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 p895  Pharos

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p895 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

PHAROS or PHARUS, a light-house. The most celebrated light-house of antiquity was that situated at the entrance to the port of Alexandria. It was built by Sostratus of Cnidos on an island, which bore the same name, by command of one of the Ptolemies, and at an expense of 800 talents (Plin. H. N. XXXVI.12; Steph. Byz. s.v. Φάρος; Achill. Tat. V.6). It was square, constructed of white stone, and with admirable art; exceedingly lofty, and in all respects of great dimensions (Caesar, Bell. Civ. III.112). It contained many stories (πολυόροφον, Strabo, XVII.1 §6), which diminished in width from below upwards (Herodian, IV.3). The upper stories had windows looking seawards, and torches or fires were kept burning in them by night in order to guide vessels into the harbour (Val. Flacc. VII.84; see Bartoli, Luc. Ant. III.12).

Pliny (l.c.) mentions the light-houses of Ostia and Ravenna, and says that there were similar towers at many other places. They are represented on the medals of Apamea and other maritime cities. The name of Pharos was given to them in allusion to that at Alexandria, which was the model for their construction (Herodian, l.c.; Suet. Claud. 20; Brunck, Anal. II.186). The pharos of Brundusium, for example, was, like that of Alexandria, an island with a light-house upon it (Mela, II.7 §13; Steph. Byz. l.c.). Suetonius (Tiber. 74) mentions another pharos at Capreae.

The annexed woodcut shows two phari remaining in Britain. The first is within the precincts of Dover Castle. It is about 40 feet high, octagonal externally, tapering from below upwards, and built with narrow courses of brick and much wider courses of stone in alternate portions. The space within the tower is square, the sides of the octagon without and of the square within being equal, viz., each 15 Roman feet. The door is seen at the bottom (Stukely, Itin. Curios. p129). A similar pharos formerly existed at Boulogne, and is supposed to have been built by Caligula (Sueton. Calig. 46; Montfaucon, Supplem. vol. IV L. VI.3,4). The round tower here introduced is on the summit of a hill on the coast of Flintshire (Pennant, Par. of Whiteford and Holywell, p112).

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Page updated: 10 Dec 16