Where did all the books go?
Updated: Aug 12, 2022
I often wonder how much time we spend 'browsing' the internet, arguably for those things in which we have an interest, but how often do we get sidetracked. I know I do and I find Youtube one of the worst (or best?). It was doing just that when I was following one of my favouraite subjects, Ancient Mysteries, and there are a lot of them.
One of the threads took me into ancient libraries, and there were a lot of those too, only to confirm what my history teacher had told me more years ago than I like to remember that it was the favourite hobby of the victorious to destroy the written history of the vanquished so they could then impose their own version of history or religion. Doesn't that sound familiar - the practice has continued in modern times - Nazi Germany, Communist China are just two examples.
The one that caught my attention was The Great Library of Alexandria. It had disappeared, there was no doubt, but there were conflicting reasons why. Was it in 48BC during Julius Ceasars civil war, or in 272AD when Emperor Aurelian fought to recapture Alexandria from Queen Zenobia, by Emperor Dicletian when he besiged the city in 292AD, or was it on the instructions of Caliph Omar after the capture of Alexandria by the Muslims. And so the suppositions go on. But I have to wonder why the Ptolomeic Pharoahs, who had spent centuries building the library, attracting the greatest minds of the known world, would just trust to luck that it would survive the ravages of war, religeous changes or natural disasters to destroy it. Hmmmm!.
And Alexandria was not alone. You can find ten others listed here for example.
Some probable 'facts'were recorded by historians such as Plutarch, who reported that scrolls from the library of Pergamom were acquired by Marc Anthony and taken to Alexandria.
This a picture of the ruins of the Alexandrian Serapeum. The description of the image on Wikipedia is that it is 'where the Library of Alexandria moved part of its collection after it ran out of storage space in the main building'. Not sure how they could make that assumption, but again it is just as likely that moving the library under the Serapeum could have been part of a greater plan by the Ptolemy's. Which is the plot for my book The Last Librarian and the Quest for Eternal Life.
I have used the disappearance of the House of Wisdom, a library created during the Golden Era of the Abbasids in the round city of Baghdad after the sacking of the city by the Mongols in 1258AD, as the basis of my book 'The House of Wisdom'.
So conspiacy theories can be as prolific about historical events as they are about modern politics!
My final words are again for the amazing plethora of historical mysteries that fit between the cracks of the many major events in history, may they continue to inspire authors to bring them to light, build pictures around them and inspire our imagination.