Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Lighthouse, the Library, and the Caesarium of Alexandria, Egypt

The lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was located at the tip of the island of Pharos, at the mouth of the Eastern Harbor of Alexandria. Detailed descriptions in ancient literature give us a complete picture of the library's architecture, size and scale.

Today's visitor to Alexandria finds Fort Qaitbey, instead, at the tip of the crescent-shaped island.


From Midan Saad Zagloul, the square once dedicated to the offspring of Cleopatra, one can gaze across the harbor to the castle. The modern square is the descendant of the Caesarium, the monument Cleopatra built to immortalize her son with Julius Caesar. Today, a tribute to Cleopatra's patron goddess, Isis, still sits in Midan Saad Zagloul. The two obelisks referred to as "Cleopatra's Needles" have been relocated from this square to London and New York City.




Also lost to time from very near here was the legendary Great Library of Alexandria. Today, a visitor to Alexandria can visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern library designed to appear as if it is sinking into the sea - a tribute to the loss of the ancient library and its thousands upon thousands of stolen books.

The New Library of Alexandria
The Library Slipping into the Sea
All three ancient monuments--the Caesarium, the lighthouse, and the library--would have been located within line of sight within one another in Cleopatra's day. Was this proximity significant? Was it deliberate? Find the answer in best-selling historical thriller The Vesuvius Isotope .

I glanced out again at Fort Qaitbay, and then I turned to look behind me at the square. Beyond it were modern buildings, buildings that had been erected where the ancient library of Alexandria once stood. The lighthouse would have been visible from the library, and vice versa.

The lighthouse. The library. The Caesarium. All three lost to time.

But in my mind, the three ancient monuments appeared before me in all their grandeur, and I felt a chill through the warm Mediterranean air. Because I suddenly knew what I needed to do.

“I’m sorry, Jeff,” I said aloud.

I stepped across the square and into a pharmacy, where I purchased a bottle of sleeping pills.


-Excerpt from The Vesuvius Isotope, best-selling historical thriller by Kristen Elise. 

Buy The Vesuvius Isotope in print or ebook.

From the ancient ruins beneath Mount Vesuvius, a two-thousand-year-old document has emerged. It is the only text ever attributed to the ambitious, inquisitive, and cryptic last pharaoh of Egypt...

When her Nobel laureate husband is murdered, biologist Katrina Stone can no longer ignore the secrecy that has increasingly pervaded his recent behavior. Her search for answers leads to a two-thousand-year-old medical mystery and the life of one of history’s most enigmatic women. Following the trail forged by her late husband, Katrina must separate truth from legend as she chases medicine from ancient Italy and Egypt to a clandestine modern-day war. Her quest will reveal a legacy of greed and murder and resurrect an ancient plague into the twenty-first century.




Kristen Elise, Ph.D. is a drug discovery biologist and the author of The Vesuvius Isotope and The Death Row Complex. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, stepson, and three canine children. 


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