Ancient Alexandria




Alexander the Great the founder of Ancient Alexandria



The capital of the Ptolemies was Ancient Alexandria.

Until the time of Alexander's conquest, Egypt had no sea-port.

There were several landing-places along the coast, but no proper harbor. In fact Egypt had then so little commercial intercourse with the rest of the world, that she scarcely needed any.

Alexander's engineers, however, in exploring the shore, found a point not far from the Canopic mouth of the Nile where the water was deep, and where there was an anchorage ground protected by an island.

Alexander founded a city there, which he called by his own name. Thus was the birth of Ancient Alexandria.

He perfected the harbor by artificial excavations and embankments.

A lofty light-house was reared, which formed a landmark by day, and exhibited a blazing star by night to guide the galleys of the Mediterranean in.

A canal was made to connect the port of ancient Alexandria with the Nile, and warehouses were erected to contain the stores of merchandise.

In a word, Ancient Alexandria became at once a great commercial capital.

It was the seat, for several centuries, of the magnificent government of the Ptolemies; and so well was its situation chosen for the purposes intended, that it still continues, after the lapse of twenty centuries of revolution and change, one of the principal emporiums of the commerce of the East.

Many things conspired to make it at once a great commercial emporium.

Ancient Alexandria



Ancient Alexandria became, in fact, very soon after it was founded, a very great and busy city.

Many things conspired to make it at once a great commercial emporium.

In the first place, it was the depot of export for all the surplus grain and other agricultural produce which was raised in such abundance along the Egyptian valley.

This produce was brought down in boats to the upper point of the Delta, where the branches of the river divided, and thence down the Canopic branch to the city.

The city was not, in fact, situated directly upon this branch, but upon a narrow tongue of land, at a little distance from it, near the sea.

It was not easy to enter the channel directly, on account of the bars and sand-banks at its mouth, produced by the eternal conflict between the waters of the river and the surges of the sea.

The water was deep, however, as Alexander's engineers had discovered, at the place where the ancient Alexandria was built, and, by establishing the port there, and then cutting a canal across to the Nile, they were enabled to bring the river and the sea at once into easy communication.

The produce of the valley was thus brought down the river and through the canal to the city.

Here immense warehouses and granaries were erected for its reception, that it might be safely preserved until the ships that came into the port were ready to take it away.

These ships came from Syria, from all the coasts of Asia Minor, from Greece, and from Rome.

They brought the agricultural productions of their own countries, as well as articles of manufacture of various kinds; these they sold to the merchants of Alexandria, and purchased the productions of Egypt in return.

The port of Alexandria presented thus a constant picture of life and animation.

Merchant ships were continually coming and going, or lying at anchor in the roadstead.

Seamen were hoisting sails, or raising anchors, or rowing their capacious galleys through the water, singing, as they pulled, to the motion of the oars.

Within the city there was the same ceaseless activity.

Here groups of men were unloading the canal boats which had arrived from the river.

There porters were transporting bales of merchandise or sacks of grain from a warehouse to a pier, or from one landing to another The occasional parading of the king's guards, or the arrival and departure of ships of war to land or to take away bodies of armed men, were occurrences that sometimes intervened to interrupt, or as perhaps the people then would have said, to adorn this scene of useful industry;

Now and then, for a brief period, these peaceful vocations would be wholly suspended and set aside by a revolt or by a civil war, waged by rival brothers against each other, or instigated by the conflicting claims of a mother and son.

These interruptions, however, were comparatively few, and, in ordinary cases, not of long continuance.

It was for the interest of all branches of the royal line to do as little injury as possible to the commercial and agricultural operations of the realm.

In fact, it was on the prosperity of those operations that the revenues depended.

The rulers were well aware of this, and so, however implacably two rival princes may have hated one another, and however desperately each party may have struggled to destroy all active combatants whom they should find in arms against them, they were both under every possible inducement to spare the private property and the lives of the peaceful population.

This population, in fact, engaged thus in profitable industry, constituted, with the avails of their labors, the very estate for which the combatants were contending.

Seeing the subject in this light, the Egyptian sovereigns, especially Alexander and the earlier Ptolemies, made every effort in their power to promote the commercial greatness of Alexandria.

They built palaces, its true, but they also built warehouses.






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