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Alexandria (Egypt)... Main and Serapeum Libraries

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Date of Origin: For both the Main and Serapeum Libraries sometime around 306 BCE.

Date of Destruction:For the Main Library sometime in the 3rd or 4th Century during the early Christian era. Recent geological evidence points to the possibility that on August 21, 365 AD, Alexandria was hit with a huge tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of southern Crete. Eye witnesses to this event indicated that several thousand died in the city as the wave went as far as two miles inland. As the Great Library was believed to be less than a mile inland from the coast, it is very likely that the library's collections were destroyed at that time. The Great Library was never rebuilt and often the Serapeum Library is confused with the original Great Library. It is also likely that whatever collections could be saved from the disaster were moved to the Serapeum library greatly increasing its holdings.
source: Catalogue of Ancient Earthquakes in the Mediterranean Area up to the 10th Century.

The brutal murder of the head librarian, Hypatia of Alexandria in 415 AD, one of the last philosopher librarians, by members of the Christian Church may have marked the beginning of the end of the Serapeum library. Its final demise was due to an Arab invasion in 642 CE.

Size: Under the work of Callimachus (282 - 260 BCE) the library grew to a holding of 532,800 books. By 100 BCE it had expanded to 700,000 documents. When Caesar visited Alexandria in 48 - 47 BCE, the library stood at approximately one million volumes.
source:The Ancient Library of Alexandria and Early Christian Theological Development by J. Harold Ellens

Date of Excavation:
The university complex surrounding the ancient library was comprised of a number of important institutions and facilities. First of all there were two libraries. The main library was a research library, apparently used for the scholars who participated in the university research enterprise, most of whom were under royal appointment and patronage in their life and scholarship at the university. This library contained approximately one million volumes by the time of Jesus of Nazareth. The Serapion was a library for general public use, holding fifty thousand volumes, housed in a facility associated with the Temple or Shrine of Serapis, the hybrid god originated by the Ptolemies, and integrating divine characteristics and rituals from both Greek and Egyptian religion.

A third facility provided housing for the scholars, and it included a refectory. There was also a building in which scholars were afforded space to do their work. This may have been the museum but the likelihood is that the Museum was a fifth major installation in the total complex. The Museum contained those things generally seen in muesums today, sculpture and other works of art, artifacts, and various items of cultural interest.

[The] history of the ancient library at Alexandria falls into four stages. The first runs from its founding in 306 BC to 30 BCE and the consolidation of Roman influence. The second comprehends the Philonic Age, 30 BCE to 150 CE. The third, the era of the Catechetical School, 150 to 350 CE. The fourth is the period of the philosophical movement which came to be know as the Alexandrian School, 350 to 642 CE. Together these four stages cover nearly a millenium. No other institution of this kind in all of human history proved to be so long lived or so completely dominant of its world and that of subsequent history....
source:The Ancient Library of Alexandria and Early Christian Theological Development by J. Harold Ellens
Athens (Greece)...Apellicon Library
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