city amru time east north library west
ALEXANDRIA, a city of Lower Egypt, and for a long time its capital, was situated on the Mediterranean, 12 miles west of the Canopic mouth of the Nile, in 31° 11' N. lat., and 29° 52' E. long. The ancient city was oblong in form, with a length from east to west of 3 to 4, a breadth from north to south of 1, and, according to Pliny, a circumference of 15 miles. Lake Mareotis bathed its walls on the south, and the Mediterranean on the north ; on the west was the Necropolis, and on the east the Hippodrome. The city was laid out in straight parallel streets, one of which, about 200 feet wide, ran westward from the Canopic gate to the Necropolis. This street was decorated with magnificent houses, temples, and public buildings, and was intersected by another of the same breadth and magnificence, running from south to north. Ancient Alexandria was divided into three regions : (1.) The Ref.* Judceorum, or the Jews' quarter, forming the north-east portion of the city. (2.) Rhacotis on the west, occupied chiefly by Egyptians. Its principal building was the Serapeum, or temple of Serapis, containing an image of the god, brought probably from Pontus. A large part of the famous library of Alexandria was placed in the Serapeum. (3.) Brucheum, the Royal or Greek quarter, forming the remaining and most magnificent portion of the city In the Brucheum were the chief public buildings of Alexandria, the most noted of which was the splendid palace of the Ptolemies, on a peninsula called the Lochias, which stretched out into the Mediterranean towards the east of the city ; the library proper, and the museum, a sort of college, with a dining - hall and lecture-rooms for the professors (see LIBRARY); the Ccrsarium, or temple of the Csars, where divine honours were paid to the emperors ; and the Dicasterium, or court of justice. An artificial mole, called the Heptastadium, nearly a mile in length, stretched from the continent to the isle of Pharos. Between this mole and the peninsula of Lochias was the greater harbour ; on the other side of the mole was the harbour called Eunostos, or Safe Return. The two were connected with each other by two breaks in the mole, crossed by two bridges, which could be raised at pleasure. Within the harbour of Eunostos was an artificial basin called Kibotos, i.e., the Chest, communicating with lake Mareotis by a canal, from which a separate arm stretched eastward to the Canopic mouth of the Nile. On the eastern point of the island of Pharos was the famous lighthouse, said to have been 400 feet high. It was begun by Ptolemy Soter, and finished by his successor, Philadelphus. It cost 800 talents, which, if Alexandrian, is equivalent to £248,000. In the time of Diodorus Siculus (50 a c.), the population of Alexandria was estimated at 300,000 freemen, with probably at least is many slaves.
The city was founded by Alexander the Great 332 B.C. ; but the island of Pharos was from an early period a refuge of Greek and Phoenician sea-rovers, a fact commemorated in the name " Pirates' Bay," given to a deep indentation on the north side of the island ; and on the mainland was the little town of Rhacotis, subsequently incorporated in the quarter of that name. The architect employed by Alexander was the celebrated Dinocrates, who had acquired a high reputation by rebuilding the temple of Diana at Ephesus. The new city prospered greatly as a centre both of commerce and of learning, particularly during the reigns of the earlier Ptolemies, to whose enlightened liberality, indeed, its literary importance was largely due. But the later monarchs of the house of Lagus were mostly weak and vicious men, under whom the city declined in influence. In 80 B.C. Ptolemy Alexander bequeathed his city to the Romans ; but the bequest did not immediately take effect owing to the civil convulsions in Italy, into which Alexandria itself was eventually drawn, and it was not until 30 B.C. that the city submitted to Augustus. It was by him made an imperial city, governed by a prefect appointed by the emperor, while the functions of the Alexandrian senate were suspended, a state of matters which continued until 196 A.n., when Severus restored its municipality.
Alexandria seems from this time to have regained its old prosperity, becoming an important granary of Rome, which, doubtless, was one of the chief reasons that induced Augustus to place it directly under the imperial power. In 215 A.D. the emperor Caracalla, visited the city ; and, in order to repay some insulting satires that the inhabitants had made upon him, Ile commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms. This brutal .;rder seems to have been carried out even beyond the letter, for a general massacre was the result. Notwithstanding this terrible disaster, Alexandria soon recovered its former splendour, and for a time was esteemed the first city in the world after Rome. As the power of the Cesars decreased, however, their hold over Alexandria was weakened, and the city itself suffered from internal commotions and insurrections, which gradually destroyed its importance. In 616 it was taken by Chosroes, king of Persia ; and in 640 by the Arabians, under Amru, after a siege that lasted fourteen months, during which Ileraclius, the emperor of Constantinople, did not send a single ship to its assistance. Notwithstanding the losses that the city had sustained, Amru was able to write to his master, the caliph Omar, that he had taken a city containing "4000 palaces, 4000 baths, 12,000 dealers in fresh oil, 12,000 gardeners, 40,000 Jews who pay tribute, 400 theatres or places of amusement." The following story, relating to the destruction of the library, is told by Abulfaragius : - John the Grammarian, a famous Peripatetic philosopher, being in. Alexandria at the time of its capture, and in high favour with Amru, begged that he would give him the royal library. Amru told him that it was not in his power to grant such a request, but promised to write to the caliph for his consent. Omar, on hearing the request of his general, is said to have replied that if those books contained the same doctrine with the Koran, they could be of no use, since the Koran contained all necessary truths ; but if they contained anything contrary to that book, they ought to be destroyed; and therefore, whatever their contents were, he ordered them to be burnt. Pursuant to this order, they were distributed among the public baths, of which there was a large number in the city, where, for six months, they served to supply the fires. Shortly after its capture, Alexandria again fell into the hands of the Greeks, who took advantage of All•n's absence with the greater portion of his army. On hearing what had happened, however, Amru returned, and quickly regained possession of the city. About the year GIG Amru was deprived of his government by the caliph Othman. The Egyptians, by whom Amru was greatly beloved, were so much dissatisfied by this act, and even showed such a tendency to revolt, that Constantine, the Greek emperor, determined to make an effort to reduce Alexandria. The attempt proved perfectly successful, Manuel, Constantine's general, capturing the city with inconsiderable loss. The caliph, perceiving his mistake, immediately restored Amru, who, on his arrival in Egypt, drove the Greeks within the walls of Alexandria,' but was only able to capture the city after a most obstinate resistance by the defenders. This so exasperated him that he completely demolished its fortifications, although he seems to have spared the lives of the inhabitants as far as lay in his power. Alexandria now rapidly declined in importance. It was captured by Andalusian adventurers in 823 ; by the Moghrebins in 921, and again in 928. The building of Cairo in 969, and, above all, the discovery of the route to the East by the Cape of Good Elope in 1497, nearly ruined its commerce; and after this we hear little of the city until the beginning of the present century.