EVERY TIME SOMEONE BRINGS UP THE LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA I GET SO ANGRY.
Because it got burned. All of that knowledge, lost forever.
The library was destroyed over 1000’s of years ago. The library consisted of thousands of scrolls and books about mathematics, engineering, physiology, geography, blueprints, medicine, plays, & important scriptures. Thinkers from all over the Mediterranean used to come to Alexandria to study.Most of the major work of civilization up until that point was lost. If the library still survived till this day, society may have been more advanced and we would sure know more about the ancient world.
I get so sad whenever I think about this.
Good God Almighty, not this “Christians ruined knowledge 4ever” bullhockey again. I am sotired of this overused narrative.
Firstly, the destruction of the Library has not been attributed to a specific event. The Library had been in decline years before Jesus was even born. Multiple Roman scholars, including Plutarch (XLIX.435), Ammianus Marcellinus, Aulus Gellius, and Seneca, record the destruction of books in Alexandria, all placing the events before Christians even existed (Plutarch and Ammian specifically attribute the burning of the Library to Julius Caesar burning his ships in his siege of Alexandria, while Aulus Gellius adds an earlier removal of books by the Persians). Ammian especially hints to the faded glory of Alexandria’s libraries, especially the Serapeum (which also functioned as a temple to the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis). Further historians attribute the destruction of the library to the ruin of Brucheion (the location of the Library) Aurelian’s war against the Palmyrene Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century.
Two more events are often mentioned as the destruction of the Library. The first is the complete destruction of the Serapeum by Coptic Pope Theophilus in 391 AD, as part of his decree to destroy all the pagan temples of the city. The ecclesiastical historian Socrates of Constantinople gives no mention of the books, while lesser-known Christian historian Paulus Orosius (VI.263) notes that the books burned (of which he laments) were not the same as the original collection of the Library. The other event is the Caliphate’s invasion of Egypt in 642 AD. The destruction of the Library is dubiously recorded by Abd al-Latif al Baghdadi and Ibn al-Qifti, who both claim that ‘Amr ibn al-‘As destroyed the Library by the orders of Caliph Umar. So many burnings, but not one has been definitively set as the destruction of the Library.
But enough about the Library. The problem is this false idea of Christianity (especially Catholicism, since we all know that’s the Church attacked for the so-called “Dark Ages”) being absolutely opposed to scholarly and scientific knowledge. One need only read Aquinas and John Paul II to see that the tradition of the Church has been fides et ratio, faith and reason, that science and religion are not enemies and should not be viewed as such. Much knowledge was lost in the drawn-out destruction of the Library of Alexandria, but Christianity also preserved much knowledge. The Imperial Library of Constantinople housed a large collection of Roman and Greek works, begun at the behest of Christian Emperor Constantius II in the 4th Century. Socrates and Plato were vastly influential on the thought of Augustine and Boethius. Many of the Church Fathers, even after Saint Augustine, as well as various authors and poets throughout the Middle Ages, knew well the works of Vergil, Cicero, Sallust, Horace, and Seneca the Younger. Saint Isidore of Seville, bishop and Doctor of the Church, sought to compile and preserve a summary of a large majority of the knowledge of Western antiquity, known as the Etymologiae. The medievals still studied the writings of Euclid, Archimedes, and Ptolemy. Modern civil law has its roots in the Corpus Juris Civilis (“The Body of Civil Law”), the collection of Roman jurisprudence compiled by the Byzantine Christian Emperor Justinian. Still more Christian writers such as Saint John Damascene and Alcuin of York preserved classical learning and expanded the fields of philosophy and theology.
The chart especially ignores the contributions to learning made by Western European Christians (i.e. Catholics) throughout the Middle Ages, including the Carolingian Renaissance and especially the advances of the High Middle Ages. These include the renaissance of architecture (namely the “Gothic” style of the 12th Century), the reinterpretation of Aristotelian learning (especially in terms of renewed interest in dialectics and syllogistic logic) by the Scholastics, and the foundations of the modern university system (the development of which was independent of the Islamic madrasa), with the oldest in continual use being the University of Bologna (since the 11th Century).
The chart, and by extension the general sentiment, is also incredibly Eurocentric (in a demeaning way) and vastly oblivious to the advances of other peoples throughout the world, including the Islamic Caliphate, the Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties in China, and Late Classical India. Many of those civilizations did not suffer such a loss of learning as perceived in Western Europe. The entire idea is distasteful and ignorant.