In adopting the theme of
What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria? this book aims at presenting afresh, a highly specialized discussion of primary sources related to the diverse aspects and episodes of that long disputed question. The book covers a wide range of topics, beginning with an initial presentation of different Ancient Egyptian types of library institutions, with a special focus on the later Coptic Nag Hamadi Library. It then deals with the troubled times under later Ptolemies and Romans, when the Royal Library, the Daughter Library and the Mouseion, came under a succession of threats: Caesar’s Alexandrian War in 48 B.C., and during the tragic developments in the third and fourth centuries which ultimately culminated in the destruction of the Serapeum that housed the Daughter Library.
A discussion of the intellectual milieu during the fourth and fifth centuries, follows, as well as the conflicting attitudes within the Church with regard to classical learning. An analysis of historical and new archaeological evidence confirms the fact that Alexandria continued to be a city of books and scholarship centuries after the destruction of the Library.
Finally, the late medieval Arab story of the destruction of the Library by order of Caliph Omar, is fully considered and refuted through textual analysis of the original sources.
Contributors include: William J. Cherf, Dimitar Y. Dimitrov, Maria Dzielska, Mostafa A. El-Abbadi, Jean-Yves Empereur, Fayza M. Haikal, Georges Leroux, Bernard Lewis, Grzegorz Majcherek, Mounir H. Megally, Birger A. Pearson, Lucien X. Polastron, Qassem Abdou Qassem, and Ismail Serageldin.
Mostafa A. El-Abbadi is a Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at the University of Alexandria, Egypt, Special Advisor to the Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and President of the Archaeological Society of Alexandria. He is the author of several books and articles, including
Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria (Paris, 1990), which was translated into several languages.
Omnia M. Fathallah is Director of Public Servcies at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA). She is a graduate of the University of Alexandria, Egypt (B.A., 1992), specialized in Classical Studies. In 1993, she began her librarianship career at the BA as a cataloger. In 2002, she was appointed coordinator of the Alexandria Project (AP). She organized the International Seminar “What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?” (26–28 September 2004) of which this publication is the scholarly output.
List of Illustrations
The Alexandria Project
1. À la Recherche de la Systématisation des Connaissances et du Passage du Concret à l’Abstrait dans l’Égypte Ancienne,
Mounir H. Megally 2. Private Collections and Temple Libraries in Ancient Egypt,
Fayza M. Haikal 3. Earth, Wind, and Fire: The Alexandrian Fire-storm of 48 B.C.,
William J. Cherf 4. The Destruction of the Library of Alexandria: An Archaeological Viewpoint,
Jean-Yves Empereur 5. Demise of the Daughter Library,
Mostafa A. El-Abbadi 6. Ce Que Construisent les Ruines?,
Lucien X. Polastron 7. The Nag Hammadi 'Library' of Coptic Papyrus Codices,
Birger A. Pearson 8. Learned Women in the Alexandrian Scholarship and Society of Late Hellenism,
Maria Dzielska 9. Synesius of Cyrene and the Christian Neoplatonism: Patterns of Religious and Cultural Symbiosis,
Dimitar Y. Dimitrov 10. Damascius and the '
Collectio Philosophica': A Chapter in the History of Philosophical Schools and Libraries in the Neoplatonic Tradition,
Georges Leroux 11. Academic Life of Late Antique Alexandria: A View from the Field,
Grzegorz Majcherek 12. The Arab Story of the Destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria,
Qassem Abdou Qassem 13. The Arab Destruction of the Library of Alexandria: Anatomy of a Myth,
II. Lexical Works
III. Modern Literature
Classicists, Librarians, Arabists, Archaeologists, Researchers in: the history of Egypt in Late antiquity & early Arab/Isalmic period, ancient Alexandrian heritage, ancient scholarship and history of science, Late Antiquity, history of libraries & books, and educated laymen.