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PHAROS (Φάρος, Strab. xvii. p.791, seq.; Steph. B. sub voce: Eth. Φάριος), a long narrow strip of rock lying off the northern coast of Aegypt, having the New Port of Alexandreia E. and the Old Harbour SW. [ALEXANDREIA Vol. I. p. 97.] Its name is said to have been derived from a certain pilot of Menelaus, who, on his return from the Trojan War, dial there from a serpent's bite. Pharos is mention<*> in the Odyssey (4.355)), and is described as one day's sail from Aegypt. This account has caused considerable perplexity, since Pharos is actually rather less than a mile from the seaboard of the Delta; and it is not probable that the land, in the course of centuries, has advanced or the sea receded materially. It is perfectly intelligible, however, if we suppose the author of the Odyssey to mean by Aegyptus, not the country itself but its river, since the Pharos is even now nearly a day's sail from the Canopic arm of the Nile. Any other theory is untenable; for this portion of the coast of the Delta consists of rocky bars and [p. 2.590]shelves, which remain unchanged, and, though its surface has been heightened, its superficial area has not been materially enlarged since the country was peopled. Pharos was inhabited by fishermen under the Pharaohs of Aegypt; but it first became a place of importance under the Macedonian kings. During his survey of the coast, B.C. 332, Alexander the Great perceived that the island would form, with the help of art, an excellent breakwater to the harbour of his projected capital. He accordingly caused its southern extremity to be connected with the mainland by a stone mole seven stadia, or about an English mile, in length, which from this circumstance was called the Heptastadium or Sevenfurlong Bridge. At either end the mole was left open for the passage of ships, and the apertures were covered by suspension bridges. In later times a street of houses, erected on the mole itself, converted the island of Pharos into a suburb of Alexandreia, and a considerable portion of the modern city stands on the foundations of the old Heptastadium.

Yet, long after its junction with the Delta, Pharos was spoken of as an island ( παλαί νῆσος, Aelian, H. An. 9.21; τοπρότερον νῆδος, Zonar. 4.10). The southern portion of this rocky ledge. (χοιράς) was the more densely populated; but the celebrated lighthouse, or the Tower of the Pharos, stood at the NE. point, directly in a line with point Pharillon, on the eastern horn of the New Port. The lighthouse was erected, at a cost of 800 talents, in the reign of Ptolemy I., but was not completed until that of his successor Philadelphus. Its architect was Sostratus of Cnidus, who, according to Pliny (36.12. s. 18), was permitted by his royal patron to inscribe his own name upon its base. There is indeed another story, in which it is related that Sostratus, being forbidden to engrave his name on his work, secretly cut it in deep letters on a stone of the building, which he then adroitly covered with some softer and perishable material, on which were inscribed the style and titles of Ptolemy. Thus a few generations would read the name of the king, but posterity would behold the authentic impress of the architect. (Strab. xvii. p.791; Suidas, s. v. Ladpos; Steph. B. sub voce Lucian, de Conscrib. Hist. 100.62.) Pharos was the seat of several temples, the most conspicuous of which was one dedicated to Hephaestos, standing near the northern extremity of the Heptastadium.

That Pharos, in common with many of the Deltaic cities, contained a considerable population of Jews, is rendered probable by the fact that here the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures resided during the progress of their work. (J. AJ 12.2.13.) Julius Caesar established a colony at Pharos, less perhaps to recruit a declining population than with a view to garrison a post so important as regarded the turbulent Alexandrians. (Caesar, B. Civ. 3.112.) Subsequently the island seems to have been comparatively deserted, and inhabited by fishermen alone. (Montfaucon, Supr le Phare d'Alexandrie, Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscript. ix. p. 285.)


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.355
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 12.2.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.12
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