The Ancient


A Universal Library

Alexander the Great -- the Conquests as a source of knowledge

The Founding of the Library and the Mouseion

All the Books in the World

Aristotle's Books

The Hunt for Books

The Egyptian Section of the Alexandria Library

The Papyri: Evidence of Greek and Egyptian Scientific Interchange

"The Writings of All Men"

The Growth of the Library

The Pinakes -- a Bibliographical Survey of the Alexandria Library

The Alexandria Library -- " The Memory of Mankind"

Appendix 1 -- The Contents of the Alexandria Library

Appendix 2 -- The End of the Library


The Modern

BIBLIOTHECA ALEXANDRINA--The revival of the Ancient Library of Alexandria

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In addition to the acquisition of the bulk of Greek literature and a full corpus of Egyptian records, there is evidence that the new Library also incorporated the written works of other nations.

Almost simultaneously, at the beginning of the third century BC., similar work was taking place in the Seleucid kingdom, where a Chaldaean priest named Berossos wrote a history of Babylonia in Greek. His book immediately became known in Egypt and was probably used by Manethon (,ed. Waddell).

Oriental religions seem to have had a great attraction and according to Pliny (H.N.30. 3-4) a voluminous book - in two million lines - on Zoroastrianism was written by Hermippus, a pupil of Callimachus (Diog. Laert., Proem. 8 speaks of a book "On the Magi" by Hermippus). Such an ambitious undertaking would imply that detailed material on the Persian Mazidan faith was available in the Alexandria Library.

Buddhist writings would also be available as a consequence of the exchange of embassies between Asoka and Philadelphus (Corpus Inscript. Indic. I. P.48, ed. E. Hultzsch). Intellectual curiosity as well as academic interest no doubt motivated scholars to study and write about oriental and ancient religions, but more crucial reasons lay behind the translation of the Pentateuch of the Old Testament. Such a translation from the Hebrew into Greek, was a practical necessity for the large Jewish community in Alexandria, already Hellenised by the end of the third century BC. The obviously fictitious presentation of the translation of the Septuagint as related in the Letter of Aristeas is no longer accredited, in actual fact, the translation was executed piecemeal during the third and second centuries BC.9 But the important point here, is that such an achievement was rendered possible in Alexandria owing to the abundance of research material available in the Library.

The Septuagint has survived as the most valuable work in the history of all translations and it continues to be indispensable to all biblical studies.

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