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Alexandria (History)

12 September 2010


Raqd.t (Alexandria)
in hieroglyphs
A35 t

Alexandria, sphinx made of pink granite, Ptolemaic.
An ancient Roman amphitheatre in Alexandria
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in April 331 BCE as Ἀλεξάνδρεια (Alexándreia). Alexander's chief architect for the project was Dinocrates. Alexandria was intended to supersede Naucratis as a Hellenistic centre in Egypt, and to be the link between Greece and the rich Nile Valley. An Egyptian city, Rhakotis, already existed on the shore, and later gave its name to Alexandria in the Egyptian language (Egypt. Ra'qedyet). It continued to exist as the Egyptian quarter of the city. A few months after the foundation, Alexander left Egypt for the East and never returned to his city. After Alexander departed, his viceroy, Cleomenes, continued the expansion. Following a struggle with the other successors of Alexander, his general Ptolemy succeeded in bringing Alexander's body to Alexandria.[citation needed]
Although Cleomenes was mainly in charge of seeing to Alexandria's continuous development, the Heptastadion and the mainland quarters seem to have been primarily Ptolemaic work. Inheriting the trade of ruined Tyre and becoming the centre of the new commerce between Europe and the Arabian and Indian East, the city grew in less than a generation to be larger than Carthage. In a century, Alexandria had become the largest city in the world and for some centuries more, was second only to Rome. It became the main Greek city of Egypt, with an extraordinary mix of Greeks from many cities and backgrounds.[1]
Alexandria was not only a centre of Hellenism but was also home to the largest Jewish community in the world. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was produced there. The early Ptolemies kept it in order and fostered the development of its museum into the leading Hellenistic centre of learning (Library of Alexandria) but were careful to maintain the distinction of its population's three largest ethnicities: Greek, Jewish, and Egyptian.[2] From this division arose much of the later turbulence, which began to manifest itself under Ptolemy Philopater who reigned from 221–204 BCE. The reign of Ptolemy VIII Physcon from 144–116 BCE was marked by purges and civil warfare.[citation needed]
The city passed formally under Roman jurisdiction in 80 BCE, according to the will of Ptolemy Alexander but only after it had been under Roman influence for more than a hundred years. It was captured by Julius Caesar in 47 BCE during a Roman intervention in the domestic civil war between king Ptolemy XIII and his advisors, and the fabled queen Cleopatra VII. It was finally captured by Octavian, future emperor Augustus on 1 August 30 BCE, with the name of the month later being changed to august to commemorate his victory.[citation needed]
In CE 115, vast parts of Alexandria were destroyed during the Greek-Jewish civil wars, which gave Hadrian and his architect, Decriannus, an opportunity to rebuild it. In 215 the emperor Caracalla visited the city and, because of some insulting satires that the inhabitants had directed at him, abruptly commanded his troops to put to death all youths capable of bearing arms. On 21 July 365, Alexandria was devastated by a tsunami (365 Crete earthquake),[3] an event two hundred years later still annually commemorated as "day of horror".[4] In the late 4th century, persecution of pagans by newly Christian Romans had reached new levels of intensity. In 391, the Patriarch Theophilus destroyed all pagan temples in Alexandria under orders from Emperor Theodosius I. The Brucheum and Jewish quarters were desolate in the 5th century. On the mainland, life seemed to have centered in the vicinity of the Serapeum and Caesareum, both which became Christian churches. The Pharos and Heptastadium quarters, however, remained populous and were left intact.[citation needed]
Alexandria: bombardment from British naval forces.
In 619, Alexandria fell to the Sassanid Persians. Although the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius recovered it in 629, in 641 the Arabs under the general Amr ibn al-As captured it after a siege that lasted fourteen months.
Alexandria figured prominently in the military operations of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798. French troops stormed the town on 2 July 1798, and it remained in their hands until the arrival of a British expedition in 1801. The British won a considerable victory over the French at the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801, following which they besieged the town, which fell to them on 2 September 1801. Mohammed Ali, the Ottoman Governor of Egypt, began rebuilding and redevelopment around 1810, and by 1850, Alexandria had returned to something akin to its former glory.[5] In July 1882, the city came under bombardment from British naval forces and was occupied. In July 1954, the city was a target of an Israeli bombing campaign that later became known as the Lavon Affair. Only a few months later[when?], Alexandria's Mansheyya Square was the site of a failed assassination attempt on Gamal Abdel Nasser.[citation needed]
The most important battles and sieges of Alexandria include:[citation needed]
by: wikipedia.org
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