The destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria

The destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria

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While it may be convenient to blame one man or group of people for the destruction of what many consider to be the greatest library in the ancient world, it may be over-simplifying the matter.  The library may not have gone up in flames at all, but rather could have been gradually abandoned over time. If the Library was created for the display of Ptolemaic wealth, then its decline could also have been linked to an economic decline. As Ptolemaic Egypt gradually declined over the centuries, this may have also had an effect on the state of the Library of Alexandria. If the Library did survive into the first few centuries AD, its golden days would have been in the past, as Rome became the new centre of the world.

Featured image: One of the theories suggests that Library of Alexandria was burned down. ‘The Burning of the Library of Alexandria’, by Hermann Goll (1876).         

By Ḏḥwty


Empereur, J.-Y., 2008. The Destruction of the Library of Alexandria: An Archaeological Viewpoint. In: M. El-Abbadi & O. M. Fathallah, eds. What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?. Leiden; Boston: Brill, pp. 75-88.

Haughton, B., 2011. What Happened to the Great Library at Alexandria. [Online]
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[Accessed 8 May 2014].

Newitz, A., 2013. The Great Library at Alexandria was Destroyed by Budget Cuts, Not Fire. [Online]
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[Accessed 8 May 2014].

Plutarch, Life of Julius Caesar ,
[Perrin, B. (trans.), 1919. Plutarch's Lives. London: William Heinemann.]

Wikipedia, 2014. Destructionn of the Library of Alexandria. [Online]
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[Accessed 8 May 2014].


The Christian Bishop Cyril had the skin flayed from Hypatia, and her body dragged through the streets. He then burned the library as it was full of 'Pagan' texts.

One of the greatest acts of vandalism of ancient texts occured during the fourth Crusade in 1204, when Crusaders destroyed huge quanitities of books in their sack and conquest of Constantinople.
Even so, after the restoration of the native emperors the Byzantines managed to accumulate another library, which, when the city was once again threatened in 1453 by the Ottomans, Constantine XI determined not to allow the same vandalism to happen, so he had the remaining library that was left of the Roman Empire packed up and sent north with the new Paleologus bride of the Russian czar Ivan III (married off to maintain the continuation of Roman Imperial rule in Moscow) in the last few weeks of the Byzantine Empire, where it was deposited in a masonry library under the Kremlin where it apparently remains. The only trouble is that no one has been able to locate the library after Ivan the Terrible killed everyone in the Kremlin who knew where it was, and he took the secret of its whereabouts to the grave. The Russians should contnue the search for the Liberia, as it is called, which was undertaken by Stalin but who put a stop to the search prior to WW II. Also, worth mentioning is the discovery and search for palimpsests in the books of medieval times, some of which have been found to contain lost Classical texts.

The name Ptolemy derives from the Greek ΠΤΟΛΕΜΑΙΟΣ<Πολεμαιος<ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ=war, Therefore the name means: "aggresive, warlike".


was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Macedonian Greek origin that ruled Egypt three centuries long during the Hellenistic era.

Ptolemy the first (Soter) was Alexander the Great's half-brother, his classmate at Aristotle school in Mieza, Macedonia, Greece, and one of his generals during Alexander's campaign in Asia. Therfore Cleo was an Alexander the Great's distant descedant.

The Ptolemies, throughout their dynasty, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is the reason that Greek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents such as the Rosetta Stone.

The name derives from the Greek components: ΚΛΕΟΣ -ΠΑΤΉΡ =father's glory.

The name "Egypt" derives from the Greek components: ΑΙΓΑΙΟ-ΗΠΤΙΟ=behind (the) Aegean (sea).

John Grammaticus” (490–570) could not have told a story about Amr who conquered Egypt in 640. Anachronizm.


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