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date: 19 January 2021

Alexandria(1)locked

  • Dominic W. Rathbone

Extract

Alexandria (1) was founded by *Alexander (3) the Great in 331 bce when he took *Egypt from the Persians. It was developed principally by the first two Ptolemies, who made it the capital of their kingdom and the main Mediterranean port of Egypt (see ptolemy (1)). It was founded as a theoretically autonomous city (*polis) of the traditional Greek type, modelled in several respects on Athens: it had an exclusive hereditary citizenship organized by *demes, probably with an assembly (*ekklēsia), council (*boulē), and annually elected magistrates, it had its own territory, restricted to citizen-owners and exempt from direct royal taxation, its own coinage, and its own laws. Its founding citizens were recruited from all over the Greek world; there were also numerous non-citizen residents of Egyptian and other ethnic origin, including a large Jewish community which acquired special privileges though not full citizenship. Alexandria soon became one of the largest and grandest cities of the Mediterranean world, famed for the monumental magnificence of its two main intersecting streets, its palace-quarter with the tomb of Alexander and the *Museum and *library, its Serapeum (see sarapis), *gymnasium, and Pharus, the *lighthouse at the entrance to its two capacious artificial harbours.

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