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Judith McKenzie, Gordon Campbell, R. R. R. Smith, Wiktor A. Daszewski, A. H. Enklaar, Dominic Montserrat, C. Walters, Wladyslaw B. Kubiak, Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Egyptian city situated on the Mediterranean coast west of the delta of the River Nile, capital of Egypt from c. 320 bc to ad 642, seaport and centre of ancient Greek culture.

Judith McKenzie

Alexandria was founded in 331 bc by Alexander, on the site of the small Egyptian settlement of Rhakotis. Its location, with access by canal to the River Nile, enabled it to become an important and highly prosperous trading centre, and by c. 320 bc Alexandria was the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt. During Ptolemaic times (304–30 bc) it became a major centre of learning, with famous scholars of literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and geography, and it played a major role in the transmission of Greek culture to the East.

With the defeat of the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII (51–30 bc), by Octavian (later called Augustus) at the Battle of Actium in 30...

Article

Iznik  

Mark Whittow and Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu

[formerly Nicaea; Nikaia]

Turkish town in the eastern bay of Lake Iznik (anc. Ascania), with important Byzantine and early Ottoman remains. The earliest settlements on the site date to the 1st millennium bc. In 316 bc Antigonos Monophthalmos, a general of Alexander the Great, expanded the existing town and called it Antigonia. It was conquered by Lysimachos in 301 bc and renamed Nicaea after his wife. In 281 bc it came under the rulers of Bithynia, gaining importance before falling to Roman domination in 72 bc. In the 3rd and 4th centuries ad it thrived as the site of an imperial treasury and a major military base on the strategic road linking the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire to Italy and the Rhine frontier. Byzantine rule lasted until 1081 when the city was captured by Sulayman and a group of Seljuk Turks and established as capital of the first Turkish state in Asia Minor. In ...

Article

Maskana  

J.-C. Margueron

[Mesken; Meskene; Miskina]

Small town in north Syria on the south bank of the River Euphrates near an ancient site known in antiquity as Emar, in Byzantine times as Barbalissos and in Islamic times as Balis. It lay on an ancient trade route between the Mediterranean, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The site was excavated in 1929 and again between 1971 and 1976 during salvage operations accompanying the building of the Tabqa Dam. The minaret was dismantled and rebuilt on higher ground, but the ancient site and Maskana itself have been flooded by Lake Assad. Finds are in the National Museum, Aleppo, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris; objects looted from the site are in numerous private collections.

J.-C. Margueron

This Bronze Age city flourished during the 3rd and 2nd millennia bc as a staging-post on a major trade route, where not only goods but also ideas and influences were exchanged. The city is mentioned in the Ebla texts of the second half of the 3rd millennium ...

Article

N. B. Nemtseva

[Shakhrisyabz]

Town in Uzbekistan. Located south of the Aq Sai range (Zeravshanskiy Khrebet) in the Kashka River basin, the town was part of southern Sogdiana in ancient times. In early medieval times the main town in the region was known as Kish, but, after it was destroyed by the Mongols, a new town grew up around the remains of the abandoned settlement at the end of the 13th century. In the 14th century the small unfortified town was renamed Shahr-i Sabz (Pers. ‘green town’). The Timurid ruler Timur was born in the nearby village of Khwaja-i-Ghar, and in the 1360s and 1370s Shahr-i Sabz became his winter quarters and during his reign the second royal residence after Samarkand. In 1378–9 the centre of the town was surrounded with walls 4 km long, articulated with half-towers and four gates; beyond the walls lay a moat with drawbridges. Two axial streets divided the town into quadrants. The north-east quarter contained a park with ...