How Alexandria laid foundations for the modern world

How alexandria laid foundations for the modern world
The port city of Alexandria was ‘the greatest mental crucible the world has ever known’. // Illustration: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the first in a 50-part series charting the history of the planet’s urbanisation, Jack Shenker explores the ancient metropolis of Alexandria, which set a powerful precedent for future cities all over the world

The secret to Alexandria, if classical historians are to be believed, lies in a golden casket. Studded with jewels and small enough to hold in one’s hands, the casket was a war trophy found in the lodgings of vanquished Persian king Darius III more than 2,300 years ago. The man who defeated Darius, Alexander the Great, locked his most treasured possession – the works of Homer – inside it.

Soon after conquering Egypt, Alexander had a dream in which Homer visited him and spoke lines from The Odyssey. Among them was a reference to the Egyptian island of Pharos in the Mediterranean, and so the next morning Alexander travelled to Pharos and stood upon its rocks, clutching the golden casket and staring out at a scrappy, forgotten stretch of coastline. After a long silence, he nodded. From these shores, the most remarkable city the ancient world had ever seen was about to rise.

Today, the original Alexandria lies buried beneath two millennia of urban evolution; the building blocks of its oldest temples and monuments have been carried as far afield as Cairo, London and New York, or else shattered by earthquakes and military invasions, or submerged under the sea. To understand the ancient city, archaeologists have had to peel back the modern one – along with deep and often contradictory layers of myth and folklore. Few metropolises are as steeped in legend as Alexandria, not least because few metropolises have ever attempted to gather together the world’s stories in one place as Alexandria once did, writing a new chapter of urban history in the process. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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