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Diving for Didaskalion

It’s a little-known fact that many of the Egyptian streets once strolled by Clement, Origen, Athanasius, and Cyril were briefly considered as sets for Disney’s Finding Nemo.

OK, I made that up. But it’s true that the streets of Alexandria — the Roman Empire’s “City That Never Sleeps” — have long since been sleeping with the fishes. Now the Egyptians are pondering ways to take classics and patristics nerds like you on the grand underwater tour. And at times it does indeed sound like a job for Disney. This from Bloomberg:

After 15 years of hauling priceless relics from in and around its harbor, Alexandria municipal officials and Egyptian antiquity authorities are trying to figure out how to make thousands of artifacts still at the bottom accessible for viewing by the public.

Municipal officials want to create an underwater archaeological park. Proposals under consideration include construction of an underwater bubble auditorium, conversion of the harbor into a giant pool with filters to remove silt and pollution and a submarine on rails to ferry visitors around.

The goal is to push the city into the major league of antique tourist attractions, a club in Egypt long dominated by Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel. Alexandria has a Roman amphitheater, a Greco-Roman museum, a combination Pharaonic-Greek-Roman National Museum and assorted columns scattered around town, yet it has never made the splash that, say, Luxor makes with its temples and tombs, much less Cairo, with the pyramids.

Alexandria’s potential surfaced, literally, in the early 1990s when European underwater archaeologists began to pull up stones, statues, pottery and jewelry. Egyptians knew the jumble of relics lay there — the first explorations took place in 1868 — but they thought of the colossal items as part of the environment, like reefs…

Alexander the Great founded the city in 331 B.C. Three hundred years later, Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, conquered it while pursuing Antony, a rival after the assassination of Julius Caesar …

Beginning in the fourth century A.D., earthquakes threw the city’s temples and palaces into the sea. Alexandria is now part of Egypt’s effort to attract more visitors.

Pope Benedict recently spoke of ancient Alexandria as “the symbolic city.” This blog has no shortage of material on Christian Alexandria. Click here and here for starters. Or just search on “Alexandria.”

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