The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper from London, Greater London, England on July 24, 1882 · 4
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The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper from London, Greater London, England · 4

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Monday, July 24, 1882
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The Graphic Extra Number, July 24, Wat $ombiUbmcnt of Icxanbria ,5Unicnt JUcxiinbra ALEXANDRA'S BIRTH When Alexander the Great, after the capture of Gaza, bent his march towards Egypt he was received with no opposition in the ancient land of the Pharaohs. The Egyptians hated the Persians, who had trampled on their national rites and customs, whereas the policy of the Macedonian conqueror was to treat respectfully the shrines and gods of the lands which he subdued. Partly impelled by curiosity, and partly to pay respect to one of the most celebrated shrines of the day, Alexander journeyed to the Oasis of Amnion, in the Libyan desert, and visited there the oracle of Jupiter Amnion. We may take it that the conqueror was not displeased when the subservient oracle declared him to be the son of great Jove himself. His mother Olympias, indeed, used laughingly to profess to dread the possible embroilments with Jupiter's wife which might result from her son's proclamations issued in the name of " King Alexander, son of Jupiter Amnion." There was, however, 110 great man of antiquity whose birth was not attended by some miraculous portent, and as Arrianus quaintly observes : "I cannot condemn him for endeavouring to draw his subjects into the belief of his divine origin, nor can I be induced to think it any very great crime, for it is very reasonable to imagine that he intended no more by it than merely to procure the greater authority among his soldiers." Whatever may have been Alexander's private opinion, there is no doubt that the utterance of the famous oracle was by no means unwelcome. It harmonised well with the dreams of a universal Greek dominion which then possessed him, for on descending the Nile, and navigating the western branch of the Delta, he had reached a spot which seemed admirably suited for the foundation of a great city. ITS SITE The spot at which Alexander arrived was some twelve miles west of the Canopic branch of the Nile. The coast was flat, and took the form of a large bay with two jutting promontories. Between these lay a long low island, which formed a perfect natural protection for the bay. Inland was an extensive lake. Upon the shore stood the small Egyptian town of Racotis. The advantages of such a situation were seen at once by the trained eye of Alexander. It was the ideal centre for the universal Greek empire, and was already celebrated in the verse of Homer. Foreign sailors, particularly Greeks, used to lake refuge there in bad weather, and the spot was used, too, for getting supplies of fresh water. Homer had written of it in lines done into stately English by Chapman : A certain island call'd Pharos, that with the high-waved sta is wall'd, Just against E.cypt .... And this island bears a port most portly, where sea passengers Tut in still for fresh water. And tradition pointed to the island as the home of rroteus, the son uf Occanus, wl:u possessed such a marvellous power of evading importunate questioners. Jealous of the use made of this convenient harbour by foreign sailors, the Egyptian Kings established there the small garrison of Kacotis. There was 110 finer site in Egypt titan this for the establishment of the great city which was to unite the East and West. On the eastern Egyptian coast lay the ancient ports of Pclusium and Tanis; but it had not escaped the notice of Alexander's watchful engineers that the wash of the Mediterranean on that coast sets from west to east, and that the quantities of alluvial soil brought down by the Nile were gradually blocking the ports of ancient fame Pelusiurn, Ascalon, Tyre, and Siclon. Alexander conceived that the new city would be the centre, not only of the commerce, but of the intellect of the world ; and he flattered himself with visions of the warm breath of Hellenic culture kindling into fresher life the still and drear existence of Egypt. ITS FOUNDATION Never had human plans a grander result than had those of Alexander for the city which was to be named after himself, and never was there an abler lieutenant to carry out a great design than Dinocrates, the restorer of the Temple of Diana at Ephcsus, and the author of the design for carving Mount Athos into an image of his royal master. The encouragement of the Invisible Powers seemed to follow the Macedonian King from the Oasis of Amnion to the sandy shore of the Mediterranean. It is said that an aged man appeared to Alexander in a dream, and repeated to him the already-quoted lines of Homer. The city was planned and laid out by Dinocrates in the form of a Macedonian mantle, " with a circular border full of plaits, and projecting into corners on the right and left ; the fifth part of its site being even then dedicated to the palace." Eor want of chalk, flour was used to mark the boundaries of the new city. " While Alexander was pleasing himself with this project," says an ancient writer, " an infinite number of birds of several kinds, rising suddenly like a black cloud out of the river and the lake, devoured all the flour that had been used in marking out the lines ; at which omen he was much troubled, till the augurs encouraged him to proceed, by observing that it was a sign that the city he was about to build woidd enjoy such abundance of all things that it would contribute to the nourishment of many nations." Under these fav ourable auspices w as founded the city which was long to rank as the capital of the world. Dinocrates built broad streets, the two principal ones intersecting each other at right angles, and adorned the town with temples, palaces, and gardens. Merchants, traders, Jews, and men of letters soon flocked to the new city, which hail a climate of unusual salubrity owing to its peninsular position and its cool sea breezes. IIS RISE Unsated by conquest, and cut off while planning great enterprises, Alexander died at Babylon i.C. 323. Ptolemy Soter succeeded him as governor of Egypt. He chose Alexandria as his capital, and under his benignant rule the city grew yearly in importance and power. Its population was divided into three distinct classes : Macedonians ; the Mercenaries who had served under Alexander ; and the native Egyptians. Just as no modern capital of wealth seems complete without its population of Jewish inhabitants, so it was in the ancient cities. Both Alexander and his successors, the Ptolemies, took particular pains to induce the Jews to settle in Alexandria. Alexander himself brought Jews from Palestine, and Ptolemy Soter brought 100,000 more. Phila-delphus redeemed from slavery 198,000, and all these were admitted to the same privileges as the first division of the population, the Macedonians themselves. Their religion was respected, and in consequence of their favourable treatment numbers of Jews flocked lo the city, of the population of which in future they always formed one of the most important elements Under Ptolemy Soter and Ptolemy Philadelphia Alexandria became the most beautiful city in the world. At the intersection of the two main streets stood the Mausoleum of Alexander, whose body had been brought from Babylon with the utmost pomp. Years afterwards the sarcophagus was opened, and the first of the Crcsars gazed upon the features of the illustrious conqueror of the Old World. Connecting the outlying island with the mainland was a massive mole, called the Heptastadium, which thus divided the harbour into two parts ; and because the entrance i as beset by shoals and sandbanks, a lighthouse called the Pharo3 was set at the extremity of the island. The structure was reckoned one of the Wonders of the World. Trade was wonderfully stimulated. It was the object of Ptolemy Soter to draw to Alexandria all the trade of the East, which up till now had been monopolised by Tyre. He built two cities, Berenice and Arsinoe, on the Red Sea, whither were brought all the products of the south and east. Thence the goods were carried on camels to Coptus on the N;le, where they were again shipped for Alexandria, whence they were distributed to all the nations of the West, in exchange for merchandise exported to the East. THE MUSEUM Thus was fulfilled the first part of Alexander's mighty dream. Alexandria was the central mat t of the world, the Queen of the Eas', the wealthiest city of the world. But its material power would never have given it the abiding place it has in the world's history, had it not been the centre of an intellectual movemeut, the influences flowing from which can never die away, and which are at this moment moulding to a great extent the destinies of the nineteenth century. The Mureum was the intellectual centre of Alexandria. It stood in the Bruchioii or aristocratic quarter, and contained within its circuit large courts with arbours and fountains, spacious apartments for residence and study, and ample colonnades for walking and conversation. This magnificent building was begun by Ptolemy Soter, and was finished by his son, Ptolemy Philudelphtts. It was, in fact, a large university. No fewer than 14,000 students were at one time said to be in attendance there. It was divided into four distinct departments, those of medicine, literature, mathematics, and astronomy, and to facilitate studies of particular sciences, zoological and botanical gardens were maintained. Many of the leading men of learning lived in the Museum, where they used to dine together, the King himself sometimes sharing their repast. They reclined at tables placed according to their respective schools, the Aristotelian with the Aristotelian, the Platonist with the Piatonist. The library was one of the most important features of the Museum. A body of transcribers was maintained especially to add to its treasures. Every book of importance which was brought into the country was taken from its owner, transcribed, and the transcript handed back, the original be'ng kept in the library. Ultimately this noble collection numbered 400,000 volumes, and a daughter library was established, and placed in the Temple of Serapis. The smaller library comprised at length 300,000 volumes. Sometimes original works and translations were undertaken by the authorities of the Museum, the most notable cases being those of the Septuagint translation of the Bible, made under Ptolemy Soler or Ptolemy Philadelphus, and Manetho's "History of Egypt," undertaken by the command of Philadelphus. ALEXANDRIAN PHILOSOPHY As was to be expected from the friendship existing between Alexander, Ptolemy, and Aristotle, the philosophy of the Stagyrite was the basis of the scientific school of Alexandria. The Museum was the cradle of physical science ; for there science was studied by that method of induction by which all its lasting achievements have been gained. Experiment was largely resorted to, and though there had been science in Chaldea and India before the foundation of the Museum at Alexandria, it is to the planned and consistent methods of study laid down by the Museum that physical science really owes its origin. And probably never before or since in the world's history was there collected together such an illustrious cluster of men as those who made the name of the Alexandrian Museum in its palmy days. Demetrius Phalereus, the fellow-pupil of Menander, when driven from Athens, took refuge at Alexandria, where he became the chief of the Museum. The connection of the one name of Euclid with that of Alexandria would suffice to render the city illustrious, but there were many more names of note ErltostLncs was at one time the librarian, and "cd a3 the father of astronomy and geography ; Apollontus was a g ometer hardly second to Euclid himself; Archimedes was the greatest engineer of antiquity; Ptolemy was an astronomer who deserves to" rank with Hipparchtts and Newton; and Ctesibtus invented the fire-engine. Zeno was the source whence the Museum drew its ethical inspiration. SOCIAL LIFE It had been the policy of Alexander to tolerate all forms ol religion in the countries he conquered, and his leniency was continued by the Ptolemies in Egypt. The worship of Serapts flourished side by side with the Greek philosophy, and the Serapeum ultimately became the rallying-point of the old as against the new or Christian ideas. The Ptolemies restored the old sanctuaries and built new ones. In Dcnderah, Edfoo, Esneh, and Phil they emulated some of the most striking edifices of the old Fharaohs. Theocritus has left a lively picture of the adventHres of two wives of citizens of Alexandria on the day of the festival of Adonis. In his account we can see the life of ancient Alexandria reflected faithfully and minutely. The ladies, hindered by a lazy tiring maid, at length completed their toilettes. Not without trouble from the crowds in the streets, they started for the Soma, avoiding the broad and level Royal Road from the palace to the upper streets (the road which furnished Euclid with his saying "there is 110 Royal Road to learning"), they reached at last the palace, where they were permitted to see the statue of Adonis, and to hear the festal song before they hastened back to prepare their husbands' food. The feast of Dionysius was, however the greatest tie of the Alexandrians, and incredible were the sums of money spent on these occasions by lavish monarchs for the delectation of their subjects. Under Soter coinage was introduced, and trade much augmented, while his wives Thais and Berenice "set the fashions" for the Alexandrian ladies, and taught them how to wear their dresses gracefully. So flowed on the easy brilliant life of Alexandria under the Ptolemies. It combined the Greek love of beauty with the Oriental love of splendour. It was full, rich, and harmonious. The scepticism of the philosophers was accompanied in most cases by the most rigid morality ; the superstition of the masses was too often stained by the lower forms of sensualism. The description of the people given by Tiebcllius Toliio, and quoted by Gibbon, answers as well for the time of the Ptolemies as that of the Romans. In reading it one is reminded of the fractious mobs of the Verona of alaler time. Among people so sudden and quick in quarrel as these, the of a thumb would probably have led to quite as serious consequences as did that unfoitunate remark about the shoes which is recorded by the historian : " Frequently, on account of an omission of civilities, the refusal of a place of honour at a bath, the sequestration of a ballad or a cabbage, a slave's shoes, or other objects of like importance, they have shown such dangerous symptoms of sedition as lo require the intervention of an armed force. So general indeed was this disposition, that when the slave of the Governor of Alexandria happened to be beaten by a soldier for telling him that his shoes were better than the soldier's, a multitude immediately collected before the house of .Einilianus, the commanding officer, armed with every seditious weapon, and using furious threats. He was wounded by stones, and javelins and swords were thrown at and pointed at him. " THE FALL OF THE PTOLEMIES Under Ptolemy Euergetes I. the palmy days of Egypt continued. All the best intellect of the day thronged his Court. But under the rule of the indolent and cruel Ptolemy rhilopatortheruinof the dynasty began. Under Ptolemy Epiphanes matters became worse. Internal dissensions rent the country. Antiochus the Great attacked it from without. The guardians of the King initiated the downfall of the Ptolemies when they besought the protection of the Roman Senate. From that moment Egypt became in fact, though not in name, a province of the Roman Empire. Under Philometor Egypt regained something of its former grandeur, and his reign is of note for the secession of the Alexandrian Jews from the Temple of Jerusalem, and the foundation by them of a new temple at Ileliopolis. A revolt of, the always excitable Alexandrians in favour of Cleopatra, the sister and divorced wife of Ptolemy Euergetes II., was the most noteworthy event in the reign of that monarch, from which to that uf 'Cleopatra,.there is nothing to be recorded save a scries of family feuds usually ending in murder or rebellion. Of the battles of Pharsalia and Actium, and the capture of Alexandria by t)ctavianus, nothing need be said here. With the suicide of Cleopatra the Ptolemaic dynasty came to an end, and Egypt became, from that time a Roman province governed by prefects. ALEXANDRIA UNDER THE ROMANS Under Roman rule neither the trade nor the importance o Alexandria showed any visible decline. It continued rich, and was well governed, and we find from the account of Strabo, who visited the city in 11.C. 24, that it had lost none of the features which had rendered it so remarkable under the Ptolemies. "The whole," he says, "is intersected with spacious streets, through which horse.; and chariots pass freely; but two are of greater breadth than the rest, being upwards of a ph'thrum wide, and these intersect each other at right angles. Its temples, grand public buildings, and palaces occupy a fourth or a third of the whole extent ; for every successive king, aspiring to the honour of embellishing these consecrated monuments, added something of his own to what already existed."

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