1
FOUNDATION AND TOPOGRAPHY

I

THE foundation of Alexandria, the first of all Alexander's many foundations, early in 331 B.C. is recorded in simple terms by Arrian, our main historical source for the event. Although much valuable information is contained in the locally composed narrative of the Life of Alexander (Pseudo- Callisthenes), which preserves some traditions concerning the foundation of the city, and some also is to be found in Plutarch Life of Alexander,1 these romantic accounts merit no confidence concerning the original intentions and acts of Alexander.

Arrian recounts2 that after the fall of Tyre in 332/1 B.C. Alexander marched away to the south-west to subdue Egypt, then under Persian hegemony, and to consult the oracle of Zeus Ammon in the Libyan desert. On his way down the Nile from Memphis, where he was crowned Pharaoh, he halted at a point about forty miles north-west of Naucratis, at the western extremity of the Delta, west of the Canopic branch of the Nile, and between Lake Mareotis and the sea. Arrian goes on:3'And it seemed to him that the site was the very best in which to found a city, and that the city would prosper. A longing for the task seized him, and he personally established the main points of the city--where the agora should be constructed, and how many temples there should be, and of which gods, those of the Greek gods and of Egyptian Isis--and what the course of the city-wall should be. And he made sacrifice for the furtherance of these projects, and the omens appeared good.' He then adds the story, which, he says, seems not unreasonable to him, that Alexander had wished to indicate to the builders the line that the walls should take, that in the absence of any material with which to draw the perimeter, one of the builders suggested using the meal which the soldiers were carrying, and that the circumference of the city was thus indicated by Alexander: a procedure which the seers regarded as auguring future prosperity for the new City.4

This is all that Arrian tells us, but his account, though concise, is not uninformative. It indicates the motive of Alexander--commercial prosperity--and also makes it clear that the founder was personally responsible for the plan of the main part of the city. Other accounts, ancient

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Ptolemaic Alexandria
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Publisher's Note (1984) vi
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Corrigenda xvi
  • Part I - The Frame Work 1
  • 1 - Foundation and Topography 3
  • 2 - The Population, its Organization and Composition 38
  • 3 - City and Sovereign 93
  • 4 - Industry and Trade 132
  • 5 - Religious Life 189
  • Part II - The Achievement 303
  • 6 - Ptolemaic Patronage: the Mouseion and Library 305
  • 7 - Alexandrian Science 336
  • 8 - Alexandrian Scholarship 447
  • 9 - Alexandrian Philosophy: the Main Phases 480
  • 10 - Aspects of Alexandrian Literature 495
  • 11 - The Horizon of Callimachus 717
  • Epilogue 794
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