Library of Alexandriathe most famous library of Classical antiquity. Libraries and archives were known to many ancient civilizations in Egypt, MesopotamiaSyriaAsia Minorand Greecebut the earliest such institutions were of a local and regional nature, primarily concerned with the conservation of their own particular traditions and heritage.
The hunt for books
The idea of a universal library, like that of Alexandria, arose only after the Greek mind had begun to envisage and encompass a larger worldview. The Greeks were impressed by the achievements of their neighbours, and many Greek intellectuals sought to explore the resources of their knowledge. There dating literary evidence of Greek individuals visiting Egypt especially to acquire knowledge: e.
Against that background of avid hunger for knowledge among the Greeks, Alexander launched his global enterprise in bcewhich he accomplished with meteoric speed until his untimely death in bce. His aim throughout had not been restricted to conquering lands as far from Macedonia as India but had been to also explore them. He required his companions, generals, and scholars to report to him in detail on regions ly unmapped and uncharted. The reports that Alexander greek acquired survived after his death, and they motivated an unprecedented movement of scientific research Alexandria study of the Earthits natural physical qualities, and its inhabitants.
The time was pregnant with a new spirit that engendered a renaissance of human culture. It was in that atmosphere that the great library and Mouseion saw the light of day in Alexandria. The founding of the library and the Mouseion is unquestionably connected with the name of Demetrius of Phalerona member of the Peripatetic school and a former Athenian politician. Letters 9— In fact, judging from the scholarly work produced in Alexandria, it seems likely that the whole corpus of Greek literature was amassed in the library.
The two s perhaps deal with two different things. Athenaeus may be referring to the collection of books that Aristotle had amassed at his school in Athenswhich Philadelphus was able to purchase when his former tutor, Datingwas head of the Lyceum. Fabulous stories circulated about the lengths to which the Ptolemies would go in their avid hunt for books. One method to which they reportedly resorted was to search greek ship that sailed into the harbour of Alexandria. If a book was found, it was taken to the Alexandria for a decision as to whether to return it or to confiscate it and replace it with a copy made on the spot with an adequate compensation to the owner.
Another story reported by Galen in the writings on Hippocrates reveals how Ptolemy III managed to obtain the original texts of the great dramatic poets AeschylusSophoclesand Euripides.
The precious texts were safeguarded in the Athenian state archives and were not allowed to be lent out. The king, however, persuaded the governors of Athens to permit him to borrow them in order to have them copied. The enormous sum of 15 talents of silver was deposited in Athens as a pledge for their safe restitution.
The king thereupon kept the originals and sent back copies, willingly forfeiting the pledge. Those irregular methods of collection were supplemented by the purchase of books from different places, especially from Athens and Rhodeswhich sustained the largest book markets of the time.
Of languages other than Greek, Egyptian had the largest section. Ptolemy I is said to have encouraged Egyptian priests to accumulate records of their past tradition and heritage and to render them available for use by Greek scholars and men of letters whom he had invited to live in Egypt. Best-known examples from each group were the Egyptian priest Manethowho had good command of Greek, and the Greek author Hecataeus of Abdera. Library of Alexandria.
Introduction The hunt for books Other languages Growth of the library Registration and classification of books The fate of the Library of Alexandria. Fast Facts. Additional Info. Print print Print. Table Of Contents. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.
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