Even though Pompey’s Pillar is essentially only a giant column, its history and its vast size has made it one of the most visited tourist attractions in Alexandria.
The Pillar of Pompey, also often called Pompey’s Column is a huge monolithic Roman pillar located in Alexandria, the old capital of Egypt. It is the only thing that remains of a massive temple colonnade marking the location of the Serpeum. The entire structure, with the exception of this single pillar was totally destroyed during the fourth century when the Christians were attempting to eradicate paganism from the city.
Today, Pompey’s Pillar is one of the most visited attractions in Alexandria.
A Brief History Of Pompey’s Pillar
Ironically, many historians point out that the pillar has in fact been incorrectly named because it was actually erected during the year 297 AD during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. The reason for the Pillar of Pompey being erected was to commemorate the victory of the Romans over a revolt that was taking place in Alexandria at the Time.
What Makes The Pillar of Pompey Unique?
There are several things which make the column an object of interest. To begin with, it is the only pillar of its type ever to have been constructed outside of Rome and Constantinople, and it’s also the only free-stand pillar in Roman Egypt that wasn’t made from drums.
The Pillar of Pompey is today one of the biggest ancient monoliths still in existence and historians believe that it is also one of the biggest monolithic pillars ever erected. Unlike many similar pillars that were composed of drums, Pompey’s Pillar was carved out of a single block of red Aswan granite.
Based on the pillar’s dimensions and the known weight of Aswan granite, the pillar has been estimated to weigh around 285 tons.
The Lost Serapeum
When visiting the Pillar of Pompey in Alexandria, it’s hard to imagine that at one point in history, the column would have been just one of many such columns lining the colonnade of the serapeum which once stood there. The serapeum itself, along with all the other pillars were totally obliterated, and nobody knows how or why a single column was left standing.
Other Things To See In The Area
Apart from the Sphinx statue which is located near the Pompey’s Pillar, there isn’t much else nearby, although many visitors to take a walk through the nearby Arab cemetery. Also if you head a couple of blocks north of the pillar, you’ll arrive at the site of the ancient catacombs of Kom el Shuqafa. These consist of four floors, all of which are below ground. However, the lowest level is usually flooded.