Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great Library - In Our Time

Last Thursday's episode of BBC's In Our Time was about the The Library of Alexandria. As far as I knew it was destroyed by a Muslim conquerer who reasoned (I paraphrase): anything that is there this is the Koran, we already have it and anything that is there that is not the Koran, we do not need it.

The surprise by the end was that, likely, the Library was not destroyed, it just faded away, its remains now residing under the sea level before the north coast of Egypt. The beginning was with Ptolemy, who was taking the heritage of Alexander's conquests to a cultural level, to conquer the culture of the world after Alex had conquered the world. In addition, the Greeks with Ptolemy needed to preserve their Greek heritage in their new Egyptian surroundings.

And so, Alexandria became, as designed, the cultural center of the world. Amassing texts in its library and creating the ultimate environment for study. It also rapidly became the largest city. In its heydays it mast have attracted scholars and students from all over the world, but eventually its was overtaken by other centers such as Byzantium and Rome and even though there must have been attacks on the Library, its end as the guests on IOT assume, was simply that it fell apart. Became disorganized, dilapidated and slowly vanished into oblivion.

More In Our Time:
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot,
The destruction of Carthage,
The brothers Grimm,
The modest proposal,
History of history.

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