ALEXANDRIA (ISKANDERIEH of the Turks), an ancient city and chief seaport in Egypt, about 14 miles west of the Canopic mouth of the Nile, on the ridge of land be tween the sea and the bed of the old Lake Ma reotis, 129 miles by rail northwest of Cairo. Ancient Alexandria was founded by, and named in honor of, Alexander the Great, in 332 a.c., on the site of a village called Rhaktitis or Ra coudah. Its plan was sketched by the architect Dinocrates. It stood nearly on the site of the present town, though the configuration of the land has altered considerably since then. It at tained its greatest prosperity in the days of the Ptolemies, who made it their capital. Under the Romans it became the capital of Egypt, and even when captured by Amru, general of the Caliph Omar (A.n. 641) it contained pal aces, 4,000 baths, 400 theatres or places of amusement, 12,000 shops for the sale of veg etables, and 40,000 tributary (Gibbon). The city was regularly built and traversed by two principal streets, each 200 feet wide. It consisted of three quarters, that of the Jews, the Ralatis, or the people's quarter, and Brucheion, or the quarter of the palace. In the 1st century B.C. it had about 500,000 inhab itants. One-fourth of the area upon which it was built was covered with temples, palaces and public buildings, the most conspicuous be ing the famous lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the world, upon the little island of Pharos, which was connected with the city by a mole, called the Heptastadion, nearly a mile long; the splendid temple of Jupiter Serapis; the Library, at that time the richest in the world (see ALEXANDRIAN LIBRARY) ; the Mu seum, a kind of academy in which learned men of every description were entertained at the ex pense of the state; an immense hippodrome; the temple of Poseidon, and the Cwsareum, beside which stood the two obelisks known as Cleo patra's Needles, one of which was taken to Lon don in 1878; the other to Central Park, New York, in 1881. The largest well-preserved mon ument of antiquity in modern Alexandria is the so-called Pompey 's Pillar, a red granite column 88 feet high (including pedestal), on the site of the Serapeum, thought to have been erected in the 4th century either in honor of the Em peror Diocletian or to commemorate the de struction of the Serapeum.
Alexandria was one of the chief granaries of Rome, and apart from its commercial im portance was a great centre of learning. On the introduction of Christianity in the 1st century it became the seat of Christian erudition and the orthodox faith, and was frequently torn by bloody religious dissensions. After the Mo hammedan conquest (7th century) its import ance rapidly declined. In the 19th century un der the vigorous rule of Mehemet Ali, it recov ered a large degree of prosperity, and is to-day one of the most important commercial ports on the Mediterranean. It was bombarded by the British 11 July 1882. See EGYPT.
The Mohammedan quarter of the present city is chiefly built on the mole, which has been increased by alluvial deposits till it has become a broad neck of land between the two harbors. The European quarter is on the mainland south of the east harbor. It swarms with cafés, shops and theatres, and is lighted with electricity. The finest residences and official buildings surround the Mohammed Ali square. Alexandria has two harbors; the east harbor (Great Harbor of Antiquity) is now accessible only to fish ing boats. The west harbor is divided into an outer harbor, about 1,700 acres in area, pro.. tected by a breakwater of solid masonry about two miles long, and an inner harbor 464 acres in area, average depth 28 feet, also protected by a mole 1,000 yards long. It is entered and cleared annually by over 2,000 steamers. In 1912 ex ports, chiefly cotton, grain, cottonseed, rice, sugar, beans, etc., amounted to $168,951,280; im ports to $110,785,145. The city acquired a mod ern drainage system in 1905 and a new water supply in 1906. The population in 1907 was 332,24.6; in 1914 it was estimated at 400,000, of whom 60,000 were Europeans, mostly Greeks and Italians. There is railway communication with Cairo and Suez; the Mahmoudieh Canal, made by Mehemet Ali, connects Alexandria with Cairo and the Nile.