Alexandria.

The most famous library of Classical antiquity. It formed part of the research institute at Alexandria in Egypt that was known as the Alexandrian Museum. The idea of a universal library, arose only after the Greek mind had begun to envisage and encompass a larger worldview. The Greeks were impressed by the achievements of their neighbors, and many Greek intellectuals sought to explore the resources of the “Oriental” knowledge. As their empire expanded and they assimilated more information, the time came to display their collected works in a grand archive…

Against that background of avid hunger for knowledge among the Greeks, Alexander launched his global enterprise in 334 BC, which he accomplished with meteoric speed until his untimely death in 323 BC. It was during his reign, that he directed his generals to compile their collected works and put them in a centralized repository. Thus, the “Great Library” was born.

At its height, the Library of Alexandria contained between 400,000 and 700,000 scrolls including many texts that were one-of-a-kind and unique enough to warrant a trip to Alexandria in order to view them. It turned Alexandria, into world-renown repository of information, and established the Greeks as the great educators of the day.

What Happened…

It is widely viewed in contemporary scholarly circles today that the library perished long before the Arab conquest in the 7th century. It is theorized that the Royal Library, the main library in the Alexandrian Library complex, was an unfortunate casualty of war. In 48 BC Julius Caesar became involved in a civil war in Egypt between Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XII. Caesar sided with Cleopatra and was soon besieged by the Ptolemaic forces by land and sea in the great harbor. He realized that his only change lay in setting fire to the enemy fleet, and it was by that drastic measure that he managed to gain the upper hand. Yet he is remarkably silent regarding the extent of the destruction caused by the fire in the city itself. Subsequent authors, however, provide details of the ensuring destruction. Most explicit is Plutarch, who, after a personal visit to Alexandria, explained that “Caesar was forced to repel the danger by using fire, which spread from the dockyards and destroyed the Great Library.”