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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database

Ammianus Marcellinus, History, 22.16.7

nanBut the crown of all cities is Alexandria, which is made famous by many splendid things, through the wisdom of its mighty founder and by the cleverness of the architect Dinocrates. The latter, when laying out its extensive and beautiful walls, for lack of lime, of which too little could at the time be found, sprinkled the whole line of its circuit with flour, Cf. Strabo, xvii. 1, 6 (at end); Plutarch, Alex. 26, 5 f. which chanced to be a sign that later the city would abound with a plentiful store of food.

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1. Hebrew Bible, Genesis, 14 (9th cent. BCE - 3rd cent. BCE)

2. Diodorus Siculus, Historical Library, 17.52.3, 17.52.5-17.52.6 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

17.52.3.  Alexander also laid out the walls so that they were at once exceedingly large and marvellously strong. Lying between a great marsh and the sea, it affords by land only two approaches, both narrow and very easily blocked. In shape, it is similar to a chlamys, and it is approximately bisected by an avenue remarkable for its size and beauty. From gate to gate it runs a distance of forty furlongs; it is a plethron in width, and is bordered throughout its length with rich façades of houses and temples. 17.52.5.  The city in general has grown so much in later times that many reckon it to be the first city of the civilized world, and it is certainly far ahead of all the rest in elegance and extent and riches and luxury. 17.52.6.  The number of its inhabitants surpasses that of those in other cities. At the time when we were in Egypt, those who kept the census returns of the population said that its free residents were more than three hundred thousand, and that the king received from the revenues of the country more than six thousand talents.
3. Philo of Alexandria, On The Contemplative Life, 23 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. CE)

23. For the houses built in the fields and the villages which surround it on all sides give it safety; and the admirable temperature of the air proceeds from the continual breezes which come from the lake which falls into the sea, and also from the sea itself in the neighbourhood, the breezes from the sea being light, and those which proceed from the lake which falls into the sea being heavy, the mixture of which produces a most healthy atmosphere.
4. Strabo, Geography, 1.1.1, 2.3.5, 5.1.7, 14.1.23, 14.2.5, 17.1.6-17.1.13, 17.1.49-17.1.50 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

1.1.1. IF the scientific investigation of any subject be the proper avocation of the philosopher, Geography, the science of which we propose to treat, is certainly entitled to a high place; and this is evident from many considerations. They who first ventured to handle the matter were distinguished men. Homer, Anaximander the Milesian, and Hecataeus, (his fellow-citizen according to Eratosthenes,) Democritus, Eudoxus, Dicaearchus, Ephorus, with many others, and after these Erastosthenes, Polybius, and Posidonius, all of them philosophers. Nor is the great learning, through which alone this subject can be approached, possessed by any but a person acquainted with both human and divine things, and these attainments constitute what is called philosophy. In addition to its vast importance in regard to social life, and the art of government, Geography unfolds to us the celestial phenomena, acquaints us with the occupants of the land and ocean, and the vegetation, fruits, and peculiarities of the various quarters of the earth, a knowledge of which marks him who cultivates it as a man earnest in the great problem of life and happiness. 2.3.5. Thus far, says Posidonius, I have followed the history of Eudoxus. What happened afterwards is probably known to the people of Gades and Iberia; but, says he, all these things only demonstrate more clearly the fact, that the inhabited earth is entirely surrounded by the ocean. By no continent fettered in, But boundless in its flow, and free from soil. Posidonius is certainly a most strange writer; he considers that the voyage of the Magus, related by Heraclides, wants sufficient evidence, and also the account given by Herodotus of those sent out [to explore] by Darius. But this Bergaean nonsense, either the coinage of his own brain, or of some other story-teller, in whom he trusts, he pretends to be worthy of our belief. But in the first place, what is there credible in this tale of the Indian missing his way? The Arabian Gulf, which resembles a river, is narrow, and in length is from 5000 to 10,000 stadia up to its mouth, where it is narrowest of all. It is not likely that the Indians in their voyage out would have entered this Gulf by mistake. The extreme narrowness of the mouth must have warned them of their error. And if they entered it voluntarily, then there was no excuse for introducing the pretext of mistake and uncertain winds. And how did they suffer all of themselves but one to perish through hunger? And how was it that this surviver was able to manage the ship, which could not have been a small one either, fitted as it was for traversing such vast seas? What must have been his aptitude in learning the language of the country, and thus being able to persuade the king of his competence, as leader of the expedition? And how came it that Euergetes was in want of such guides, so many being already acquainted with this sea? How was it that he who was sent by the inhabitants of Cyzicus to carry libations and sacrifices, should forsake his city and sail for India? How was it that so great an affair was intrusted to him? And how came it that on his return, after being deprived of every thing contrary to expectation, and disgraced, a yet larger cargo of goods was intrusted to him? And when he had again returned into Ethiopia, what cause induced him to write down the words, or to inquire whence came the portion of the prow of the boat? For to learn that it was a ship of some sailing from the west, would have been no information to him, as he himself would have to sail from the west on his voyage back. When, on his return to Alexandria, he was detected in having appropriated to himself much of the merchandise, how came it that he was not punished, but allowed to go about interrogating the pilots, and exhibiting his bit of prow? And that one of these fellows actually recognised the relic, is it not delicious! Eudoxus too believed it, this is still richer; and inspired by the hope, hastens home, and then starts on a voyage beyond the Pillars of Hercules! But he could never have left Alexandria without a passport, still less after having stolen the royal property. To set sail on the sly was impossible, as the port and every other exit was kept by a numerous guard, which still exists, as we very well know who have lived in Alexandria for a long time, although it is not so strict since the Romans have had possession, but under the kings the guards were infinitely more alert. But allowing that he reached Gades, that he there constructed ships, and sailed thence with quite a royal fleet, when his vessel was shattered, by what means was he able to construct a third boat in a desert land? And when, being again on his voyage, he found that the Ethiopians of the West spoke the same language as those of the East, how came it that he, so proud of his travelling propensities, forgot the completion of his voyage, when he must have had so good an expectation that there was but little now left unexplored, but relinquishing these prospects, set his mind on the expedition being undertaken by Bogus? How did he become acquainted with the snare spread for him by that king? And what advantage would have accrued to Bogus by making away with the man, rather than by dismissing him? When Eudoxus learned the plot against himself, what means had he to escape to safer quarters? It is true that not one of these situations was actually impossible, but still they were difficult circumstances, such as one rarely escapes from by any prosperous fortune. However, he always came off with good luck, notwithstanding he was never out of danger. Besides this, how did it happen, that having escaped from Bogus, he was not afraid to sail round Africa a second time, with all the requisites for taking up his abode on the island? All this too closely resembles the falsehoods of Pytheas, Euhemerus, and Antiphanes. They however may be pardoned; for their only aim was that of the juggler. But who can forgive a demonstrator and philosopher, and one too striving to be at the head of their order? it is really too bad! 5.1.7. These cities are situated high above the marshes; near to them is Patavium, the finest of all the cities in this district, and which at the time of the late census was said to contain 500 equites. Anciently it could muster an army of 120,000 men. The population and skill of this city is evinced by the vast amount of manufactured goods it sends to the Roman market, especially clothing of all kinds. It communicates with the sea by a river navigable from a large harbour [at its mouth], the river runs across the marshes for a distance of 250 stadia. This harbour, as well as the river, is named Medoacus. Situated in the marshes is the great [city of] Ravenna, built entirely on piles, and traversed by canals, which you cross by bridges or ferry-boats. At the full tides it is washed by a considerable quantity of sea-water, as well as by the river, and thus the sewage is carried off, and the air purified; in fact, the district is considered so salubrious that the [Roman] governors have selected it as a spot to bring up and exercise the gladiators in. It is a remarkable peculiarity of this place, that, though situated in the midst of a marsh, the air is perfectly innocuous; the same is the case with respect to Alexandria in Egypt, where the malignity of the lake during summer is entirely removed by the rising of the river which covers over the mud. Another remarkable peculiarity is that of its vines, which, though growing in the marshes, make very quickly and yield a large amount of fruit, but perish in four or five years. Altinum stands likewise in the marshes, its situation being very similar to that of Ravenna. Between them is Butrium, a small city of Ravenna, and Spina, which is now a village, but was anciently a celebrated Grecian city. In fact, the treasures of the Spinitae are shown at Delphi, and it is, besides, reported in history that they had dominion over the sea. They say that it formerly stood on the sea; now, however, the district is inland about 90 stadia from the sea. Ravenna is reported to have been founded by Thessalians, who not being able to sustain the violence of the Tyrrheni, welcomed into their city some of the Ombrici, who still possess it, while they themselves returned home. These cities for the most part are surrounded, and, as it were, washed by the marshes. 14.1.23. After the completion of the temple of Artemis, which, he says, was the work of Cheirocrates (the same man who built Alexandreia and the same man who proposed to Alexander to fashion Mt. Athos into his likeness, representing him as pouring a libation from a kind of ewer into a broad bowl, and to make two cities, one on the right of the mountain and the other on the left, and a river flowing from one to the other) — after the completion of the temple, he says, the great number of dedications in general were secured by means of the high honor they paid their artists, but the whole of the altar was filled, one might say, with the works of Praxiteles. They showed me also some of the works of Thrason, who made the chapel of Hecate, the waxen image of Penelope, and the old woman Eurycleia. They had eunuchs as priests, whom they called Megabyzi. And they were always in quest of persons from other places who were worthy of this preferment, and they held them in great honor. And it was obligatory for maidens to serve as colleagues with them in their priestly office. But though at the present some of their usages are being preserved, yet others are not; but the sanctuary remains a place of refuge, the same as in earlier times, although the limits of the refuge have often been changed; for example, when Alexander extended them for a stadium, and when Mithridates shot an arrow from the corner of the roof and thought it went a little farther than a stadium, and when Antony doubled this distance and included within the refuge a part of the city. But this extension of the refuge proved harmful, and put the city in the power of criminals; and it was therefore nullified by Augustus Caesar. 14.2.5. The city of the Rhodians lies on the eastern promontory of Rhodes; and it is so far superior to all others in harbors and roads and walls and improvements in general that I am unable to speak of any other city as equal to it, or even as almost equal to it, much less superior to it. It is remarkable also for its good order, and for its careful attention to the administration of affairs of state in general; and in particular to that of naval affairs, whereby it held the mastery of the sea for a long time and overthrew the business of piracy, and became a friend to the Romans and to all kings who favoured both the Romans and the Greeks. Consequently it not only has remained autonomous. but also has been adorned with many votive offerings, which for the most part are to be found in the Dionysium and the gymnasium, but partly in other places. The best of these are, first, the Colossus of Helius, of which the author of the iambic verse says,seven times ten cubits in height, the work of Chares the Lindian; but it now lies on the ground, having been thrown down by an earthquake and broken at the knees. In accordance with a certain oracle, the people did not raise it again. This, then, is the most excellent of the votive offerings (at any rate, it is by common agreement one of the Seven Wonders); and there are also the paintings of Protogenes, his Ialysus and also his Satyr, the latter standing by a pillar, on top of which stood a male partridge. And at this partridge, as would be natural, the people were so agape when the picture had only recently been set up, that they would behold him with wonder but overlook the Satyr, although the latter was a very great success. But the partridge-breeders were still more amazed, bringing their tame partridges and placing them opposite the painted partridge; for their partridges would make their call to the painting and attract a mob of people. But when Protogenes saw that the main part of the work had become subordinate, he begged those who were in charge of the sacred precinct to permit him to go there and efface the partridge, and so he did. The Rhodians are concerned for the people in general, although their rule is not democratic; still, they wish to take care of their multitude of poor people. Accordingly, the people are supplied with provisions and the needy are supported by the well-to-do, by a certain ancestral custom; and there are certain liturgies that supply provisions, so that at the same time the poor man receives his sustece and the city does not run short of useful men, and in particular for the manning of the fleets. As for the roadsteads, some of them were kept hidden and forbidden to the people in general; and death was the penalty for any person who spied on them or passed inside them. And here too, as in Massalia and Cyzicus, everything relating to the architects, the manufacture of instruments of war, and the stores of arms and everything else are objects of exceptional care, and even more so than anywhere else. 17.1.6. As Alexandreia and its neighbourhood occupy the greatest and principal portion of the description, I shall begin with it.In sailing towards the west, the sea-coast from Pelusium to the Canobic mouth of the Nile is about 1300 stadia in extent, and constitutes, as we have said, the base of the Delta. Thence to the island Pharos are 150 stadia more.Pharos is a small oblong island, and lies quite close to the continent, forming towards it a harbour with a double entrance. For the coast abounds with bays, and has two promontories projecting into the sea. The island is situated between these, and shuts in the bay, lying lengthways in front of it.of the extremities of the Pharos, the eastern is nearest to the continent and to the promontory in that direction, called Lochias, which is the cause of the entrance to the port being narrow. Besides the narrowness of the passage, there are rocks, some under water, others rising above it, which at all times increase the violence of the waves rolling in upon them from the open sea. This extremity itself of the island is a rock, washed by the sea on all sides, with a tower upon it of the same name as the island, admirably constructed of white marble, with several stories. Sostratus of Cnidus, a friend of the kings, erected it for the safety of mariners, as the inscription imports. For as the coast on each side is low and without harbours, with reefs and shallows, an elevated and conspicuous mark was required to enable navigators coming in from the open sea to direct their course exactly to the entrance of the harbour.The western mouth does not afford an easy entrance, but it does not require the same degree of caution as the other. It forms also another port, which has the name of Eunostus, or Happy Return: it lies in front of the artificial and close harbour. That which has its entrance at the above-mentioned tower of Pharos is the great harbour. These (two) lie contiguous in the recess called Heptastadium, and are separated from it by a mound. This mound forms a bridge from the continent to the island, and extends along its western side, leaving two passages only through it to the harbour of Eunostus, which are bridged over. But this work served not only as a bridge, but as an aqueduct also, when the island was inhabited. Divus Caesar devastated the island, in his war against the people of Alexandreia, when they espoused the party of the kings. A few sailors live near the tower.The great harbour, in addition to its being well enclosed by the mound and by nature, is of sufficient depth near the shore to allow the largest vessel to anchor near the stairs. It is also divided into several ports.The former kings of Egypt, satisfied with what they possessed, and not desirous of foreign commerce, entertained a dislike to all mariners, especially the Greeks (who, on account of the poverty of their own country, ravaged and coveted the property of other nations), and stationed a guard here, who had orders to keep off all persons who approached. To the guard was assigned as a place of residence the spot called Rhacotis, which is now a part of the city of Alexandreia, situated above the arsenal. At that time, however, it was a village. The country about the village was given up to herdsmen, who were also able (from their numbers) to prevent strangers from entering the country.When Alexander arrived, and perceived the advantages of the situation, he determined to build the city on the (natural) harbour. The prosperity of the place, which ensued, was intimated, it is said, by a presage which occurred while the plan of the city was tracing. The architects were engaged in marking out the line of the wall with chalk, and had consumed it all, when the king arrived; upon which the dispensers of flour supplied the workmen with a part of the flour, which was provided for their own use; and this substance was used in tracing the greater part of the divisions of the streets. This, they said, was a good omen for the city. 17.1.7. The advantages of the city are of various kinds. The site is washed by two seas; on the north, by what is called the Egyptian Sea, and on the south, by the sea of the lake Mareia, which is also called Mareotis. This lake is filled by many canals from the Nile, both by those above and those at the sides, through which a greater quantity of merchandise is imported than by those communicating with the sea. Hence the harbour on the lake is richer than the maritime harbour. The exports by sea from Alexandreia exceed the imports. This any person may ascertain, either at Alexandreia or Dicaearchia, by watching the arrival and departure of the merchant vessels, and observing how much heavier or lighter their cargoes are when they depart or when they return.In addition to the wealth derived from merchandise landed at the harbours on each side, on the sea and on the lake, its fine air is worthy of remark: this results from the city being on two sides surrounded by water, and from the favourable effects of the rise of the Nile. For other cities, situated near lakes, have, during the heats of summer, a heavy and suffocating atmosphere, and lakes at their margins become swampy by the evaporation occasioned by the sun's heat. When a large quantity of moisture is exhaled from swamps, a noxious vapour rises, and is the cause of pestilential disorders. But at Alexandreia, at the beginning of summer, the Nile, being full, fills the lake also, and leaves no marshy matter which is likely to occasion maligt exhalations. At the same period, the Etesian winds blow from the north, over a large expanse of sea, and the Alexandrines in consequence pass their summer very pleasantly. 17.1.8. The shape of the site of the city is that of a chlamys or military cloak. The sides, which determine the length, are surrounded by water, and are about thirty stadia in extent; but the isthmuses, which determine the breadth of the sides, are each of seven or eight stadia, bounded on one side by the sea, and on the other by the lake. The whole city is intersected by roads for the passage of horsemen and chariots. Two of these are very broad, exceeding a plethrum in breadth, and cut one another at right angles. It contains also very beautiful public grounds and royal palaces, which occupy a fourth or even a third part of its whole extent. For as each of the kings was desirous of adding some embellishment to the places dedicated to the public use, so, besides the buildings already existing, each of them erected a building at his own expense; hence the expression of the poet may be here applied, one after the other springs. All the buildings are connected with one another and with the harbour, and those also which are beyond it.The Museum is a part of the palaces. It has a public walk and a place furnished with seats, and a large hall, in which the men of learning, who belong to the Museum, take their common meal. This community possesses also property in common; and a priest, formerly appointed by the kings, but at present by Caesar, presides over the Museum.A part belonging to the palaces consists of that called Sema, an enclosure, which contained the tombs of the kings and that of Alexander (the Great). For Ptolemy the son of Lagus took away the body of Alexander from Perdiccas, as he was conveying it down from Babylon; for Perdiccas had turned out of his road towards Egypt, incited by ambition and a desire of making himself master of the country. When Ptolemy had attacked [and made him prisoner], he intended to [spare his life and] confine him in a desert island, but he met with a miserable end at the hand of his own soldiers, who rushed upon and despatched him by transfixing him with the long Macedonian spears. The kings who were with him, Aridaeus, and the children of Alexander, and Roxana his wife, departed to Macedonia. Ptolemy carried away the body of Alexander, and deposited it at Alexandreia in the place where it now lies; not indeed in the same coffin, for the present one is of hyalus (alabaster ?) whereas Ptolemy had deposited it in one of gold: it was plundered by Ptolemy surnamed Cocce's son and Pareisactus, who came from Syria and was quickly deposed, so that his plunder was of no service to him. 17.1.9. In the great harbour at the entrance, on the right hand, are the island and the Pharos tower; on the left are the reef of rocks and the promontory Lochias, with a palace upon it: at the entrance, on the left hand, are the inner palaces, which are continuous with those on the Lochias, and contain numerous painted apartments and groves. Below lies the artificial and close harbour, appropriated to the use of the kings; and Antirrhodus a small island, facing the artificial harbour, with a palace on it, and a small port. It was called Antirrhodus, a rival as it were of Rhodes.Above this is the theatre, then the Poseidium, a kind of elbow projecting from the Emporium, as it is called, with a temple of Neptune upon it. To this Antony added a mound, projecting still further into the middle of the harbour, and built at the extremity a royal mansion, which he called Timonium. This was his last act, when, deserted by his partisans, he retired to Alexandreia after his defeat at Actium, and intended, being forsaken by so many friends, to lead the [solitary] life of Timon for the rest of his days.Next are the Caesarium, the Emporium, and the Apostaseis, or magazines: these are followed by docks, extending to the Heptastadium. This is the description of the great harbour. 17.1.10. Next after the Heptastadium is the harbour of Eunostus, and above this the artificial harbour, called Cibotus (or the Ark), which also has docks. At the bottom of this harbour is a navigable canal, extending to the lake Mareotis. Beyond the canal there still remains a small part of the city. Then follows the suburb Necropolis, in which are numerous gardens, burial-places, and buildings for carrying on the process of embalming the dead.On this side the canal is the Sarapium and other ancient sacred places, which are now abandoned on account of the erection of the temples at Nicopolis; for [there are situated] an amphitheatre and a stadium, and there are celebrated quinquennial games; but the ancient rites and customs are neglected.In short, the city of Alexandreia abounds with public and sacred buildings. The most beautiful of the former is the Gymnasium, with porticos exceeding a stadium in extent. In the middle of it are the court of justice and groves. Here also is a Paneium, an artificial mound of the shape of a fir-cone, resembling a pile of rock, to the top of which there is an ascent by a spiral path. From the summit may be seen the whole city lying all around and beneath it.The wide street extends in length along the Gymnasium from the Necropolis to the Canobic gate. Next is the Hippodromos (or race-course), as it is called, and other buildings near it, and reaching to the Canobic canal. After passing through the Hippodromos is the Nicopolis, which contains buildings fronting the sea not less numerous than a city. It is 30 stadia distant from Alexandreia. Augustus Caesar distinguished this place, because it was here that he defeated Antony and his party of adherents. He took the city at the first onset, and compelled Antony to put himself to death, but Cleopatra to surrender herself alive. A short time afterwards, however, she also put an end to her life secretly, in prison, by the bite of an asp, or (for there are two accounts) by the application of a poisonous ointment. Thus the empire of the Lagidae, which had subsisted many years, was dissolved. 17.1.11. Alexander was succeeded by Ptolemy the son of Lagus, the son of Lagus by Philadelphus, Philadelphus by Euergetes; next succeeded Philopator the lover of Agathocleia, then Epiphanes, afterwards Philometor, the son (thus far) always succeeding the father. But Philometor was succeeded by his brother, the second Euergetes, who was also called Physcon. He was succeeded by Ptolemy surnamed Lathurus, Lathurus by Auletes of our time, who was the father of Cleopatra. All these kings, after the third Ptolemy, were corrupted by luxury and effeminacy, and the affairs of government were very badly administered by them; but worst of all by the fourth, the seventh, and the last, Auletes (or the Piper), who, besides other deeds of shamelessness, acted the piper; indeed he gloried so much in the practice, that he scrupled not to appoint trials of skill in his palace; on which occasions he presented himself as a competitor with other rivals. He was deposed by the Alexandrines; and of his three daughters, one, the eldest, who was legitimate, they proclaimed queen; but his two sons, who were infants, were absolutely excluded from the succession.As a husband for the daughter established on the throne, the Alexandrines invited one Cybiosactes from Syria, who pretended to be descended from the Syrian kings. The queen after a few days, unable to endure his coarseness and vulgarity, rid herself of him by causing him to be strangled. She afterwards married Archelaus, who also pretended to be the son of Mithridates Eupator, but he was really the son of that Archelaus who carried on war against Sulla, and was afterwards honourably treated by the Romans. He was grandfather of the last king of Cappadocia in our time, and priest of Comana in Pontus. He was then (at the time we are speaking of) the guest of Gabinius, and intended to accompany him in an expedition against the Parthians, but unknown to Gabinius, he was conducted away by some (friends) to the queen, and declared king.At this time Pompey the Great entertained Auletes as his guest on his arrival at Rome, and recommended him to the senate, negotiated his return, and contrived the execution of most of the deputies, in number a hundred, who had undertaken to appear against him: at their head was Dion the academic philosopher.Ptolemy (Auletes) on being restored by Gabinius, put to death both Archelaus and his daughter; but not long after he was reinstated in his kingdom, he died a natural death, leaving two sons and two daughters, the eldest of whom was Cleopatra.The Alexandrines declared as sovereigns the eldest son and Cleopatra. But the adherents of the son excited a sedition, and banished Cleopatra, who retired with her sister into Syria.It was about this time that Pompey the Great, in his flight from Palaepharsalus, came to Pelusium and Mount Casium. He was treacherously slain by the king's party. When Caesar arrived, he put the young prince to death, and sending for Cleopatra from her place of exile, appointed her queen of Egypt, declaring also her surviving brother, who was very young, and herself joint sovereigns.After the death of Caesar and the battle at Pharsalia, Antony passed over into Asia; he raised Cleopatra to the highest dignity, made her his wife, and had children by her. He was present with her at the battle of Actium, and accompanied her in her flight. Augustus Caesar pursued them, put an end to their power, and rescued Egypt from misgovernment and revelry. 17.1.12. At present Egypt is a (Roman) province, pays considerable tribute, and is well governed by prudent persons, who are sent there in succession. The governor thus sent out has the rank of king. Subordinate to him is the administrator of justice, who is the supreme judge in many causes. There is another officer, who is called Idiologus, whose business it is to inquire into property for which there is no claimant, and which of right falls to Caesar. These are accompanied by Caesar's freedmen and stewards, who are entrusted with affairs of more or less importance.Three legions are stationed in Egypt, one in the city, the rest in the country. Besides these there are also nine Roman cohorts, three quartered in the city, three on the borders of Ethiopia in Syene, as a guard to that tract, and three in other parts of the country. There are also three bodies of cavalry distributed in convenient posts.of the native magistrates in the cities, the first is the expounder of the law, who is dressed in scarlet; he receives the customary honours of the country, and has the care of providing what is necessary for the city. The second is the writer of records, the third is the chief judge. The fourth is the commander of the night guard. These magistrates existed in the time of the kings, but in consequence of the bad administration of affairs by the latter, the prosperity of the city was ruined by licentiousness. Polybius expresses his indignation at the state of things when lie was there: he describes the inhabitants of the city to be composed of three classes; the (first) Egyptians and natives, acute but indifferent citizens, and meddling with civil affairs. Tile second, the mercenaries, a numerous and undisciplined body ; for it was an ancient custom to maintain foreign soldiers, who, from the worthlessness of their sovereigns, knew better how to govern than to obey. The third were the Alexandrines, who, for the same reason, were not orderly citizens; but still they were better than the mercenaries, for although they were a mixed race, yet being of Greek origin, they retained the customs common to the Greeks. But this class was extinct nearly about the time of Euergetes Physcon, in whose reign Polybius came to Alexandreia. For Physcon, being distressed by factions, frequently exposed the multitude to the attacks of the soldiery, and thus destroyed them. By such a state of things in the city the words of the poet (says Polybius) were verified: The way to Egypt is long and vexatious. 17.1.13. Such then, if not worse, was the condition of the city under the last kings. The Romans, as far as they were able, corrected, as I have said, many abuses, and established an orderly government, by appointing vice-governors, nomarchs, and ethnarchs, whose business it was to superintend affairs of minor importance.The greatest advantage which the city possesses arises from its being the only place in all Egypt well situated by nature for communication with the sea by its excellent harbour, and with the land by the river, by means of which everything is easily transported and collected together into this city, which is the greatest mart in the habitable world.These may be said to be the superior excellencies of the city. Cicero, in one of his orations, in speaking of the revenues of Egypt, states that an annual tribute of 12,000 talents was paid to Auletes, the father of Cleopatra. If then a king, who administered his government in the worst possible manner, and with the greatest negligence, obtained so large a revenue, what must we suppose it to be at present, when affairs are administered with great care, and when the commerce with India and with Troglodytica has been so greatly increased ? For formerly not even twenty vessels ventured to navigate the Arabian Gulf, or advance to the smallest distance beyond the straits at its mouth; but now large fleets are despatched as far as India and the extremities of Ethiopia, from which places the most valuable freights are brought to Egypt, and are thence exported to other parts, so that a double amount of custom is collected, arising from imports on the one hand, and from exports on the other. The most expensive description of goods is charged with the heaviest impost; for in fact Alexandreia has a monopoly of trade, and is almost the only receptacle for this kind of merchandise and place of supply for foreigners. The natural convenience of the situation is still more apparent to persons travelling through the country, and particularly along the coast which commences at the Catabathmus; for to this place Egypt extends.Next to it is Cyrenaea, and the neighboring barbarians, the Marmaridae. 17.1.49. A little above Elephantine is the lesser cataract, where the boatmen exhibit a sort of spectacle to the governors.The cataract is in the middle of the river, and is formed by a ridge of rock, the upper part [or commencement] of which is level, and thus capable of receiving the river, but terminating in a precipice, where the water dashes down. On each side towards the land there is a stream, up which is the chief ascent for vessels. The boatmen sail up by this stream, and, dropping down to the cataract, are impelled with the boat to the precipice, the crew and the boats escaping unhurt.A little above the cataract is Philae, a common settlement, like Elephantine, of Ethiopians and Egyptians, and equal in size, containing Egyptian temples, where a bird, which they call hierax, (the hawk,) is worshipped; but it did not appear to me to resemble in the least the hawks of our country nor of Egypt, for it was larger, and very different in the marks of its plumage. They said that the bird was Ethiopian, and is brought from Ethiopia when its predecessor dies, or before its death. The one shown to us when we were there was sick and nearly dead. 17.1.50. We came from Syene to Philae in a waggon, through a very flat country, a distance of about 100 stadia. Along the whole road on each side we could see, in many places, very high rocks, round, very smooth, and nearly spherical, of black hard stone, of which mortars are made: each rested upon a greater stone, and upon this another: they were like hermaea. Sometimes these stones consisted of one mass. The largest was not less than twelve feet in diameter, and all of them exceeded this size by one half. We crossed over to the island in a pacton, which is a small boat made of rods, whence it resembles woven-work. Standing then in the water, (at the bottom of the boat,) or sitting upon some little planks, we easily crossed over, with some alarm indeed, but without good cause for it, as there is no danger if the boat is not overloaded.
5. Dio Chrysostom, Orations, 32.35-32.36 (1st cent. CE

32.35.  But to take just that topic which I mentioned in the beginning, see how important it is. For how you dine in private, how you sleep, how you manage your household, these are matters in which as individuals you are not at all conspicuous; on the other hand, how you behave as spectators and what you are like in the theatre are matters of common knowledge among Greeks and barbarians alike. For your city is vastly superior in point of size and situation, and it is admittedly ranked second among all cities beneath the sun. 32.36.  For not only does the mighty nation, Egypt, constitute the framework of your city — or more accurately its ')" onMouseOut="nd();"appendage — but the peculiar nature of the river, when compared with all others, defies description with regard to both its marvellous habits and its usefulness; and furthermore, not only have you a monopoly of the shipping of the entire Mediterranean by reason of the beauty of your harbours, the magnitude of your fleet, and the abundance and the marketing of the products of every land, but also the outer waters that lie beyond are in your grasp, both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, whose name was rarely heard in former days. The result is that the trade, not merely of islands, ports, a few straits and isthmuses, but of practically the whole world is yours. For Alexandria is situated, as it were, at the cross-roads of the whole world, of even the most remote nations thereof, as if it were a market serving a single city, a market which brings together into one place all manner of men, displaying them to one another and, as far as possible, making them a kindred people.
6. Josephus Flavius, Jewish War, 2.385-2.387, 4.612-4.613, 4.656 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

2.385. This country is extended as far as the Ethiopians, and Arabia the Happy, and borders upon India; it hath seven million five hundred thousand men, besides the inhabitants of Alexandria, as may be learned from the revenue of the poll tax; yet it is not ashamed to submit to the Roman government, although it hath Alexandria as a grand temptation to a revolt, by reason it is so full of people and of riches, and is besides exceeding large 2.386. its length being thirty furlongs, and its breadth no less than ten; and it pays more tribute to the Romans in one month than you do in a year; nay, besides what it pays in money, it sends corn to Rome that supports it for four months [in the year]: it is also walled round on all sides, either by almost impassable deserts, or seas that have no havens, or by rivers, or by lakes; 2.387. yet have none of these things been found too strong for the Roman good fortune; however, two legions that lie in that city are a bridle both for the remoter parts of Egypt, and for the parts inhabited by the more noble Macedonians. 4.612. The haven also of Alexandria is not entered by the mariners without difficulty, even in times of peace; for the passage inward is narrow, and full of rocks that lie under the water, which oblige the mariners to turn from a straight direction: 4.613. its left side is blocked up by works made by men’s hands on both sides; on its right side lies the island called Pharus, which is situated just before the entrance, and supports a very great tower, that affords the sight of a fire to such as sail within three hundred furlongs of it, that ships may cast anchor a great way off in the nighttime, by reason of the difficulty of sailing nearer. 4.656. 5. And now, as Vespasian was come to Alexandria, this good news came from Rome, and at the same time came embassies from all his own habitable earth, to congratulate him upon his advancement; and though this Alexandria was the greatest of all cities next to Rome, it proved too narrow to contain the multitude that then came to it.
7. Pliny The Elder, Natural History, 5.62 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

8. Plutarch, Alexander The Great, 26.5-26.6 (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

26.5. There was no chalk at hand, so they took barley-meal Cf. Arrian, Anab. iii. 2, 1 . and marked out with it on the dark soil a rounded area, to whose inner arc straight lines extended so as to produce the figure of a chlamys, or military cloak, the lines beginning from the skirts (as one may say), and narrowing the breadth of the area uniformly. See Tarbell, The Form of the Chlamys, Classical Philology, 1906, p. 285. The king was delighted with the design; but suddenly birds from the river and the lagoon, infinite in number and of every sort and size, settled down upon the place like clouds and devoured every particle of the barley-meal, so that even Alexander was greatly disturbed at the omen. 26.6. However, the seers exhorted him to be of good cheer, since the city here founded by him would have most abundant and helpful resources and be a nursing mother for men of every nation, and so he ordered those in charge of the work to proceed with it, while he himself set out for the temple of Ammon. The journey thither was long, full of toils and hardships, and had two perils. One is the dearth of water, which leaves the traveller destitute of it for many days; the other arises when a fierce south wind smites men travelling in sand of boundless depth, as is said to have been the case with the army of Cambyses, long ago; the wind raised great billows of sand all over the plain and buried up fifty thousand men, to their utter destruction. Cf. Herod. iii. 26.
9. Achilles Tatius, The Adventures of Leucippe And Cleitophon, 5.1 (2nd cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

10. Ammianus Marcellinus, History, 22.16.8-22.16.12, 22.16.15, 22.16.17-22.16.19 (4th cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

22.16.8. There healthful breezes blow, the air is calm and mild, and as the accumulated experience of many ages has shown, there is almost no day on which the dwellers in that city do not see a cloudless sun. 22.16.9. Since this coast in former times, because of its treacherous and perilous approaches, involved seafarers in many dangers, Cleopatra The pharos was the work of Sostrates of Cnidus, master-builder of Ptolemy Philadelphus. It was destroyed during the Alexandrine war, and rebuilt by Cleopatra. devised a lofty tower in the harbour, which from its situation is called the Pharos It was built on an island called Pharos; its height is estimated to have been about 360 feet, and its base 82 feet square. It stood until 1477 or 1478, when a fort was built from its material. and furnishes the means of showing lights to ships by night; whereas before that, as they came from the Parthenian or the Libyan sea past flat and low shores, seeing no landmarks of mountains or signs of hills, they were dashed upon the soft, tenacious sandbanks and wrecked. 22.16.10. This same queen built the Heptastadium, A causeway seven stadia in length; it is now, generally speaking, a mile wide, and forms a large part of the site of the modern city (Strabo, L.C.L., vol. viii. p. 27, n. 2. Cf. Strabo, xvii. 1, 6 (p. 792). This also is earlier than Cleopatra. remarkable alike for its great size and for the incredible speed with which it was constructed, for a well-known and sufficient reason. The island of Pharos, where Proteus, as Homer relates in lofty language, Odyss. iv. 400 ff. lived with his herd of seals, lay a mile from the shore of the city, and was subject to tribute by the Rhodians. 22.16.11. When they had come one day to collect this tax, which was excessive, the queen, who was ever skilled in deception, under pretence of a solemn festival, took the same tax-collectors with her to the suburbs, and gave orders that the work should be completed by unremitting toil. In seven days, by building dams in the sea near the shore, the same number of stadia were won for the land; then the queen rode to the spot in a carriage drawn by horses, and laughed at the Rhodians, since it was on islands and not on the mainland that they imposed a duty. The language is somewhat obscure, but the meaning is clear. The Heptastadion connected the island of Pharos with the mainland, and so took away the right of the Rhodians to tax it as an island. 22.16.12. There are besides in the city temples pompous with lofty roofs, conspicuous among them the Serapeum, which, though feeble words merely belittle it, yet is so adorned with extensive columned halls, with almost breathing statues, and a great number of other works of art, that next to the Capitolium, with which revered Rome elevates herself to eternity, the whole world beholds nothing more magnificent. 22.16.15. But Alexandria herself, not gradually (like other cities), but at her very origin, attained her wide extent; and for a long time she was greviously troubled by internal dissensions, until at last, many years later under the rule of Aurelian, In A.D. 272. the quarrels of the citizens turned into deadly strife; then her by Caesar has been greatly exaggerated. Strabo, who visited Alexandria twenty-three years later, found the Museum intact. The Bruchion library was destroyed A.D. 272; the Serapeum in A.D. 391. 400,000 volumes were destroyed in the Alexandrine war. See especially J. W. White, The Scholia on the Aves of Aristophanes, Introd. walls were destroyed and she lost the greater part of the district called Bruchion, This included at least a fourth part of the city, and con- tained the royal palace. which had long been the abode of distinguished men. 22.16.17. And although very many writers flourished in early times as well as these whom I have mentioned, nevertheless not even to-day is learning of various kinds silent in that same city; for the teachers of the arts show signs of life, and the geometrical measuring-rod brings to light whatever is concealed, the stream of music is not yet wholly dried up among them, harmony is not reduced to silence, the consideration of the motion of the universe and of the stars is still kept warm with some, few though they be, and there are others who are skilled in numbers; and a few besides are versed in the knowledge which reveals the course of the fates. 22.16.18. Moreover, studies in the art of healing, whose help is often required in this life of ours, which is neither frugal nor sober, are so enriched from day to day, that although a physician’s work itself indicates it, yet in place of every testimony it is enough to commend his knowledge of the art, if he has said that he was trained at Alexandria. 22.16.19. But enough on this point. If one wishes to investigate with attentive mind the many publications on the knowledge of the divine, and the origin of divination, he will find that learning of this kind has been spread abroad from Egypt through the whole world
11. Curtius Rufus, Historiae Alexandri Magni, 4.8.6

Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
alexander the great Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13; Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150; Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 14
alexandria, serapeum Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 337, 338
alexandria, temples Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 337
alexandria, tychaeum Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 338
alexandria Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13; Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 337, 338
ambitio Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149
antioch Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 23
architect-autocrat relationship Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
aristander of telmessos Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
augustus/octavian Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 15
bird Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
body, and character Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
body Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
chalk Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
city of alexandria, city walls Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 14
city of alexandria, great harbor Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 23
city of alexandria, island of pharos Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 23
city of alexandria, streets Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 15
commendatio Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
de architectura, diagnostic passages Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149
dinocrates macedonian architect Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
diodorus siculus Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 5, 23
dream Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
egypt/ägypten Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
emperor and architect, relational paradigm Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
ethics, of architect Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
forma Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
gratia Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149
historia Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
homer Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
isis Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 14
jews in alexandria, jewish district/delta quarter Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 23
josephus, on the city of alexandria Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 5, 23
josephus Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 5
judgment Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149
lucretius Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149
macedonian Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
notitia urbis alexandrinae Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 337
omen Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
pagan, paganism Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 337
pharos Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
philo, descriptions of the city of alexandria Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 14
population of alexandria Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 23
ptolemaic Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
representation, of ruler Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
scientia Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149
seer Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
serapis Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 338
speaking names Oksanish, Vitruvian Man: Rome Under Construction (2019) 149, 150
strabo, description of alexandria Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 14, 15, 23
strabo, topography of alexandria Schliesser et al., Alexandria: Hub of the Hellenistic World (2021) 14
temple destruction' Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 338
temple destruction Hahn Emmel and Gotter, Usages of the Past in Roman Historiography (2008) 337
tradition Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13
ägypten/egypt Bezzel and Pfeiffer, Prophecy and Hellenism (2021) 13