Skip to comments.The Fate of the Library of Alexandria
Posted on 05/02/2010 3:17:15 PM PDT by neverdem
The great Library of Alexandria, established by Ptolemy II (circa 280 BC), has come to symbolize the receptacle of knowledge of Classical civilization. This great repository was barbarously razed in the Middle Ages.
At its height, the Library contained an estimated forty thousand volumes on a wide variety of topics. It held works on astronomy, mathematics, physics, medicine, and philosophy -- many of which were copied from the hieroglyphic and cuneiform texts of the Egyptians and Babylonians. It also stored histories of all the countries of the known world: histories of Egypt, of Babylonia, of Persia, of the lands of North Africa, of the lands of Western Europe, etc.
Surid, Ben Shaluk, Ben Sermuni, Ben Termidun, Ben Tedresan, Ben Sal, one of the kings of Egypt before the flood, built two great pyramids; and, notwithstanding, they were subsequently named after a person called Shaddad Ben Ad ... they were not built by the Adites, who could not conquer Egypt, on account of their powers, which the Egyptians possessed by means of enchantment ... the reason for the building of the pyramids was the following dream, which happened to Surid three hundred years previous to the flood. It appeared to him that the earth was overthrown, and that the inhabitants were laid prostrate upon it, that the stars wandered confusedly from their courses, and clashed together with tremendous noise. The king though greatly affected by this vision, did not disclose it to any person, but was conscious that some great event was about to take place. (From L. Cottrell, The Mountains of Pharaoh, London, 1956.)
For science, WIKI can at least be read and checked.
For anything else, WIKI’s about as believable as CNN.
An excellent summary. Worth a close reading, and not just on the Library of Alexandria.
There never was a golden age of Islamic civilization. There were merely short periods during which the Mohammedan masters squatted in ancient cities and permitted dhimmis and slaves who were formerly members of these conquered civilizations to continue producing science, art, and poetry. But not usually for very long.
Basically, they conquered a whole series of great ancient civilizations, and destroyed them all. Nothing good has ever come from Islam itself, which is a religion for bullies, rapists, and destroyers.
I knew more about the Alexandria from the search for Alexander’s tomb in Egypt. A true wonder of modernity in the backdrop of backward Islam.
wikipedia is HORRENDOUS on this stuff. Almost any science or math article has insane islamic leanings. Basically everything modern came from them if you go by wikipedia.
They’re a bunch of jackasses of the worst lying kind.
I always thought the library was destroyed by Caesar....
I want to encourage people to go to the following website:
The Assyrian Christians of Mesopotamia were the earliest Christians, converted by St. Peter circa 40AD. These were the people who developed astronomy, mathematics and engineering in the Middle East. It was their knowledge of the ancients and tecnology that the Arabs seized and claimed as their own.
Let me clarify this for everyone: the desert Bedouin tribes of the Arabian penninsula did not have a history of sophisticated architecture, mathematics, or science. The Bedouins were a pastoral people with a rich cultural literary treasure of their own, but they were not tecnologically sophisticates as were the Assyrians and Persians whose highly organized and bureaucratic civilizations were destroyed when over run by Arab Muslims.
This is not to slam or belittle Arabs or their culture. It is only that the truth is important.
Actually the Libray and Museum of Alexandria was pretty much gone by the time of Arab conquest but I won’t argue that the Islamics destroyed more than they saved. Baghdad had a great library but that was destroyed by the Mongols. Crusaders and later Turks destroyed the cultural legacy of Constantinople. There is blame to be shared by all.
Well, it was. Oops! Cleopatra was not ammused. But, not completely and permanently. It was rebuilt. No doubt much was lost during that first major destruction. But, probably not as much as we might imagine. The larger Greco-Roman world around the Mediterranean had many libraries preserving the same texts.
It’s highly unlikely that what remained of the Library in 5th century Alexandria would be continually restocked with pagan works.
I have always been skeptical--it just sounded too pat. An occasional doctor here and there, or a mathematician.
The great claim to fame was an allegedly islamic University at Cordoba but Cordoba was a Roman capital long before the muzzies seized it. Anything that came out of there likely was due to the existing intellectual infrastructure of a once great city.
It is an underappreciated fact of history that the sweep of empire has largely been a great civilizing force, eg Greece, Rome, the British Empire. The Moslem empire may be a stark exception. They did more harm than good and left little but debris behind.
I thought this would be an article about the library in Alexandria, Virginia.
Muslims are the Borg.
As Petraca (Petrarch) said in the 14th century, "I will not be persuaded that any good can come from Arabia..."
Thanks and bookmark for later
1. The classical world and its learning was still intact throughout the Mediterranean and Europe prior to Islam. Literacy was the norm.
2. Islamic civilization did not begin to produce anything until three centuries after the conquest.
#1. Classical civilization was severely messed up well prior to Mohammed. The limited civilization still hanging on in the Eastern Empire was severely damaged during and following the reign of Justinian by: J's attempt to reconquer the West, which destroyed the West while bankrupting the East; a massive plague under J, probably worse than the Black Death; repeated civil wars in the Empire; decades-long war between the Empire and Persia which utterly exhausted both combatants morally and physically, leaving both vulnerable to Muslim conquest. During this war the Persians conquered Egypt, leaving them as at least possible causes of the destruction of the library.
It is reasonable to consider the Muslim conquest of these two civilizations not so much a conquest but more an occupation of two civilizations that had already killed each other. It is highly relevant that there was apparently no resistance by the people in most areas the Muslims conquered, but only by the State and its armies. The State had quite apparently already lost its people's allegiance.
#2. This one is just weird. I've never seen anything similar proposed. We have extensive contemporaneous accounts from Byzantine and Western sources of the glories of Muslim civilization. PC doesn't go back that far. No references are provided to back up these amazing assertions. Here's a link to an article about a major mosque built starting in 670. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosque_of_Uqba
The author makes some potentially valid points about the presently-accepted narrative being aimed at glorifying Islamic history so as to denigrate the West, but I think he leans too far in the other direction and falls off his horse.
This is highly debatable. One reason the Carolingian Renaissance of the eighth and ninth centuries is so-named is because the centuries before had seen a dramatic drop in literacy and knowledge of Classical authors. Literacy was almost non-existent, and not even widespread among the clergy.
Alexandria Va was named after Alexander Pope the famous librarian.
Pope never married....as in keeping with most Popes.
Pope did father a child. That child was named after some ancient Greek general whose name escapes me.
( wikipedia )
The Library of Alexandria was accidently set on fire the first time by Julius Caeser. Over the centuries it decayed and by the time Timothy of Alexandria come around there wasn’t much left for the Muslims destroy.
There were Christian cities all across North Africa. St. Augustine was Bishop of Hippo, and even the smaller cities of his time were civilized. You get some sense of it from the earlier chapters of the Confessions.
That was the case until the Muslims led by Mohammed swept across North Africa and destroyed it all. Europe was set back by tribal invasions from the North, but those peoples then gradually were converted to Christianity and became civilized. That was not the case in North Africa and the Near East, where the invading Muslims destroyed the former civilizations and they never really recovered.
Thanks grey_whiskers. Fascinating history of the library. Notes that the library was *not* burned by Julius Caesar, and in fact was around during Roman times, and was finally consigned to the flames by the Moslems:To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
· Discover · Nat Geographic · Texas AM Anthro News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo · Google ·
· The Archaeology Channel · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·
They'll do it here if they have half a chance...
"Draw Mohammad Day" - - May 20, 2010 - Draw for freedom - draw for your children's freedom.
Ping for later. I appreciate your posting of this...
What Arab Civilization?
This letter was sent to Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard Corporation, in response to a speech given by her on September 26, 2001.
Arabs and Muslims appeared on the world scene in 630 A.D., when the armies of Muhammad began their conquest of the Middle East. We should be very clear that this was a military conquest, not a missionary enterprise, and through the use of force, authorized by a declaration of a Jihad against infidels, Arabs/Muslims were able to forcibly convert and assimilate non-Arabs and non-Mulsims into their fold. Very few indigenous communities of the Middle East survived this — primarily Assyrians, Jews, Armenians and Coptics (of Egypt).
Having conquered the Middle East, Arabs placed these communities under a Dhimmi (see the book Dhimmi, by Bat Ye’Or) system of governance, where the communities were allowed to rule themselves as religious minorities (Christians, Jews and Zoroastrian). These communities had to pay a tax (called a Jizzya in Arabic) that was, in effect, a penalty for being non-Muslim, and that was typically 80% in times of tolerance and up to 150% in times of oppression. This tax forced many of these communities to convert to Islam, as it was designed to do.
You state, “its architects designed buildings that defied gravity.” I am not sure what you are referring to, but if you are referring to domes and arches, the fundamental architectural breakthrough of using a parabolic shape instead of a spherical shape for these structures was made by the Assyrians more than 1300 years earlier, as evidenced by their archaeological record.
You state, “its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption.” The fundamental basis of modern mathematics had been laid down not hundreds but thousands of years before by Assyrians and Babylonians, who already knew of the concept of zero, of the Pythagorean Theorem, and of many, many other developments expropriated by Arabs/Muslims (see History of Babylonian Mathematics, Neugebauer).
You state, “its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease.” The overwhelming majority of these doctors (99%) were Assyrians. In the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries Assyrians began a systematic translation of the Greek body of knowledge into Assyrian. At first they concentrated on the religious works but then quickly moved to science, philosophy and medicine. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, and many others were translated into Assyrian, and from Assyrian into Arabic. It is these Arabic translations which the Moors brought with them into Spain, and which the Spaniards translated into Latin and spread throughout Europe, thus igniting the European Renaissance.
By the sixth century A.D., Assyrians had begun exporting back to Byzantia their own works on science, philosophy and medicine. In the field of medicine, the Bakhteesho Assyrian family produced nine generations of physicians, and founded the great medical school at Gundeshapur (Iran). Also in the area of medicine, (the Assyrian) Hunayn ibn-Ishaq’s textbook on ophthalmology, written in 950 A.D., remained the authoritative source on the subject until 1800 A.D.
In the area of philosophy, the Assyrian philosopher Job of Edessa developed a physical theory of the universe, in the Assyrian language, that rivaled Aristotle’s theory, and that sought to replace matter with forces (a theory that anticipated some ideas in quantum mechanics, such as the spontaneous creation and destruction of matter that occurs in the quantum vacuum).
One of the greatest Assyrian achievements of the fourth century was the founding of the first university in the world, the School of Nisibis, which had three departments, theology, philosophy and medicine, and which became a magnet and center of intellectual development in the Middle East. The statutes of the School of Nisibis, which have been preserved, later became the model upon which the first Italian university was based (see The Statutes of the School of Nisibis, by Arthur Voobus).
When Arabs and Islam swept through the Middle East in 630 A.D., they encountered 600 years of Assyrian Christian civilization, with a rich heritage, a highly developed culture, and advanced learning institutions. It is this civilization that became the foundation of the Arab civilization.
You state, “Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.” This is a bit melodramatic. In fact, the astronomers you refer to were not Arabs but Chaldeans and Babylonians (of present day south-Iraq), who for millennia were known as astronomers and astrologers, and who were forcibly Arabized and Islamized — so rapidly that by 750 A.D. they had disappeared completely.
You state, “its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.” There is very little literature in the Arabic language that comes from this period you are referring to (the Koran is the only significant piece of literature), whereas the literary output of the Assyrians and Jews was vast. The third largest corpus of Christian writing, after Latin and Greek, is by the Assyrians in the Assyrian language (also called Syriac; see here.)
You state, “when other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.” This is a very important issue you raise, and it goes to the heart of the matter of what Arab/Islamic civilization represents. I reviewed a book titled How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs, in which the author lists the significant translators and interpreters of Greek science. Of the 22 scholars listed, 20 were Assyrians, 1 was Persian and 1 an Arab. I state at the end of my review: “The salient conclusion which can be drawn from O’Leary’s book is that Assyrians played a significant role in the shaping of the Islamic world via the Greek corpus of knowledge. If this is so, one must then ask the question, what happened to the Christian communities which made them lose this great intellectual enterprise which they had established. One can ask this same question of the Arabs. Sadly, O’Leary’s book does not answer this question, and we must look elsewhere for the answer.” I did not answer this question I posed in the review because it was not the place to answer it, but the answer is very clear, the Christian Assyrian community was drained of its population through forced conversion to Islam (by the Jizzya), and once the community had dwindled below a critical threshold, it ceased producing the scholars that were the intellectual driving force of the Islamic civilization, and that is when the so called “Golden Age of Islam” came to an end (about 850 A.D.).
Islam the religion itself was significantly molded by Assyrians and Jews (see Nestorian Influence on Islam and Hagarism: the Making of the Islamic World).
Arab/Islamic civilization is not a progressive force, it is a regressive force; it does not give impetus, it retards. The great civilization you describe was not an Arab/Muslim accomplishment, it was an Assyrian accomplishment that Arabs expropriated and subsequently lost when they drained, through the forced conversion of Assyrians to Islam, the source of the intellectual vitality that propelled it. What other Arab/Muslim civilization has risen since? What other Arab/Muslim successes can we cite?
You state, “and perhaps we can learn a lesson from his [Suleiman] example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions.” In fact, the Ottomans were extremely oppressive to non-Muslims. For example, young Christian boys were forcefully taken from their families, usually at the age of 8-10, and inducted into the Janissaries, (yeniceri in Turkish) where they were Islamized and made to fight for the Ottoman state. What literary, artistic or scientific achievements of the Ottomans can we point to? We can, on the other hand, point to the genocide of 750,000 Assyrians, 1.5 million Armenians and 400,000 Greeks in World War One by the Kemalist “Young Turk” government. This is the true face of Islam.
Arabs/Muslims are engaged in an explicit campaign of destruction and expropriation of cultures and communities, identities and ideas. Wherever Arab/Muslim civilization encounters a non-Arab/Muslim one, it attempts to destroy it (as the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan were destroyed, as Persepolis was destroyed by the Ayotollah Khomeini). This is a pattern that has been recurring since the advent of Islam, 1400 years ago, and is amply substantiated by the historical record. If the “foreign” culture cannot be destroyed, then it is expropriated, and revisionist historians claim that it is and was Arab, as is the case of most of the Arab “accomplishments” you cited in your speech. For example, Arab history texts in the Middle East teach that Assyrians were Arabs, a fact that no reputable scholar would assert, and that no living Assyrian would accept. Assyrians first settled Nineveh, one of the major Assyrian cities, in 5000 B.C., which is 5630 years before Arabs came into that area. Even the word ‘Arab’ is an Assyrian word, meaning “Westerner” (the first written reference to Arabs was by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, 800 B.C., in which he tells of conquering the “ma’rabayeh” — Westerners. See The Might That Was Assyria, by H. W. F. Saggs).
An equal tragedy was the Mongol destruction of the Great Library of Baghdad, where the waters of the Tigris are said to have run black with ink from the destroyed books and red with the blood of the scholars butchered.
That has been my take on this Cult of Death for the past 50 years.
I became aware of Islam at age 18, and following a fairly extensive personal research project concluded that Islam was not a religion — it is a death cult.
I have never trusted, and will never trust a Moslem.
Thank you for the ping(s) SC. This is extremely interesting; what stood out to me was that the ‘golden age of islam’ is something that the potus has touted since his own campaign started. I’m gathering that his belief system includes readings such as ‘The Making of Humanity’.
Something I’m completely unlearned in is arab/muslim/islamic history but what I’ve learned so far is that they are/were absolute barbarians and liars and thieves; stealing from other cultures and laying claim to advancements they had nothing to do with.
This author best be careful or he will end up on a muslim’s ‘list’.
Thanks. I was aware of the contributions of various ancient civilizations, including Egypt and Persia, but I don’t think I understood the importance of the Assyrians.
The Islamites destroy all they touch. There is a reason they were put in a sandbox.
Wasn't Constantinople the capitol of the Roman empire at one time?
Actually, no. It was destroyed by fire during fighting in the city between the Roman Emperor Aurelian (the man for whom Orleans and New Orleans are named) and Queen Zenobia of Palmyra in the 270's AD. If there was anything left of the three libraries in 391 AD, then the Coptic bishop will have destroyed them when he obtained permission from the court of Theodosius I to destroy the pagan temples of Alexandria. There were three libraries in Alexandria: the royal library and two others attached to temples of Serapis and Caesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Historical accounts of the destruction in 391 AD make no mention of libraries or what happened to them.
Best bet is that the royal library was destroyed in the 3rd century, and the surviving temple libraries mined out for the establishment of the library at Constantinople some 40 or 50 years later, so that there was no longer a "library of Alexandria" in the time of Theodosius.
Umar's destruction of Alexandrian libraries was, according to Bernard Lewis and other historians, propaganda generated by Saladin to cover his destruction of "heretical" Islamic texts, i.e. to make his own action seem less extreme, and precedented.
Thank you for posting this article. It seems to be better than the ‘Thinker’s usual material. I shall have to look for more from this O’Neill.
Disagree. The cities of the West were much decayed, their nobility fled into the countryside with their wealth, to hide it from the imperial tax collectors and the trading class taxed into near-nonexistence. The high-cultural appurtenances of civilization will have suffered disproportionately, surviving mostly as private libraries and Kunstzimmer kept by rusticating sub-Roman nobles like Sidonius Apollinaris and other remnants of the plutocratic Late Roman senatorial class.
Viticulture and olive orchards continued in the early Dark Ages, but so to say, is not to say that they flourished, or that they enjoyed anything like the prosperity and security of 300 years before, much less the 200 years before that; and tellingly, land-use patterns in sub-Roman Spain show a marked shift toward locations near water, indicating possibly a need to escape up or down rivers at a moment's notice. Similar land-use changes are seen in Britain, where some villas continued to be "occupied" -- but by task-oriented activities, while actual occupation (as in, I live and sleep here) moved to hilltop settlements.
Wiki says that scholars incline to the view that the books destroyed during the "Alexandrian War" were actually commercial account-books and such, and that the great collection in the Ptolemaic palace wasn't threatened, being in another area from the fire.
Uh, no. The Amoritic Subiru (the original name for the Assyrians) appeared in the second Semitic migration out of Arabia during the middle third millennium BC. Their cousins the Habiru we call Hebrews; as the Bible informs us, the Hebrews settled in Abraham's birthplace, Ur "of the Chaldees" (actually of the Sumerians), and thereabouts.
The Amorites were called by their Semitic bretheren, the Akkadian-speaking Babylonians who arrived a few hundred years earlier in the first wave, "the hateful Amurru". (Thus the Cambridge Ancient History.)
Thus a recent lecturer I heard on the archaeological excavation projects of Cyprus and their ties to historical records.