previous next

PHAROS

PHAROS or PHARUS (φάρος), a lighthouse. The most celebrated lighthouse of antiquity was that situated at the entrance to the port of Alexandria. It was built by Sostratus of Cnidos on an island, which bore the same name, by command of one of the Ptolemies, and at an expense of 800 talents (Plin. Nat. 36.83; Steph. Byz. s. v. Φάρος; Achill. Tat. 5.6). It was square, constructed of white stone, and with admirable art; exceedingly lofty, and in all respects of great dimensions (Caesar, Caes. Civ. 3.112). It contained many stories (πολυόροφον, Strabo xvii. p.791), which diminished in width from below upwards (Herodian, 4.3). The upper stories had windows looking seawards, and torches or fires were kept burning in them by night in order to guide vessels into the harbour (V. Fl. 7.84; see Bartoli, Luc. Ant. 3.12).

Pliny (l.c.) mentions the lighthouses of Ostia and Ravenna, and says that there were similar towers at many other places. They are represented on the medals of Apamea and other maritime cities. The name of Pharos was given to them in allusion to that of Alexandria, which was the model for their construction (Herodian, l.c.; Sueton. Claud. 20). The Pharos of Brundusium, for example, was, like that of Alexandria, an island with a lighthouse upon it. (Mela, 2.7.13; Steph. Byz. l.c.). Suetonius (Suet. Tib. 74) mentions another pharos at Capreae. Trajan's breakwater at Centum Cellae (Civita Vecchia) had a lighthouse at each end (Plin. Ep. 6.31), to which Merivale (Hist. 7.253) seems to refer the “Pharos Tyrrhena” in Juv. 12.75. This is, however, probably the lighthouse at the Portus Romanus or Portus Augusti formed by Claudius two miles N. of Ostia and improved by Trajan (Suet. Cl. 20; D. C. 60.11; Mayor's note ad Juv. l.c.).

The annexed woodcut shows two phari remaining in Britain. The first is within the precincts of Dover Castle. It is about 40 feet high, octagonal externally, tapering from below upwards, and built with narrow courses of brick and much wider courses of stone in alternate portions. The space within the tower is square, the sides of the octagon without and of the square within being equal, viz., each 15 Roman feet. The door is seen at the bottom (Stukeley, Itin. Curios. p. 129). A similar pharos formerly existed at Boulogne, and is supposed to have been built by Caligula (Sueton. Calig. 46; Montfaucon, Supplem. vol. 4.50.6.3, 4). The round tower here introduced is on the summit

Roman Lighthouses in Britain.

of a hill on the coast of Flintshire (Pennant, Par. of Whiteford and Holywell, p. 112).

Baumeister (Denkmäler, fig. 1688) shows a relief from the Torlonia Museum of the lighthouse at the Roman Port, a round tower at the edge of the quay with beacon flames rising from its summit. A tower without flames is shown on a denarius of Sext. Pompeius as the lighthouse at Messina (Id. ib. p. 957).

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Suetonius, Divus Claudius, 20
    • Suetonius, Tiberius, 74
    • Caesar, Civil War, 3.112
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 6.31
    • C. Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica, 7.84
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: