Pompey’s Pillar - History and Facts | History Hit

Pompey’s Pillar

Alexandria, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt

Pompey’s Pillar is a third century Ancient Roman column in Alexandria in Egypt.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Pompey’s Pillar

Pompey’s Pillar is an incredible solitary granite column in Alexandria, Egypt and one of the few Roman remains to have survived in the city.

Whilst called “Pompey’s Pillar”, this 25 metre tall structure was actually dedicated to the Emperor Diocletian, who ruled Rome from 284 to 305 AD. It was completed towards the end of the third century AD, was one of the largest of its type to be built anywhere in the Empire.

Pompey’s Pillar history

The pillar was constructed in honour of Diocletian in 292 AD and is located in situation Kom el-Dekka in Alexandria. The pillar bears the inscription “Postumas a governor of Alexandria erected this pillar in honour of a just emperor Diocletian.”

The story of the misleading name of the columns follows that crusaders believed that the head of Pompey, a Roman general, was buried within the pillar. Pompey was allegedly killed by Cleopatra’s brotherin the year 48 BC and the column was erected in the year 292 AD. The column is made from rose granite and has a Corinthian-style capital.

The ruins of the great temple of Serapis, the hybrid Greek and Egyptian god of Alexandria are below the column. There was also once an offshoot library form the Great Lirary of Alexandria housed here.

Alexandria developed into the stronghold of Christianity when the religion was first introduced to Egypt. Gradually Christianity became dominant in Egypt, reducing the significance of ancient traditions and pagan gods.

The Serapeum, dedicated to Alexandria’s patron god, Serapis, was a symbol of this ancient tradition, which conflicted with the increasingly popular ideas of Christianity.

The temple was attacked during the Jewish Revolt in 155 AD yet remained standing. In 391 AD the temple was destroyed entirely apart from the pillar when Theophilus, leader of the Church of Alexandria, led a Christian mob to raize the Seapeum and other symbols of paganism.

Pompey’s Pillar today

The site that was once the Serapeum is now mostly rubble. There are a few narrow shafts from the Serapeum that remain, two sphinxes and the pillar itself that stands tall among the ruins.

Getting to Pompey’s Pillar

If taking a taxi to the site it can be helpful to ask for it by the Arabic name, Amoud Al Sawari. The fare should be LE30 to LE35 from Midan Saad Zaghloul.

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