Daily life

Attarine   Pompey’s Pillar   Tower of the Romans   Cleopatra’s Needles   Wardian Tomb   Qaitbay Fort

View of Pompey’s Pillar. Watercolour, Dominique-Vivant Denon © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Some 30 m tall with a diameter of 2.70 m at its base, Pompey’s Pillar is one of the last ancient monuments still standing in Alexandria. It has survived many invasions and countless earthquakes. While it was indeed erected in honour of someone, it has nothing to do with either Caesar or Pompey. It dates to three and half centuries after their time and was dedicated to the emperor Diocletian.

In 297 AD Diocletian toppled the usurper Domitius and brought Alexandria back under Roman control. Ancient representations of the column, such as the Sepphoris mosaic (5th century AD, Israel), show that a porphyry statue of the emperor was original placed on the top.

On 30 August 1798, architects and engineers of the French Expedition attempted to climb the column and record its dimensions. Charles Norry and his colleagues attached a rope to a kite and managed to string it over the top. Thereafter, with more rope, a plank was used to hoist the team up onto the capital.

View of Pompey’s Pillar, September 2021. Photo Étienne Forestier, CEAlex

“Column of Pompey, or of Septimius Severus with dimensions of details noted”, Charles Norry, Relation de l’expédition d’Égypte suivie de la description de plusieurs des monuments de cette contrée, et ornée de figures, Paris, 1799

Detail from « Map of the city and harbours of Alexandria ». Watercolour, Louis-Jacques Bourgeois, circa 1799, 1/4,000