Fig. 4. Map of Graeco-Roman Alexandria (Falaky 1865) on the present day city’s plan (AlexMed)
Alexandria seems to have been one the most impressive cities of the Hellenistic era. It was surrounded by a 15 kilometers enclosure. Its street plan was based on the typical Hellenistic Hippodamian system with a rectangular shape, and it was divided into regular boxes. The two main arteries of the city were the Canopic street, orientated East – West, and the so-called Soma street, named after the re-burial of Alexander in the city, orientated South – North. Both streets were 30 meters wide and were lined with colonnades and sphinxes. The city itself was divided into five quarters, designated by the first five letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha was the royal district where the palaces (Basileia), the main temple, the Mouseion, the libraries, and the gardens were situated; Beta was the district of the Greek aristocracy. Districts Alpha and Beta were also known as the Broucheion. Gamma was dedicated to the settlement of Greek commoners, and Delta was the district of foreign minorities such as Syrians, Persians, and Jews. Finally, Epsilon was the district for native Egyptians, known also, by its Egyptian name, as Rhakotis3. The population of the city is estimated by modern scholars at around 500,000, while Diodorus, by the turn to the Roman period, suggests 300,000 people. The international harbour of the city played an important role in Roman trade, since Rome relied on Alexandria‘s grain ships to feed its population. Moreover, Alexandria was the access point for the trade route to the Red Sea, which leads to the Indian Ocean: hence contacts existed with India, Malaysia and possibly China4 .
Scheidel ,2004, 51.
Peacock, 2000, 427 and 444.