Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Alexandria and Its Library

From Realm of History:
One of the largest libraries of the ancient times, the Great Library of Alexandria was dedicated to Muses, the nine goddesses of art. And in spite of its eminence, the grand library’s founding is still lost in legend – with most scholars agreeing that the impressive institution was initially established by Ptolemy I (305-285 BC), but was fully completed during Ptolemy II’s reign (285-246 BC). It was the latter ruler who took the brilliant (yet surprising) initiative of sending invitations to other kings to contribute their books and tomes to the library. On many levels, the search for books almost took the obsessive route – with even commercial ships being thoroughly inspected by the authorities for papyrus rolls (that were either confiscated or returned after copies were made). On other occasions, the royal members of Egypt sponsored special trips to well known book-fairs (like in Athens and Rhodes) for acquiring various rare specimens of literary works. One significant (though arguable) incident mentioned by Galens, refers to how Ptolemy III paid fifteen talents (1,000 lbs/450 kg) of a precious metal to the Athenians for procuring the original scripts of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. (Read more.)

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