|Bringing in the Catch in Alexandria ©1983 Laura Jean Zito|
I found this most interesting account on the internet about the Library of Alexandria. I believe it was on Wikepedia, and I will go back and find it again to see who wrote it. I wanted to share this history with all interested viewers, as it is most fascinating and enlightening and further reinforces why we should support the Haverford Township Free Library by all coming out to buy the artwork of the artists in "Art of the Garden."
In ancient Egypt, the great city of Alexandria represented a golden era of education, understanding and knowledge. The ancient city, in its most fundamental form, represented new and profound ideas, a harmonizing of many diverse cultures, and a synthesis of ancient wisdom and modern ways. All of these attributes were manifested during a time of great transition in the ancient world. As our modern world encounters its own time of great transition, the spirit of the greatest city of the ancient world is once again needed.
(9/9/10) It might be noted in passing that, according to Georgios Papadupolous, the word, Alexander (from whichAlexandria derives), has a very specific meaning in the Greek language.
Alexander derives from two ancient Greek words, ?λεξ + ?νδρος . ?λεξ means protect and the other word means man. So Alexander means protector of man. What you may find interesting though (and maybe never heard of) is that the word human (homo + man = soil man ), in Greek is translated as ?νθρωπος which means the one who has the appearance of a male human being (man). This word for the first time is heard in the Oedipus Tyrant ancient drama, at the stage where Oedipus answered the famous riddle of the Sphynx (in Greek means to struggle). This is why in English we have man as the male and woman= womb+man a.k.a. the man who bears a womb .
The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. The city itself had been created by adding to the ancient Pharaonic city of Rhacotis, a suburb called Neapolis to the west. The two cities together came to be called Alexandria. The apparent plan of this was to provide Alexander with a naval base for his assault on Persia, and at the same time, provide a link between Macedonia and the rich Nile valley. At the same time, however, tradition has it that after conquering Egypt, Alexander was radically transformed from a world conqueror into a world harmonizer, and was, in fact, so moved by his experiences in Egypt that he founded a new city to link the Macedonian and Egyptian heritages.
In 323 B.C.E., upon the death of Alexander, one of his generals, Ptolemy, took Egypt as his share of the spoils of Alexander's legacy and brought Alexander's body back to Alexandria for entombment. Ptolemy and his heirs subsequently made Alexandria the most sophisticated, cosmopolitan city in the ancient world. The library not only held over a half million scrolls of the most profound history and philosophy, but the library and its extensions formed a core for scholars from every religion and region in the civilized world to congregate in the world's first truly ecumenical gathering. In one area, Sarapis -- a combination of the Greek Zeus and the Egyptian Osiris -- reigned. Alongside the many gods of ancient Egypt, early Judaism flourished in what came to be known as the greatest Jewish City in the world. In fact, the Septuagint was produced in this atmosphere, while at the same time, Gnosticism and Coptic Christianity received their initial birth at Alexandria and subsequently flourished.
The city of Alexandria is known for the Pharos lighthouse, the Sarapeum (a temple to the Greco-Egyptian god, Sarapis), and the Mouseion and Library of Alexandria (the latter which incorporated most of the literary treasures of the ancient world). The Pharos was a beacon of truth and wisdom amidst the darkness of the ages in which it existed, a guide to a safe harbor where travelers were invited to visit and then return with their new wisdom to their own lands, and an active, energetic force dedicated to ordinary men and women.
The city and its driving force meshed the new ideas of the classical Greek civilization with the older wisdom of ancient Egypt, while at the same time synthesizing contributions from a wide range of other cultures and traditions. The city, with its basic common denominator of tolerance, was known both as a center of Hellenismand Semitism, and is believed to be the birthplace of the Gnostic Christians. Some have suggested that Jesus Christ may have visited Alexandria, as well.
The Library of Alexandria, conceived by Demetrius of Phalerum and constituted during the reigns of Ptolemies I and II (323-246 B.C.), was the first truly universal library in history, attracting the most eminent philosophers, scholars, and visionaries of the entire civilized world. These a host of great thinkers including Euclid, the inventor of geometry, Erastothenes, who calculated the circumference of the earth, Aristarchus and Dionysius Thrax, who codified grammar, Herophilus, who established the rules of anatomy and physiology, Claudius Ptolemateus, the founder of cartography and one of the developers of astronomy, and Hero, who wrote several books on geometry and mechanics. Many of these scholars lived nearby in the royal palace, acting as “living books” whom the rulers of Alexandria could call on for advice at any time.
At its height, the Library contained 30,000 works in 400,000 to 700,000 papyrus scrolls. An overflow of some 42,800 scrolls were housing in the Sarapeum (Temple of Sarapis). Complete universality was the goal, as the Library curators sought copies of all existing manuscripts in their original languages (e.g. Hebrew, Babylonian, Buddhist, Sumerian, etc.), and at the same time, embarked on a massive translation program. The Library also established the first set of rules for classification and inventory of its collection. This cataloguing was compiled by Callimachus, in the form of “pinakes” (a method of retrieving the work, together with a synopsis or critical appraisal). Unfortunately, these listings have all been lost.
The Library of Alexandria formed part of a larger complex, The Mouseion (“Museum”, or temple of the Muses), a research institute which opened its doors to the arts and sciences, and contained an astronomical observatory, a zoological and botanical garden, and numerous meeting rooms. Inasmuch as the Muses were the guiding forces of music, dance, theater, Poetry, prose, history, astronomy and Astrology, it seems likely that these practices were also included within the Mouseion. But, by the end of the fourth century A.D., the Library, Mouseion, and Temple of Sarapis were all destroyed.
The first known library, thought to have been built at Memphis, was reputed to have welcomed its visitors with the words, “Medicines for the Soul”. In describing a sacred library of Ramses II, one visitor referred to it as “The place of the cure of the soul.” Such is the essence of libraries, and the extent to which all can aspire to reach. In all respects, the library was but an extension of the School of Alexandria.
Historically, the Alexandrian Library and the learning center (the “school”) were truly a place to cure the soul. When Demetrius transplanted the spirit of Aristotle to the soil of Alexandria, it was based on his master’s conception of a community of learned men isolated from the outside world and equipped with a complete library and retreat where they could cultivate the Muses. The more practical rulers recognized that if one were to rule, it would be essential to understand one’s subjects. This could be done most readily by collecting and translating the books of conquered subjects. Sacred books of the subject people were then given special preference, because the religion of a ruler’s subjects was considered a gateway to their souls.
The Temple of Alexandria, the Sarapeum, housed a smaller library of duplicate copies of books from the museum, and was intended to provide access to these books to the entire city of Alexandria. It was destroyed by Christians in 391 A.D. as a pagan temple.
The Sarapeum was built to Parmeniscus’ design at Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I. As a temple, the Sarapeum was dedicated to the god Sarapis, whose worship as a new deity was inaugurated to mark the beginning of Ptolemy’s dynasty. Sarapis was conceived of as a composite of the god Osiris, the Egyptian lord of the dead, and Zeus, the Greek sun-god. Sarapis was also associated with Asclepius (god of healing), Dionysus (fertility), and Poseidon (god of the sea). The all-encompassing nature of this Greco-Egyptian deity symbolizes the holistic nature of the Temple of Alexandria.
For almost three centuries, the Library of Alexandria was supreme. In 47 B.C.E., however, the Roman legions ofJulius Caesar carelessly (and/or stupidly) damaged the library. The city recovered from this initial insult, but then suffered a general massacre in A.D. 215 at the hands of the Roman emperor Caracalla (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), who was responding to insults from the inhabitants. The city again recovered a portion of its former splendor, only to have the main library destroyed in the civil war that occurred under Aurelian in the late third century. Meanwhile the "daughter" library, located within the temple to Sarapis, was destroyed by fanatical Christians in A.D. 391.
The destruction of the Library at Alexandria was one of the most notorious crimes of history, taking the greatest collection of literature, philosophy, and history and putting it to the torch in the name of narrow-minded politics and ignorant religion. Alexandria has been one of world's greatest legacies, and constituted a golden moment in the history of the ancient world.
The modern day Halexandria Foundation has modeled its Library of Halexandria after the ancient Egyptian prototype, but utilizing the Inter Net as its initial, primary focus.
Today, Alexandria is still an important city in Egypt. But it is also:
A journal published in book form devoted to exploring the philosophical, spiritual, and cosmological traditions of the Western world,
A meeting place for people interested in ancient and modern cosmological speculation and what the humanities have to contribute to contemporary life, and
A humanities forum and Garden of Discourse without walls.
According to, Alexandria, the journal <http://cosmopolis.com>:
“In ancient Egypt the city and Library of Alexandria was the meeting place where philosophical, spiritual, and cosmological teachings flowed together to create vital new syntheses and a flourishing cultural environment.”With any luck the Spirit of Alexandria will continue in its soul-full quest.