The Lighthouse appears to go back as far as 280 B.C. Built on the island of Pharos in Hellenistic Egypt,
the Lighthouse of Alexandria, is perhaps the most famous lighthouse in history. The first
known/documented structure of it's kind.
Before the development of clearly defined ports mariners were guided by fires built on hilltops.
The fire would improve the visibility and placing the fire on a platform eventually became a practice that
led to the inventing of the lighthouse.
In antiquity, the lighthouse functioned more as an entrance marker to ports than as a warning signal,
unlike many modern lighthouses.
A lighthouse, basically a navigational aid, is a structure designed to emit light from a fire, a system of lamps and lenses and used as an
aid to navigation for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways.
Lighthouses mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, safe entries to harbors, and can also assist in
aerial navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined.
The World English Dictionary defines
lighthouse (lait haus)
a fixed structure in the form of a tower equipped with a light visible to mariners
for warning them of obstructions, for marking harbour entrances, etc
Examples of some Lighthouse shapes -- click to view
♥Q: How could one lighthouse be distinguished from another?
A: DAYMARKS --helps mariners tell one Lighthouse from another and was able to use lighthouses as landmarks.
♥Years ago, before they had all the sophisticated technology of today ships near
shore in the daytime would use lighthouses as a
landmark. This use gave them an additional name — a DAYMARK.
♥If you are the Captain of a ship sailing along the coast. You need some
help you find your position. When you look on shore you see a tall red brick
tower. Then you sail about forty miles down the coast and you see another
round red brick tower — just like the first one. How would you know where
you are? This is the way things were along a portion of the
Virginia and North Carolina coast in the 1870’s.
♥ To help the mariner determine
his location the Lighthouse Board (which was in charge of lighthouses
from 1852 – 1910) issued an order to have each lighthouse
painted in different colors and/or designs. This is
the best example of DAYMARKS we can see today.
A drawing of the lighthouse by German archaeologist Prof. H. Thiersch (1909).
For larger view --click image
This work is in Public Domain
To see other depictions/renderings of the Lighthouse of Alexandria Click here
Lighthouse of Alexandria
♠The lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos and soon the building itself
acquired that name. The connection of the name with the function became so
strong that the word "Pharos" became the root of the word "lighthouse" in the
French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian languages.
♠There are two detailed descriptions made of the lighthouse in the 10th century
A.D. by Moorish travelers Idrisi and Yusuf Ibn al-Shaikh. According to their
accounts, the building was 300 cubits high. Because the cubit measurement
varied from place to place, however, this could mean that the Pharos stood
anywhere from 450 (140m) to 600 (183m) feet in height, although the lower
figure is much more likely.
♠The design was unlike the slim single column of most modern lighthouses, but
more like the structure of an early twentieth century skyscraper. There
were three stages, each built on top of one other. The building material was
stone faced with white marble blocks cemented together with lead mortar.
The lowest level of the building, which sat on a 20 foot (6m) high stone platform,
was probably about 240 feet (73m) in height and 100 feet (30m) square at the
base, shaped like a massive box. The door to this section of the building wasn't
at the bottom of the structure, but part way up and reached by a 600 foot
(183m) long ramp supported by massive arches. Inside this portion of the
structure was a large spiral ramp that allowed materials to be pulled to the
top in animal-drawn carts.
LEFT: This image is in Public Domain
MIDDLE & RIGHT: Egyptian Coin Featuring Lighthouse of Alexandria
♠On top of that first section was an eight-sided tower which was probably about
115 feet (35m) in height. On top of the tower was a cylinder that extended up
another 60 feet (18m) to an open cupola where the fire that provided the light
burned. On the roof of the cupola was a large statue, probably of the god of the
♠The interior of the upper two sections had a shaft with a dumbwaiter that was
used to transport fuel up to the fire. Staircases allowed visitors and the keepers
to climb to the beacon chamber. There, according to reports, a large curved
mirror, perhaps made of polished bronze, was used to project the fire's light
into a beam. It was said ships could detect the light from the tower at night
or the smoke from the fire during the day up to one-hundred miles away.
♠The structure was said to be liberally decorated with statuary including four
likenesses of the god Triton on each of the four corners of the roof of the
lowest level. Materials recently salvaged from the sea by archeologists,
including the stone torso of a woman, seem to support these stories.
♠How then did the world's first lighthouse wind up on the floor of the
Mediterranean Sea? Most accounts indicate that it, like many other ancient
buildings, was the victim of earthquakes. It stood for over 1,500 years.
Then in 1303 A.D., a major earthquake shook the region that put the Pharos
permanently out of business. Egyptian records indicate the final collapse occurred
in 1375, though ruins remained on the site for some time until 1480 when much
of the building's stone was used to construct a fortress on the island that still
Althought the lighthouse was depicted on coins, small models and mosaics. During my research it
is clear that agreement is made on the building's basic design, none provide much
There is a surprising lack of descriptions by
ancient writers and most come from Arab travelers. Many of these,
may contain precise details the description can also be mixed with wild fantasies. They
provide some good/detailes information on the lower levels, they provide
little valuable information about the upper levels and almost nothing concerning
the light source.
The Roman lighthouse at Dover Castle.
Used with permission of Author Chris McKenna (Thryduulf (talk))
the copyright holder of this work, hereby publishes it under the following license:
Creative Commons attribution share alike
Dover Castle Lighthouse
¹The tower was octagonal outside and rectangular inside rising to a height of
perhaps 80 feet (24m). It had eight storeys each set back 1 foot (0.3m) from
the one below, which gave the whole structure the appearance of an extended
Dover castle's lighthouse was built by the Roman's who realise the importance of
the straights of Dover.
Both tiles and brick were used in the construction. Fires were lit on the top stage
to give a clear guide to ships crossing the channel.
²It is constructed from flint rubble bonded with double courses of tiles at regular
intervals and faced with tufa ashlar. The windows and doors are arched and are
decorated by the alternate use of tufa and tile to achieve a polychrome effect.
The tiles are of the same pinkish material found in the fort of the Classis
Britannica and it seems reasonable to suppose that they were built at broadly
similar dates. The dating of the early phase of the fort is around AD130 to
²As it stands today only the first four Roman stages survive.
The remaining 5.8 metres was used as a medieval belfry. The earliest
reference to the bells appears in 1252, when three bells were cast in
Canterbury to be hung in the tower.
Torre de Hercules
The Tower of Hercules located in A Coruña (Galicia, Spain).
~~~ click image for larger view ~~~
Author Alessio Damato
I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the
following licenses: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or
modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
(icensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike )
The monumental lighthouse tower stands at the entrance of A Coruña harbour in
the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula. The present structure, 185 feet (56.8 metres) tall, is
considered a Roman work dating from or at least remodeled during the reign of Trajan (98–117 ce).
it is massive, dominates its prominent position and becomes ever larger the closer you get to it.
♣The Tower of Hercules has served as a lighthouse and landmark at the entrance of La Coruña harbour
in north-western Spain since the late 1st century A.D. when the Romans built the Farum Brigantium.
The Tower, built on a 57 metre high rock.
♣ It is designed to facilitate navigation
along the rugged Galicia coastline, on a strategic point on the sea route linking
the Mediterranean to northwest Europe.
♣A wood-fired system was located on the summit platform in a shelter opening
on to the seaward facade; it possibly had columns used for navigational
alignment when making the difficult approach and entry into the harbour.
†When some years ago the Tower of Hercules in La
Coruña, Spain, held
the title of the world's oldest functioning lighthouse, now the honor belongs to
Kõpu, Hiiumaa (see below)
(image at top of page)
†The 36-meter Kõpu lighthouse, in the western part of Estonia's
second-largest island, was built in the beginning of the 16th century. According
to historical records, the first firewood was ignited at the top of the lighthouse
on August 1, 1531. The tower served as an important beacon for merchant
fleets of the Hanseatic League that were sailing in the Baltic.
¹This info is from:
♠This info is from:
†This info is from:
♣This info is from:
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