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History Channel - Ancient Mysteries - The Lost Treasure of the Alexandria Library 3/5

The Greek term bibliotheke (βιβλιοθήκη), used by many historians of the time, refers to the [royal] "Collection of Books", not to the building itself, nor to the social networks which sustained and operated the collection, which complicates the history and chronology of its destruction. The Royal Collection can be viewed as having begun in the Royal Quarter's building, commonly known as "The Great Library." Scholars, particularly twenty-first century Arab/Muslim scholars, contest an ambiguous statement regarding Alexander's role in the creation of the library: Alexander, although picking the site and planning the general layout of the city, died before he could have a hand in the erection of the library or academy that was created in his name. Already famous in the ancient world, the library's collection became even more storied in later years. However, it is now impossible to determine the collection's size in any era. Papyrus scrolls comprised the collection, and although parchment codices were used predominantly as a more advanced writing material after 300 BC, the Alexandrian Library is never documented as having switched to parchment, perhaps because of its strong links to the papyrus trade. (The Library of Alexandria in fact had an indirect cause in the creation of writing parchment - due to the library's critical need for papyrus, little was exported and thus an alternate source of copy material became essential.) A single piece of writing might occupy several scrolls, and this division into self-contained "books" was a major aspect of editorial work. King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309246 BC) is said to have set 500,000 scrolls as an objective for the library. Mark Antony supposedly gave Cleopatra over 200,000 scrolls (taken from the great Library of Pergamum) for the library as a wedding gift, but this is regarded by some historians as a propagandist claim meant to show Antony's allegiance to Egypt rather than Rome.[citation needed] Carl Sagan, in his series Cosmos, states that the library contained nearly one million scrolls, though other experts have estimated a smaller number (he also gives a speculative description of its destruction, linking it to the death of Hypatia, again without corroboration). Tommy DiFraia says there were roughly 650,000 scrolls. No index of the library survives, and it is not possible to know with certainty how large and how diverse the collection may have been. For example, it is likely that even if the Library of Alexandria had hundreds of thousands of scrolls (and thus perhaps tens of thousands of individual works), some of these would have been duplicate copies or alternate versions of the same texts. A possibly apocryphal or exaggerated story concerns how the library's collection grew so large. By decree of Ptolemy III of Egypt, all visitors to the city were required to surrender all books and scrolls, as well as any form of written media in any language in their possession which, according to Galen, were listed under the heading "books of the ships". Official scribes then swiftly copied these writings, some copies proving so precise that the originals were put into the library, and the copies delivered to the unsuspecting owners. This process also helped to create a reservoir of books in the relatively new city. According to Galen, Ptolemy III requested permission from the Athenians to borrow the original scripts of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, for which the Athenians demanded the enormous amount of fifteen talents as guarantee. Ptolemy happily paid the fee but kept the original scripts for the library. This story may also be constructed erroneously to show the power of Alexandria over Athens.
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Added by Bling King on Wednesday, May 30, 2012
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