After leaving Istanbul, we continued to sail to Turkey, spending a day in Kusadasi and a day in Bodrum. Next was a visit to Rhodes, Greece and then to the Isle of Cyprus. Next was a visit to Ashdod, the largest port in Israel. We continued sailing to Haifa (Nazareth), the third largest city in Israel. There is much to say about the history and culture of each of these destinations. I could not do justice to the story in this weekly blog post.
I had been to Israel more than 20 years ago speaking about the future of the Internet at various technology conferences. I have always been impressed with the technical innovations which have come from Israel, especially in the field of healthcare. Former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt complimented the country during a visit there, saying “Israel has the most important high-tech center in the world after the US.”
On day 12, we arrived in Alexandria, Egypt. Alexander the Great founded the city in 332 BCE after the start of his Persian campaign. His plan was for Alexandria to be the capital of his new Egyptian center of power. The naval base could dominate the Mediterranean. As we entered the port, a dozen or so ships of the Egyptian Navy came into view.
Nine years later, Alexander died, and control of the city passed to Ptolemy I Soter, who founded the dynasty which took his name. Within a century of its founding, Alexandria became one of the Mediterranean’s largest cities and a center of Greek scholarship and science. Famous scholars included Euclid, Archimedes, Plotinus the philosopher, and Ptolemy and Eratosthenes the geographers.
Founded in the beginning of the 3rd century BCE by the Ptolemies, the Mouseion was a great research institute which included the city’s famous library. The library was destroyed in a civil war under the Roman emperor Aurelian. Today, The Great Library of Alexandria is one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world.
I was not aware until now Alexandria was also home to a populous Jewish colony and was a major center of Jewish learning; the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek, the Septuagint, was produced there. Another thing I did not know was the decline of the Ptolemies in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE was matched by the rise of Rome. Alexandria played a major part in the intrigues that led to the establishment of imperial Rome.
It was at Alexandria Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemies, courted Julius Caesar and claimed to have borne him a son. Her attempts at restoring the fortunes of the Ptolemaic dynasty, however, were thwarted by Caesar’s assassination and her unsuccessful support of Mark Antony against Caesar’s great-nephew Octavian. In 30 BCE Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) formally brought Alexandria and Egypt under Roman rule. The city held the key to the Egyptian granary on which Rome increasingly came to rely.
Over the years, Alexandria and famous Egyptian rulers played a lot of key roles leading to the development of the modern-day city of nearly six million people. At 11 p.m. tonight (Friday), the ship pulls out of the harbor and heads for Heraklion, Greece. The following day we sail to Athens where we began 17 days earlier.