The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. This collection of facts looks past the burning of the Library of Alexandria, and examines its' purpose, social dynamics, and curatorial methods.
Here in ten great Halls, whose ample walls were lined with spacious armaria, numbered and titled, were housed the myriad manuscripts containing the wisdom, knowledge, and information, accumulated by the genius of the Hellenic peoples. Each of the ten Halls was assigned to a separate department of learning embracing the assumed ten divisions of Hellenic knowledge as may have been found in the Catalogue of Callimachus of Greek Literature in the Alexandrian Library, the farfamed Pinakes. The Halls were used by the scholars for general research, although there were smaller separate rooms for individuals or groups engaged in special studies.
From its Gate of the Sun to its Gate of the Moon, temples and palaces lined its spacious streets. Marbled columns and glittering statues dazzled visitors. Alexandria witnessed not only the romance of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra but also the genius of the greatest mathematicians and boasted the world’s first and greatest public library, a library whose aim was to contain a copy of every book ever written
Old Persian and Armenian traditions indicate that Alexander the Great, upon seeing the great library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh, was inspired to combine all the works of the various nations he conquered, translate them into Greek, and collect them all under one roof.
In this way, Alexandrians would not only find unity in a common Pan-Hellenic culture but they would, in a very specific sense, be at the very core of that culture. The creation of the Great Library and its attendant institutions were indispensable contributions toward making Alexandria into this intellectual and cultural center.
In order to attract scholars to the Mouseion, the Ptolemies offered scholars free board, lodging, servants, tax exemptions, and handsome salaries – for life.
Physically, few descriptions of the Mouseion grounds have come down to us. However we do know that the physical structure of the school not only reflected Aristotle's division of knowledge into observational and deductive topics, it was also laid out in a way that reflected and encouraged Aristotle's peripatetic ideal of scholarship
Combining the Egyptian tradition of housing libraries within religious temples and the Greek religious and intellectual tradition of the mouseion created a uniquely Pan-Hellenic variation. The Alexandrian Mouseion combined the religious and intellectual attributes of similar Greek institutions with the religious and bibliophilic attributes of analogous Egyptian institutions.
In practical terms, the Mouseion was the physical campus of a self-contained community of scholars,complete with living quarters. As such, the Library was a part of the Mouseion, which was located on the grounds of the royal palace.The Library and the Mouseion cannot be discussed separately. They are institutions so intertwined that the history and influences and characters of one are in many cases identical to the other. They are institutions inextricably tied to each other, with the Library being an integral part of the Mouseion.
In time, there were two library sites. The original was housed in the library’s original space in the Mouseion and held between 400,000 and 700,000 scrolls.
During the reign of Ptolemy Eurgertes, the Library borrowed Athens’ official versions of the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, giving Athens an enormous amount of money; the modern equivalent of millions of dollars, as surety for their return.
The early Ptolemies seemed determined to follow Alexander the Great’s plans to create a universal library. The very fact that they defined their institution as a “universal” library immediately gives modern readers a sense of the scope and priorities the Ptolemies had for their institution; they wanted everything.
However, its larger purpose is lost from popular memory and is indeed largely missing from our conception of the library in higher education today. The "temple of the muses" was a research center, a museum, and a venue for celebrating the arts, inquiry, and scholarship
The main academy building and the Library building were connected by and surrounded with a network of paths, colonnades, and courtyards.There were botanical gardens and zoological displays for the edification and delight of the scholars
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