Library of Alexandria

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The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, seems to have been the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BCE until the Roman conquest of Egypt in 48 BCE. After its destruction, scholars used a related library in the temple known as the Serapeum, located in another part of the city, founded on the collection of Pergamum, which was given by Mark Antony to Cleopatra. This library was described as the "daughter library" and was also a temple to the god Serapis.[1]

The library was conceived and opened either during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter (323–283 BCE) or during the reign of his son Ptolemy II (283–246 BCE). Plutarch (46–120 CE) wrote that during his visit to Alexandria in 48 BCE Julius 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.[2] Edward Gibbon describes how the daughter library was also destroyed by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, who ordered the destruction of the Serapeum in 391.[1]

Intended both as a commemoration and an emulation of the original, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina was inaugurated in 2002 near the site of the old library.[3]

Contents

The Library of Alexandria as a research institution

According to the earliest source of information, the pseudepigraphic Letter of Aristeas, the library was initially organized by Demetrius of Phaleron,[4] a student of Aristotle, under the reign of Ptolemy Soter (ca.367 BCE—ca.283 BCE).

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