Sunday, April 2, 2017

Alexandria: The Muser's Hub

If you ask me where would I like to go if I could time travel I would instantly reply to Roman or Greek Empire in the peak of their glory. However, on a second thought, I may take my words back and say "Meh! I am good here in 2017. It is a pretty good time to be a woman and commoner."

Recently I was reading Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. And reading such fine ancient play always takes me back to the library of Alexandria. The event in the ancient history, that I reckon to be most detrimental for human civilization, was the burning of The library of Alexandria in  48 BC and its further obliteration in 642 AD.

The Royal library of Alexandria was one of the most notable libraries of the ancient times. It was a part of the think tank based in Alexandria called the Museum of Alexandria. The Museum was founded and patronaged by the Ptolemaic dynasty in the 300 BC.  It was dedicated to Alexander the great by his right-hand man Ptolemy. The museum was the forerunner of our present day research institutes. A university where scholars from distant lands went to further their study in all sorts of subjects. Museum- a place to muse where philosophers and thinkers gathered and did the thinking and exchanged the ideas. Unlike what we now know to be a museum, a place to display ancient artifacts. The current usage of the word museum was first spotted on in the 1600s. In ancient times Museum was a thinking place.  The royal Museum was also referred as Temple of muses that included idols of pagan Gods. I stress the word "Gods", the polytheistic, good old fashioned Gods because it is kind of a reflection to why we don't have this library today. #Cringe 

The city of Alexandria was situated on a harbor with the most glorious lighthouse of past one of the seven wonders of its time.The traders sailing through the Mediterranean often stopped at this Port. The marines who came to the port were often searched for drugs, did I say drugs? No! books, they searched the sailors and passer-by for the BOOKS. Such was the passion of the Ptolemaic dynasty towards collecting scripts. When the Books (scrolls) were found, they were confiscated and the person carrying books was compensated for the text. The books were then sent to the collection to the library of Alexandria. Alexandria was the hub for its vast collection of information pretty much like our internet. If there was any written material Alexandria probably had a copy of it.

No one knows what was the extent of the collection in the library, but many people believe that its destruction probably threw humanity a century behind in its course for the pursuit of knowledge. One of the most revolutionary inventions was the invention of the Steam Engine in the late 1700s. It changed the course of the human race, as they knew it at that time. In the museum of Alexandria in ancient Egypt scholars such as  Archimedes, VitruviusHeron ho Alexandreus, Hypatia and Ctesibius (and many others) were enrolled. Many of them were working on harnessing the energy from steam and wind. One such example is Aeolipile a precursor of the steam engine by Heron. Arguably, the purpose of getting machine power to eliminate human labor may not be the motivation of the engineers of Alexandria ... after all slaves were there to do that! It may have taken humanity some time to up its game on human rights, but regardless the work was in its nascent stage and would have been eventually put to application had the library of Alexandria not been destroyed.

The destruction of the library is often attributed to multiple instants and is disputed over by historians, but one thing is certain the library was completely eliminated by 642 AD. It is not known which of these events is responsible for destroying the library to what degree. However, majorly four recorded events are held responsible for it altogether.

The first destruction is on the hand's Roman republic during the siege of Alexandria in 48 BC.  Julia Caesar burned his own ships to distract his enemy and the fire started by Caesar's soldiers went astray and burned down a section of the library.  It was still not completely destroyed as Alexandria was still the scholar's hub during the time of Augustus of Roman Empire.

The second destruction was an attack on the Alexandria by the Aurelian in the 270 AD, during the fighting of this era the area where the library was situated was destroyed some of the content of the library may have been destroyed.

The third destruction was the order of the Pope/ Emperor Theodosius in 415 AD, under his reign Paganism was made illegal in Rome. During this time the empire was rioting. Every temple was shut down or destroyed by mobs. It was during one of those days when Hypatia, a female Mathematician of Alexandria, was murdered by the mob. After her death, the museum of Alexandria along with the temple was sacked the library was rampaged in the riots.

Lastly, the destruction or the annihilation of whatever was left of the scrolls and books is attributed to the Islamic caliphate of second Caliph Omar/Umar in 642 AD under the command of Amr ibn Al-As during the Muslim conquest of Egypt the fate of library was put to the hands of Caliph by Amr the commander of Arab army. He wrote to the caliph and received a reply (and I quote). ”If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them."

Even if we could not technically advance as a civilization in spite of the great library. As a book nerd, I still would have cherished the ancient plays and literature that is lost in the time. How do you think humanity would have been had we still had the library in its ancient form intact? Comment Down below. Let us muse here in this comment section in memory of The Library of Alexandria.

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PS. I understand that the last destruction by the Caliph is often controversial (Most of them are as I mentioned in the post.) I have provided the link to the sources in that section. The mentioned quote is there on the Wikipedia as well. Moreover, I think I must include this Islamic site that infers more or less the same narration. Please click here to reach the site. This link is already included in the given site so I didn't worry to add while writing but in light of providing the source I must include it as well. 


  1. Losing that library in Alexandria was bad from a historical and scholarly perspective. Those who had a hand in the destruction were doing so because of their own agendas. A lot of things in history have been lost because of those kinds of attitudes.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  2. My impression is that the library was lost long before Amr ibn al-Aas reached Alex. That 'quote' is likely a myth according to some historians.

    Most conquerors obliterated traces of the vanquished in ancient times - common practice. Sad but true.

    All the best for the A-Z.
    From Madly-in-Verse
    Theme : Arabiana

  3. It is indeed a great pity that such a great institution was destroyed

    Visiting from A to Z


    Anne Young

    Anne's family history

  4. Wow. You just taught me quite a bit. Thanks so much for that.

    I think the library was destroyed - even if piece by piece - because people simply didn't care. They did whatever was required to advance their agenda at the time without regard for the future...Not sure we've learned much since then.

    Great start! Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

    Stephanie, who's participating with two blogs this year:
    Southern Graves
    Lincecum Lineage

  5. I have a vague recollection that there is a book about what would've happened if the library hadn't been lost. Technical inventions ahead of time, the same clash of religion and technology. I think it's an interesting thought: where would we be without the dark middle ages? How would've our collective EQ developed? Maybe it was inevitable and with a higher technological level it would've been worse.
    Thank you for this post - really liked it.
    On my Journey To Courageous Living A is for Achievements and Aspirations featuring the famous 'I'm a bitch, I'm a lover' - come, check out!

  6. Libraries and books are two of my favourite things. The knowledge and culture lost is a tragic indictment on humanity. Great post, looking forward to reading more from you. Linda :)

  7. History is filled with incidents of censorship, often for a political and religious cause. Thankfully today it is harder to destroy information, but prior to the modern age, it was too easy. Each of these incidents were a great loss, especially the Library of Alexandria. As you say, it might have taken time for the Steam Engine to be built, but I'm certain had the Library not been destroyed, we might have well been further along in our development, and might have started the Industrial Revolution much sooner.

  8. I feel sad thinking of one book that might be lost, it feels awful to thinj of what was lost along with this library.

  9. Thanks for the great history lesson. I had no idea that it took multiple instances of destruction before the library was gone. One of the worst traits of humanity is assuming that all other viewpoints apart from one's own are wrong and that was definitely the culprit here. Not that much has changed, sadly.

  10. I love libraries. We lost a treasure house and we'll never know what they were. Sad to think about. Thanks for an interesting post.
    "Female Scientists Before Our Time"

  11. Everyone should rage at the destruction of the library of Alexandria - all that knowledge lost. Burning knowledge is a crime. Great post.
    Tasha's Thinkings - Shapeshifters and Werewolves

  12. I wish it were acceptable to search people who entered the house for books, and confiscate it, and give them some tea-biscuits to eat as compensation. :D

    I love reading non-fiction, Greek Mythology and Egyptian Mythology. And that obviously means that I loved reading your post! I didn't know about the burning of the Library of Alexandria till now. I'm surely going to follow your posts! :)

  13. Great post and a beautiful eye opener on the Greek and Egyptian Mythology :) Launching SIM Organics Shortly

  14. It's right up there as one of the greatest losses to humankind. Such a shame we have such difficulty knowing what's good for us!
    (From A-Z challenge.)

  15. This is a fascinating look into history. Thank you for the depth of research here!

    A is for… abortion/Parenting in the Wilderness

  16. No matter how it happened, it was a great loss. Anytime a little bit of culture and a chance to educate is eradicated it cannot be good. Great first entry.

  17. I'd love to jump in a time machine and go back to the Library in Alexandria to just breathe all that antiquity.
    A well thought out post for the beginning of A to Z. Have a great month!

    Join @moondustwriter for A Piece of Uganda

  18. Awesome post<3 can't wait to read the rest of your posts.
    I will definitely pick to visit the per-dark ages era if given a chance to time travel, so pretty much same choice for that.

  19. Very interesting post. Something unique and educational, which I appreciate. May I ask how you made the cute little cartoon of the woman with her umbrella inside out? Will look forward to reading more of your posts this month.


  20. Also, I apologize for asking such a basic question, but how can I follow you via email? I would like to subscribe to your blog.

  21. Lovely post about this amazing library! I actually have been to Alexandria and got to visit the new one, which is absolutely amazing... but the history behind losing the ancient one. Such a loss for our world. I just think about how much information, was lost because of people and their own agendas. Thanks for sharing this!

  22. Interesting read. There are lots of what ifs in history and I often play the time machine game - what would I change if I could, and what would change if I changed that. Religion has advanced our civilisation in so many ways and the misuse of it has been very detrimental. Visiting from A to Z

  23. Very interesting read....a lot of things were destroyed and still do in todaya world because of people s rigid beliefs and sometimes incorrect use of power.... Sad though! Museum is where one muses... Had never thought of it that way....

  24. A great loss....such a treasure trove of information and of times gone by that we could have tapped into to understand our past.

  25. Yeah, the loss of the library was pretty devastating.


  26. The loss of one of our greatest treasures. SO sad!
    I wonder if it would be like the destruction of the Internet, of all our current forms of non-print communication. That sounds like the start of a sci-fi horror.

    J -- Co-host the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference and Speculative Fiction Writer
    2017 THEME = Speculative fiction story featuring telepathy.