Alexandria, named after Alexander the Great, is considered to be Egypt’s second capital because of its historical importance and population. It is Egypt’s second largest city. In 332 BC the young 25-year old Alexander founded the city. His chief architect, Dinocrates, was appointed to spearhead this project which was intended to see Alexandria replace Naucratis as a Hellenistic center in Egypt, and to be the link between Greece and the rich Nile Valley. The Egyptian fishing village of Rhakotis (Ra-Kedet, in Egyptian) already existed on the shore, and later gave its name to Alexandria, becoming the Egyptian quarter of the new city. Only a few months following its foundation, Alexander left the city named for him, never to return. One of his favorite generals, Ptolemy, struggled with other successors of Alexander. Â
Becoming governor of Egypt, Ptolemy succeeded in bringing Alexander’s body to back Alexandria (Aelian, Varia Historia, 12.64). The primary Ptolemaic work in the city seems to have been the Heptastadion and the mainland quarters, although Cleomenes was principally responsible for oversight of Alexandria’s continuous development. Inheriting the trade of the ruined Tyre, Alexandria grew to be larger than Carthage in less than a generation, becoming the center of the new commerce between Europe and the Arabian and Indian East. Only a century after its foundation, Alexandria became the largest city in the world and, centuries later, was second only to Rome. It became the major Greek city of Egypt, with an extraordinary combination of Greeks from several cities and backgrounds. In addition to being a centre of Hellenism, Alexandria was home to the world’s largest Jewish community. It was here that the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, was written. The early Ptolemies fostered the development of a temple of the Muses (whence the word Museum) into what was to become the great Library of Alexandria, the leading center of Hellenistic learning throughout the world. While the Ptolemies carefully maintained the ethnic distinction of the Greek, Jewish and Egyptian populations, these largest groups of the population created divisions and tensions beginning under the reign of Ptolemy Philopater who ruled from 221-204 BC.
The civil unrest evolving out of these tensions developed into civil warfare and the purges of Ptolemy VIII Physcon who reigned from 144-116 BC (Josephus, Antiquities 12.235,243; 13.267,268; 14.250). While Alexandria had been under Roman influence for over a hundred years, it was in 80 BC that it passed under Roman jurisdiction, in accordance with the will of Ptolemy Alexander. Civil war broke out between King Ptolemy XIII and his advisers, against the renowned Queen Cleopatra VII. Julius Caesar intervened in the civil war in 47 BC and captured the city. On August 1 in 30 BC Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, finally conquered Egypt. The name of the month was later changed to August to commemorate his victory. Much of the city of Alexandria was destroyed during the Kitos War in AD 115. This gave the emperor Hadrian an opportunity to rebuild the city through the work of his architect, Decriannus. Emperor Caracalla visited the city in AD 215 and, having been offended by some insulting satires directed at him by the citizens, he commanded his troops to put to death those youths capable of bearing arms. Alexandria was ravaged by a tsunami on 21 July 365 (365 Crete earthquake), . Seventeen hundred years later, this tragedy is still commemorated as a day of horror.
In the late 300’s the persecution of pagans by newly Christianized Romans intensified, culminating in the destruction of all pagan temples in Alexandria by Patriarch Theophilus who was acting under the orders of Emperor Theodosius I. The city’s Jewish quarters along with the Brucheum were desolate by 5th century. On the mainland, it appears that life revolved around the area of the Serapeum and Caesareum, both buildings becoming Christian churches. However, the Pharos and Heptastadium quarters remained populous and intact.  Alexandria fell to the Sassanid Persians in their conquest of 619 to be briefly recovered in 629 by Emperor Heraclius. In 641, after a fourteen-month siege, the city was captured by General Amr ibn al-As. It played a prominent part in Napoleon’s military operations during his expedition to Egypt in 1798 until the French were routed by the British in a notable victory at the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801. The subsequent siege of the town resulted in the fall of Alexandria to the British on 2 September 1801. The rebuilding and redevelopment of the city commenced around 1810 under Mohammed Ali, the Ottoman Governor of Egypt. By 1850, Alexandria had been restored to something of its former glory.  It was bombarded by British naval forces in July 1882, and occupied. In July of 1954 the city became the target of an Israeli bombing campaign which later became known as the Lavon Affair. An attempt to assassinate Gamal Abdel Nasser failed in Alexandria’s Mansheyya Square in October of that same year.