PTOLEMAIC ROYAL QUARTERS: THE PALACE COMPLEX OF THE GREEK PHARAOHS OF ALEXANDRIA To the east of the city, south of the Great Harbour, were the royal quarters named Basileia. It was a city within a city, formed by groups of royal buildings and public precincts remarkable for their monumentality and splendor. All of the Ptolemies contributed to the royal quarter‘s formation. Strabo describes the palace quarter in the northern part of the city as follows: The city has most beautiful enclosures and palaces, which cover a fourth or even a third of its entire area. For just like how each of the kings, with love and splendor, used to add some ornament to the public monuments, so also would he invest himself at his own expense with a residence in addition to those already in existence so that now, to quote the poet (Homer), ―there is building after building. All however, are connected both with each other and with the harbor, even those that lie outside the harbour. (Strabo 17.1.8) Close to these installations was the Sema or Soma, the mausoleum of the Ptolemies and Alexander the Great. Part of the royal quarters was also the Mouseion with its famous library. This institution was founded by Ptolemy I Soter as part of a policy of making Alexandria the center of culture and international knowledge. It was a school of research and instruction. The library accommodated volumes from all over the Greek world and beyond, for which great efforts were expended. By the end of the Ptolemaic period, the library appears to have held from 500,000 to 700,000 volumes, and Alexandria became a major philosophical, artistic and research center. In addition, the royal quarters accommodated temples and chapels, and a theatre, all in luxurious materials and with rich decoration. The part of the modern city corresponding to the royal quarter is the area east of the Cecil hotel from the Metropole Hotel, opposite the Ramleh station, to the Selsela promontory (ancient Cape Lochias) on which the new Library of Alexandria (Bibliotheca Alexandrina) is situated. A large part of the royal quarters was destroyed and got submerged as a result of massive subsidence along its coastline.8 The eastern section of the port was devoted to the royal quarters. There, the Royal Harbor was delimitated at the western side of the peninsula named Cape Lochias. Southwest of Cape Lochias was the peninsula on which the Timonium, Mark Antony‘s palace, and the Poseideion, the sanctuary dedicated to Poseidon, were located. Behind the Poseideion was the Emporeion where the customs house was stationed. Southwest of the peninsula is the island of Αntirhodos (means ‘opposite 8
Barnes, 2004, 58-65.