definition of Wikipedia
||This article may contain original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding references. Statements consisting only of original research may be removed. (September 2010)|
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. The library was conceived and opened either during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter (323–283 BC) or during the reign of his son Ptolemy II (283–246 BC).
Plutarch (AD 46–120) wrote that during his visit to Alexandria in 48 BC Julius Caesar accidentally burned the library down when he set fire to his own ships to frustrate Achillas' attempt to limit his ability to communicate by sea. After its destruction, scholars used a "daughter library" in a temple known as the Serapeum, located in another part of the city.
In 2004, a Polish-Egyptian excavation team announced that they had discovered the remains of the Library of Alexandria.
According to the earliest source of information, the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas, the library was initially organized by Demetrius of Phaleron, a student of Aristotle, under the reign of Ptolemy Soter (ca.367 BC—ca.283 BC).
Built in the Brucheion (Royal Quarter) in the style of Aristotle's Lyceum, adjacent to and in service of the Musaeum (a Greek Temple or "House of Muses", hence the term "museum"), the library comprised a Peripatos walk, gardens, a room for shared dining, a reading room, lecture halls and meeting rooms. However, the exact layout is not known. The influence of this model may still be seen today in the layout of university campuses. The library itself is known to have had an acquisitions department (possibly built near the stacks, or for utility closer to the harbour), and a cataloguing department. A hall contained shelves for the collections of scrolls (as the books were at this time on papyrus scrolls), known as bibliothekai (βιβλιοθῆκαι). Legend has it that carved into the wall above the shelves was an inscription that read: The place of the cure of the soul.
The first known library of its kind to gather a serious collection of books from beyond its country's borders, the Library at Alexandria was charged with collecting all the world's knowledge. It did so through an aggressive and well-funded royal mandate involving trips to the book fairs of Rhodes and Athens and a policy of pulling the books off every ship that came into port. They kept the original texts and made copies to send back to their owners. This detail is informed by the fact that Alexandria, because of its man-made bidirectional port between the mainland and the Pharos island, welcomed trade from the East and West, and soon found itself the international hub for trade, as well as the leading producer of papyrus and, soon enough, books.
Other than collecting works from the past, the library was also home to a host of international scholars, well-patronized by the Ptolemaic dynasty with travel, lodging and stipends for their whole families. As a research institution, the library filled its stacks with new works in mathematics, astronomy, physics, natural sciences and other subjects. Its empirical standards applied in one of the first and certainly strongest homes for serious textual criticism. As the same text often existed in several different versions, comparative textual criticism was crucial for ensuring their veracity. Once ascertained, canonical copies would then be made for scholars, royalty and wealthy bibliophiles the world over, this commerce bringing income to the library.
The editors at the Library of Alexandria are especially well known for their work on Homeric texts. The more famous editors generally also held the title of head librarian. These included, among others,
It is now impossible to determine the collection's size in any era with any certainty. Papyrus scrolls comprised the collection, and although codices were used after 300 BC, the Alexandrian Library is never documented as having switched to parchment, perhaps because of its strong links to the papyrus trade. (The Library of Alexandria in fact had an indirect cause in the creation of writing parchment — due to the library's critical need for papyrus, little was exported and thus an alternate source of copy material became essential.)
A single piece of writing might occupy several scrolls, and this division into self-contained "books" was a major aspect of editorial work. King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309–246 BC) is said to have set 500,000 scrolls as an objective for the library. Mark Antony supposedly gave Cleopatra over 200,000 scrolls (taken from the great Library of Pergamum) for the library as a wedding gift, but this is regarded by some historians as a propagandist claim meant to show Antony's allegiance to Egypt rather than Rome. No index of the library survives, and it is not possible to know with certainty how large and how diverse the collection may have been. For example, it is likely that even if the Library of Alexandria had hundreds of thousands of scrolls (and thus perhaps tens of thousands of individual works), some of these would have been duplicate copies or alternate versions of the same texts.
A possibly apocryphal or exaggerated story concerns how the library's collection grew so large. By decree of Ptolemy III of Egypt, all visitors to the city were required to surrender all books and scrolls, as well as any form of written media in any language in their possession which, according to Galen, were listed under the heading "books of the ships". Official scribes then swiftly copied these writings, some copies proving so precise that the originals were put into the library, and the copies delivered to the unsuspecting owners. This process also helped to create a reservoir of books in the relatively new city.
According to Galen, Ptolemy III requested permission from the Athenians to borrow the original scripts of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, for which the Athenians demanded the enormous amount of fifteen talents (450 kg of a precious metal) as guarantee. Ptolemy happily paid the fee but kept the original scripts for the library. This story may also be constructed erroneously to show the power of Alexandria over Athens during the Ptolemaic dynasty.
The library of Alexandria was but one part of the Museum of Alexandria, which functioned as a sort of research institute. In addition to the library, the Museum included rooms for the study of astronomy, anatomy, and even a zoo of exotic animals. The classical thinkers who studied, wrote, and experimented at the museum include the fathers of mathematics, engineering, physiology, geography, and medicine. These included notable thinkers such as Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Herophilus, Erasistratus, Hipparchus, Aedesia, Pappus, Hypatia, Aristarchus of Samos, and Saint Catherine.
Ancient and modern sources identify four possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria: Julius Caesar's fire in the Alexandrian War, in 48 BC; the attack of Aurelian in 270 – 275 AD; the decree of Coptic Pope Theophilus in AD 391; and the Muslim conquest in 642 AD or thereafter.
when the enemy endeavored to cut off his communication by sea, he was forced to divert that danger by setting fire to his own ships, which, after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library.—Plutarch, Life of Caesar
William Cherf argued that this scenario had all the ingredients of a firestorm and in turn set fire to the docks and then the library, destroying it. This would have occurred in 48 BC, during the fighting between Caesar and Ptolemy XIII. In the 2nd century AD, the Roman historian Aulus Gellius wrote in his book Attic Nights that the Royal Alexandrian Library was burned by mistake when some of Caesar’s soldiers started a fire. Furthermore, in the 4th century, both the pagan historian Ammianus and the Christian historian Orosius wrote that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina had been destroyed by Caesar's fire. The anonymous author of the Alexandrian Wars writes that the fires Caesar's soldiers had set to burn the Egyptian navy in the port of Alexandria went as far as burning a store full of papyri located near the port. However, the geographical study of the location of the historical Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the neighborhood of Bruchion suggests that this store cannot have been the Great Library. It is most probable here that these historians confused the two Greek words bibliothekas, which means “set of books”, with bibliotheka, which means library. As a result, they thought that what had been recorded earlier concerning the burning of some books stored near the port constituted the burning of the famous Alexandrian Library.
In any case, whether the burned books were only some books found in storage or books found inside the library itself, the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65) refers to 40,000 books having been burnt at Alexandria. During Marcus Antonius' rule of the eastern part of the Empire (40–30 BC), he plundered the second largest library in the world (that at Pergamon) and presented the collection as a gift to Cleopatra as a replacement for the books lost to Caesar's fire. Abaddi speaks to this story as anti-Antony propaganda, from Rome, to show his loyalty to Egypt.
Theodore Vrettos describes the damage caused by the fire: "The Roman galleys carrying the Thirty-Seventh Legion from Asia Minor had now reached the Egyptian coast, but because of contrary winds, they were unable to proceed toward Alexandria. At anchor in the harbor off Lochias, the Egyptian fleet posed an additional problem for the Roman ships. However, in a surprise attack, Caesar's soldiers set fire to the Egyptian ships, and the flames, spreading rapidly in the driving wind, consumed most of the dockyard, many structures near the palace, and also several thousand books that were housed in one of the buildings. From this incident, historians mistakenly assumed that the Great Library of Alexandria had been destroyed, but the Library was nowhere near the docks... The most immediate damage occurred in the area around the docks, in shipyards, arsenals, and warehouses in which grain and books were stored. Some 40,000 book scrolls were destroyed in the fire. Not at all connected with the Great Library, they were account books and ledgers containing records of Alexandria's export goods bound for Rome and other cities throughout the world."
However, the Royal Alexandrian Library was not the only library located in the city. There were at least two other libraries in Alexandria: the library of the Serapeum Temple and the library of the Cesarion Temple. The continuity of literary and scientific life in Alexandria after the destruction of the Royal Library, as well as the flourishing of the city as the world’s center for sciences and literature between the 1st and the 6th centuries AD, depended to a large extent on the presence of these two libraries and the books and references they contained. Thus, while it is historically recorded that the Royal Library was a private one for the royal family as well as for scientists and researchers, the libraries of the Serapeum and Cesarion temples were public libraries accessible to the people.
Furthermore, while the Royal Library was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the royal quarters of Bruchion near the palaces and the royal gardens, it was his son Ptolemy III who founded the Serapeum temple and its adjoined "Daughter" Library in the popular quarters of Rhakotis.
The next account we have is Strabo's Geographia in 28 BC, which does not mention the library specifically, but does mention—among other details—that he is unable to find a map in the city that he saw when on an earlier trip to Alexandria, pre-fire. Abaddi uses this account to infer the library was destroyed to its foundations and the collection destroyed.
The certainty of this conclusion diminishes when one considers the context. The adjacent Museion was, according to the same account, fully functional—which requires the assumption that one building could be perfectly intact while another next door completely destroyed. Also, we do know that at this time the Daughter Library at the Serapeum was thriving and untouched by the fire, and as Strabo does not mention the library by name, we can assert that for Strabo omission does not necessarily denote absence.
Finally, as mentioned above, Strabo confirms the existence of the "Museion", of which the Great Library was the royal collection, and in his other mentions of the Sarapeum and Museion, he and other historians are inconsistent in their descriptions of the entire compound or the temple buildings specifically. So we may not infer that by mentioning the father institute of the Museion, but not the library arm specifically, that it had in fact been demolished. Finally, as one of the world's leading geographers, it is entirely possible that in the twenty-plus years since his last visit to the library, the map he was referencing—*quite possibly a rare or esoteric map considering his expertise and the vast collection of the library—might have been either part of the library that was partially destroyed or simply a victim of twenty years of wear, tear and disrepair in a library which no longer had the funds it once did to recopy and preserve its collection.
Therefore, the Royal Alexandrian Library may have been burned after Strabo's visit to the city (25 BC) but before the beginning of the 2nd century AD when Plutarch wrote. Otherwise Plutarch and later historians would not have mentioned the incident and mistakenly attributed it to Julius Caesar. It is also most probable that the library was destroyed by someone other than Caesar, although the later generations linked the fire that took place in Alexandria during Caesar's time to the burning of the Bibliotheca. Some believe that the most likely scenario was the destruction that accompanied the wars between Zenobia of Palmyra and the Roman Emperor Aurelian, in the second half of the 3rd century (see below).
The library seems to have been maintained and continued in existence until its contents were largely lost during the taking of the city by the Emperor Aurelian (270–275), who was suppressing a revolt by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra (ruled Egypt AD 269–274). During the course of the fighting, the areas of the city in which the main library was located were damaged. The smaller library located at the Serapeum survived, but part of its contents may have been taken to Constantinople to adorn the new capital in the course of the 4th century. However, Ammianus Marcellinus, writing around AD 378 seems to speak of the library in the Serapeum temple as a thing of the past, and he states that many of the Serapeum library's volumes were burnt when Caesar sacked Alexandria. As he says in Book 22.16.12–13:
Besides this there are many lofty temples, and especially one to Serapis, which, although no words can adequately describe it, we may yet say, from its splendid halls supported by pillars, and its beautiful statues and other embellishments, is so superbly decorated, that next to the Capitol, of which the ever-venerable Rome boasts, the whole world has nothing worthier of admiration. In it were libraries of inestimable value; and the concurrent testimony of ancient records affirm that 70,000 volumes, which had been collected by the anxious care of the Ptolemies, were burnt in the Alexandrian war when the city was sacked in the time of Caesar the Dictator.
While Ammianus Marcellinus may be simply reiterating Plutarch's tradition about Caesar's destruction of the library, it is possible that his statement reflects his own empirical knowledge that the Serapeum library collection had either been seriously depleted or was no longer in existence in his own day.
Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in 391. The holdings of the Great Library (both at the Mouseion and at the Serapeum) were on the precincts of pagan temples. While this had previously lent them a measure of protection, in the days of the Christian Roman Empire, whatever protection this had previously afforded them had ceased. The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391.
Socrates of Constantinople provides the following account of the destruction of the temples in Alexandria, in the fifth book of his Historia Ecclesiastica, written around 440:
At the solicitation of Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, the emperor issued an order at this time for the demolition of the heathen temples in that city; commanding also that it should be put in execution under the direction of Theophilus. Seizing this opportunity, Theophilus exerted himself to the utmost to expose the pagan mysteries to contempt. And to begin with, he caused the Mithreum to be cleaned out, and exhibited to public view the tokens of its bloody mysteries. Then he destroyed the Serapeum, and the bloody rites of the Mithreum he publicly caricatured; the Serapeum also he showed full of extravagant superstitions, and he had the phalli of Priapus carried through the midst of the forum. ... Thus this disturbance having been terminated, the governor of Alexandria, and the commander-in-chief of the troops in Egypt, assisted Theophilus in demolishing the heathen temples.
The Serapeum housed part of the Great Library, but it is not known how many, if any, books were contained in it at the time of destruction. Notably, the passage by Socrates makes no clear reference to a library or its contents, only to religious objects. An earlier text by the historian Ammianus Marcellinus indicates that, whatever books might earlier have been housed at the Serapeum, none was there in the last decade of the 4th century. The pagan author Eunapius of Sardis witnessed the demolition, and though he detested Christians, and was a scholar, his account of the Serapeum's destruction makes no mention of any library. When Orosius discusses the destruction of the Great Library at the time of Caesar in the sixth book of his History against the Pagans, he writes:
So perished that marvelous monument of the literary activity of our ancestors, who had gathered together so many great works of brilliant geniuses. In regard to this, however true it may be that in some of the temples there remain up to the present time book chests, which we ourselves have seen, and that, as we are told, these were emptied by our own men in our own day when these temples were plundered—this statement is true enough—yet it seems fairer to suppose that other collections had later been formed to rival the ancient love of literature, and not that there had once been another library which had books separate from the four hundred thousand volumes mentioned, and for that reason had escaped destruction.
Thus Orosius laments the pillaging of libraries within temples in 'his own time' by 'his own men' and compares it to the destruction of the Great Library destroyed at the time of Julius Caesar. He is certainly referring to the destruction of the Pagan temples of Alexandria as these were destroyed during his lifetime, and seeing as his book entitled "Against the Pagans" was a defense of Christianity, "our men" must surely refer to the Christians who were ordered to destroy the Pagan temples. Whilst he admits that the accusations of plunder are “true enough”, he then suggests that the books in question were not copies of those that had been housed at the Great Library, but rather new books "to rival the ancient love of literature".
As for the Museum, Mostafa El-Abbadi writes in Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria (1990):
The Mouseion, being at the same time a 'shrine of the Muses', enjoyed a degree of sanctity as long as other pagan temples remained unmolested. Synesius of Cyrene, who studied under Hypatia at the end of the fourth century, saw the Mouseion and described the images of the philosophers in it. We have no later reference to its existence in the fifth century. As Theon, the distinguished mathematician and father of Hypatia, herself a renowned scholar, was the last recorded scholar-member (c. 380), it is likely that the Mouseion did not long survive the promulgation of Theodosius' decree in 391 to destroy all pagan temples in the city.
John Julius Norwich, in his work Byzantium: The Early Centuries, places the destruction of the library's collection during the anti-Arian riots in Alexandria that transpired after the imperial decree of 391 (p. 314). Edward Gibbon claimed that the Library of Alexandria was destroyed by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, who ordered the destruction of the Serapeum in 391.
In 642, Alexandria was captured by the Muslim army of Amr ibn al `Aas. There are five Arabic sources, all at least 500 years after the supposed events, which mention the fate of the library.
The story was still in circulation among Copts in Egypt in the 1920s.
Bernard Lewis has argued that this version, though untrue, was reinforced in mediaeval times by Saladin, who decided to break up the Fatimid caliphate's collection of heretical Isma'ili texts in Cairo following his restoration of Sunnism to Egypt, and will have judged that the story of the caliph Umar's support of a library's destruction would make his own actions seem more acceptable. Kelly Trumble and Roy MacLeod reject the story as well.
Luciano Canfora included the account of Bar Hebraeus in his discussion of the destruction of the library without dismissing it.
At a conference at the University of California in 2004, a team announced the possible discovery of the site of the Library, including 13 large lecture halls that could have accommodated 5000 students. The rooms were oriented around a central elevated lecture podium. President of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass said it was perhaps the world's oldest university, noting, "It is the first time ever that such a complex of lecture halls has been uncovered on any Greco-Roman site in the whole Mediterranean area."
Dictionary and translator for handheld
New : sensagent is now available on your handheld
A windows (pop-into) of information (full-content of Sensagent) triggered by double-clicking any word on your webpage. Give contextual explanation and translation from your sites !
With a SensagentBox, visitors to your site can access reliable information on over 5 million pages provided by Sensagent.com. Choose the design that fits your site.
Improve your site content
Add new content to your site from Sensagent by XML.
Crawl products or adds
Get XML access to reach the best products.
Index images and define metadata
Get XML access to fix the meaning of your metadata.
Please, email us to describe your idea.
Lettris is a curious tetris-clone game where all the bricks have the same square shape but different content. Each square carries a letter. To make squares disappear and save space for other squares you have to assemble English words (left, right, up, down) from the falling squares.
Boggle gives you 3 minutes to find as many words (3 letters or more) as you can in a grid of 16 letters. You can also try the grid of 16 letters. Letters must be adjacent and longer words score better. See if you can get into the grid Hall of Fame !
Change the target language to find translations.
Tips: browse the semantic fields (see From ideas to words) in two languages to learn more.