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Sostratus and The Lighthouse of Alexandria

Lighthouse_-_ThierschToday I share a story of why your inscriptions come first.

One of the seven wonders of the ancient world The Lighthouse of Alexandria (sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria) was the brainchild of Ptolemy I, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. It was finally finished during the reign of his son Ptolemy II Philadeiphus.

For many centuries it was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world.

The man credited with erecting the lighthouse was Sostratus the Cnidian, a famed architect and builder who was said to have constructed a “hanging garden” in his home town and other magnificent buildings.

More on why he’s not forgotten in this story in a minute…

Alexandria at this time in the third century BCE Egypt was the jewel of the ancient world, prosperous and peaceful, famed for its unique museum and library, which played host to the greatest thinkers of antiquity, from Archimedes to Euclid.

But Alexandria had a problem. The city was built on an almost totally flat stretch of the Mediterranean coastline, making its harbor hard to locate.

Surrounding the harbor were dangerous shoal waters, reefs, and sandbanks that even the most skillful captains could run into difficulties when navigating.

For Alexandria to become a key port there was a pressing need to construct some sort of navigational landmark that sailors approaching the city could use to ensure their safe passage, preferably both by day and night. In short—a lighthouse.

The great lighthouse took 12 years to build and was to be constructed in granite and limestone blocks faced with white marble. Its total height was said to be between 393 – 450 ft (120 – 137 meters)—that is about the height of a modern 40 story skyscraper.

This would have been truly magnificent sight and building to see in person.

Erected on a solid base, it would have 3 levels. One for all the workers needed to fuel the great light. The second floor was octagonal in shape, decorated exquisitely and commanded a sweeping panorama over both the city and the sea viewed no doubt by many of the people and visitors of Alexandria.

The third level housed an enormous reflector, quite probably of parabolic shape (a first in scientific design) made of a polished brass.

I’ve glossed over how truly amazing the internal works must have been so it’s worth looking up if this strikes you.

The light of Phraros was designed to shine both night and day. While no one knows for sure the general consensus is that the light it bore could be seen from about 30 miles out to sea.

For both the Alexandrians and the sailors who got a a first glance the Lighthouse it would have been a truly epic sight.

There’s a story told a few years later by the ancient writer Lucian of Samosata about the inauguration of the lighthouse.

Lucian recounts how, when it came time to place a dedicatory inscription on the buildings entrance, Sostratus (the architect and builder) knew this would have to be to Ptolemy II and his wife. But he did not want to be forgotten.

So, he had his inscription engraved in the stone, then had it plastered over and the dedication to Plotemies etched into the plaster.

In time, and long after Ptolemy’s death, Sostratus hoped that the plaster would eventually crumble to reveal the words: ‘Sostratus, son of Dixiphanes the Cnidian, dedicated this to the Savior Gods, on behalf of all those who sail the seas’

This is the inscription that many classical authors record as being carved into the lighthouse. Whether or not it was what Ptolemy saw at its dedication, however, will forever remain a mystery.

One thing is for sure, this solidified that Sostratus the Cnidian will never be forgotten as the architect and builder tasked with bringing to life one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Now you can do the same.

There are giants and thinkers in your market. They are providing guidance and a light for others to follow.

You can be seen in the same light as these leaders.

When you cite these great thinkers put your inscription (commentary) first.

It’s simple really.

What does your reader or visitor read first?

Your commentary, your insight, and your value. This is what they will remember.

I was going to make the point that your inscription (commentary) is in stone– but maybe it’s in plaster.

The truth is it doesn’t matter.

The bottom line.

Publish content the way I’ve described and you’ll be remembered.

This is much easier to do with the tools of Curation Suite at your fingertips than what must have been a feat in building one of the tallest buildings of the ancient world.