History : Aug-Sep 2015
22 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 an ambitious and philanthropic purpose: To as- semble in one place all the works of knowledge, from every time and place, and to preserve them for future generations. With patronage from the Ptolemies, the li- brary’s collection was painstakingly amassed over many decades. Its librarians included some of the great minds of Greece: Philosopher and statesman Demetrius of Phalerum and po- ets Callimachus of Cyrene and Apollonius of Rhodes. They were anxious to compile a truly comprehensive collection of knowledge that looked beyond the borders of Greece to include the significant works of non-Hellenist peoples, including examples from Jewish and Egyptian I magine a universal library that assembled all the books ever produced. Stacked on seem- ingly endless shelves would be every book known to mankind, in every language. Within its walls would be the sum of human knowl- edge and the answers to almost any question ever asked. In the age of computers we might call this the World Wide Web. In ancient times it was the Library of Alexandria. In 331 b.c . Alexander the Great founded Al- exandria as the new capital of Egypt. Just a few years later the ruling Greek Ptolemaic dynasty established the Museum of Alexandria as a cen- ter for scholarly research and learning. Alongside it they founded the Library of Alexandria, with A FONT OF ANCIENT KNOWLEDGE 320-221 b.c. The Museum and Library of Alexandria are founded as centers of learning under the patronage of the Ptolemies. The Serapeum was later established as a secondary library. After a bloody power struggle Ptolemy VIII ascends to the throne of Egypt. Due to continued instability many scholars flee Alexandria, bringing about a decline in learning. 145 b.c. PTOLEMY II AND ARSINOE ON A GOLD COIN FROM 246 B.C . AKG/ALBUM Museum This important center of learning was famed for its scientific and literary scholarship. CanopicWay Pharos lighthouse One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, it was built in the third century b.c. and stood at least 400 feet high. Isle of Pharos A long dyke, the Heptastadion, joined the island to the mainland. Palace district contained a port, temples, royal palaces, and the celebrated library.