I really found that reading about the destruction and excavations of Alexandria was the most interesting part of this week’s assigned reading. My friends and family members who have visited Egypt have all been to the city so I knew that it was an important place but didn’t really know anything about the city’s history or destruction until this class. It turns out that this Egyptian city suffered much destruction during the political disruptions of the later 3rd century AD. This destruction, which destroyed temples that were converted into churches, was caused by the riots between pagans and Christians in 391 AD. Besides political destruction, earthquakes also helped with the destruction of Alexandria, including causing some parts of the city to become submerged. However, when an invading Muslim army entered the city in 642 AD, it is thought that most of the city’s impressive architecture was still standing. When Alexandria became an Islamic city, a period of rebuilding took place and churches were transformed into mosques. In present day, with many of the remains that is not able to be excavated, much of what is known about the Greco-Roman city is from textual information.
The first systematic excavation of Alexandria was by the Khadive of Egypt and took place in 1866. The excavation was “conducted by Mahmud Beh, who later published a plan of the Roman Period city, with streets, canals, and the city wall” (299). Excavations conducted by the Polish center of Mediterranean Archaeology on the Kom el-Dikka have found that ancient Alexandria was a Greco-Roman city, with surprisingly little Egyptian-style architecture. Roman baths, a Greek-style theater and large excavated “villa” houses are just three of the many pieces of evidence that suggest that Alexandria was more of a Greco-Roman city rather than an Egyptian city. Also, thousands of ceramic lamps and vessels have been found in the Gabbari district tombs, which are artifacts that are typically associated with Greek mortuary rates. Polish archaeologists have even uncovered evidence of one of Alexandria’s universities that was a building with 13 lecture halls. It’s incredible to think that universities were around back then! This concludes my summary of the destruction and excavations of Alexandria.