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Alexandria pioneered the universal library

Alexandria pioneered the universal library

The idea of a universal library proved to be a game-changer. Alexandria inspired other cities to create rival "universal libraries," such as the Library of Pergamum in today's Turkey.

The Great Library's main structure was likely burned in 48BCE when Ptolemy XIII laid a siege against his wife and co-ruler Cleopatra and her lover, the Roman dictator Julius Caesar. The smaller library building in the Serapeum temple, which was added when the first library ran out of space, may have survived until the 4th century when the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I ordered all pagan temples to be destroyed.

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Alexandria, with its Great Library, was marked as the intellectual capital of the world.

The Musaeum, or "shrine of the Muses," from where we get the word museum, included a lengthy roofed walkway and a large communal dining hall, where scholars dined and shared ideas. The scholars were salaried employees, received free room and board, and paid no taxes.

Alexandria was founded in 331BCE by the Macedonian leader Alexander the Great. Alexander left Egypt a few months later, leaving his viceroy Cleomenes in charge.

The city's population grew to around 300,000 people. It remained the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt, as well as Roman and Byzantine Egypt, for almost a thousand years.

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