The second largest city and the main port of Egypt, Alexandria was built by the Greek architect Dinocrates (332-331 BC), by the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalizing Alexander's name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual, political, and economic metropolis, the remains of which are still evident to this day.
Alexandria formally became part of the Roman Empire in 30 BC. It was the greatest of the Roman provincial capitals, with a population of about 300,000 free persons and numerous slaves.
Alexandria had two celebrated royal libraries, one in a temple of Zeus and the other in a museum. The collections were said to contain c.700,000 rolls. They were gradually destroyed from the time of Caesar's invasion, and suffered especially in AD 391, when Theodosius I had pagan temples and other structures razed.
The Arabs moved the capital of Egypt to Cairo in 969 and Alexandria's decline continued, accelerating in the 14th cent., when the canal to the Nile silted up.
During his Egyptian campaign, Napoleon took the city in 1798, but it fell to the British in 1801. The city gradually regained importance after 1819, when the Mahmudiyah Canal to the Nile was completed.
During World War II, as the chief Allied naval base in the Mediterranean, Alexandria was bombed by the Germans. In a 1944 meeting in Alexandria, plans for the Arab League were drawn up. The city's foreign population declined during the 20th century, particularly after the 1952 Egyptian revolution.
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