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Bible Dictionaries

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary


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A celebrated city in Lower Egypt, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the lake Mareotis, not far from the most westerly mouth of the Nile. It was founded by Alexander the Great, B. C. 332, and peopled by colonies of Greeks and Jews. Alexandria rose rapidly to a state of prosperity, becoming the center of commercial intercourse between the East and the West, and in process of time was, in point both magnitude and wealth, second only to Rome itself. The ancient city was about fifteen miles in circuit, peopled by 300,000 free citizens and as many slaves. From the gate of the sea ran one magnificent street, 2,000 feet broad, through the entire length of the city, to the gate of Canopus, affording a view of the shipping in the port, whether north in the Mediterranean, or south in the noble basin of the Mareotic lake. Another street of equal width intersected this at right angles, in a square half a league in circumference.

Upon the death of Alexander, whose body was deposited in this new city, Alexandria became the regal capital of Egypt, under the Ptolemies, and rose to its highest splendor. During the reign of the first three princes of this name, its glory was at the highest. The most celebrated philosophers from the East, as well as from Greece and Rome, resorted thither for instruction; and eminent men, in every department of knowledge, were found within its walls. Ptolemy Soter, the first of that line of kings, formed the museum, the library of 700,000 volumes, and several other splendid works. At the death of Cleopatra, B. C. 26, Alexandria passed into the hands of the Romans; and after having enjoyed the highest fame for upwards of a thousand years, it submitted to the arms of the caliph Pmar, A. D. 646.

The present Alexandria, or according to the pronunciation of the inhabitants, Skanderia, occupies only about the eighth part of the site of the ancient city. The splendid temples have been exchanged for wretched mosques and miserable churches, and the magnificent palaces for mean and ill-built dwellings. The city, which was of old so celebrated for its commerce and navigation, is now merely part of Cairo, a place where ships may touch, and where wares may be exchanged. The modern city is built with the ruins of the ancient. The streets are so narrow, that the inhabitants can lay mats of reeds from one roof to the opposite, to protect them from the scorching sun. The population consists of Turks, Arabs, Copts, Jews, and Armenians. Many Europeans have counting houses here, where the factors exchange European for oriental merchandise.

The Greek or Alexandrine version of the Scriptures was made here by learned Jews, seventy-two in number, and hence it is called the Septuagint, or version of the Seventy. The Jews established themselves in great numbers in this city very soon after it was founded. Josephus says that Alexander himself assigned to them a particular quarter of the city, and allowed them equal rights and privileges with the Greeks. Philo, who himself lived there in the time of Christ, affirms that, of five parts of the city, the Jews inhabit two. According to his statements, also, there dwelt in his time, in Alexandria and the other Egyptian cities, not less than a million Jews; but this would seem exaggerated.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Alexandria'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. 1859.

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