The Lighthouse of Alexandria: the Seventh Classical Wonder

Do you know what the first lighthouse in the world was?

Lighthouses are fascinating structures, aren’t they? But, do we know that the first lighthouse was built around 290 BC? And, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was the first lighthouse in the world?

Yes, in this article, we will learn about the world’s first lighthouse and how it is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

Lighthouse of Alexandria

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was the first lighthouse to be constructed. The construction of the lighthouse began in 290 BC. And, it took almost 20 years to complete. It was the tallest structure in the world at the time after the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built on the island of Pharos. Ptolemy Soter, the then-ruler of Egyptian region, began its construction. Its function was to help ships find their routes to the busy harbor at Alexandria, Egypt.

Lighthouse of Alexandria
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Quick Facts on the Lighthouse of Alexandria

  • Location: Alexandria, Egypt
  • When was it built? – around 290 – 270 BC
  • Why was it built? – to guide ships to Alexandria Harbor
  • Height – 140m
  • Construction Materials – white marble blocks with lead mortar, stone-faced
  • How was it destroyed? – by an earthquake in 1303 AD

Pre-History of the Lighthouse

After the death of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, the city of Alexandria found a new ruler. Alexander named 17 cities like Alexandria. But, none was quite thriving as the one in Egypt. The Alexandria in Egypt became more prosperous under the new ruler, Ptolemy Soter.

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The city council needed a mechanism to help navigate the many ships into its busy harbor. Ptolemy sanctioned the building of the Pharos in 290 BC. When completed, the building of Pharos became the first lighthouse in the world. And, it became the 2nd tallest structure at that time.

Construction of the Lighthouse

It is believed that the construction for the Lighthouse began around 290 BC. Sostratus of Kindos is believed to be the designer of the Lighthouse. He took much pride in the designing that he wanted to have his name carved onto into the foundation. Ptolemy II, however, denied his request.

But, Sostartus was a clever man. He had an inscription carved into the foundation, with plaster covering it. On the plaster, it bore the Ptolemy’s name. The plaster was intended to outsmart Ptolemy and make him think Sostratus agreed to his decision.

When both the men died and the years went by, the plaster began to chip away. And, it revealed the inscription of Sostratus. It read:


The impact of the creation of the Lighthouse was electric. It was constructed on the island of Pharos. As the name Pharos became indispensable with the Lighthouse, multiple languages used it as the root word for “lighthouse”.

Design of the Lighthouse

You will be wrong if you think the design of the Lighthouse was like the slender single column of most modern lighthouses. But, the design is believed to be more like the structure of an early 20th-century skyscraper.

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The Lighthouse consisted of three stages. Each stage was constructed on top of each other. The construction material included stone-faced with white marble blocks. The blocks were joined together with lead mortar.

The lowest level of the Lighthouse was purportedly about 73m high. And, it was built on a 6m high stone platform. The Lighthouse formed a 30m square at the base and gave the base the shape of a massive box.

Inside the lighthouse were stairs that could be climbed to reach the beacon chamber. A large mirror, made of polished bronze, used to project a beam of light from the reflection created by fire. The beam was so powerful that it could be seen as far as 35 miles away!


The Lighthouse at Alexandria is one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. It was impressive in terms of construction and scale. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes. And, the remains of the Lighthouse went underwater. Now tourists can dive underwater to wonder at the remains of the Great Pharos Lighthouse.



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