Library of Alexandria - a unique treasury of classical antiquity, world’s window on Egypt

Baku, September 26, AZERTAC

As the most famous library of classical antiquity, the Library of Alexandria formed part of the research institute at Alexandria in Egypt that is known as the Alexandrian Museum (Mouseion, “shrine of the Muses”).
The idea of a universal library, like that of Alexandria, arose only after the Greek mind had begun to envisage and encompass a larger worldview.
The Greeks were impressed by the achievements of their neighbours, and many Greek intellectuals sought to explore the resources of their knowledge.
There is literary evidence of Greek individuals visiting Egypt especially to acquire knowledge: e.g., Herodotus, Plato (particularly in Phaedrus and Timaeus), Theophrastus, and Eudoxus of Cnidus (as detailed by Diogenes Laërtius in the 3rd century CE).
Against that background of avid hunger for knowledge among the Greeks, Alexander launched his global enterprise in 334 BCE, which he accomplished with meteoric speed until his untimely death in 323 BCE.
He required his companions, generals, and scholars to report to him in detail on regions previously unmapped and uncharted.
The reports that Alexander had acquired survived after his death, and they motivated an unprecedented movement of scientific research and study of the Earth, its natural physical qualities, and its inhabitants. It was in that atmosphere that the great library and Mouseion saw the light of day in Alexandria.
The founding of the library and the Mouseion is unquestionably connected with the name of Demetrius of Phaleron, a member of the Peripatetic school and a former Athenian politician. After his fall from power in Athens, Demetrius sought refuge at the court of King Ptolemy I Soter (c. 297 BCE) and became the king’s adviser. Ptolemy soon took advantage of Demetrius’s wide and versatile knowledge and, about 295 BCE, charged him with the task of founding the library and the Mouseion.
The association of the library with the Mouseion, whose scholars required a reliable resource, helped the library to develop into a proper research centre.
Its location close to the harbour and within the royal palace’s grounds placed it under the direct supervision of the kings. Those circumstances aided the rapid growth of the library’s collection.
Estimates of the total number of books in the library vary. The earliest surviving figure, from the 3rd century BCE, is reported as “more than 200,000 books,” whereas the medieval text of John Tzetzes mentions “42,000 books in the outer library; in the inner (Royal) Library 400,000 mixed books, plus 90,000 unmixed books.” A still higher estimate of 700,000 was reported between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE.
On October 18, 2002, the new Library of Alexandria was unveiled. Dedicated to recapturing the spirit of openness and scholarship of the original Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the New Bibliotheca Alexandrina is much more than a library.
It comprises the Main Library (which can hold up to millions of books) and its affiliated libraries: the Francophone Library, the Depository Library, and the Maps Library, as well as 6 specialized libraries, 4 museums, a copy of internet Archive, and 12 research centers to name a few.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina whose founding director is Ismail Serageldin, also a Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center (NGIC) of Azerbaijan, aims to be: a center of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge and to be a place of dialogue, learning and understanding between cultures and peoples.


Culture 2022-09-26 16:15:00