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Library of Alexandria (Original)

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« Reply #75 on: April 01, 2008, 01:42:19 pm »


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   posted 12-21-2005 12:29 PM                       
The Royal Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt was once the largest in the world. It is generally assumed to have been founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC, during the reign of Ptolemy II of Egypt, after Ptolemy's father had raised what would become the first part of the library complex, the temple of the Muses—the Musaeum (whence we get museum).

At its peak, the Royal Library is believed to have held anywhere between 40,000 to 700,000 books and was initially organized by Demetrius Phalereus. It has been reasonably established that the library was destroyed by fire yet, to this day, the details of the destruction or destructions remain a lively source of controversy.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in 2003 near the site of the old library


One story holds that the Library was seeded with Aristotle's own private collection, through one of his students, Demetrius Phalereus. Another story concerns how its collection grew so large: By decree of Ptolemy III of Egypt, all visitors to the city were required to surrender all books and scrolls in their possession; these writings were then swiftly copied by official scribes. The originals were put into the Library, and the copies were delivered to the previous owners. While encroaching on the rights of the traveler or merchant, it also helped to create a reservoir of books in the relatively new city.

The Library's contents were likely distributed over several buildings, with the main library either located directly attached to or close to the oldest building, the Museum, and a daughter library in the younger Serapeum, also a temple dedicated to the god Serapis. Carlton Welch provides the following description of the main library based on the existing historical records:

In this reconstruction, the doors from the Museum lead to storage rooms for the Library. Most of the books were probably stored in armaria, closed, labeled cupboards that were still used for book storage in medieval times.
A covered marble colonnade connected the Museum with an adjacent stately building, also in white marble and stone, architecturally harmonious, indeed forming an integral part of the vast pile, dedicated to learning by the wisdom of the first Ptolemy in following the advice and genius of Demetrios of Phaleron. This was the famous Library of Alexandria, the "Mother" library of the Museum, the Alexandriana, truly the foremost wonder of the ancient world. Here in ten great Halls, whose ample walls were lined with spacious armaria, numbered and titled, were housed the myriad manuscripts containing the wisdom, knowledge, and information, accumulated by the genius of the Hellenic peoples. Each of the ten Halls was assigned to a separate department of learning embracing the assumed ten divisions of Hellenic knowledge as may have been found in the Catalogue of Callimachus of Greek Literature in the Alexandrian Library, the farfamed Pinakes. The Halls were used by the scholars for general research, although there were smaller separate rooms for individuals or groups engaged in special studies.

In 2004 a Polish-Egyptian team claimed to have discovered a part of the library while excavating in the Bruchion region. The archaeologists claimed to have found thirteen "lecture halls", each with a central podium. Zahi Hawass, president of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said that all together, the rooms uncovered so far could have seated 5000 students.

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