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. The monolithic column shaft measures 20.46 m in height with a diameter of 2.71 m at its base. Pompey’s Pillar Alexandria is 26.85 m high including its base and capital . Other authors give slightly deviating dimensions. It dates back to the time of Pompey. 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.
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.
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, The weight of the single piece estimated at 285 ton.
On the backside, there is the remains of a Serapium, or a temple of the God Serapis. It now damaged. In fact, it built during the reigns of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III. It damaged due to the revolts of the Jewish population in Alexandria. In fact, it was during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (89-118 A.C). It rebuilt again during the reign of Hadrian (117-137 AC). It likely destroyed, once more, after the appearance of Christianity. Furthermore, it consisted of a high platform accessed by a staircase of 100 steps .
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.
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.
There are many Egypt tour packages include a stay in Alexandria, but not all tours do, and the same can be said for Pompey’s Pillar, in that not all Alexandria tours will include a visit to this ancient site.