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  You are in: Home > Cultural & Social Studies > Alexandria  

City of Gifts and Sorrows From Hellenistic Civilization to Multiethnic Metropolis

A.J. Polyzoides

A.J. Polyzoides was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of Greek Macedonian parents. As a youth he walked the city’s avenues and coastal promenade searching for remains of the Greek Ptolemaic city, the absence of which sparked a life-long interest in ancient Alexandria. After the Suez affair he moved to the UK where he trained in trauma and orthopaedics, retiring as Consultant and honorary senior lecturer at Birmingham University. He now lives on an island in the Aegean, and continues research on his beloved ancient city of Alexandria.


Herewith an historical journey from the third century to the multiethnic metropolis of the twentieth century, bringing together two diverse histories of the city. Ancient Alexandria was built by the Greek Ptolemies who in thirty years completed the first lighthouse and the grand library and museum which functioned as a university with the emphasis on science, known as ‘The Alexandrian School’, attracting scholars from all over the ancient world. Two of the most eminent were Euclid, the father of geometry, and Claudios Ptolemy, writer of The Almagest, a book on astronomy. These are the oldest surviving science textbooks and the city was known as “the birthplace of science”. Herein there are stories about scientists, poets and religious philosophers, responsible for influencing the western mind with their writings.

Modern Alexandria was rebuilt in 1805 by multiethnic communities who created a successful commercial city and port with an enviable life-style for its inhabitants for 150 years. In 1952 the Free Officers of the Egyptian Army masterminded a coup to free the country from the monarchy and British domination. In 1956 the socialist regime under Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Suez Canal, resulting in the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion. This outburst of Egyptian nationalism and military revolution by this understandably anti-Western regime included the confiscation of property belonging to foreigners and the subsequent mass exodus of business and artisan classes that hitherto had made the city so successful. The author was an eye-witness to these events and he sets out the political errors and failures of both Egyptian and Western leaders. The legacy of the resulting political and social confusions is deeply apparent in the continuing unrest in the Middle East, and in particular in Egypt.

Maps and Diagrams, with Narrative


chapter one
Alexandria in the Early 1950s
The beginning of the end

chapter two
Modern Alexandrian Authors
Constantine Cavafy
Edward M. Forster
Lawrence G. Durrell

chapter three
Reflections on Ancient Alexandria
Replacing the famed monuments on their rightful sites

chapter four
Alexander III – the Great
Alexander’s education, Aristotle and other tutors
The murder of his father, Philip II
Founding his city and his trip to the Oracle of Ammon
His iconography and the artists of his time
Death of Alexander, his deeds and legacy

chapter five
The Quest for the Elusive Tomb of Alexander the Great

chapter six
Alexandria the Great
The lighthouse, the city, palaces, museum and library
Literature and religious philosophy
Scholars, geometry, mechanics, astronomy, and medicine

chapter seven
The Collapse of Ancient Alexandria

chapter eight
Rebirth of Alexandria

chapter nine
Foreign Communities
The people and their contribution

chapter ten
Four Years of Uncertainty and Anxiety

chapter eleven
The Suez Canal War
The Anglo-French-Israeli invasion

chapter twelve
The Decline of Modern Alexandria
Change to military regime, back to Arab culture

Select Bibliography

Reviews to follow


Publication Details

Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
192 pp. / 216 x 138 mm
Release Date:
September 2014
  Illustrated:   No
Paperback Price:
£19.95 / $29.95

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