Library of Alexandria has been one of the largest libraries of the ancient world. People believed that it was destroyed in a huge fire some 2000 years back and the vast collection of scrolls and manuscripts were destroyed with it.
I want to believe this but i can’t. How does it suddenly got burnt. Do you believe this? After all it was really huge.
On the other hand, some people believed that Julius Caesar was responsible for this destruction. And some say that Emperor Theodosius did it.
Want to know the truth? Keep reading…
How did the Library of Alexandria came to Life?
Founded by Alexander the Great, Alexandria was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. Suddenly, after his death in 323 BC, Ptolemy took over. This was the reason behind the replacement of Alexandria to Memphis.
Now what happened next is pretty obvious to me.
The Ptolemies began to act as pharaohs and became the leaders of scholarship and learning. As they wanted to show off their wealth, they built the LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, this library remained one of the largest and greatest libraries throughout the ancient world.
What was the purpose of this library?
The scholars, mathematicians, great thinkers, poets etc. were invited by Ptolemy from all over the world. They used to study, research and exchange ideas. In ancient times, they used scrolls instead of books. Therefore, over 700,000 scrolls covered the shelves of the library.
Fact: There were so many manuscripts that a daughter library was also constructed.
Who actually destroyed the Library of Alexandria?
According to several authors, Julius Caesar was the actual culprit. But we cannot ignore other sources that tell us about other culprits as well.
Let me explain one by one…
Plutarch, a Greek biographer stated, “When the enemy tried to cut off Caesar’s fleet, he repelled the danger by using the means of fire. This destroyed the library.”
Shockingly, the library was not harmed.
How do we know that? A geographer Strabo mentioned 30 years later in his book. But he did not mention anything about the library (thereby supporting the claim that Julius Caesar burnt it).
Who was the culprit?
As the library was attached to the main museum, it is possible that the library existed at the time of Strabo. But he didn’t mentioned it in his book. Moreover, it was not actually the library but the warehouses near the port which got destroyed in the fire.
The second culprit could be the Christians of 4th century AD. The Emperor Theodosius boycott pagan practices and also destroyed the Temple of Serapum. But no library was destroyed. However, there is no evidence if they were involved in the destruction of the library.
And the last possible culprit behind this mystery could be Muslim Caliph, Omar. According to an ancient story, Amr, a Muslim general, wrote to Omar that ‘If those books are in agreement with Quran then they have no problem but if they are against it then they should destroy them.’
But the library is not mentioned anywhere in this note.
Did you know? The climatic conditions were unfavourable to keep these scrolls.
But if these scrolls got burnt then there must be an evidence. However, archaeologists are not allowed to research as they are only allowed for sea excavations.
The last possibility could be that after Ptolemaic Egypt was declined, the library of Alexandria was abandoned over time.
But somehow the library got lost in the history and no one still knows how it actually destroyed!