Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Library at Alexandria

And how far have we come as a humanity? The information that was contained within the walls of the Alexandrian Library will never be recovered.

The founding of this library has been called the beginning of modern history.  It was the most important centre of learning in the ancient world.

Alexandria is 130 miles north west of Cairo, it is Egypt's second largest city and the main port. 

In the 4th century BC the Greek, Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 332 BC.  It was a natural harbour and it was suited to be the centre of the worlds greatest things.   Socrates taught Plato who taught Aristotle and he taught Alexander the Great.   His father was Macedonian King Phillip.

Alexander loved learning. 
Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead, the fate of empires depends on the education of youth. ~ Aristotle 4th Century BC

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Alexander was crowned a Pharoah in Egypt.  He was not Egyptian but he sort immortality.  It is said mysteriously he could be the son of Armen and not Phillip.  This comes from a dream that Alexander had.   In his dream Armen told him to found the city of Alexandria and he saw his mother embrace Armen.

In 323 BC Alexander the Great suddenly died.  He never got to see his library.  This heralded a new period of leadership by Ptolemy I, Alexanders most trusted General.

The Ptolemy's dynasty ruled for over 300 years.   Ptolemy still carried Alexander's dream.   Influential scholars came from all over the world.  He mixed with the best scholars.  Ptolemy collected books as Greeks do.  People would brings books from all over the world.  Aristotle's library was there also.   It is said that there were in excess of 4 to 5 hundred thousand books.   

Scribes copied priceless books that we still have some access to today because of those scribes in Alexandria.

Euclid the mathematician worked out of the Library and published a textbook and opened his own school.  Euclid's rules are still worked today in Geometry.

Human anatomy and Physiology began with Herophilos who was a Greek physician deemed to be the first anatomist. Born in Chalcedon, he spent the majority of his life in Alexandria.

Ptolemy I died in 283 BC and Ptolemy II took over and the Ptolmaic dynasty continued until the death of Cleopatra.

Ptolemy II ruled with his sister ArsinoeII.  Pictured coin : Ptolemy II Philadelphus, and his sister/wife Arsinoe II

During Ptolemy II's rule he had the Hebrew scrolls on papyrus. It is known to today as the Septuagint because Ptolemy II had 70 scribes translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek (Septuagint = 70).  There were many Jews in Alexandria and they were fast forgetting their native tongue of Hebrew so their Book of Law was transcribed in order for them to keep their law.

Ptolemy II built the the lighthouse on the Island of Pharos.  One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, for many centuries it was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world.

 Badly damaged by three earthquakes between AD 956 and 1323, it then became an abandoned ruin. It was the third longest surviving ancient wonder (after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the extant Great Pyramid of Giza) until 1480, when the last of its remnant stones were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay on the site.

246 BC Ptolemy the 3rd was crowned and became "Benefactor".   Eratosthenes was his teacher and he figured the circumference of the Earth.  They knew the Earth was round thousands of years before Columbus did.  (false history).  In socrates dialogues he said...   Eratosthenes said the Earth was  24,650 miles around which is only 200 miles out. He figured this out through the shadows cast and the distances of these.

Archimedes visited his friend Erastosthenes .. he is credited with the cry Eureka..  I have found it!  He was the first Physicist

In Alexandria they first figured out our planet rotates around the sun.  What an amazing place it must have been to solve the problems of life the universe and Everything.

During the period of Ptolemy IV's reign the library was losing is shine.

Rome was looking to invade in 48 BC  When Cleopatra was the Pharoah and co ruler of Egypt with her brother whom she married.  She was however a Greek.  She was a great scholar who was well versed in many languages. She spoke Egyptian and Latin as well as her Greek tongue.  Cleopatra claimed Julius Caesars heart. He sided with Cleopatra in a civil war with her brother whom she struggled with for leadership.
Julius Caesar died in 44BC and Cleopatra aligned herself with Mark Antony.  Mark Antony and Cleopatra were defeated and he committed suicide as did Cleopatra 30BC and that was the end of the Ptolemaic rule.
Plutarch said the Library was destroyed in the Great fire of Alexandria. But Mark Antony donated books from Pergamon. 

Rome took over under Augustus Caesar who was the first Roman Emperor who was the nephew of Julius Caesar.

400AD  Emperor Theodosius outlawed paganism in favor of Christianity.  (From Wiki)
Between 389 and 391 he issued the "Theodosian decrees," which established a practical ban on paganism; visits to the temples were forbidden, remaining pagan holidays abolished, the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum extinguished, the Vestal Virgins disbanded, auspices and witchcraft punished. Theodosius refused to restore the Altar of Victory in the Senate House, as requested by pagan Senators.
In 392 he became emperor of the whole empire (the last one to be so). From this moment until the end of his reign in 395, while pagans remained outspoken in their demands for toleration, he authorized or participated in the destruction of many temples, holy sites, images and objects of piety throughout the empire in actions by Christians against major pagan sites. He issued a comprehensive law that prohibited any public pagan ritual, and was particularly oppressive of Manicheans. He is likely to have suppressed the Ancient Olympic Games, whose last record of celebration is from 393.

The real destruction of what was left of the Library came when in 616 AD the Islamic faith rode in and the Roman Alexandrian's in Egypt surrendered to the Muslims. 

Legend then says they ordered all of the books that remained to be burned.  And the stones from the Alexandrian Library and the Great Alexandrian Lighthouse  were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay in 1499 by the Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay on top of the Lighthouse site.  It still stands in Alexandria today after a few refurbishments and uses and today is a museum.

Citadel of Qaitbay
Image Source: Flickr Adam Groffman

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