Map of the Roman Empire - Alexandria

O-9 on the Map

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 therein.

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.

Map of the Roman Empire (Click to Enlarge)

Large Map of the Roman Empire (Clickable Locations)

The Roman Empire During the First Century AD

Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.

Map of New Testament Israel  |  Map of Old Testament Israel

Map of the Roman Empire  |  Bible History Online

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.

1. Acrolochias.
2. Lochias.
3. Closed or Royal. Port.
4. Antirhodos.
5. Royal Dockyards.
6. Poseideion.
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.
17. Stadium.
18. Library and Museum.
19. Soma.
20. Dicasterium.
21. Panium.
22. Serapeion.
23. Rhacôtis.
24. Lake Mareotis.
25. Canal to Lake Mareotis.
26. Aqueduct from the Nile.
27. Necropolis.
28. Hippodrome.
29. Gate of the Sun.
30. Amphitheatre.
31. Emporium or Royal Exchange.
32. Arsinoeum.

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 granaries.

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. Alex. 17.)

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 ed.

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 Septimianae.

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 and buckets.

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 obelisks.

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 ancient Serapeion.

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.


Map of the Roman Empire (Click to Enlarge)

Large Map of the Roman Empire (Clickable Locations)

The Roman Empire During the First Century AD

Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.

Map of New Testament Israel  |  Map of Old Testament Israel

Map of the Roman Empire  |  Bible History Online

Map of the Roman Empire - Places







Aegean Sea



















Arabian Desert







Balearic Islands








Caesarea Philippi





















Danube River



Dniester River

Douro River


Ebro River


Emerita Augusta




Euphrates River

Fair Havens


Forum Appius





Garonne River





Greater Syrtis

Guadalquivir River

Guadiana River


Halys River



Heraclea Pontus

Hippo Regius









Jordan River


Kure Mountains




Leptis Magna

Lesser Syritis


Loire River









Mauritania Caesariensis

Mauritania Tingitana


Mediterranean Sea






Mount Sinai


Nabataean Kingdom









Nile River


Oceanus Atlanticus



Orontes River


















Po River



Pontus Euxinus

Porta Veneris


Prut River








Sahara Desert







Saonne River






Sea of Adria

Seine River





Sinus Arabicus






Tagus River




Taurus Mountains







Tiber River


Tisza River