How Was the Lighthouse of Alexandria Destroyed?


19th Century depiction of the Lighthouse Alexandria

Of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt still remain. War, neglect, and natural disasters have wiped them from the face of the earth with only descriptions left by ancient historians and geographers, or perhaps an occasional coin or painting, as tokens of their greatness. Since the Seven Wonders were first formulated by Greeks, most of the Wonders were located in and around Greece, but two of them were found in Egypt.

Of course, as mentioned, the Great Pyramids of Giza are located in Egypt, but along with the Pyramids was the much younger but no less impressive Lighthouse of Alexandria, often called the “Pharos Lighthouse” for the island in the Mediterranean that it occupied. Among all the Seven Wonders, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the most practical because it helped facilitate trade in and out of Egypt.

In terms of age, the Lighthouse of Alexandria existed in its original form, more or less, for about 1,000 years, which made it among the longest lived of the Seven Wonders. Because the Lighthouse no longer exists and has not for almost 1,000 years, great mystery surrounds its size and structure, but even greater is the perceived mystery of its destruction. Perhaps because it is often confused and/or included with the famed Library of Alexandria, rumors and falsehoods have persisted about the Lighthouse’s demise. An examination of the sources reveals that the Lighthouse of Alexandria fell victim to a number factors that led to its destruction including earthquakes and salt water erosion. Along with the damage the Lighthouse suffered from the elements, its prestige, and the prestige of the city of Alexandria itself, was greatly diminished when the Arab Muslims conquered Egypt in AD 642. To the Muslims, Alexandria was just not as important as it was to the Greeks and Romans and so they allowed the already decaying Lighthouse to fall further into disuse until they finally changed its function.

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