mediterranean. The headland of Lochias sheltered its harbours
to the east; the Lake Mareotis was both a wet-dock and the general haven of the
inland navigation of the Nile valley, whether direct from Syene, or by the royal
canal from Arsinoë on the Red Sea, while various other canals connected the lake
with the Deltaic branches of the river. The springs of Rhacôtis were few and
brackish; but an aqueduct conveyed the Nile water into the southern section of
the city, and tanks, many of which are still in use, distributed fresh water to
both public and private edifices. (Hirtius, B. Alex. 100.5.) The soil, partly
sandy and partly calcareous, rendered drainage nearly superfluous. The fogs
which periodically linger on the shores of Cyrene and Egypt were dispersed by
the north winds which, in the summer season, ventilate the Delta; while the
salubrious [1.96] atmosphere for which Alexandreia was celebrated was directly
favoured by the Lake Mareotis, whose bed was annually filled from the Nile, and
the miasma incident to lagoons scattered by the regular influx of its purifying
floods. The inclination of the streets from east to west concurred with these
causes to render Alexandreia healthy; since it broke the force of the Etesian or
northern breezes, and diffused an equable temperature over the city. Nor were
its military less striking than its commercial advantages. Its harbours were
sufficiently capacious to admit of large fleets, and sufficiently contracted at
their entrance to be defended by booms and chains. A number of small islands
around the Pharos and the harbours were occupied with forts, and the approach
from the north was further secured by the difficulty of navigating among the
limestone reefs and mudbanks which front the debouchure of the Nile.
Plan of Alexandreia.
3. Closed or Royal. Port.
5. Royal Dockyards.
7. City Dockyards and Quays.
8. Gate of the Moon.
9. Kibotus, Basin of Eunostus.
10. Great Mole (Heptastadium).
11. Eunostus, Haven of Happy Return.
12. The Island Pharos.
13. The Tower Pharos (Diamond-Rock).
14. The Pirates' Bay.
15. Regio Judaeorum.
16. Theatre of the Museum.
18. Library and Museum.
24. Lake Mareotis.
25. Canal to Lake Mareotis.
26. Aqueduct from the Nile.
29. Gate of the Sun.
31. Emporium or Royal Exchange.
We shall first describe the harbour-line, and next the interior of the city.
The harbour-line commenced from the east with the peninsular strip Lochias,
which terminated seaward in a fort called Acro-Lochias, the modern Pharillon.
The ruins of a pier on the eastern side of it mark an ancient landing-place,
probably belonging to the Palace which, with its groves and gardens, occupied
this Peninsula. Like all the principal buildings of Alexandreia, it commanded a
view of the bay and the Pharos. The Lochias formed, with the islet of Antirhodus,
the Closed or Royal Port, which was kept exclusively for the king's gallies, and
around the head of which were the Royal Dockyards. West of the Closed Port was
the Poseideion or Temple of Neptune, where embarking and returning mariners
registered their vows. The northern point of this temple was called the
Timonium, whither the defeated triumvir M. Antonius retired after his flight
from Actium in B.C. 31. (Plat. Anton. 69.) Between Lochias and the Great Mole (Heptastadium)
was the Greater Harbour, and on the western side of the Mole was the Haven of
Happy Return (εὔνοστος), connected by the basin (κίβωτος, chest) with the canal
that led, by one arm, to the Lake Mareotis, and by the other to the Canobic arm
of the Nile. The haven of “Happy Return” fronted the quarter of the city called
Rhacôtis. It was less difficult of access than the Greater Harbour. as the reefs
and shoals lie principally NE. of the Pharos. Its modern name is the Old Port.
From the Poseideion to the Mole the shore was lined with dockyards and
warehouses, upon whose broad granite quays ships discharged their lading without
the intervention of boats. On the western horn of the Eunostus were public
Fronting the city, and sheltering both its harbours, lay the long narrow island
of Pharos. It was a dazzling white calcareous rock, about a mile from
Alexandreia, and, according to Strabo, 150 stadia [1.97] from the Canobic mouth
of the Nile. At its eastern point stood the far-famed lighthouse, the work of
Sostrates of Cnidus, and, nearer the Heptastadium, was a temple of Phtah or
Hephaestus. The Pharos was begun by Ptolemy Soter, but completed by his
successor, and dedicated by him to “.the gods Soteres,” or Soter and Berenice,
his parents. (Strab. p. 792.) It consisted of several stories, and is said to
have been four hundred feet in height. The old light-house of Alexandreia still
occupies the site of its ancient predecessor. A deep bay on the northern side of
the island was called the, “Pirates' Haven,” from its having been an early place
of refuge for Carian and Samian mariners. The islets which stud the northern
coast of Pharos became, in the 4th and 5th centuries A. D., the resort of
Christian anchorites. The island is said by Strabo to have been nearly desolated
by Julius Caesar when he was besieged by the Alexandrians in B.C. 46. (Hirt. B.
The Pharos was connected with the mainland by an artificial mound or causeway,
called, from its length (7 stadia, 4270 English feet, or 3/4 of a mile), the
Heptastadium. There were two breaks in the Mole to let the water flow through,
and prevent the accumulation of silth; over these passages bridges were laid,
which could be raised up at need. The temple of Hephaestus on Pharos stood at
one extremity of the Mole, and the Gate of the Moon on the mainland at the
other. The form of the Heptastadium can no longer be distinguished, since modern
Alexandreia is principally erected upon it, and upon the earth which has
accumulated about its piers. It probably lay in a direct line between fort
Caffarelli and the island.
Interior of the City.
Interior of the City. Alexandreia was divided into three regions. (1) The Regio
Judaeorum. (2) The Brucheium or Pyrucheium, the Royal or Greek Quarter. (3) The
Rhacôtis or Egyptian Quarter. This division corresponded to the three original
constituents of the Alexandrian population (τρία γένη, Plb. 34.14; Strab. p.
797, seq.) After B.C. 31 the Romans added a fourth element, but this was
principally military and financial (the garrison, the government, and its
official staff, and the negotiatores), and confined to the Region Brucheium.
1. Regio Judaeorum, or Jews' Quarter, occupied the NE. angle of the city, and
was encompassed by the sea, the city walls, and the Brucheium. Like the Jewry of
modern European cities, it had walls and gates of its own, which were at times
highly necessary for its security, since between the Alexandrian Greeks and Jews
frequent hostilities raged, inflamed both by political jealousy and religious
hatred. The Jews were governed by their own Ethnarch, or Arabarches (J. AJ
14.7.2, 10.1, 18.6.3, 19.5.2, B. J. 2.18.7), by a sanhedrim or senate, and their
own national a laws. Augustus Caesar, in B.C. 31, granted to the Alexandrian
Jews equal privileges with their Greek fellow citizens, and recorded his grant
by a public inscription. (Id. Antiq. 12.3, c. Apion. 2.) Philo Judaeus (Legat.
in Caium) gives a full account of the immunities of the Regio Judaeorum. They
were frequently confirmed or annulled by successive Roman emperors. (Sharpe,
Hist. of Egypt, p. 347, seq. 2nd edit.)
2. Brucheium, or Pyrucheium (Βρυχεῖον, Βυροχεῖον, Salmasius, ad Spartian.
Hadrian. 100.20), the Royal or Greek Quarter, was bounded to the S. and E. by
the city walls, N. by the Greater Harbour, and W. by the region Rhacôtis and the
main street which connected the Gate of the Sun with that of the Moon and the
Heptastadium. It was also surrounded by its own walls, and was t
he quarter in which Caesar defended himself against the Alexandrians. (Hirtius,
B. Alex. 1.) The Brucheium was bisected by the High Street, which ran from the
Canobic Gate to the Necropolis, and was supplied with water from the Nile by a
tunnel or aqueduct, which entered the city on the south, and passed a little to
the west of the Gymnasium. This was the quarter of the Alexandrians proper, or
Hellenic citizens, the Royal Residence, and the district in which were contained
the most conspicuous of the public buildings. It was so much adorned and
extended by the later Ptolemies that it eventually occupied one-fifth of the
entire city. (Plin. Nat. 5.10. s. 11.) It contained the following remarkable
edifices: On the Lochias, the Palace of the Ptolemies, with the smaller palaces
appropriated to their children and the adjacent gardens and groves. The
far-famed Library and Museum, with its Theatre for lectures and public
assemblies, connected with one another and with the palaces by long colonnades
of the most costly marble from the Egyptian quarries, and adorned with obelisks
and sphinxes taken from the Pharaonic cities. The Library contained, according
to one account, 700,000 volumes, according to another 400,000 (J. AJ 12.2; Athen.
1.3); part, however, of this unrivalled collection was lodged in the temple of
Serapis, in the quarter Rhacôtis. Here were deposited the 200,000 volumes
collected by the kings of Pergamus, and presented by M. Antonius to Cleopatra.
The library of the Museum was destroyed during the blockade of Julius Caesar in
the Brucheium; that of the Serapeion was frequently injured by the civil broils
of Alexandreia, and especially when that temple was destroyed by the Christian
fanatics in the 4th century A.D. It was finally destroyed by the orders of the
khalif Omar, A.D. 640. The collection was begun by Ptolemy Soter, augmented by
his successors, for the worst of the Lagidae were patrons of literature,--and
respected, if not increased, by the Caesars, who, like their predecessors,
appointed and salaried the librarians and the professors of the Museum. The
Macedonian kings replenished the shelves of the Library zealously but
unscrupulously, since they laid an embargo on all books, whether public or
private property, which were brought to Alexandreia, retained the originals, and
gave copies of them to their proper owners. In this way Ptolemy Euergetes (B.C.
246--221) is said to have got possession of authentic copies of the works of
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and to have returned transcripts of them to
the Athenians, with an accompanying compensation of fifteen talents. The Museum
succeeded the once renowned college of Heliopolis as the University of Egypt. It
contained a great hall or banqueting room (οἶκος μέλας), where the professors
dined in common; an exterior peristyle, or corridor (περίπατοι), for exercise
and ambulatory lectures; a theatre where public disputations and scholastic
festivals were held; chambers for the different professors; and possessed a
botanical garden which Ptolemy Philadelphus enriched with tropical flora (Philostrat.
Vit. Apollon. 6.24), and a menagerie (Athen. 14.654). It was divided into four
principal sections,--poetry, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine, and enrolled
among its professors or pupils the illustrious names of Euclid, Ctesibius,
Callimachus, Aratus, [1.98] Aristophanes and Aristarchus, the critics and
grammarians, the two Heros, Ammonius Saccas, Polemo, Clemens, Origen,
Athanasius, Theon and his celebrated daughter Hypatia, with many others. Amid
the turbulent factions and frequent calamities of Alexandreia, the Museum
maintained its reputation, until the Saracen invasion in A.D. 640. The emperors,
like their predecessors the Ptolemies, kept in their own hands the nomination of
the President of the Museum, who was considered one of the four chief
magistrates of the city. For the Alexandrian Library and Museum the following
works may be consulted:--Strab. pp. 609, 791, seq.; Vitruv. vii. prooem.; J. AJ
12.2, c. Apion. 2.7; Clem. Alex. Strom. 1.22; Cyrill. Hieros. Catechet. 4.34;
Epiphan. Mens. et Pond. 100.9; Augustin. Civ. D. 18.42; Lipsius, de Biblioth. §
ii.; Bonamy, Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscr. 9.10; Matter, l'Ecole d'Alexandrie, vol.
i. p. 47; Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. iii. p. 500. In the Brucheium also stood the
Caesarium, or Temple of the Caesars, where divine honours were paid to the
emperors, deceased or living. Its site is still marked by the two granite
obelisks called “Cleopatra's Needles,” near which is a tower perhaps not
inappropriately named the “Tower of the Romans.” Proceeding westward, we come to
the public granaries (Caesar, B. Civ. 3.112) and the Mausoleum of the Ptolemies,
which, from its containing the body of Alexander the Great, was denominated Soma
(Σῶμα, or Σῆμα, Strab. p. 794). The remains of the Macedonian hero were
originally inclosed in a coffin of gold, which, about B.C. 118, was stolen by
Ptolemy Soter II., and replaced by one of glass, in which the corpse was viewed
by Augustus in B.C. 30. (Sueton. Octav. 18.) A building to which tradition
assigns the name of the “Tomb of Alexander” is found among the ruins of the old
city, but its site does not correspond with that of the Soma. It is much
reverenced by the Moslems. In form it resembles an ordinary sheikh's tomb, and
it stands to the west of the road leading from the Frank Quarter to the
Pompey's--Pillar Gate. In the Soma were also deposited the remains of M.
Antonius, the only alien admitted into the Mausoleum (Plut. Ant. 82). In this
quarter also were the High Court of Justice (Dicasterium), in which, under the
Ptolemies, the senate assembled and discharged such magisterial duties as a
nearly despotic government allowed to them, and where afterwards the Roman
Juridicus held his court. A stadium, a gymnasium, a palestra, and an
amphitheatre, provided exercise and amusement for the spectacle-loving
Alexandrians. The Arsinoeum, on the western side of the Brucheium, was a
monument raised by Ptolemy Philadelphus to the memory of his favourite sister
Arsinoe; and the Panium was a stone mound, or cone, with a spiral ascent on the
outside, from whose summit was visible every quarter of the city. The purpose of
this structure is, however, not ascertained. The edifices of the Brucheium had
been so arranged by Deinocrates as to command a prospect of the Great Harbour
and the Pharos. In its centre was a spacious square, surrounded by cloisters and
flanked to the north by the quays--the Emporium, or Alexandrian Exchange.
Hither, for nearly eight centuries, every nation of the civilized world sent its
representatives. Alexandreia had inherited the commerce of both Tyre and
Carthage, and collected in this area the traffic and speculation of three
continents. The Romans admitted Alexandreia to be the second city of the world;
but the quays of the Tiber presented no such spectacle as the Emporium. In the
seventh century, when the Arabs entered Alexandreia, the Brucheium was in ruins
and almost deserted.
3. The Rhacôtis, or Egyptian Quarter, occupied the site of the ancient Rhacôtis.
Its principal buildings were granaries along the western arm of the cibotus or
basin, a stadium, and the Temple of Serapis. The Serapeion was erected by the
first or second of the Ptolemies. The image of the god, which was of wood, was
according to Clemens (Clemens Alex. Protrept. 4.48), inclosed or plated over
with layers of every kind of metal and precious stones: it seems also, either
from the smoke of incense or from varnish, to have been of a black colour. Its
origin and import are doubtful. Serapis is sometimes defined to be Osiri-Apis;
and sometimes the Sinopite Zeus, which may imply either that he was brought from
the hill Sinopeion near Memphis, or from Sinope in Pontus, whence Ptolemy Soter
or Philadelphus is said to have imported it to adorn his new capital. That the
idol was a pantheistic emblem may be inferred, both from the materials of which
it was composed, and from its being adopted by a dynasty of sovereigns who
sought to blend in one mass the creeds of Hellas and Egypt. The Serapeion was
destroyed in A.D. 390 by Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandreia, in obedience to
the rescript of the emperor Theodosius, which abolished paganism (Codex Theodos.
16.1, 2).1 The Coptic population of this quarter were not properly Alexandrian
citizens, but enjoyed a franchise inferior to that of the Greeks. (Plin. Ep.
10.5. 22, 23; Joseph. c. Apion. 2.6.) The Alexandreia which the Arabs besieged
was nearly identical with the Rhacôtis. It had suffered many calamities both
from civil feud and from foreign war. Its Serapeion was twice consumed by fire,
once in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and again in that of Commodus. But this
district survived both the Regio Judaeorum and the Brucheium.
Of the remarkable beauty of Alexandreia (ἡ καλὴ Ἀλεξάνδρεια, Athen. 1.3), we
have the testimony of numerous writers who saw it in its prime. Ammianus (22.16)
calls it “vertex omnium civitatum;” Strabo (xvii. p.832) describes it as
μέγιστον ἐμπορεῖον τῆς ὀικουμένης; Theocritus (Idyll. xvii.), Philo (ad Flacc.
ii. p. 541), Eustathius (II. B.), Gregory of Nyssa (Vit. Gregor. Thaumaturg.),
and many others, write in the same strain. (Comp. Diod. 17.52; Paus. 8.33.)
.Perhaps, however, one of the most striking descriptions of its effect upon a
stranger is that of Achilles Tatius in his romance of Cleitophon and Leucippe
(5.1). Its dilapidation was not the effect of time, but of the hand of man. Its
dry atmosphere preserved, for centuries after their erection, the sharp outline
and gay colours of its buildings; and when in A.D. 120 the emperor Hadrian
surveyed Alexandreia, he beheld almost the virgin city of the Ptolemies. (Spartian.
[1.99] Hadrian. 100.12.) It suffered much from the intestine feuds of the Jews
and Greeks, and the Brucheium was nearly rebuilt by the emperor Gallienus, A.D.
260-8. But the zeal of its Christian population was more destructive; and the
Saracens only completed their previous work of demolition.
Population of Alexandreia.
Population of Alexandreia. Diodorus Siculus, who visited Alexandreia about B.C.
58, estimates (17.52) its free citizens at 300,000, to which sum at least an
equal number must be added for slaves and casual residents. Besides Jews,
Greeks, and Egyptians, the population consisted, according to Dion Chrysostom,
who saw the city in A.D. 69 (Orat. xxxii.), of “Italians, Syrians, Libyans,
Cilicians, Aethiopians, Arabians, Bactrians, Persians, Scythians, and Indians ;”
and Polybius (39.14) and Strabo (p. 797) confirm his statement. Ancient writers
generally give the Alexandrians an ill name, as a double-tongued (Hirtius, B.
Alex. 24), factious (Trebell. Poll. Trig. Tyran. 100.22), irascible (Phil. adv.
Flacc. ii. p. 519), blood-thirsty, yet cowardly set (Dio Cass. i. p. 621).
Athenaeus speaks of them as a jovial, boisterous race (x. p. 420), and mentions
their passion for music and the number and strange appellations of their musical
instruments (id. 4.176, xiv. p. 654). Dion Chrysostom (Orat. xxxii.) upbraids
them with their levity, their insane love of spectacles, horse races, gambling,
and dissipation. They were, however, singularly industrious. Besides their
export trade, the city was full of manufactories of paper, linen, glass, and
muslin (Vopisc. Saturn. 8). Even the lame and blind had their occupations. For
their rulers, Greek or Roman, they invented nicknames. The better Ptolemies and
Caesars smiled at these affronts, while Physcon and Caracalla repaid them by a
general massacre. For more particular information respecting Alexandreia we
refer to Matter, l'Ecole d'Alexandrie, 2 vols.; the article “Alexandrinische
Schule” in Pauly's Real Encyclopaedie; and to Mr. Sharpe's History of Egypt, 2nd
The Government of Alexandreia.
The Government of Alexandreia. Under the Ptolemies the Alexandrians possessed at
least the semblance of a constitution. Its Greek inhabitants enjoyed the
privileges of bearing arms, of meeting in the Gymnasium to discuss their general
interests, and to petition for redress of grievances; and they were addressed in
royal proclamations as “Men of Macedon.” But they had no political constitution
able to resist the grasp of despotism; and, after the reigns of the first three
kings of the Lagid house, were deprived of even the shadow of freedom. To this
end the division of the city into three nations directly contributed; for the
Greeks were ever ready to take up arms against the Jews, and the Egyptians
feared and contemned them both. A connubium, indeed, existed between the latter
and the Greeks. (Letronne, Inscr. i. p. 99.) Of the government of the Jews by an
Ethnarch and a Sanhedrim we have already spoken: how the quarter Rhacôtis was
administered we do not know; it was probably under a priesthood of its own: but
we find in inscriptions and in other scattered notices that the Greek population
was divided into tribes (φυλαί) and into wards (δημοί). The tribes were nine in
number (Ἀλθαΐς, Ἀριαδνίς, Δηιανειρίς, Διονυσίς, Ε᾿υνεΐς, Θεστίς, Θοαντίς,
Μαρωνίς, Τταφυλίς). (Meineke, Analecta Alexandrina, p. 346, seq. Berl. 1843.)
There was, indeed, some variation in the appellations of the tribes, since
Apollonius of Rhodes, the author of the Argonautica, belonged to a tribe called
Πτολεμαΐς. (Vit. Apoll. Rhod. ed. Brunk.) The senate was elected from the
principal members of the wards (Δημόται). Its functions were chiefly judicial.
In inscriptions we meet with the titles γυμνασιάρχης, δικαιοδότης,
ν̔πομνηματόγραφος, ἀρχιδικάστης, ἀγοράνομος, &c. (Letronne, Recueil des Inscr.
Gr. et Lat. de l'Egypte, vol. 1.1842, Paris; id. Recherches pour servir á
l'Histoire de l'Egypte, &c. Paris, 1823-8.) From the reign of Augustus, B.C. 31,
to that of Septimius Severus, A.D. 194, the functions of the senate were
suspended, and their place supplied by the Roman Juridicus, or Chief Justice,
whose authority was inferior only to that of the Praefectus Augustalis.
(Winkler, de Jurid. Alex. Lips. 1827-8.) The latter emperor restored the “jus
buleutarum.” (Spartian. Severus, 100.17.)
The Roman government of Alexandreia was altogether peculiar. The country was
assigned neither to the senatorian nor the imperial provinces, but was made
dependent on the Caesar alone. For this regulation there were valid reasons. The
Nilevalley was not easy of access; might be easily defended by an ambitious
prefect; was opulent and populous; and was one of the principal granaries of
Rome. Hence Augustus interdicted the senatorian order, and even the more
illustrious equites (Tac. Ann. 2.59) from visiting Egypt without special licence.
The prefect he selected, and his successors observed the rule, either from his
personal adherents, or from equites who looked to him alone for promotion. Under
the prefect, but nominated by the emperor, was the Juridicus (ἀρχιδικάστης), who
presided over a numerous staff of inferior magistrates, and whose decisions
could be annulled by the prefect, or perhaps the emperor alone. The Caesar
appointed also the keeper of the public records (ὑπομνηματόλραφος), the chief of
the police (νυκτερινὸς στρατηλός), the Interpreter of Egyptian law (ἐξηλητὴς
πατριῶν νοηῶν), the praefectus annonae or warden of the markets (ἐπιμελητὴς τῶν
τῇ πόλει χρησίμων), and the President of the Museum. All these officers, as
Caesarian nominees, wore a scarlet-bordered robe. (Strab. p. 797, seq.) In other
respects the domination of Rome was highly conducive to the welfare of
Alexandreia. Trade, which had declined under the later Ptolemies, revived and
attained a prosperity hitherto unexampled: the army, instead of being a horde of
lawless and oppressive mercenaries, was restrained under strict discipline: the
privileges and national customs of the three constituents of its population were
respected: the luxury of Rome gave new vigour to commerce with the East; the
corn-supply to Italy promoted the cultivation of the Delta and the business of
the Emporium; and the frequent inscription of the imperial names upon the
temples attested that Alexandreia at least had benefited by exchanging the
Ptolemies for the Caesars.
The History of Alexandreia
The History of Alexandreia may be divided into three periods. (1) The Hellenic.
(2) The Roman. (3) The Christian. The details of the first of these may be read
in the History of the Ptolemies (Dictionary of Biography, pp. 565-599). Here it
will suffice to remark, that the city prospered under the wisdom of Soter and
the genius of Philadelphus; lost somewhat of its Hellenic character under
Euergetes, and began to decline under Philopator, who was a mere Eastern despot,
surrounded and governed by women, eunuchs, and favourites. From Epiphanes
downwards these evils [1.100] were aggravated. The army was disorganised; trade
and agriculture declined; the Alexandrian people grew more servile and vicious:
even the Museum exhibited symptoms of decrepitude. Its professors continued,
indeed, to cultivate science and criticism, but invention and taste had expired.
It depended upon Rome whether Alexandreia should become tributary to Antioch, or
receive a proconsul from the senate. The wars of Rome with Carthage, Macedon,
and Syria alone deferred the deposition of the Lagidae. The influence of Rome in
the Ptolemaic kingdom commenced properly in B.C. 204, when the guardians of
Epiphanes placed their infant ward under the protection of the senate, as his
only refuge against the designs of the Macedonian and Syrian monarchs. (Just.
30.2.) M. Aemilius Lepidus was appointed guardian to the young Ptolemy, and the
legend “Tutor Regis” upon the Aemilian coins commemorates this trust. (Eckhel,
vol. v. p. 123.) In B.C. 163 the Romans adjudicated between the brothers Ptolemy
Philometor and Euergetes. The latter received Cyrene; the former retained
Alexandreia and Egypt. In B.C. 145, Scipio Africanus the younger was appointed
to settle the distractions which ensued upon the murder of Eupator. (Just. 38.8;
Cic. Acad. Q. 4.2, Off. 3.2; Diod. Legat. 32; Gell. N. A. 18.9.) An inscription,
of about this date, recorded at Delos the existence of amity between Alexandreia
and Rome. (Letronne, Inscr. vol. i. p. 102.) In B.C. 97, Ptolemy Apion devised
by will the province of Cyrene to the Roman senate (Liv. lxx. Epit.), and his
example was followed, in B.C. 80, by Ptolemy Alexander, who bequeathed to them
Alexandreia and his kingdom. The bequest, however, was not immediately enforced,
as the republic was occupied with civil convulsions at home. Twenty years later
Ptolemy Auletes mortgaged his revenues to a wealthy Roman senator, Rabirius
Postumus (Cic. Fragm. xvii. Orelli, p. 458), and in B.C. 55 Alexandreia was
drawn into the immediate vortex of the Roman revolution, and from this period,
until its submission to Augustus in B.C. 30, it followed the fortunes
alternately of Pompey, Gabinius, Caesar, Cassius the liberator, and M. Antonius.
The wealth of Alexandreia in the last century B.C. may be inferred from the
fact, that, in 63, 6250 talents, or a million sterling, were paid to the
treasury as port dues alone. (Diod. 17.52; Strab. p. 832.) Under the emperors,
the history of Alexandreia exhibits little variety. It was, upon the whole,
leniently governed, for it was the interest of the Caesars to be generally
popular in a city which commanded one of the granaries of Rome. Augustus,
indeed, marked his displeasure at the support given to M. Antonius, by building
Nicopolis about three miles to the east of the Canobic gate as its rival, and by
depriving the Greeks of Alexandreia of the only political distinction which the
Ptolemies had left them--the judicial functions of the senate. The city,
however, shared in the general prosperity of Egypt under Roman rule. The portion
of its population that came most frequently in collision with the executive was
that of the Jewish Quarter. Sometimes emperors, like Caligula, demanded that the
imperial effigies or military standards should be set up in their temple, at
others the Greeks ridiculed or outraged the Hebrew ceremonies. Both these causes
were attended with sanguinary results, and even with general pillage and burning
of the city. Alexandreia was favoured by Claudius, who added a wing to the
Museum; was threatened with a visit from Nero, who coveted the skilful applause
of its claqueurs in the theatre (Sueton. Ner. 20); was the head-quarter, for
some months, of Vespasian (Tac. Hist. 3.48, 4.82) during the civil wars which
preceded his accession; was subjected to military lawlessness under Domitian
(Juv. Sat. xvi.); was governed mildly by Trajan, who even supplied the city,
during a dearth, with corn (Plin. Panegyr. 31.23); and was visited by Hadrian in
A.D. 122, who has left a graphic picture of the population. (Vopisc. Saturn. 8.)
The first important change in their polity was that introduced by the emperor
Severus in A.D. 196. The Alexandrian Greeks were no longer formidable, and
Severus accordingly restored their senate and municipal government. He also
ornamented the city with a temple of Rhea, and with a public bath--Thermae
Alexandreia, however, suffered more from a single visit of Caracalla than from
the tyranny or caprice of any of his predecessors. That emperor had been
ridiculed by its satirical populace for affecting to be the Achilles and
Alexander of his time. The rumours or caricatures which reached him in Italy
were not forgotten on his tour through the provinces; and although he was
greeted with hecatombs on his arrival at Alexandreia in A.D. 211 (Herodian.
4.9), he did not omit to repay the insult by a general massacre of the youth of
military age. (D. C. 77.22; Spartian. Caracall. 6.) Caracalla also introduced
some important changes in the civil relations of the Alexandrians. To mark his
displeasure with the Greeks, he admitted the chief men of the quarter
Rhacôtis--i. e. native Egyptians--into the Roman senate. (D. C. 51.17; Spartian.
Caracall. 9); he patronised a temple of Isis at Rome; and he punished the
citizens of the Brucheium by retrenching their public games and their allowance
of corn. The Greek quarter was charged with the maintenance of an additional
Roman garrison, and its inner walls were repaired and lined with forts.
From the works of Aretaeus (de Morb. Acut. i.) we learn that Alexandreia was
visited by a pestilence in the reign of Gallus, A.D. 253. In 265, the prefect
Aemilianus was proclaimed Caesar by his soldiers. (Trebell. Pol. Trig. Tyrann.
22, Gallien. 4.) In 270, the name of Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, appears on the
Alexandrian coinage; and the city had its full share of the evils consequent
upon the frequent revolutions of the Roman empire. (Vopisc. Aurelian. 32.) After
this period, A.D. 271, Alexandreia lost much of its predominance in Egypt, since
the native population, hardened by repeated wars, and reinforced by Arabian
immigrants, had become a martial and turbulent race. In A.D. 297 (Eutrop. 9.22),
Diocletian besieged and regained Alexandreia, which had declared itself in
favour of the usurper Achilleus. The emperor, however, made a lenient use of his
victory, and purchased the favour of the populace by an increased largess of
corn. The column, now well known as Pompey's Pillar, once supported a statue of
this emperor, and still bears on its base the inscription, “To the most honoured
emperor, the deliverer of Alexandreia, the invincible Diocletian.”
Alexandreia had its full share of the persecutions of this reign. The Jewish
rabbinism and Greek philosophy of the city had paved the way for Christianity,
and the serious temper of the Egyptian population sympathised with the
earnestness of the new faith. The Christian population of Alexandreia [1.101]
was accordingly numerous when the imperial edicts were put in force. Nor were
martyrs wanting. The city was already an episcopal see; and its bishop Peter,
with the presbyters Faustus, Dius, and Ammonius, were among the first victims of
Diocletian's rescript. The Christian annals of Alexandreia have so little that
is peculiar to the city, that it will suffice to refer the reader to the general
history of the Church.
It is more interesting to turn from the Arian and Athanasian feuds, which
sometimes deluged the streets of the city with blood, and sometimes made
necessary the intervention of the Prefect, to the aspect which Alexandreia
presented to the Arabs, in A.D. 640, after so many revolutions, civil and
religious. The Pharos and Heptastadium were still uninjured: the Sebaste or
Caesarium, the Soma, and the Quarter Rhacôtis, retained almost their original
grandeur. But the Hippodrome at the Canobic Gate was a ruin, and a new Museum
had replaced in the Egyptian Region the more ample structure of the Ptolemies in
the Brucheium. The Greek quarter was indeed nearly deserted: the Regio Judaeorum
was occupied by a few miserable tenants, who purchased from the Alexandrian
patriarch the right to follow their national law. The Serapeion had been
converted into a Cathedral; and some of the more conspicuous buildings of the
Hellenic city had become the Christian Churches of St. Mark, St. John, St. Mary,
&c. Yet Amrou reported to his master the Khalif Omar that Alexandreia was a city
containing four thousand palaces, four thousand public baths, four hundred
theatres, forty thousand Jews who paid tribute, and twelve thousand persons who
sold herbs. (Eutych. Annal. A.D. 640.) The result of Arabian desolation was,
that the city, which had dwindled into the Egyptian Quarter, shrunk into the
limits of the Heptastadium, and, after the year 1497, when the Portuguese, by
discovering the passage round the Cape of Good Hope, changed the whole current
of Indian trade, it degenerated still further into an obscure town, with a
population of about 6000, inferior probably to that of the original Rhacôtis.
Ruins of Alexandreia.
Ruins of Alexandreia. These may be divided into two classes: (1)
indistinguishable mounds of masonry; and (2) fragments of buildings which may,
in some degree, be identified with ancient sites or structures.
“ The Old Town” is surrounded by a double wall, with lofty towers, and five
gates. The Rosetta Gate is the eastern entrance into this circuit; but it does
not correspond with the old Canobic Gate, which was half a mile further to the
east. The space inclosed is about 10,000 feet in length, and in its breadth
varies from 3200 to 1600 feet. It contains generally shapeless masses of ruins,
consisting of shattered columns and capitals, cisterns choked with rubbish, and
fragments of pottery and glass. Some of the mounds are covered by the villas and
gardens of the wealthier inhabitants of Alexandreia. Nearly in the centre of the
inclosure, and probably in the High Street between the Canobic and Necropolitan
Gates, stood a few years since three granite columns. They were nearly opposite
the Mosque of St. Athanasius, and were perhaps the last remnants of the
colonnade which lined the High Street. (From this mosque was taken, in 1801, the
sarcophagus of green breccia which is now in the British Museum.) Until
December, 1841, there was also on the road leading to the Rosetta Gate the base
of another similar column. But these, as well as other remnants of the capital
of the Ptolemies, have disappeared; although, twenty years ago, the intersection
of its two main streets was distinctly visible, at a point near the Frank
Square, and not very far from the Catholic convent. Excavations in the Old Town
occasionally, indeed, bring to light parts of statues, large columns, and
fragments of masonry: but the ground-plan of Alexandreia is now probably lost
irretrievably, as the ruins have been converted into building materials, without
note being taken at the time of the site or character of the remnants removed.
Vestiges of baths and other buildings may be traced along the inner and outer
bay; and numerous tanks are still in use which formed part of the cisterns that
supplied the city with Nile-water. They were often of considerable size; were
built under the houses; and, being arched and coated with a thick red plaster,
have in many cases remained perfect to this day. One set of these reservoirs
runs parallel to the eastern issue of the Mahmoodeh Canal, which nearly
represents the old Canobic Canal; others are found in the convents which occupy
part of the site of the Old Town; and others again are met with below the mound
of Pompey's Pillar. The descent into these chambers is either by steps in the
side or by an opening in the roof, through which the water is drawn up by ropes
The most striking remains of ancient Alexandreia are the Obelisks and Pompey's
Pillar. The former are universally known by the inappropriate name of
“Cleopatra's Needles.” The fame of Cleopatra has preserved her memory among the
illiterate Arabs, who regard her as a kind of enchantress, and ascribe to her
many of the great works of her capital, the Pharos and Heptastadium included.
Meselleh is, moreover, the Arabic word for “a packing Needle,” and is given
generally to obelisks. The. two columns, however, which bear this appellation,
are red granite obelisks which were brought by one of the Caesars from
Heliopolis, and, according to Pliny (36.9), were set up in front of the Sebaste
or Caesarium. They are about 57 paces apart from each other: one is still
vertical, the other has been thrown down. They stood each on two steps of white
limestone. The vertical obelisk is 73 feet high, the diameter at its base is 7
feet and 7 inches; the fallen obelisk has been mutilated, and, with the same
diameter, is shorter. The latter was presented by Mohammed Ali to the English
government: and the propriety of its removal to England has been discussed
during the present year. Pliny (l.c.) ascribes them to an Egyptian king named
Mesphres: nor is he altogether wrong. The Pharaoh whose oval they exhibit was
the. third Thothmes, and in Manetho‘s list the first and second Thothmes (18th
Dynasty: Kenrick, vol. ii. p. 199) are written as Mesphra-Thothmosis. Rameses
III. and Osirei II., his third successor, have also their ovals upon these
Pompey's Pillar, as it is erroneously termed, is denominated by the Arabs Amood
é sowari; sari or sowari being applied by them to any lofty monument which
suggests the image of a “mast.” It might more properly be termed Diocletian's
Pillar, since a statue of that emperor once occupied its summit, commemorating
the capture of Alexandreia in A.D. 297, after an obstinate siege of eight
months. The total height of this column is 98 feet 9 inches, the shaft is 73
feet, the circumference 29 feet 8 inches, and the diameter at the top of the
capital is 16 feet 6 [1.102] inches. The shaft, capital, and pedestal are
apparently of different ages; the latter are of very inferior workmanship to the
shaft. The substructions of the column are fragments of older monuments, and the
name of Psammetichus with a few hieroglyphics is inscribed upon them.
The origin of the name Pompey's Pillar is very doubtful. It has been derived
from Πομπαίος, “conducting,” since the column served for a land-mark. In the
inscription copied by Sir Gardner Wilkinson and Mr. Salt, it is stated that
“Publius, the Eparch of Egypt,” erected it in honour of Diocletian. For Publius
it has been proposed to read “Pompeius.” The Pillar originally stood in the
centre of a paved area beneath the level of the ground, like so many of the
later Roman memorial columns. The pavement, however, has long been broken up and
carried away. If Arabian traditions may be trusted, this now solitary Pillar
once stood in a Stoa with 400 others, and formed part of the peristyle of the
Next in interest are the Catacombs or remains of the ancient Necropolis beyond
the Western Gate. The approach to this cemetery was through vineyards and
gardens, which both Athenaeus and Strabo celebrate. The extent of the Catacombs
is remarkable: they are cut partly in a ridge of sandy calcareous stone, and
partly in the calcareous rock that faces the sea. They all communicate with the
sea by narrow vaults, and the most spacious of them is about 3830 yds. SW. of
Pompey's Pillar. Their style of decoration is purely Greek, and in one of the
chambers are a Doric entablature and mouldings, which evince no decline in art
at the period of their erection. Several tombs in that direction, at the water's
edge, and some even below its level, are entitled “Bagni di Cleopatra.”
A more particular account of the Ruins of Alexandreia will be found in Sir
Gardner Wilkinson's Topography of Thebes, p. 380, seq., and;;his Hand-Book for
Travellers in Egypt, pp. 71-100, Murray, 1847. Besides the references already
given for Alexandreia, its topography and history, the following writers may be
consulted:--Strab. p. 791, seq.; Ptol. 4.5.9, 7.5. § § 13, 14, &c. &c.; l)iod.
17.52; Paus. 5.21, 8.33; Arrian, Exp. Alex. 3.1.5, seq.; Q. Curtius, 4.8.2,
10.10.20; Plut. Alex. 26; Mela, 1.9.9; Plin. Nat. 5.10, 11; Ammian. 22.16; It.
Anton. pp. 57, 70; Joseph. B. J. 2.28; Plb. 39.14; Caesar, B.C. 3.112.)
1 The following references will aid the reader in forming his own opinion
respecting the much controverted question of the origin and meaning of Serapis:
-Tac. Hist. 4.84; Macr. 1.29; Vopiscus, Saturnin. 8; Ammian. 20.16; Plut. Is. et
Osir. cc. 27, 28; Lactant. Inst. 1.21; Clem. Alex. Cohort. ad Gent. 4.31, Strom.
1.1; August. Civ. D. 18.5; Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscr. vol. x. p. 500; Gibbon, D.
and F. xxviii. p. 113. - Dictionary of Greek and Roman
Geography (1854) William Smith, LLD, Ed.
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