Situation.—(Alexandria was situated on the Mediterranean Sea, directly opposite the island of Pharos, 12 miles west of the Canopic branch of the Nile and 120 miles from the present city of Cairo.) It was founded by Alexander the Great, b.c. 332, who himself traced the ground plan of the city. The work thus begun was continued after the death of Alexander by the Ptolemies.
Description.—Under the despotism of the later Ptolemies the trade of Alexandria declined, but its population and wealth were enormous. Its iimportance as one of the chief corn-ports of Rome secured for it the general favor of the first emperors. Its population was mixed from the first. According to Josephus, Alexander himself assigned to the Jews a place in his new city. Philo estimates the number of the Alexandrine Jews in his time at a little less than 1,000,000; and adds that two of the five districts of Alexandria were called “Jewish districts,” and that many Jews lived scattered in the remaining three. “For a long period Alexandria was the greatest of known cities.” After Rome became the chief city of the world, Alexandria ranked second to Rome in wealth and importance, and second to Athens only in literature and science. Its collection of books grew to be the greatest library of ancient times, and contained at one time 700,000 rolls or volumes. Here was made the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek, begun about b.c. 285. The commerce of Alexandria, especially in grain, was very great. According to the common legend, St. Mark first “preached the gospel in Egypt, and founded the first church in Alexandria.” At the beginning of the second century the number of Christians at Alexandria must have been very large, and the great leaders of Gnosticism who arose there (Basilides, Valentinus) exhibit an exaggeration of the tendency of the Church.
Present Condition.—The city is now called Scanderia. Its population in 1871 was 219,000 (Encyc. Brit.), and is increasing. “Cleopatra’s Needle,” lately set up in New York, was taken from this city.