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Alexandria

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English: A view of Alexandria harbour in Egypt...

A view of Alexandria harbour in Egypt during February 2007. The new Alexandria library can be seen in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alexandria was a major port in Lower Egypt by the Mediterranean, founded by Alexander the Great (331 BCE). Alexander wanted to combine the best of ancient Egypt with his vision for a new Hellenistic empire. His new city became the second largest in the Roman Empire, with a primary language of Greek.

The city was of mixed population (Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Jewish) and an exporter of foods, tapestries, metal products and books. It imported wine, silk and horses. Many Jews came to the city as slaves or settled there as free men. When pressured to set up pagan deities in their monotheistic temples, the Jews held fast to their beliefs and protested to the Emperor Caligula.¹

Lighthouse on the small island of Pharos, just opposite Alexandria at the Nile Delta.

Alexandria was home to several famous scholars, philosophers and scientists (like Ptolemy, Euclid and Archimedes), and had a university modeled after that of Athens. In its heyday the Alexandrian library contained some 400,000 to 900,000 books and scrolls. And the lighthouse on Pharos was one of the seven wonders of the world.

For Christianity, the city is especially important because it’s where the apostle Mark is said to have founded the first Christian Church, which then spread outward.

¹ Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, ed. Allen C. Myers, 1987, p. 38-39.

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