The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World served a variety of purposes: Some were decorative, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Others, like the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, were spiritual. While both beautiful and functional, the Lighthouse of Alexandria also served a practical purpose: Its shining light safely guided ships into the Egyptian harbor for centuries, placing the port city at the center of Mediterranean trade in the ancient world.
Alexander the Great founded his eponymous city in 331 B.C. when he was traveling through northern Egypt, escorted by a handful of men. Barely three years had passed since the start of the Macedonian king’s campaign against the Persians, and he had already seized control of the coastal area of the eastern Mediterranean. In the Nile Delta, he decided to found a port that would ensure his control of the seas while also replacing the Phoenician city of Tyre—which he had just razed—as a trade hub. He soon found the perfect spot for the new city: a stretch of land connected to the Nile via the westernmost branch of the delta and protected by Lake Maryut on its southern side.