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Library of Alexandria

The Museum and Library of Alexandria. - Ptolemy I, the ruler of Egypt from 305 to 285 B.C.E., built his own museum, the Mouseion, to house the famous library at Alexandria.  In time about 700,00 manuscripts were collected there. 

The Plotemies were determined to have a copy of every text in existence.  To this end, Ptolemy III wrote "to all the kings of the world" to borrow papyri to copy and translate.  Even ships in the harbour at Alexandria were raided.  Any texts on board had to be surrendered for copying.  Scholars, scientists, artists, and poets were invited to Alexandria's library to do their research at royal expense.

All of the texts stored in Alexandria were lost in the late fourth century when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius ordered its destruction.

Woolf, A, Davis, K, edt. (2004), 'The Museum and Library at Alexandria', Exploring ancient civilizations, vol. 6, p 462.

Use the following resources to find out: Were the treasures of the largest and most important library in the ancient world really lost in a massive inferno?


  • Rodgers, Nigel (2012), 'Libraries and librarians' in The Complete illustrated encyclopedia of Ancient Greece, Hermes House, Wigston, Leicestershire, pp.428-429

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