The Lighthouse of Alexandria: One of the Ancient World's Most Impressive Buildings

hello everybody welcome back to a brand

new episode of mega projects this one is

all about

a big old lighthouse it might be not so

impressive in terms of modern day mega

projects but in the past

this was a big deal so let's get into it


now it's easy to look around the world

at the extraordinary mega projects we

have today

but what of those that are no longer

standing what once stood imposingly

on the shores of alexandria in egypt was

considered one of the

original seven wonders of the world a

towering human achievement

gazing out across the mediterranean sea

its furnace

guiding ships through many a night the

lighthouse of alexandria

is now but a memory but for many

centuries it was one of the tallest

man-made structures

anywhere in the world estimated to have

been between 100 and 140 metres tall

adorned with a giant statue it must have

been a dazzling sight to ancient eyes

the term bucket list is quite a modern

phrase used to describe

places to visit or things to do before

you die and indeed

often bucket list things come up on mega

projects mentioned in one of the last

videos recent one at least

about going on the trans-siberian that's

a bucket list item for me but while the

term may be modern a list of must-see

places stretches back to the ancient

world the original bucket list was the

seven wonders of the world a collection

of awe-inspiring sites compiled by

ancient writers herodotus calamarcus of


antipater of sidon and filio of

byzantium the list included the great

pyramid of giza the hanging gardens of

babylon the colossus of rhodes the

temple at artemis the statue of zeus at

olympia the mausoleum

at halikanasis and finally of course

the lighthouse of alexandria these were

the original mega projects that drew

ancient travelers from

far and wide eager to gaze at their

glorious splendor sadly only one of

these wonders still stands today the

great pyramid of giza but these wonders

deserve to be remembered because they

quite simply laid the foundations for

what humans would construct thousands of


later and i will mention people have

been asking about the pyramids in the

comments whether it's something i will


on mega projects but i've done a whole

video about the whole region

of the pyramids on my channel geographic

so i felt like it would be

repeating it quite a bit but if you just

search on youtube geographic's pyramids

you will find a video from me about


so there you go but enough about the

other six wonders of the world let's


on the last one to be constructed

what was built at alexandria was by no

means the first lighthouse in the world

but was certainly

the most impressive one of the oldest

was a fenari on the greek island

vicaria which was built in the 6th

century bc

with a very modest height of just 2.5

meters in

athens around the port the remains of

several ancient lighthouses have been

discovered some dating

from the 5th century bc so no

lighthouses were certainly not something

that was new but the world had never

seen one

as extraordinary as what appeared off

the egyptian coast

yeah the other ones were like how big is

it worse a little bit taller than a man

how big is this one absolutely massive

the lighthouse of alexandria built

sometime in the third century bc was the

second to last of the seven wonders to

be constructed coming over 2800 years

after the first

the great pyramid of giza the city of

alexandria was founded by alexander the

great in 332

bc on the shores of the mediterranean

sea and opposite a tiny island known as


in modern-day egypt the city quickly

grew into a regional powerhouse

and a center for trade and learning its

great library was thought to hold the

most comprehensive records of the

ancient world

that was until julius caesar ordered his

fleeing troops to set fire to ships in

the harbor in 48 bc

the resulting blaze not only decimated

the city but also destroyed the library

taking with it an estimated 40 000

scrolls after alexander the great died

in 323 bc he was eventually succeeded by

ptolemy the first sota

in 305 bc who quickly commissioned the


of the mighty lighthouse on the small

island opposite the city now there is a


that those who lived on ferris were

wreckers people who would lure ships

onto the rocks before

pillaging their remains and it was

because of this that the site was chosen

now this is something that's really

impossible to confirm or deny but

it's a good twist to the story

nevertheless however the name of this

small island and what was eventually

built on it

has transcended the ages the name pharas

went on to form the base for the greek

word for lighthouse

and most romance languages still use

this form today the french

have their while the italians and

spanish use

pharaoh while the lighthouse no doubt

served the very practical purpose of

guiding ships through the dangerous

reefs and into alexandria's busy harbor

there's no doubt it was also built to

provide a great deal of prestige

you don't build the second highest

structure in the world with enormous

statue on top of it

unless you really want it to be seen and

in case you were wondering the great

pyramid of giza was 139

metres tall and while we're not sure

about the exact height of the lighthouse

it's generally believed

to have been at the most 39 meters


than the pyramid so coming in at about

100 meters a lighthouse would have been

also seen as a great symbol of power

their location and difficulty to build

them meant that the completed lighthouse

at alexandria would have acted as a

dominant show of intent for the new

ruler however ptolemy the first sota

did not live to see its completion and

the 12-year construction project was

completed during the reign of his son

ptolemy ii philadelphus records show it

cost 8

000 talents of silver to build and

italian was a unit of measurement first

introduced in mesopotamia around 4000 bc

now a single talent would have been

26 kilograms meaning that the entire


was paid for with about 208 tons of

silver very roughly that's about 100

million dollars with today's value of

silver but that really doesn't mean very

much it's

just sort of just an interesting fact

according to records from the time the

lighthouse was built with solid blocks

of limestone though

some have questioned whether such weight

could have been supported one

alternative may have been

pink granite which was found nearby and

would have provided a much lighter


parts of the building were certainly

constructed using blocks of sandstone

which have been

examined recently and found to have come

from the wada hamamat quarries to

the east of the city

getting an accurate description of the

lighthouse is not always easy simply


it no longer exists and accounts of it

often vary

however one traveler in particular took

the time to carefully describe it in his

work and

this perhaps provides the best that we

can really hope for

abu hagag josef ibben muhammad el

balawi el andalosi and

let's just call him balawi from now on

visited this lighthouse

in 1163 a.d nearly 1005

years after it was constructed malawi

described an inner ramp leading into the

lighthouse's base area measuring 189

centimeters wide enough space to allow

two horsemen

to pass at once he put the square base

area at 30 meters by 30 meters and

it was spread over four floors the

second floor had 18 rooms the third 14

rooms and the fourth

had 17 rooms from this base area the

lighthouse rose to its full height of at

least 100 meters but

could be broken into three sections the

lowest and largest was

rectangular while the second and third

were cylindrical

a broad spiral staircase rose up from

the base through the three sections

which were

said to lean slightly inwards probably

to add some structural stability

above the third section stood a large

mirror possibly made from polished

bronze which reflected sunlight during

the day but at night

a furnace was lit probably using oil

there is

however some debate as to whether the

furnace was used from the start as there

are no records of it from early writers

now it's impossible to say how effective

the lighthouse was as a way of

preventing naval accidents but


as many as 40 ancient sea wrecks have

been found in

or around alexandria's harbor so well

it wasn't very useful for those 40 guys

the lighthouse was topped with a statue

gazing out to sea now the identity of

the representation is mysterious with

some claiming it was a greek god

possibly zeus or poseidon others have

stated that it was of alexander the

great or even the king who commissioned


ptolemy the first sota again this is

probably something

we'll never have a definitive answer for


had its builders and designers known

what we do today

about tectonic boundaries they might not

have chosen

this spot for a lighthouse the

combination of the african arabian and

red sea rift zones make this

a shaky place to build given where it

had been constructed the greatest

lighthouse the world had ever known was

always surviving on borrowed time

a series of earthquakes beginning in 796


badly damaged the lighthouse and

eventually brought this wonder of the


just crashing down the second earthquake

in 951 a.d led to significant cracks

appearing in the structure and five

years later

in 956 a.d as much as 20 meters of the

lighthouse collapsed

following yet another earthquake it

seems at this point that it was at least

partially rebuilt with an islamic style

dome replacing the statue above

it but two earthquakes in 1303 a.d and

1323 a.d

finished off this glorious monument once

and for all the 1303 a.d earthquake

originating in crete was

a particular beast believed to measure

more than eight on the richter scale

it also triggered a massive tsunami

which swept across the mediterranean

killing thousands including

many in alexandria itself it's not clear

whether the lighthouse

fell during the earthquake or because of

the tsunami waters

but well one thing is for certain and

that's that

its towering presence was just no more

what was left was said to resemble

nothing more than

a stub and in 1480 a.d the lighthouse of

alexandria finally

disappeared when the sultan of egypt

quake bay ordered a force to be

constructed on the island using some of

the fallen stones


while we've known all along exactly

where it was it wasn't until a unesco

sponsored expedition in 1968 that the

remains of the lighthouse were

rediscovered in the waters

off of alexandria however due to the

ongoing political situation in egypt and

the lack of specialized equipment the

expedition was eventually abandoned

but in 1994 a group of french

archaeologists began examining what was

left of the ancient lighthouse on

the seabed of alexandria's eastern

harbour the finds included blocks of

granite between

49 and 60 tons 30 sphinx heads

and five obelisks which were the tall

tapered stone monuments typical from

ancient egypt there were also examples

of columns with engravings dating back

to ramesses ii who

ruled egypt between 1279 and 1213 bc

this was around 900 years before the

construction of the lighthouse but these


may have been reused and re-incorporated

into its design

in total 3 300 pieces were catalogued by

the end of 1995 and 36 granite blocks


once made up the lighthouse now lie in

various museums around alexandria

but it is possible to scuba dive down to

see the ruins that remain with the

egyptian government still considering a

long-held plan to

turn the area into a historical

underwater park


since 1978 there have been numerous

ideas put forward to rebuild the

lighthouse but

nothing has ever come of it there was

even some suggestion of building an

enormous skyscraper on the site but

thankfully most agreed that that would

have been

a bit of an eyesore it's clear that the

egyptian government wants to do

something with the area to commemorate

the lighthouse but due to political and

financial problems this

just never really happened but the

lighthouse still remains the symbol of

alexandria and it appears on both its


and its official emblem the lighthouse

at alexandria is but a figment of our

imagination today albeit one that does

lie at the bottom of the harbour this

must have been a magnificent structure

to behold but its influence has gone

much further than its beam of light ever

did while it certainly wasn't the first

the lighthouse at alexandria set the

standard for

lighthouses around the world not only

that but as i mentioned earlier the very

word for lighthouse in the romance


comes from this rocky outcrop off the

egyptian coast

this great monument of the ancient world

may no longer stand but

its influence and legacy is still

shining brightly today

so i really hope you found that video

interesting like i say it's a bit of a

different mega project an ancient mega

project if you liked it if you've got


for other ancient mega projects well you

know what to do that's what the comments


are for so hit those up and uh and let

me know what you think of this video

what you'd like to see upload the ones

you like

all of that good stuff and i'll see you

next time