Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Alexandria: More than a Library Guest Post Laurel A. Rockefeller

Alexandria: More than a Library
By Laurel A. Rockefeller
Alexandria. Jewel of the Egypt. Jewel of the Eastern Roman Empire. Alexandria is most famous for two things: its library system (yes, there was more than one library) and its part in the tragedy of Pharaoh Cleopatra VII. Far fewer people are aware that it was home to one of the greatest philosophers and scientists of the classical world: Hypatia of Alexandria.

To truly understand and appreciate Hypatia’s life it is important to discover the place she called home and its place in history.

Alexandria Egypt gets its name from Alexander the Great who founded the city in 331 BCE. But
Alexander was not working from scratch. There was a small port town there already called Rhakotis which quickly became absorbed into Alexander’s grand new capital. Alexander personally designed his city to include massive, ornamental public buildings and lavish palaces, the sort of public works meant to impress the world and give glory to Alexander’s greatness. Building was to be done by others. In 330 BCE trusted commander Cleomenes began the first stage of building to be succeeded in 323 BCE by Egypt’s new governor, General Ptolemy who made Alexandria his capital city three years later. In 305 BCE the title of governor was no longer enough for Ptolemy and he declared himself Pharaoh of his new Ptolemaic dynasty.

Under the Ptolemaic dynasty Alexandria prospered as it never had before. Ptolemy I ordered
construction of the Great Library, a library so massive in size and collection that it took his son and successor Ptolemy II to finish it. The famous lighthouse was built on the island of Pharos in Alexandria’s harbour to become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is also under Ptolemy I that we see ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek religions merging in the form of the god Serapis.
Ptolemy’s temple to Serapis was one of two spectacular temples built on the north edge of the city, a complex for worship, learning, and culture rivalled only by the Parthenon in Athens itself. As the number of books in the Great Library increased, the Temple of Serapis quickly became a daughter library. What started as an idea in the mind of Alexander the Great was quickly becoming an entire library system, the largest such system in the western world.

With the Ptolemies actively adding every known book in the western world to Alexandria’s libraries the city naturally attracted more and more of the best and the brightest from every academic discipline. Eratosthenes, Euclid, and Archimedes all studied, researched, and taught from Ptolemaic Alexandria. Alexandria was at the heart of the ancient golden age of scholarship and learning.

But it was not to last. In 48 BCE a Roman general named Julius Caesar came to Egypt on pretences of resolving a civil war between Ptolemy XIII and his sister Cleopatra VII. During the ensuing battles, parts of the city were burned – including sections of the Great Library. After Caesar’s assassination, Marcus Antonius came to Alexandria and quickly became Cleopatra’s famous or infamous consort. It was during Cleopatra’s reign that work began on the Caesareum, the great palace and daughter library located to the west of the much older Serapeum.
After Cleopatra’s suicide, Alexandria lost its stability along with its status. Relegated to the capital of one of many Roman provinces it was ruined and rebuilt many times. Despite the constant turmoil, the library system still made it attractive for researchers, teachers, and writers throughout the empire. Legend has it that the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek from Alexandria. But it was Constantine’s “Edict of Milan” in 313 CE that ultimately sealed the city’s fate when it ended persecution of the Christian religion, allegedly in the spirit of religious tolerance for all religions.

The Christians in Egypt did not interpret the edict as a call for tolerance, but an opportunity to attack the much larger pagan and Jewish communities. The Christians mostly did this out of a pursuit of power. They wanted to control the city and control what people studied and believed. Under three
successive Christian Patriarchs (Theodosius I, Theophilus I, and Cyril I), the Christian community outlawed and destroyed all of the great institutions that had made Alexandria famous and prosperous. Jews and pagans were actively murdered, the entire library system burned into ashes, and both the Caesareum and Serapeum destroyed and converted into churches. In 415 CE this cumulated in the murder of Hypatia of Alexandria, the greatest philosopher, scientist, and teacher of Roman Alexandria if not the entire classical world. With Hypatia gone, Patriarch Cyril completed his annihilation of the Jews. With both the Jews and Hypatia and her followers gone from the city, Cyril at last made Alexandria the Christian city he wanted –at the expense of the city’s economic, political, and cultural stability. In 646 CE fell into Islamic rule which remains today.
Alexandria Egypt was one of the great wonders of the ancient world. A city designed as the jewel of Alexander the Great’s empire, it prospered under the Greco-Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty as the greatest center of learning the western world has ever known. But it was ultimately the quest for power by three Christian patriarchs that became its undoing, a lesson perhaps in the danger of religious intolerance and the use of religion in pursuit of material and political power.

Born, raised, and educated in Lincoln, Nebraska USA Laurel A. Rockefeller is author of over twenty books published and self-published since August, 2012 and in languages ranging from Welsh to Spanish to Chinese and everything in between. A dedicated scholar and biographical historian, Ms. Rockefeller is passionate about education and improving history literacy worldwide. 

With her lyrical writing style, Laurel's books are as beautiful to read as they are informative.

In her spare time, Laurel enjoys spending time with her cockatiels, attending living history activities, travelling to historic places in both the United States and United Kingdom, and watching classic motion pictures and classic television series.

Hypatia of Alexandria
The Legendary Women of World History #8
by Laurel A. Rockefeller
Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Teacher. Philosopher. Astronomer.
Born in 355 CE. In the aftermath of Constantine's reign Hypatia of Alexandria lived in a collapsing Rome Empire, a world where obedience to religious authorities trumped science, where reason and logic threatened the new world order. It was a world on the edge of the Dark Ages. As libraries burned, she dared defend the light of knowledge.

**Only .99 cents!!**

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