It’s all too easy to get distracted with the spring weather beating on the window pane and the birds shouting their beaks off at me to be in the garden and not at my desk, and what with last year’s pitiful attempt at a summer, there’s a nagging voice telling me to make the most of the sunshine. What is keeping me in line and indoors (apart from a million hungry mozzies who seem intent on eating me) is a fascinating book on Ancient Alexandria by Judith McKenzie which I acquired to research the sequel to ‘Owl of the Durotriges’. Entitled “The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt 300BC- 700AD”, it’s a hefty tome but well-written, full of colour plates and accessible to anyone interested in the era.
Sadly, virtually nothing remains above ground of the ancient city of Alexandria which was destroyed by a succession of invaders, pillaged by treasure-hunters, had its buildings dismantled and re-used elsewhere or levelled and re-built in the name of progress. Despite these setbacks, Mckenzie scours all the available sources (historical, modern scientific and archaeological) to come up with a plan of the city from its inception to 700AD.
I realise I’m merely stating what is a known fact: the Greeks really were very accomplished. Not only did they possess a library (the Mouseion) which was a renowned centre of learning, but they also constructed a massive lighthouse on the Isle of Pharos in the Great Harbour and a causeway called the Hepastadium which joined the island to the mainland. There was also a canal which allowed access from the Western Harbour to the Nile. There were theatres, a racecourse and everything one would expect from a Greek colonial city, but what sets Alexandria apart, is that for a time, the Greek and Egyptian styles of architecture appear to have stimulated each other, creating something totally unparalleled in the ancient world. This is a great book and perfect for research, so I don’t have to be too upset that the weather forecast for the rest of this week is for rain.