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Alexandria Travel Guide

Alexandria History

Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. It served as the capital of his new Egyptian dominion and as a base that would control the Mediterranean. After Alexander left Egypt the town, Cleomenes, continued the creation of Alexandria. With the breakup of the empire and death of Alexander in 323, the control of the town passed to his viceroy, Ptolemy I Soter, who founded the dynasty. However the early Ptolemies successfully blended the religions of ancient Greece and Egypt in the cult of Sarapis and presided over Alexandria's golden age. The current city is Egypt's leading port, a commercial and transportation center, and the heart of a major industrial area where refined petroleum, paper, processed food, cotton, asphalt, textiles, plastics and styrofoam are produced.

The Ptolemies Age

It was founded by Alexander the Great (the king of Macedonia) in 332 BC, While he was on his way from Memphis to the Oasis of Amon to consult the famous oracle at the temple of Jupiter Amon in 331 BC, he was struck by the excellent position offered by the village of Rhakotis, with the island of Pharos opposite. When death Alexander, no single successor emerged to claim his kingdom, then the widespread territories were divided among many rulers, also the buildings was not very advanced and either completed till the time of Ptolemy II (285-246).

The architect of the new city was Dinocrates. The main characteristic of his plan for the new tow was the straight lines. As a rule the streets cut one another at right angles, and thus the town was divided into squares like a chessboard. His successor, Ptolemy II Philadelphus (King in 287 BC), was a less ambitious person. He turned his back to military campaigns and focused on buiding Alexandria. Ptolemy was more "Egyptian" than his father: he married his sister Arsinoe, a custom, then, widely accepted among Egyptians and despicable in the eyes of the Greeks.

However, His son Ptolemy III Euergetes (Well-doer), was full of will and motivation. He reigned in 246 BC, and was praised as a military leader and a supporter of science. He married his cousin Berenice. Their reign, marked the peak in Alexandria's glamor and fame.

The reign of the Ptolemaic Dynasty ended in 30 BC, when Cleopatra lost the famous battle of Actium in the Adriatic. Egypt then became a Roman province, under the rule of Octavian. Alexandria thrived during the reign of the first 3 Ptolemies and grew into one of the largest, if not the largest metropolis in the world and became the world's scientific and intellectual Mecca.

The Roman Age

Several of the Roman emperors were interested in Alexandria and some of the visited it. By the time Octavian, the new Roman Emperor, having had bitter memories about Alexandria, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, founded a new town to the east of Alexandria, which was called Nicopolis or the city of Victory. However Octavian's successors were less harsh and more appreciative. Matters improved further when the Red Sea Canal was recut to link the Nile to the Red Sea, serving the purpose of the modern Suez Canal.

Hadrian (117-138) On his visit to the town restored, the temple of Serapis which had been destroyed during the troubles. It seems that the emperor was interested in the cult of Serapis for he issued coins with the representation of the God, and in the ruins of Serapeum of Alexandria was found the beautiful statue of Serapis in the form of the Apis bull which carries the name of Hardian. However, during the early rule of the Romans in Egypt, the world witnessed one of the most important events in history: the birth of Christianity. The new religion was introduced into Alexandria By St. Mark who was martyred in AD 62 for protesting against the worship of Serapis.

However, Antonius Pius (138-161 AD) also visited Alexandria and built a hippodrome and the 2 gates at both ends of the Canopic street, the gate to the east known as Sun Gate and the one to the west called the Moon Gate.

During the reign of Aurelian (270 AD) Alexandria revolted. He marched against the town, drove the rebels into the Bruchium, where he forced them to surrender. The Bruchium and the walls of the town were destroyed during the struggle.

The Christian Age

In that time, the Christianity was introduced into Alexandria by St. Marc and his first recruit was a shoemaker called Annianus. However, when it was established the Christianiy in the town of Alexandria was found before long to spread up the Nile Valley. By the end of the 2 century it must have been widespread even in Upper Egypt. At the beginning of the 3 century Septimius Severus ordered a campaign against Christianity and according to Eusebius, the church historian, persecution was particularly violent in the city of Alexandria. The persecution begun by Decius (249-250 AD) was stopped by Gallienus (253-268 AD) but even persecution helped to spread the faith because the heroism of the martyrs won the admiration of several Christians. Also, The Church of Alexandria played an very important role in the religious councils, which were held during the 4th & 5th century.

Islamic Age

In A.D.642, Muslim troops from Arabia captured the town and the Arabs moved the capital of Egypt from Alexandria to Cairo, and by the years of 1700, Alexandria had become a small fishing village. However Egypt even remained under Arab rule until 1517, when it became a part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. Also the French troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte captured Alexandria in 1798. The Turks & British drove the French from Egypt in 1801, but that then Alexandria regained its importance as a port under the rule of Ali and his successors. In 1881's, a revolt broke out in the city of Alexandria to establish Egyptian control of the government. The British stopped the rioting in 1882 and occupied Egypt.

However, the town of Alexandria served as the main British naval base in the Mediterranean during both World War I and World War II.

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