The Glory that Was: The Great Library of Alexandria

April 6, 2016

The Ruins of the Great Library of Alexandria
Said to house as many as half a million documents, the Great Library at Alexandria represents the first concentrated effort to assemble the sacred wisdom of the world at a single site.  Buyers for the library traveled by land and by sea, collecting the wisdom of the ancient world - a world far wider than we might imagine - to bring it home to Alexandria. 

Founded by the Greco-Egyptian Pharaoh  Ptolomy I Soter,  in 283 BCE. the museum was a shrine of the Muses modeled after the Lyceum of Aristotle in Athens. It was a place of study which included lecture areas, gardens, shrines for each of the nine muses and even a zoo. The library was known to contain thousands of ancient scrolls from Assyria, Egypt, India, Greece, Persia and many other lands. Over 100 scholars were said to live at the site full-time performing research, lecturing upon or translating the precious documents it housed. 

The great library survived for several hundred years before it was lost completely.  Four possible tragedies are considered partially or wholly responsible for its destruction.  These include an accidental fire during Julius Caesar's Alexandrian War in 48 BCE, the attack of Aurelian in 270  CE, the decree of Coptic Pope Theophilus in 391 CE and associated Christian riot, and the Muslim conquest on or around 642 CE.  While historians debate the specifics, all agree that much of the great library's wisdom was irretrievably lost.


  1. Great article, thank you. I've always been so interested in reading about Hypatia Alexandria, an original woman scientist and theologian, and early "librarian" of this great ruin, at least until her tragic murder...

  2. Thank you so much Accidental <3 I find the figure of Hypatia fascinating as well. A great idea for a future post!


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