share. However, Gaëlle Coqueugniot, “Where was the royal library of Pergamum? “It can therefore be ruled out that George had any of the books from the Serapeum library in his own library.”. No, this is George the Cappadocian – bishop of Alexandria until his death in 361. Others blame Theophilus for destroying the last of the scrolls when he razed the Temple of Serapis prior to making it a Christian church. This was long before George attacked the Serapeum in 356. However you slice it, a collection in the tens of thousands of scrolls fits all of the evidence far better. It can therefore be ruled out that George had any of the books from the Serapeum library in his own library. In 48 BC, Caesar was pursuing Pompey into Egypt when he was suddenly cut off by an Egyptian fleet at Alexandria. I mean, where else could you just hop off of the main road and go to “college”? Quibbling over “around 378” versus “writing in the 380s” is pretty irrelevant to that key point. So it’s more likely that reference is a later addition. And not least because the Great Library … wasn’t burned down by wicked Christians. Unfortunately most of the writers from Plutarch (who apparently blamed Caesar) to Edward Gibbons (a staunch atheist or deist who liked very much to blame Christians and blamed Theophilus) to Bishop Gregory (who was particularly anti-Moslem, blamed Omar) all had an axe to grind and consequently must be seen as biased. Peter Heather actually begins his recent book on the fall of the Western Empire by noting how unlikely that event would have looked to anyone in the last quarter of the fourth century. [and] mysticism” which caused this jewel to be burned down that continue to inspire anger in many people. The collection may have ebbed and flowed as some documents were destroyed and others were added. This they converted into a temporary citadel; and hither they conveyed many of the Christians, put them to the torture, and compelled them to offer sacrifice. This is a neat story that makes a direct link between the Peripatetic school of Aristotle and the founding of the Library and establishes it as being modelled on Aristotle’s Lyceum in Athens. The full phrase I used, in context, was “a shrine with scholars attached to it, not a secular university”. But then a screaming mob of irrational Christian zealots puts this treasure of science and learning to the torch, thus ushering in the Dark Ages and setting back technology by one thousand years. What’s worse is that the site’s moderation isn’t consistent and often very biased. It is clear that the losses were huge, as Plutarch also tells the (probably apocryphal) story of Mark Antony confiscating the whole collection of the Great Library of Pergamon and giving them to Cleopatra to replace the books lost in the fire (Plutarch, Antony, 58). Writing between 1776 and 1778, Gibbon was working well before any later ideas about historians being judicious and objective. Given that the Mouseion was most likely long gone by Theon’s time, it could be that some other successor “Mouseion” had been established and Theon studied there or it could be that “the man from the Mouseion” is stylised honorific or even a personal nickname – meaning “a scholar like one from the old days”. While the story itself isn’t accurate, it speaks to us today as we face the digital book burnings that are threatening the modern-day Library of Alexandria: the internet. You refer at one point to the royal library at Pergamon containing ca. They indicate that no-one had much of a clue how big the holdings were and were simply using large numbers for rhetorical effect to say “it was a big library”. Obviously the larger the collection in the Great Library the more terrible the tragedy of its loss, so those seeking to apportion blame for the supposed destruction of the Library usually go for these much higher numbers (it may be no surprise to learn that it’s the monotheists who are the “bad guys” in Kirsch’s cartoonish book). stupid …. Unsurprisingly he does not mention the inner building that contained the library other than in the past (perfect) tense (fuere).”. Not even in that letter. In 640 AD the Moslems took the city of Alexandria. Yes, but I rip that post and the idiot who writes that blog to tiny pieces HERE. The emperor Julian condemned George, but he nowhere mentions that George may have taken any books from the library. In Greek, I would expect not only “Hellenistic” Greek works, but also classic ones. 348-362), he begins with how many authors we know were writing in the early Hellenistic period. Your effort I understand but provoques more thoughts contrary to your religion in the mind of a reasonable observer. “It was unique and contained all the wisdom of the ancient world.”. During his reign the Temple of Serapis was converted into a Christian Church (probably around 391 AD) and it is likely that many documents were destroyed then. The earliest account of Caesar’s siege damaging Alexandria comes from a lost work by Livy via an epitome by Florus (Florus, II.13) which describes Caesar burning the area around the docks to deprive enemy archers of a position on which to fire on his troops, and this is echoed by Lucan (The Civil War, X.24). Anyone who works in library services will tell you that the main enemy of a library’s continuation is a lack of funding. As we know from the study of ancient and modern rhetoric. Libraries also came to be established in Roman bath complexes, with a very large one at the Baths of Caracalla and another at the Baths of Diocletian. The only problem is … it never happened. Those who refused compliance were crucified, had both legs broken, or were put to death in some cruel manner. The Great Myths 5: The Destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria, Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window). (Dio Cassius, Roman History, XLII.36). By the time of the later Ptolemies, however, we find administrators, court favourites and even a former commander of the palace guard taking up the role, which seems to have become, as Lionel Casson puts it, “a political plum” to be awarded to flunkies rather than scholars. This means his use of the past tense about the temple library is significant. Roman libraries often had, like Trajan’s, two rooms – one for Greek and one for Latin authors. And even if he did write the bulk of his work in the 380s, his reference to the Serapeum depends on when he visited Egypt. So Columbia University’s Roger S. Bagnall has taken another tack. The idea of the anl powerful God arrests human development in all areas. I give the quote from Ammianus and the full citation – “Ammianus, Roman History XXII.16-17″. The most harmless small thing gets you a warning. “Rival” may not be exact, but there is nothing to indicate that the Alexandrine Library was 15 times bigger than its rival. The idea of the all powerful, all knowledgable, of heaven, of resurrection, etc., are seductive, not because they are factually correct but because they are conforting. Assyrian? An unburned building full of decaying books would not have made a particle of difference. Trajan’s library also seems to have established a design and layout that would be the model for libraries for centuries: a hall with desks and tables for readers with books in niches or shelves around the walls and on a mezzanine level. Tim O’Neill’s forthright blog does a valuable job in keeping us all honest, and reminding us that historical evidence rarely behaves as one might want it to.” –, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge, “A brilliantly erudite blog that stands sentinel against the wish-fulfilment and tendentiousness to which atheists, on occasion, can be no less prey than believers”, – Tom Holland, best-selling history writer, “Tim O’Neill’s blog is a fantastic place to turn for critical investigation of commonly-held assumptions about religion in the ancient world.”, – Professor James F. McGrath, Butler University, “Tim O’Neill is a known liar …. And it’s in this context that Sagan tells a moral fable of the Great Library of Alexandria and its fall to the forces of irrationality and superstition: The story that Sagan tells is a fine one and the morals he draws from it are admirable, but as a historical account it’s absolutely terrible. Therefore, we can rule out that George took books from the Serapeum, let alone that he plundered a substantial part of that library. Temples had begun to be starved of funds with the conversion of the emperors of Christianity and the slower but gradual conversion of many rich patrons and city benefactors. Their “science” was not our science. As Bagnall notes, there would need to be dozens of copiesd of absolutely everything and all works would have to be take up many scrolls to get even close to the higher figures given for the Library’s holdings. Greatly outnumbered and in enemy territory, Caesar ordered the ships in the harbor to be set on fire. That place was an intellectual’s heaven.”, “I get upset by the fact that the loss of all this knowledge and wisdom was at human hands, not of some accidental cause.”, “Ignorance destroys enlightenment just because of its own stupidity.”, “It reinforces my hatred for religious zealot’s, and distaste for religion in general – How much greater would our advancements be right now were it not for ridiculous acts and events such as this…”. Also because the library was burned by Ceaser, a Roman, "many people" suggest the Vatican archives, you know in Rome, has hidden knowledge from the library of Alexandria, including physical scrolls. Thanks for this article! Once home to the massive Pharos lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World, the Mediterranean seaport of Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great around 330 BCE, and like many other cities in his Empire, took its name from him. Dio Cassius gives a slightly longer account: After this many battles occurred between the two forces both by day and by night, and many places were set on fire, with the result that the docks and the storehouses of grain among other buildings were burned, and also the library, whose volumes, it is said, were of the greatest number and excellence. By the way, the current moral decay is because religion is dying but people have not been educated in school and outside it, to use Reason and Philosophy to figure out what is righ and moral. The Burning of the Library of Alexandria, 1876. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images) Plutarch tells us in his 2nd century CE Life of Caesar of the burning of a portion of the library’s holdings, likely dock-side warehouses but possibly the Great Library itself. This means you present this statement as the absolute truth. Is that your point?”. Which is why I keep saying the evidence is circumstantial. Julius Caesar had intended to establish a library next to the Forum in Rome but this was ultimately achieved after his death by Gaius Asinius Pollio (75 BC – 4 AD), a soldier, politician and scholar who retired to a life of study after the tumults of the Civil Wars. “Typically, ancient scholars knew and read and collected works in many languages, from many different regions, from many different eras. Again, you’re ignoring context. “At any rate, John Chrysostom (First Discourse against the Jews) says that the Serapeum contained books in 386. Eunapius’ account in his Lives of the Philosophers runs to 548 words in English translation. Likely the most important in Ancient World. Ancient libraries in particular needed constant financial patronage from their founders and sponsors to survive. HE 3.3), which is clear that George took “images, votive offerings, and such other consecrated apparatus” (the term “ransacked” is a modern invention).”. Tim O’Neill’s forthright blog does a valuable job in keeping us all honest, and reminding us that historical evidence rarely behaves as one might want it to.” – Professor Tim Whitmarsh, A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge, “A brilliantly erudite blog that stands sentinel against the wish-fulfilment and tendentiousness to which atheists, on occasion, can be no less prey than believers” – Tom Holland, best-selling history writer, “Tim O’Neill’s blog is a fantastic place to turn for critical investigation of commonly-held assumptions about religion in the ancient world.” – Professor James F. McGrath, Butler University, “Tim O’Neill is a known liar …. The library of Alexandria are desrtroyed more than once. It will happen. The End of the Serapeum and the Beginning of the Myth. So now you know what parts of the temple the troops went into? In this WERE invaluable libraries” There was some translation of non-Hellenic works into Greek in Greek libraries and the translation of the Jewish Bible into the Septuagint is the most famous example of this. The real tragedy of course is not the uncertainty of knowing who to blame for the Library's destruction but that so much of ancient history, literature and learning was lost forever. There is general agreement that the battle of Adrianople was the most decisive in the history of the Roman Empire as 2/3rd of the Roman legions got lost, and contemporaries were aware that this defeat pretty much left Rome at the mercy of the Germanic invaders. The Temple of Serapis was estimated to hold about ten percent of the overall Library of Alexandria's holdings. Legend has it which Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria began wrecking pagan wats or temples over Christianity. Is that your point? George was eventually kicked to death by a pagan mob and his mangled corpse dragged through the city, which shows this kind of thing was not just something that happened to Hypatia in the often violent politics of Alexandria. All I can find in the text above is “writing around 378 AD, Ammianus Marcellinus” etc. There certainly is an account from a century later which attributes the founding of the Library to Demetrios in Ptolemy I’s reign, but there are good reasons to be suspicious of its accuracy. Yet he refers to the libraries it had contained in the past tense. 97, No. Sagan wrote the series and its accompanying best-selling book in 1978-79, in the shadow of the Cold War, the era of Apartheid and the wake of the Iranian Revolution and years of radical terrorism. But several who are often claimed as working there (or even as being “librarians” of the Great Library, no less) clearly did not. The Museum was a shrine of the Muses modeled after the Lyceum of Aristotle in Athens. some 700,000 volumes and scrolls in all.” (Kirsch, p. 278). The whole idea that the destruction of a single ancient library could have singlehandedly brought on “the Dark Ages” is incoherent, and that’s leaving aside the fact that the whole concept of “the Dark Ages” is gibberish to begin with. face-palming is inevitable. As mentioned above, when we can survey the archaeology of an ancient library’s ruins, some estimate can be made of its holdings. Perhaps one of the most interesting accounts of its destruction comes from the accounts of the Roman writers. You are ridiculous. The final individual to get blamed for the destruction is the Moslem Caliph Omar. He notes that we know of around 450 authors for whom we have, at the very least, some lines of writing whose work existed in the fourth century BC and another 175 from the third century BC. The library at Alexandria was said to be one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world. But many of the other things often claimed about it are much less clear and some of them are pure fantasy, so it’s time to turn to the list of things that the “Great Library” was not. You really are getting ridiculous. No. So I’d say the development of new ideas is actually a benefit to the Abrahamic Tradition. That no other similar institutions existed. Nevertheless, he famously says that Rome had now entered its final stage (“declining into old age, and often owing victory to its name alone” 14.6.3). Julian says in a letter “I know the books of George, if not all of them then at any rate most”. His Decline and Fall became a best-seller and, for all its many historiographical faults, is still rightly regarded as an English literary masterpiece. The Mouseion was founded as a place for scholars and was a shrine because every building in the classical world was, it wasn’t built because the Pharaoh really cared about the Muses and needed somewhere to worship them and then thought “I might as well allow some scholars to work here because I made the building too big”; to the Hellenes a caring about the Muses was the same thing as an interest in scholarship. This is why Ammianus used 378 as his end point. Carrier assures his online fan club “[a]ll he describes is the raid on its pagan statues, and some vague looting otherwise. Theodosius made up those losses with new recruits and units transferred from Egypt, exploited the divisions among the Goths after the death of Fritigern, beat the various warbands into submission and, by 382, had done what Valens had originally failed to do – settled the now submissive and co-operative Goths under a foedus that was to hold until at least 395. Oh please. Truth. Any ransacking would definitely have resulted in the scrolls being looted rather than burned, because they were highly valuable. Alexandria Burning rating: +230 + – x. Concerning possible books/scrolls in translation, was the Alexandrian library even an attempt to amass “accumulated knowledge ” across ancient cultures? Theophilus was Patriarch of Alexandria from 385 to 412 AD. Is this the same individual Wikipedia called Gregory the Cappaocian? “This was not some foreign war, this was more like a police action.”. “you are right that Ammianus mentions the entire temple district (templa) of the Serapeum and specifically the outer colonnade, as well as the statues and artwork adorning the outer structure. Many modern people, including modern scientists, hear about the Greeks discussing motion or “atoms” or doing geometry to measure the circumference of the Earth or the distance to the Sun and assume that they were doing “science” in the modern sense of the word. Alexandria was founded in Egypt by Alexander the Great. The compositions of ancient genius, so many of which have irretrievably perished, might surely have been excepted from the wreck of idolatry, for the amusement and instruction of succeeding ages.” (Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. We have no less than five accounts of the destruction of the Serapeum – Rufinius Tyrannius, Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen, Theodoret and Eunapius of Antioch – which is rare in ancient history and actually makes this one of the best documented events in the period. What Julian actually says is that “all the books which belonged to George be sought out” and then says that George’s secretary be given the task, threatening him with “the test of torture” if he doesn’t send all of the collection. The absolute god idea prevailed because its followers were more numerous than the believers in Reason and Philosophy to figure spiritual things out and in science and technonlogy to find some solutions to practical challenges. Formerly a s… Its shadow lingers over the … Given that this library was considered a genuine rival to the Great Library of Alexandria, it is most likely that the latter held around 40-50,000 scrolls at its height, containing a smaller number of works overall given that ancient works usually took up more than one scroll. It has been estimated that at one time the Library of Alexandria held over half a million documents from Assyria, Greece, Persia, Egypt, India and many other nations. Maybe some of the documents did burn when Ceasar accidentally set the library on re but we don’t acumen several of these documents were destroyed. He says the Serapeum was “once a temple, but was later reconsecrated to knowledge”. Sagan was drawing on Gibbon’s tradition in his hymn to the Great Library, which means the New Atheists are getting their ideas on the subject third or fourth hand and from sources that are dubious, patently biased and totally outdated. 4, Dec. 2002, pp. We know that it was ransacked on the orders of the Alexandrian bishop George the Cappodocian c. 360 AD and it is likely the library was looted in this action. In its first two centuries the Mouseion’s directors were famous scholars, renowned for their intellects throughout the Greek-speaking world. These retellings focus on the supposed destruction of its library, so they tend to assume that the mob was there simply because they hated learning. Although the loss of the Library of Alexandria was a tragic loss in its time, it’s destruction likely had little to do with humanity’s development or societal evolution. Natural philosophy was, as the term would suggest, the preserve of philosophers. Diana Delia is much less cautious, stating “Egyptian, Ethiopian, Indian, Persian, Elamite, Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Phoencian, Syrian and Latin masterpieces were probably translated and preserved in Greek as well” (Delia, p. 1457), though her “probably” there is because she is basing this on the very late Christian sources that gave Bagnell pause (i.e. He acknowledges that we can’t know how many lost writers existed (obviously), so he bases his calculations on the ones we know about. 30,000 books. Most of their “science” was done by sitting around, thinking and talking about concepts, not by actually dropping weights from towers – though they did do thought experiments which sometimes led to correct conclusions and sometimes did not. The influence of his account of the murder of Hypatia is a topic for another article, but it’s his heartfelt paean to the Great Library, his allusions to the advances it could have inspired if it had survived, followed by his condemnation of the forces of “stagnation … pessimism …. Julian says he has seen most (if not all) of the books in George’s collection in Cappadocia in the 340s. Plus it seems that Quora, which seemed legit to me originally, like so many Forums currently, just seems like a place where people love to argue – rather than learn. He usually goes skeptical on many films that try to portray one side as being all evil or all good. Why is this guy so hellbent on spliting hair. Hello, I clicked on this link from BAS; what a great find! “It was the largest library in the ancient world, containing over 700,000 books.”. If you share the mod’s political views, insult all you want. Late to this, but a very good post. Finally, it seems to stem in no small part from (yet again) Sagan’s influential but fanciful picture of the institution as a distinctively secular hub of scientific research and, by implication, technological innovation. And you’re ignoring the context, where it is in his interest to assure Edicius that he has extensive knowledge of George’s collection to ensure he is not cheated out of any books. Overall, the idea that there was still any library there when the temple was demolished is dubious at best and almost certainly wrong. According to several authors, the Library of Alexandria was accidentally destroyed by Julius Caesar during the siege of Alexandria in 48 BC. Probably not very much at all. But after all, that is just rhetoric. The New Atheist mythic conception of the “Great Library of Alexandria” bears very little resemblance to any historical actuality. Of course, for this to have come about, the Roman Empire would have had to do a much better job at suppressing the religious hysterics that kept cropping up, and keeping the Imperial succession peaceful. If not, where would these types of historical (even at that time) works have been preserved and held, if anywhere? This probably refers to when the teenage Julian and his brother Gallus lived on the Imperial estate of Marcellum in Cappodocia, before George was installed as bishop in Alexandria. Probably the books were stored in places different to the sanctuary itself. http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/news/geelong/hundreds-protest-over-closure-of-three-geelong-library-branches/news-story/90b9f8c63e8ac986632031985b879914, Hey, shouldn’t you be able to get back on quora pretty soon and start pissing people off again. Because ancient writers could and did revise their works later. Aulus Gellius’ mention of the Great Library says that the collection numbered “nearly seven hundred thousand volumes” and then adds “but these were all burned during the sack of the city in our first war with Alexandria”, referring to Caesar’s siege (Gellius, Attic Nights, VII.17). Of these, a full 245 are not about pagan statues etc, but are devoted wholly to detailed denigration of the ignorant Christian monks who destroyed the temple. The Serapeum survived most of the fourth century, but it is very likely that the expense of maintaining an extensive library would have been a strain. You really are getting creative with your attempts though. Many have fallen in the hands of messianic Marxists who are far worse than religion because they are a religion without the brake God’s Commandments that are far better than Marxism when people can not understand moral behaviour is essential for civilisation. The first problem relevant here is that the sources vary widely in the figures they give for the number of scrolls in the Library. The fact that the Great Library was actually associated with a religious shrine is something that is ignored or glossed over in many modern accounts. Adding Classical works to the works of the third and second centuries BC isn’t enough to get there either. I must admit that, like many of my generation, I have a soft spot for Sagan. The Caliph has been quoted as saying of the Library's holdings, "they will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous." On the whole, however, lofty Greek philosophers didn’t think to soil their hands with something as lowly as inventing and making things. Probably everyone mentioned above had some hand in destroying some part of the Library's holdings. He then says “know what books George had, many of them, at any rate, if not all; for he lent me some of them to copy, when I was in Cappadocia”. an asscrank …. I don’t blame you. But the practical applications of his study of pneumatics and dynamics were more toys and curiosities than any great leaps forward in technology. That’s why his testimony that it no longer contained libraries is significant. 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 during his escapades with Cleopatra etc. The Library possessed, by far, the most advanced collection of technological knowledge in the world at the time of its burning. It absolutely was one of the biggest or largest and most important libraries in the world. Many writers seem to equate the Library of Alexandria with the Library of Serapis although technically they were in two different parts of the city. But it was the calamitous third century AD that saw a succession of military disasters in Alexandria and seems to have seen the final end of the Mouseion. Many famous ancient scholars worked in the Mouseion, including Eratosthenes and probably Ptolemy. For instance, Mark Antony was supposed to have given Cleopatra over 200,000 scrolls for the Library long after Julius Caesar is accused of burning it. Sorry – I think it was maybe clear from context, but in case it was not, I meant to write “that the library was destroyed at an even later date.”, Your email address will not be published. Does it not make a difference to the question at hand whether he wrote in 378 or 398 (or any other time)? Libraries were often established as adjuncts to temples but it seems Sagan was attempting to distance the “annex” of the Great Library from the temple in which it sat because this did not quite fit his theme of secular knowledge’s superiority to “mysticism”. According to the only and rather brief surviving description, given by Strabo in the early first century AD, it also included a communal dining hall with kitchens, a dormitory and other residential apartments, extensive gardens decorated with statues and a shaded walk. But this obscures the fact that Greek proto-science was, while a distant linear ancestor of the modern sciences, very unlike them in many important respects. The loss of the ancient world's single greatest archive of knowledge, the Library of Alexandria, has been lamented for ages. The weird idea that the loss of the Great Library was some kind of singular disaster is at least partially due to the fact that none of the various other great libraries of the ancient world are known to casual readers, so it may be easy for them to assume it was somehow unique. Obviously, the early books by Ammianus where he sets out his historical plan are lost. 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