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date: 06 December 2022



  • Nicholas Purcell


  • Greek Material Culture
  • Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • Roman Material Culture

Tall monuments which might function as navigational marks were an early feature of ancient harbour-architecture (Archaic examples are known on Thasos). The idea became celebrated with the building of the 100-m. (328-ft.) tower on the Pharus island at Alexandria (1), which gave its name to the architectural genre (c.300–280 bce, by Sostratus of Cnidus (Strabo 17. 1. 6)), and the colossus of Helios at Rhodes (280 bce, by Chares (4) of Lindus (Plin. HN 34. 41)): both so famous as to be reckoned among the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Beacon-fires made such monuments more visible by night as well as by day: but their function as signs of conquest and displays of prestige was as important. Claudius' lighthouse tower at Portus, intended to rival the Pharus, became a symbol of Rome's port and its activities. The (partly preserved) lighthouse at Dover castle, and its opposite number at Boulogne (Gesoriacum) suggested the taming of the Channel; another survives at La Coruña (Brigantium) at the Atlantic extremity of Spain. Such towers became familiar features of the waterfronts of many famous cities.


  • M.-H. Quet, Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'École française de Rome 1984, 789–845.
  • S. Hutter, Der Leuchtturm von La Coruña (1973).
  • T. Kozelj and M. Wurch-Kozelj, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 1989, 161–81.