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

References

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]
Available at: http://www.ancient.eu.com/article/207/
[Accessed 8 May 2014].

Newitz, A., 2013. The Great Library at Alexandria was Destroyed by Budget Cuts, Not Fire. [Online]
Available at: http://io9.com/the-great-library-at-alexandria-was-destroyed-by-budget-1442659066
[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]
Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_of_the_Library_of_Alexandria
[Accessed 8 May 2014].

Comments

pkoutoupis's picture

Great article! While you allude to the Arab conquest of Egypt, it has been suggested that alot of the manuscripts did survive and were transported to Damascus and as we all know Damascus rose to become quite the center for knowledge after Alexandria.

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Petros Koutoupis

www.petroskoutoupis.com

 
Justbod's picture

Great article! Ever since I learnt of the library at Alexandria I have wondered how the world might have been different if the knowledge within its walls had survived. One of history's great 'what ifs....'

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

There's also another possibility, though not one that targeted the Library specifically: The Alexandrians sided with the Syrian queen Zenobia during her 3rd century A.D. revolt, and while the Library was not specifically mentioned in accounts of fighting between Alexandians and Roman soldiers who came to bring the city back into the fold, a great deal of the Library's quarter of the city was burned. Some of the research I've done on my own suggests that while the Library still survived in the 5th century (when Hypatia was there), it was vastly reduced from previous generations.

I would like to get straight that it was reconquest....not conquest

The Omar theory seems close. Why, because of ... a similar library Nalanda that was world reknowned in ancient India - destroyed by Muslim invaders with fire. And Taxshashila.

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