Cleopatra’s Alexandria in Second Life

Alexandreia Rhakotis, October 2021 in 360 – click to open in a separate browser tab

Cube Republic (of the landscape brand fame), pointed me towards a fabulous build entitled Alexandreia Rhakotis, advising me it was a impressive build. As such, I took the first opportunity to hop over and take a look for myself.

Designed by Kleopatra T. Philopator (Kleopatra Alpha) and Elio Donat, the build is modelled after ancient Egyptian city of Alexandra, towards the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty’s rule over Egypt. It sits within a 3-region setting held by Kleopatra (2 regions) and one by Ellen of Sparta (ellenharriet) that offer a range of period destinations set within the 43-42 BC time frame, although for this article I will be focusing purely on Alexandreia Rhakotis itself.

Alexandreia Rhakotis, October 2021 – the Canopic Way

Also accessible via an airborne landing point that provides access to all of the setting within the estate, the city has been designed to represent how ancient Alexandria may have appeared during the reign of Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 BC – 10 August 30 BC), the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Her life and rule are probably most well known as being bound up with Julius Caesar (a relationship which produced a son, Caesarion, who would become the last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt), and her later affair with Mark Anthony, who came to rely on her for funding and military support during his invasions of the Parthian Empire and the Kingdom of Armenia, and with whom she distributed lands held by Rome and Parthia amongst her children (including Caesarion).

The setting is very much a labour of love for Kleopatra, who described something of its origins and development to me.

I started this work in 2016 with half a region. I’ve always loved Egypt and I developed a passion for the Ptolemaic time. Moreover, this time of Egypt is not well known and it’s a shame because Alexandria was an exceptional city.  I have been also very lucky to meet a man who has passion for building, he is a genius! Even so, researching has been difficult, because the city has been the victim of sackings, tsunami and earthquakes that have left much of it underwater, and the rest built over. We used a lot of resources: ancient writings, the work of Jean-Yves Empereur and Franck Goddio and so on.

– Kleopatra T. Philopator, discussing Alexandreia Rhakotis with me

Alexandreia Rhakotis, October 2021 – inside the palace

Of course, regions being what they are, compromises have had to be made in the presentation of the city. For example, the island of Pharos, home to the famous lighthouse of the same name, and a part of the natural protection of the city’s Great Harbour, is absent, leaving only a foreshortened version of the Heptastadion causeway, which leads directly to the lighthouse. However, given the Heptastadion alone was said to be 1.2 km long and 200 metres wide, and so would require 5 regions in its own right to be fully reproduced, a lack of Pharos is hardly surprising – and completely understandable. Nevertheless, this is still a simply stunning build: as Cube remarked to me, it is like stepping into one of the models you might find under glass with a museum and walking through it.

Central to the city – as with its inspiration – is the Canopic Way, the principal east-west thoroughfare (although here it runs north to south) that ran through it. In its time, the Canopic Way was home to the majority of the Ptolemaic and Roman monuments, and many of the city’s major buildings and temples, and this is again reflected in Kleopatra and Elio’s build.

Alexandreia Rhakotis, October 2021

These include the Serapeum of Alexandria, the temple to the Graeco-Egyptian deity Serapis, protector of the city, built on the orders of Ptolemy III Euergetes. There is also the Great Library, centre of learning for the kingdom and a centre of learning for the world around Alexandria. This faces the the Caesareum of Alexandria, built under the orders of Cleopatra VII herself to honour Julius Caesar, and believed to have once had the obelisks we today call Cleopatra’s Needles flanking its entrance; whilst just inside the city’s inner gates lies the tomb of Alexander the Great, who established and gave his name to the city, whilst throughout are statues to the likes of Ptolemy, and Hermanubis, a god combining Hermes from the Greeks and Anubis from the Egyptians.

At the end of the Way lies a great palace with laid out gardens, shaded walks, throne room and private chambers. It bookends the core of the Canopic Way by sitting at one end, whilst the homes and places of business for the ordinary populace, set at the other, the latter offered in a stark contrast to the Ptolemaic-Romano grandeur of the main city setting.

Alexandreia Rhakotis, October 2021 – the Caesareum of Alexandria

To the east can be found the Heptastadion and the Pharos lighthouse, whilst a part of the dockyards of the Great Harbour also sits to the east side of the city, complete with ships berthed at the wharf and under construction on the shoreline. Throughout the city can be found large gold chalices mounted on marble plinths. These are information givers that will provide further note cards on the structures they stand beside / within, and provided in a choice of languages (English, French, Italian and Arabic). Further information can be obtained on a range of subject from the lecterns within the Great Library.

A further point to note with Alexandreia Rhakotis is that it is living place. Not just as a result of it being a place for role-play, but because Kleopatra and Elio are constantly tweaking and improving, building and adding. Some of this is actually noted by the fact there are signs of construction to be found within the city walls (building work was much a part of Alexandria right the way through to Emperor Hadrian). In this, I’d also point out that the vast majority of the structures and elements found within the city have all be uniquely designed and built by Elio, and are not offered for sale, further marking the uniqueness of the city and the setting in general.

Alexandreia Rhakotis, October 2021, the Great Library and its courtyard

While the position of various structures along the Canopic Way might be open to debate (there is some difference between the position of the Great Library here and where it appears on a drawing representing Alexandria in the time of Hypatia (roughly 400 years after Cleopatra VII), for example), this doesn’t actually matter. This is because it is the presentation of the whole, rather than the positioning of the individual parts that makes Alexandreia Rhakotis such an immersive and – dare I say it – educational setting, as well as a play for role-play and other activities, a fact that further adds to the regions being an absolute “must see”.

As noted, this is one of a number of locations within a three region estate that represent the period 43-42 BC; I’ll be covering the rest in a follow-up article.

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