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8 Legendary Ancient Libraries

https://www.history.com/.amp/news/8-impressive-ancient-libraries

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8 Legendary Ancient Libraries

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The Library of Ashurbanipal

The Library of Ashurbanipal
  • In the mid-19th century, archaeologists found the ruins of the world's oldest known library in Nineveh (modern-day Iraq).
  • It dates back to the 7th century B.C and includes 30,000 cuneiform tablets, mostly containing archival documents, religious incantations and scholarly texts.
  • The Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal compiled much of his library by looting works from Babylonia and other territories he conquered. The majority of its contents are now kept in the British Museum in London.

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The Library of Alexandria

The Library of Alexandria
  • The ancient world's intellectual jewel was established by general Ptolemy I Soter after Alexander the Great's death in 323 B.C.
  • At its peak, it may have included over 500,000 papyrus scrolls containing works of literature and texts on history, law, mathematics, and science.
  • The library was supposedly burned in 48 B.C. after Julius Caesar accidentally set fire to Alexandria's harbour during a battle against the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy XIII.
  • However, most historians believe that it only came to an end in 270 A.D. during the reign of the Roman emperor Aurelian, while others believe it occurred during the fourth century.

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The Library of Pergamum

The Library of Pergamum
  • The Library of Pergamum was constructed in the third century B.C. by members of the Attalid dynasty in modern-day Turkey.
  • It was housed in a temple complex devoted to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
  • The ancient chronicler Pliny the Elder said the Library of Pergamum became so famous that it was considered to be in "keen competition" with the Library of Alexandria.

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The Villa of the Papyri

The Villa of the Papyri
  • The collection of the "Villa of the Papyri" is the only collection to survive to the present day.
  • About 1,800 scrolls were located in the Roman city of Herculaneum.
  • When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., the library was buried - and preserved - under 90-foot of volcanic material. It was rediscovered in the 18th century.
  • The library contains several texts by an Epicurean philosopher and poet named Philodemus.

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The Libraries of Trajan’s Forum

The Libraries of Trajan’s Forum
  • Around 112 A.D. the multi-use building complex was completed by Emperor Trajan in the city of Rome.
  • It consisted of plazas, markets, and religious temples as well as a library.
  • Two separate structures housed the library, one for works in Latin, and one for works in Greek and each included large central reading chambers and two levels of bookshelf-lined alcoves containing about 20,000 scrolls.

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The Library of Celsus

The Library of Celsus
  • Around 120 A.D. the son of the Roman consul Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus completed a memorial library to his father in Ephesus (modern-day Turkey).
  • The building featured four statues representing Wisdom, Virtue, Intelligence, and Knowledge.
  • The library may have held some 12,000 scrolls.
  • Celsus himself was buried inside it in an ornamental sarcophagus.

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The Imperial Library of Constantinople

The Imperial Library of Constantinople
  • The library was built in the fourth century A.D. under Constantine the Great but stayed small until the fifth century.
  • The collection increased to 120,000 scrolls and codices.
  • The Imperial Library size continued to increase and shrink over the following centuries due to neglect and frequent fires.
  • A Crusader army finally sacked Constantinople in 1204, but the scribes and scholars preserved countless ancient Greek and Roman literature pieces by making parchment copies.

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The House of Wisdom

The House of Wisdom
  • Baghdad (the Iraqi city) was once one of the world's centres of learning and culture.
  • The House of Wisdom was established in the ninth century A.D. during the reign of the Abbasids.
  • The library was stocked with Persian, Indian, and Greek manuscripts on mathematics, astronomy, science, medicine, and philosophy.
  • In 1258, the House of Wisdom came to ruin when the Mongols sacked Baghdad. According to legend, so many books were thrown into the River Tigris that its waters turned black from ink.

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