Alexander laying out the city of Alexandria by Andre Castaigne 1898/99

Deinocrates of Rhodes (Sometimes spelled "Dinocrates") (aprx. 3rd century BC - 2nd century) was a Greek architect and technical adviser for Alexander the Great. Around 332_BC Alexander appointed him director of surveying and urban planning work for the city of Alexandria. He was aided by Crates of Olynthus, an esteemed Hydraulic Engineer who built the waterworks for the city. He also worked on, among other things, an incompleted funerary monument for King Phillip of Macedonia.


1. Dinocrates the architect, relying on the powers of his skill and ingenuity, whilst Alexander was in the midst of his conquests, set out from Macedonia to the army, desirous of gaining the commendation of his sovereign. That his introduction to the royal presence might be facilitated, he obtained letters from his countrymen and relations to men of the first rank and nobility about the king’s person; by whom being kindly received, he besought them to take the earliest opportunity of accomplishing his wish. They promised fairly, but were slow in performing; waiting, as they alleged, for a proper occasion. Thinking, however, they deferred this without just grounds, he took his own course for the object he had in view. He was, I should state, a man of tall stature, pleasing countenance, and altogether of dignified appearance. Trusting to the gifts with which nature had thus endowed him, he put off his ordinary clothing, and having anointed himself with oil, crowned his head with a wreath of poplar, slung a lion’s skin across his left shoulder, and carrying a large club in his right hand, he sallied forth to the royal tribunal, at a period when the king was dispensing justice.

2. The novelty of his appearance excited the attention of the people; and Alexander soon discovering, with astonishment, the object of their curiosity, ordered the crowd to make way for him, and demanded to know who he was. “A Macedonian architect,” replied Dinocrates, “who suggests schemes and designs worthy your royal renown. I propose to form Mount Athos into the statue of a man holding a spacious city in his left hand, and in his right a huge cup, into which shall be collected all the streams of the mountain, which shall then be poured into the sea.”

3. Alexander, delighted at the proposition, made immediate inquiry if the soil of the neighbourhood were of a quality capable of yielding sufficient produce for such a state. When, however, he found that all its supplies must be furnished by sea, he thus addressed Dinocrates: “I admire the grand outline of your scheme, and am well pleased with it: but I am of opinion he would be much to blame who planted a colony on such a spot. For as an infant is nourished by the milk of its mother, depending thereon for its progress to maturity, so a city depends on the fertility of the country surrounding it for its riches, its strength in population, and not less for its defence against an enemy. Though your plan might be carried into execution, yet I think it impolitic. I nevertheless request your attendance on me, that I may otherwise avail myself of your ingenuity.”

4. From that time Dinocrates was in constant attendance on the king, and followed him into Egypt; where Alexander having perceived a spot, at the same time naturally strong, the centre of the commerce of the country, a land abounding with corn, [Image] and having those facilities of transport which the Nile afforded, ordered Dinocrates to build a city whose name should be Alexandria. Dinocrates obtained this honour through his comely person and dignified deportment. ...

And hew out a huge mountain of pathos,
As Philip's son proposed to do with Athos.

Lord Byron, Don Juan, xii. 86.


S. Spooner:


According to Pliny, Dinocrates built a temple at Alexandria, in honor of Arsinoe, sister and wife of Ptolemy Philadelphus. The whole interior was to have been incrusted with loadstone, in order that the statue of the princess, composed of iron, should be suspended in the centre, solely by magnetic influence. On the death of Ptolemy and of the architect, the idea was abandoned, and has never been executed elsewhere, though believed to be practicable. A similar fable was invented of the tomb of Mahomet.


"I cannot conceive," said Spence, the author of Polymetis, to Pope, "how Dinocrates could ever have carried his proposal of forming Mount Athos into a statue of Alexander the Great, into execution."—"For my part," replied Pope, "I have long since had an idea how that might be done; and if any body would make me a present of a Welch mountain, and pay the workmen, I would under take to see it executed. I have quite formed it sometimes in my imagination: the figure must be on a reclining posture, because of the hollowing that would be necessary, and for the city's being in one hand. It should be a rude unequal hill, and might be helped with groves of trees for the eye brows, and a wood for the hair. The natural green turf should be left wherever it would be necessary to represent the ground he reclines on. It should be so contrived, that the true point of view should be at a considerable distance. When you were near it, it should still have the appearance of a rough mountain, but at the proper distance such a rising should be the leg, and such another an arm. It would be best if there were a river, or rather a lake, at the bottom of it, for the rivulet that came through his other hand, to tumble down the hill, and discharge itself into it."

Diodorus Siculus, says that Semiramis had the mountain Bajitanus, in Media, cut into a statue of herself, seventeen stadii high, (about two miles) surrounded by one hundred others, probably representing the various members of her court. China, among other wonders, is said to have many mountains cut into the figures of men, animals, and birds. It is probable, however, that all these stories have originated in the imagination, from the real or fanciful resemblance of mountains, to various objects, which are found in every country, as "The Old Man of the Mountain," Mt. Washington, N. H., "St. Anthony's Nose," in the Highlands, "Camel's Rump," Green Mountains, "Giant of the Valley," on lake Champlain, &c. It is easy to imagine a mountain as a cloud, "almost in shape of a camel," "backed like a weasel," or "very like a whale."

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