Rus Articles Journal

What is the Alexandria library well-known for?

Return to last glory

Probably, each educated person heard about one of the best-known libraries - Bibliotheca Alexandrina as her ancient Greeks and Egyptians called, - thanks to which Alexandria became the place of pilgrimage of the greatest minds of the world, not only in the ancient time, but also presently.

In 2002 the unique book-depository which died 1600 years ago was restored thanks to joint efforts of UNESCO, government of Egypt, a number of the European and Arab countries, and also Japan. The Norwegian architects worked on the project of the building of library. Construction works were continued 7 years.

The recreated Alexandria library, thanks to the Norwegian architects, looks very unusually. The main building reminds the huge inclined drum which roof almost about two football fields, is made of glass and aluminum. The main rooms for visitors are below sea-level. The smooth shining roof slope gradually goes down from height of the seventh floor and leaves under the earth.

The external wall of the building which is laid out by gray granite, steep and rounded off. On it letters of ancient and modern alphabets are cut out. The spacious many-tier reading room occupies the most part of an interior. Storages for storage of 8000000 volumes are in underground part of the building. There is also a planetarium - the separate building of spherical shape reminding the satellite in an orbit. Modern computers and fire-prevention security systems supplement this complex created state-of-the-art.

The library which became a legend In ancient times Alexandria was known to

for a unique beacon and Alexander of Macedon`s tomb. The beacon more than 110 meters high was considered as one of seven wonders of the world. The Greek dynasty Ptolemeev, having inherited Egypt from Alexander of Macedon, operated the country until in the 30th year BC. Octavian did not win a victory over Anthony and Cleopatra. At Ptolemaeus Alexandria strongly changed.

The city became the center of trade and culture of the world. During blossoming in it there lived about 600000 people. The imperial library was the biggest sight of Alexandria at that time. The library founded at the beginning of the 3rd century BC and the temple of muses - Museyon - became the center of science and education in the Hellenistic world.

Almost everything, as for emergence and death of library, is shrouded in mystery. According to some historians, the Alexandria library after the basis practically at once began to compete to other outstanding cultural center of that time - library in Pergamum. It is supposed that in the Alexandria library there were more than 700000 papyrian rolls. (For comparison, in the 14th century in library of Sorbonne there was the biggest collection of books - 1700 copies).

The legend of governors of Egypt who sought to fill up the collection in any way is known: they even ordered to the soldiers to search each ship coming to the port to find any manuscripts. If those found, then retained them, and returned to owners copies.

According to other legend when from Athens to Ptolemaeus of III invaluable originals of classical Greek dramas were for a while brought to rewrite them, he promised even to pay pledge and after completion of works to return these valuable manuscripts. However, having caught manuscripts, the tsar refused to give pledge and, having retained originals, back sent copies.

In library and Museyona Aleksandriya of that time great thinkers worked: Eratosthenes, Zenodot, Aristarkh Samossky, Callimachus, etc. Scientists in Alexandria were famous for the works on geometry, trigonometry and astronomy, and also linguistics, literature and medicine. The legend says that here 72 scientists from the Jewish people translated the Jewish Writing into Greek and created the well-known Septuagint.

Works in the most different languages were stored in library. Was considered even that in the world there is no valuable work which copy would not be in the Alexandria library. In storage there were not only rolls, but also stone and waxed plates with a cuneiform writing and hieroglyphs. The Alexandria library was open for all comers and was considered as the holy site which is not conceding on the importance to many religious temples. Before entry into its storage the clarification ceremony was made.

However the glory to the Alexandria library was brought not so much by quantity of collected rolls, and even not that soon after creation it became a collection of works of philosophers and scientists from around the world, including Archimedes, Heron, Euclide and Hippocrates. Her death became the legendariest page of history of library.

Disappearance of library

Exists many legends of death of the Alexandria library. Some researchers consider that many of its treasures were lost during the fire started by Julius Caesar`s soldiers in 47 during the Alexandria war.

The death of the Alexandria library was attributed also to Caesar`s successor - the emperor Augustus. There is also a version that at the time of religious conflicts, during the period from III to the 6th century AD in Alexandria often there were collisions on the religious soil: pagans, Jews and Christians often clashed with each other concerning dogmas. In 391 part of ancient manuscripts, together with the pagan temple of Serapeum attached to a book-depository were allegedly destroyed by religious fanatics.

The most popular version of death of the well-known library belongs by the time of the Arab gain. Sources demonstrate that she died in the grandiose fire during capture of the city of Alexandria by Turks - Ottomans. On a legend, having subdued Egypt, the commander Amr Ibn Al - the Expert asked the Caliph Omar what to do with library. That answered that even if the books which are stored in library will be coordinated with the Koran - they are not necessary. If contradict it - they are undesirable, so, they should be destroyed anyway.

So, on one of versions, the biggest library of times of antiquity was destroyed. After numerous social and natural cataclysms those manuscripts which survived appeared in libraries of the countries of the Mediterranean and Western Europe, having formed a basis for development of intellectual communities of the Islamic and Christian Middle Ages.

But, nevertheless, among experts there is no consensus about death of library, and scientists still argue how and when it disappeared.

the Reason of it that, unfortunately, ancient chroniclers did not see need in details to describe scientific institutions of Alexandria. Afiney`s word, the historian of the 3rd century AD, are quite typical: Why to speak about number of books, the structure of libraries and Museyon`s collection if people perfectly know all this? Similar statements of ancient do not please modern scientists who look for opportunities as much as possible to learn about this surprising ancient library.

Whatever was the reason of disappearance of library, her death, first of all, meant loss of a huge treasury of knowledge. Forever hundreds of thousands of works of the Greek playwrights, and also works on the Greek historiography in 500 years, except Herodotus, Fukidid and Xenophon`s some works disappeared.