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5 Ancient Roman Lighthouses You Can Still Visit

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Linnea has a fascination with intriguing and unusual things and is especially interested in their historical and cultural backgrounds.

Ancient Roman Lighthouses

Lighthouses—especially ancient ones—are very beautiful places to visit. If you like the history of ancient Rome, Roman architecture, or its ancient ruins, you might be interested in visiting these lighthouses.

In ancient Rome, lighthouses were as important as they are now, perhaps even more so, for they lit the path for the ships that were making their way to the seaports without any of the advanced technology we have today. They were often very beautiful, which is still evident thousands of years later.

1. Tower of Hercules, Spain

Known these days as the “Tower of Hercules” (previously known as Farum Brigantium), this lighthouse was built in the 1st century AD by the Romans, and is considered the most well-preserved ancient Roman lighthouse in the world.

Historians say that it most likely was built during Emperor Trajan’s reign, over an older structure that is believed to have been Phoenecian. The lighthouse is 55m tall, 34m of which is still the original Roman construction (the rest was rebuilt in the 18th century). The Tower of Hercules is one of the oldest ancient lighthouses still in use, and it is surrounded by a lot of fascinating legends.

In the Middle Ages, the lighthouse wasn’t in use, but its use was renewed during the 15th century. The lighthouse is open for tourists now, and you can climb to the top to enjoy a beautiful view.

Ancient Roman Lighthouse, Dover Castle

Ancient Roman Lighthouse, Dover Castle

2. Roman Lighthouse Near Dover Castle, England

The Roman Lighthouse near Dover Castle is indeed an interesting place to visit, and for a long time it was considered the oldest Roman lighthouse in the world. Archeologists argue about when exactly the lighthouse was built, though they agree it was in the 1st century AD during the reign of Emperor Claudius, following an earlier design made by Caligula, most likely several years after Romans came to conquer the lands.

Originally there were two lighthouses, built on two different hills, but now only one of them still stands, which is located on Eastern heights. The Dover Castle lighthouse is about 19m high—compared to its original 24m—and, though it used to serve some other purpose during the older centuries, is rather well-preserved. The top part was restored during medieval times, and it looks a little less worn out than the Roman section.

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3. Patara Lighthouse, Turkey

Patara is an ancient city located near the city of Gelemiş in Turkey and has a very rich history. It was annexed by Romans in the 1st century AD and the remains of the lighthouse that were found by archeologists some years ago are dated from the same century. It was most likely built during the reign of Emperor Nero, for the emperor’s name was found on the remnants of the structure that was surrounding it.

Archeologists suggest that originally the upper part of the lighthouse was about five stories high. It is considered the new symbol of Patara, and the city itself is an amazing place to visit. During Roman times it was visited by emperors Hadrian and Vespasian; knowing that such powerful men visited the city makes it an even more interesting destination.

The remains of the Leptis Magna Lighthouse

The remains of the Leptis Magna Lighthouse

4. Leptis Magna Lighthouse, Libya

The ancient ruins of the city Leptis Magna are very impressive, and one of the most interesting parts of this historical city is the ancient lighthouse. The Leptis Magna lighthouse is very damaged, although you can still imagine pretty well what it looked like because the base is nicely preserved.

Historians suggest that the lighthouse, built in the 3rd century AD, used to be about 35m high when it was still active. It used to have three levels and was most likely built during the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus when he started his great building program in Leptis Magna.

The Leptis Magna lighthouse is considered the 2nd tallest lighthouse ruins in the world after the Dover Castle lighthouse and some historians believe it could have resembled the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria when it was still standing. The Leptis Magna ruins are considered one of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world. Looking at the ruins, you can imagine what the lighthouse would have looked like standing there in ancient times.

5. Hidirlik Tower, Turkey

Hidirlik Tower is located in Antalya, Turkey, and was built in the 2nd century by Romans who owned the land those days. It is 14m tall, and it is believed that some parts were restored or rebuilt during the Ottoman Empire.

It is not known for sure if Hidirlik was a lighthouse or just a fortification building. Some even suggest that it was an important person’s tomb, due to the frescoes inside and the carvings of the axes near the entrance. The place seems too well-situated for a lighthouse, so whatever the purpose of the tower was and if it changed with time is still discussable. But most historians agree that whether it was originally a tomb or not, it was used as a lighthouse by Romans for directing ships to the important harbor of Antalya.

Hidirlik tower is considered one of the symbols of Antalya and many visitors come there not only to see the historical building, but to also see the amazing view at the harbor. Despite the numerous arguments as to what it really is, it still looks impressive and is worth visiting.

© 2015 Lin

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