At its height, Alexandria, Egypt was the cultural center of the ancient world. The great temples, the library (whether it was as vast as legend has it is of no matter) and the free exchange of ideas attracted scholars and inspired scientists from all over the world. The Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, presided over the port and ships from every sea-faring nation passed beneath that light. Founded by Alexander the Great, the city was greatly admired for its physical beauty and careful planning by a number of ancient writers. The decline of Alexandria can be attributed directly to religious intolerance as my article in Ancient History Encyclopedia explains.
The article in full is here: http://www.ancient.eu.com/alexandria/
And the piece begins:
Alexandria is a port city on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt founded in 331 BCE by Alexander the Great. It is most famous in antiquity as the site of the Pharos, the great lighthouse, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, for the Temple of Serapis, the Serapion, which was part of the legendary library at Alexandria, as a seat of learning and, once, the largest and most prosperous city in the world. It also became infamous for the religious strife which resulted in the martyrdom of the philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria in 415 CE. The city grew from a small port town to become the grandest and most important metropolis in ancient Egypt.
After conquering Syria in 332 BCE, Alexander the Great swept down into Egypt with his army. He founded Alexandria in the small port town of Rhakotis by the sea and set about the task of turning it into a great capital. It is said that he designed the plan for the city which was so greatly admired later by the historian Strabo (63 BCE-21CE) who wrote,
“The city has magnificent public precincts and royal palaces which cover a fourth or even a third of the entire area. For just as each of the kings would, from a love of splendour, add some ornament to the public monuments, so he would provide himself at his own expense with a residence in addition to those already standing.”