Were There Lighthouses in Ancient Greece?

Lighthouses are an important part of maritime history. They help guide sailors to their destinations and warn them of dangerous waters. But were there lighthouses in ancient Greece?

While there is no clear evidence of lighthouses in ancient Greece, there were structures that served similar purposes. One such structure was the Pharos of Alexandria, a towering structure that stood over 100 meters tall.

Pharos of Alexandria

The Pharos of Alexandria was built in the 3rd century BC on the island of Pharos off the coast of Egypt. It was one of the tallest structures in the ancient world and served as a beacon for sailors entering the port of Alexandria.

The structure was made up of three levels, with a fire burning at the top to provide light for ships at sea. The light could be seen from over 50 kilometers away, making it an effective navigational aid for ancient sailors.

Ancient Greek Navigational Aids

While the Pharos of Alexandria is often cited as an example of an ancient lighthouse, it was not the only navigational aid used by ancient Greeks. In fact, many Greek sailors relied on natural landmarks to navigate their way around the Mediterranean.

One such landmark was Mount Olympus, which served as a reference point for sailors traveling along the coast of Greece. Other natural features such as islands and headlands were also used as navigational aids.

The Use Of Fires And Mirrors

In addition to natural landmarks, ancient Greeks also used fires and mirrors to help guide their ships at sea. Fires were often lit on hilltops or other high points to provide a visible signal to sailors.

Mirrors were also used to reflect sunlight and create a visible signal during daylight hours. These mirrors were made from polished metal or glass and could be angled to direct sunlight towards passing ships.


While there is no clear evidence of lighthouses in ancient Greece, the Pharos of Alexandria and other navigational aids served a similar purpose. Whether it was a towering structure or a simple fire on a hilltop, ancient Greeks understood the importance of guiding ships safely to their destinations.

As we continue to navigate our way through the modern world, we can look back at the ingenuity of ancient sailors and appreciate the role they played in shaping our understanding of navigation and maritime history.