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5 Ancient Roman Lighthouses You Can Still Visit

Updated on November 16, 2015

Lighthouses are very beautiful places to visit, and even more interesting are ancient lighthouses. If you like the history of ancient Rome, the ancient ruins, or Roman architecture, you might of course be interested in these lighthouses. In ancient Rome lighthouses were as important as they are now, perhaps even more, for they lightened the path for the ships that were making their ways to the sea ports 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

Tower of Hercules
Tower of Hercules | Source

Known these days as the “Tower of Hercules” (previously known as Farum Brigantium), this lighthouse was built in 1st century AD by the Romans, and is considered the most 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 18th century). The Tower of Hercules is considered the oldest and the only lighthouse still in use, and is surrounded by a lot of fascinating legends. In the Middle Ages the lighthouse wasn’t in use, and the use was renewed during the 15th century. The lighthouse is open for tourists now, and even more, you can climb to the top of it to enjoy the beautiful view.

2. Hidirlik Tower, Turkey

Hidirlik Tower
Hidirlik Tower | Source

Hidirlik Tower is located in Antalya, Turkey, and it was built in 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, for the frescoes inside and the carvings of the axes near the entrance support that theory. Although the place is 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 a tomb or not, it had to be 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.

3. Roman lighthouse near Dover Castle, England

Ancient Roman Lighthouse, Dover Castle
Ancient Roman Lighthouse, Dover Castle | Source

The Roman Lighthouse near the 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 all agree about it was in 1st century AD during the reign of the 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 the medieval times, and looks a little less worn out than the actual Roman section.

4. Patara Lighthouse, Turkey

Patara Lighthouse
Patara Lighthouse | Source

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 1st century AD and the remains of the lighthouse that was found by archeologists some years ago are dated 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 what 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 the Roman times it was visited by emperors Hadrian and Vespasian, which makes it even more interesting destination knowing that such powerful men visited the city, too.

5. Leptis Magna Lighthouse, Libya

The remains of the Leptis Magna Lighthouse
The remains of the Leptis Magna Lighthouse | Source

The ancient ruins of city Leptis Magna are a very impressive sightseeing location. But 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 35 m 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, and looking at the ruins you can imagine what it could look like, being a very important sea port, and what the lighthouse would look like standing there in ancient times.


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    • Linnea Lewis profile image

      Linnea Lewis 2 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      It very much is; it illustrates the size of the power of the Roman Empire very well. I'm glad you like it!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 2 years ago from Australia

      How interesting that these lighthouses still remain - plus they emphasise the size of the Roman Empire . More places for my wish list!