The Contribution of the Ptolemaic Kings to the Development of Alexandria Essay

The city of Alexandria has stimulated the imagination of all the people who have visited it, from the instant it was founded by Alexander the Great to the present day. Under the Ptolemaic Kings, Alexandria blossomed as one of the great centres of learning in both science and literature. All Ptolemaic Kings; from Ptolemaic I Soter to Ptolemaic VI Philometer have contributed to the development of Alexandria. The first three Ptolemaic rulers had hope of their new home as together the capital of a new empire and a royal residence, filled with palaces and temples.

These Ptolemaic rulers were responsible for the major buildings for which the city is mainly famous for. When the great city Alexandria is mentioned regularly the famous lighthouse of Pharos will come to mind, which is included in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world. The lighthouse of pharos was begun during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter. Ptolemy Soter has contributed a lot for the great city Alexandria. The Lighthouse of Pharos was the first lighthouse of the world.

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Ptolemy Soter does not have full acknowledgement of the lighthouse as he only commenced it, it was actually completed in the reign of the second Ptolemy, Philadelphus. The Pharos was built to caution sailors of the dangerous sandbars off Alexandria, one of the busiest ports of the ancient world. It consisted of a three-stage tower, decorated with sculptures of Greek gods or goddesses and mythical creatures, upon which stood a lantern with an enormous bonfire whose light might have been focused by mirrors, perhaps made of refined bronze, into a beam noticeable 35 miles out to sea.

The lighthouse of Pharos was devoted to the Savior Gods Ptolemy Soter and his wife Berenice. The lighthouse was still carrying out when the Arabs conquered Alexandria in 642 AD; however, an earthquake damaged the lantern about 50 years later. Ptolemy I Soter planned two other great buildings that were also completed in the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus; they were the Royal Library and Mouseion (Museum). The Royal Library of Alexandria was once the largest in the world.

It is generally said to have been founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II of Egypt after his father had set up the temple of the Muses, the Mouseion. The destruction of the library remains a mystery. A new library was established in 2003, near the site of the old library. The historian Strabo tells us: “The Museum is also a part of the royal palaces; it has a public walk, an Exedra with seats, and a large house, which is the common mess-hall of the men of learning who share the Museum.

These groups of men not only hold property in common, but also have a priest in charge of the Museum, who formerly was appointed by the kings, but is now appointed by Caesar. ” Ptolemy I Soter’s other major construction projects included, a series of fortification walls around the city’s border, and new temples for two Alexandrine religious groups taken on throughout his reign. The first temple was devoted to Serapis, the tutelary god of the dynasty, and the second temple constructed in Alexandria was dedicated to Alexander himself.

Nevertheless, Ptolemy I’s most famous project was still the lighthouse of Alexandria at the island of Pharos. The Lighthouse, library and Mouseion were planned by Soter and completed by Philadelphus; However Ptolemy II Philadelphus has also planned and as well as constructed a few of his own buildings such as theatres, the zoological garden and the Gymnasium. The Gymnasium was one of the most featured institutions that supported the Greek culture of Hellenistic cities, such as Alexander.

It was an area for both physical and intellectual exercise. The gymnasium became an important educational institution for young male citizens between the ages of 18 and 20, in the traditional Athens. The set of courses included knowledge of the ancestral religious groups, philosophy and preparation for military service. Ptolemy III Euergetes was the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt. After his father Ptolemy II Philadelphus death he incorporated a ‘daughter library’ of the Great Library within the new Serapeum.

There is evidence that the original temple of Sarapis (Serapeum) was destroyed or badly damaged by fire as Clement of Alexandria taunts pagans about the various disasters to badly affect their places of worship including a blaze at the Serapeum. From numismatic evidence, the rebuilding during the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes is dated to the middle of the second century AD which is reliable with the literary references. Although, Ptolemy I, II and III are the main kings that contributed to the great city Alexandria; Ptolemy Philopater, Epiphanes and Philometer must also be acknowledged in the contribution of the city.


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