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Library of Alexandria

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Lisa Wolfe
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« on: September 21, 2010, 01:15:11 pm »

Furthermore, while the Royal Library was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the royal quarters of Bruchion near the palaces and the royal gardens, it was his son Ptolemy III who founded the Serapeum temple and its adjoined "Daughter" Library in the popular quarters of Rhakotis.

The next account we have is Strabo's Geographia in 28 BCE,[17] which does not mention the library specifically, but does mention—among other details—that he is unable to find a map in the city that he saw when on an earlier trip to Alexandria, pre-fire. Abaddi uses this account to infer the library was destroyed to its foundations and the collection destroyed.[citation needed] The certainty of this conclusion diminishes, when one considers the context. The adjacent Museion was, according to the same account, fully functional—which requires the assumption that one building could be perfectly fine while its neighbor was completely destroyed. Also, we do know that at this time the Daughter Library at the Serapeum was thriving and untouched by the fire, and as Strabo does not mention the library by name we can assert that for Strabo omission does not necessarily denote absence. Finally, as mentioned above, Strabo confirms the existence of the "Museion", of which the Great Library was the royal collection—and in his other mentions of the Sarapeum and Museion he and other historians are inconsistent in their descriptions of the entire compound or the temple buildings specifically. So we may not infer that by mentioning the father institute of the Museion, but not the library arm specifically, that it had in fact been demolished. Finally, as one of the world's leading geographers it is entirely possible that in the twenty-plus years since his last visit to the library, the map he was referencing—quite possibly a rare or esoteric map considering his expertise and the vast collection of the library— might have been either part of the library that was partially destroyed or just simply a victim of twenty years of wear, tear and disrepair in a library which no longer had the funds it once did to recopy and preserve its collection.

Therefore, the Royal Alexandrian Library may have been burned after Strabo’s visit to the city (25 BCE) but before the beginning of the second century CE when Plutarch wrote. Otherwise Plutarch and later historians would not have mentioned the incident and mistakenly attributed it to Julius Caesar. It is also most probable that the library was destroyed by someone other than Caesar, although the later generations linked the fire that took place in Alexandria during Caesar’s time to the burning of the Bibliotheca.[18] Some believe that the most likely scenario was the destruction that accompanied the wars between Zenobia of Palmyra and the Roman Emperor Aurelian, in the second half of the third century (see below).[19]

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