Lighthouse of Alexandria

Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse was built on the Island of Pharos which was once located off the mainland of Alexandria, Egypt. Today, both the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Island of Pharos no longer exist.


Alexander the Great became the ruler of the Macedonian Empire after the assassination of his father, Phillip II in 336 B.C. During the time Alexander was ruler, the Macedonian Empire expanded into the region of Egypt. In 331 B.C., he founded Alexandria which lies on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., Ptolemy Sorter became ruler of Egypt from 323 B.C. to 285 B.C. Throughout the region, the city of Alexandria was becoming an important seaport for ships traveling on the Mediterranean Sea. To make the port safer with easier access, Ptolemy Sorter commissioned the building of a lighthouse in 290 B.C. In 284 B.C., Ptolemy Sorter died and his son, Ptolemy Philadelphos, became ruler of the region. During the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphos, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was completed.


The architect supposedly chosen to construct the lighthouse was Sostratos of Cnidus. Construction was authorized around 290 B.C. and began within 10 years of the authorization. It took approximately 12 years to complete. The location for the lighthouse was on the Island of Pharos. The island was connected to the main land by a dyke (mole) called the Heptastadion . Traveling to the lighthouse could be accomplished by traveling over the Heptastadion and arriving on the Island of Pharos.

The lighthouse stands approximately 384 feet high (117.043 m). It was built in three sections. The first or lowest section is in the shape of a square. It was approximately 183.4 feet high (55.9 m). The second or middle section is in the shape of an octagon. This section was approximately 90.1 feet high (27.4624 m). The third or top section was circular in shape and stood approximately 24 feet high (7.3152 m).

A mirror was placed in the top circular section of the lighthouse. During the daytime, the sunlight would reflect off the mirror which created a beacon. During the night, fuel was transported from the lowest section to the top section which, when lit, created a beacon for the ships at night. After completion of the lighthouse, Sostratos wanted to inscribe his name into the base structure. However, Ptolemy Philadelphos objected as he wanted his name inscribed on the lighthouse. Sostratos decided to inscribe his name on the base and covered it with plaster. He then inscribed the name of

The lighthouse stood for many decades before succumbing to final destruction. Two major earthquakes which occurred in 1303 and 1323 did major damage. The destruction which occurred to the lighthouse during these earthquakes was never repaired and the lighthouse finally fell through lack of caring. Around 1480, Qaitbay, the Sultan of Egypt, used some of the remains of the lighthouse to build a fort on the site where the lighthouse once stood.

Recently in 1994, archeologists found some large stone remains under water where the lighthouse once stood. It was uncertain as to whether the stone remains are from the lighthouse or from some other time period. One suggestion was to create an archeological diving park so further exploration could determine the ages of the stone remains.By creating the Heptastadion , it also became one side of Alexandria’s harbor. Alexandria became an important sea port during this time. With the many ships entering and leaving the city, it became necessary to have some type of beacon for guiding the ships into the harbor. Ptolomy Sorter authorized the building of a lighthouse.

Quick Facts & Figures

Construction Start: 290 BC

Construction Ended: 278 BC

Commissioned: Ptolemy Sorter

Architect: Sostratos of Cnidus

Height: 384′