The history of lighthouses can be traced back to ancient times. There are references to lighthouses being used by the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. However, it is widely believed that the lighthouse as we know it today was first constructed in ancient Greece.
The Pharos of Alexandria
The most famous lighthouse from ancient times was the Pharos of Alexandria. Located in Egypt, it was built in the 3rd century BC during the reign of Ptolemy II.
The Pharos stood at a height of over 130 meters and was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world at that time. It was also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Pharos was designed by Sostratus of Cnidus, an architect who worked for Ptolemy II. The structure was made up of three levels: a square base, a middle section with eight sides, and a circular top with a statue of Poseidon.
Fun fact: The word “pharos” has since become synonymous with lighthouses, and is used to describe them in several languages including Spanish (faro), Italian (faro), and Romanian (far).
Ancient Greek Lighthouses
While the Pharos is undoubtedly the most famous ancient lighthouse, there were many others constructed by Greeks throughout their territories.
The Tower of Hercules
- The Tower of Hercules is located in Galicia, Spain and stands at a height of 55 meters. It is believed to have been built by Greeks during their expansion into Iberia between the 8th and 6th centuries BC.
- It has been in continuous use since its construction, making it the oldest lighthouse in the world. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
The Lighthouse at Cape Sounion
- The Lighthouse at Cape Sounion is located on the southern tip of Attica in Greece. It was built around 440 BC and stood at a height of 22 meters.
- It was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC and then rebuilt by the Athenians after their victory over the Persians in 479 BC. The lighthouse remained in use until the Middle Ages.
The Legacy of Ancient Greek Lighthouses
The Greeks’ contribution to lighthouses cannot be overstated. They were among the first to recognize the need for such structures and to construct them on a large scale. The Pharos of Alexandria, in particular, served as a model for lighthouses that were built in subsequent centuries and even today.
Today, lighthouses are still used as navigational aids for ships and boats. While they may not be as tall or grandiose as those constructed by ancient Greeks, they serve an important purpose in keeping sailors safe while at sea.
In conclusion, while we cannot say with certainty that ancient Greece created the lighthouse, they certainly played a significant role in its development and construction.