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Library of Alexandria (Original)

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Author Topic: Library of Alexandria (Original)  (Read 5770 times)
Raven
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« Reply #75 on: April 02, 2008, 01:13:39 pm »

Evidence for the existence of the Library after Caesar

As noted above, it is generally accepted that the Museum of Alexandria existed until c. AD 400, and if the Museum and the Library are considered to be largely identical or attached to one another, earlier accounts of destruction could only concern a small number of books stored elsewhere. This is consistent with the number given by Seneca, much smaller than the overall volume of books in the Library. So under this interpretation it is plausible that, for example, books stored in a warehouse near the harbor were accidentally destroyed by Caesar, and that larger numbers cited in some works have to be considered unreliable -- misinterpretations by the medieval monks who preserved these works through the Middle Ages, or deliberate forgeries.


Inscription referring to the Alexandrian library, dated AD 56Even if one considers the Museum and the Library to be very much separate, there is considerable evidence that the Library continued to exist after the alleged destruction. Plutarch, who claimed the Great Library was destroyed (150 years after the alleged incident), in Life of Antony describes the later transfer of the second largest library to Alexandria by Mark Antony as a gift to Cleopatra. He quotes Calvisius as claiming "that [Mark Antony] had given her the library of Pergamus, containing two hundred thousand distinct volumes", although he himself finds Calvisius' claims hard to believe. In "Einführung in die Überlieferungsgeschichte" (1994, p. 39), Egert Pöhlmann cites further expansions of the Alexandrian libraries by Caesar Augustus (in the year AD 12) and Claudius (AD 41-54). Even if the most extreme allegations against Caesar were true, this raises the question of what happened to these volumes.

The continued existence of the Library is also supported by an ancient inscription found in the early 20th century, dedicated to Tiberius Claudius Balbillus of Rome (d. AD 56). As noted in the "Handbuch der Bibliothekswissenschaft" (Georg Leyh, Wiesbaden 1955):

"We have to understand the office which Ti. Claudius Balbillus held [...], which included the title 'supra Museum et ab Alexandrina bibliotheca', to have combined the direction of the Museum with that of the united libraries, as an academy."
Athenaeus (c. AD 200) wrote in detail in the Deipnosophistae about the wealth of Ptolemy II (309-246 BC) and the type and number of his ships. When it came to the Library and Museum, he wrote: "Why should I now have to point to the books, the establishment of libraries and the collection in the Museum, when this is in every man's memory?" Given the context of his statement, and the fact that the Museum still existed at the time, it is clear that Athenaeus cannot have referred to any event of destruction -- he considered both facilities to be so famous that it was not necessary for him to describe them in detail. We must therefore conclude that at least some of the Alexandrian libraries were still in operation at the time.

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