This library is most famous for having been burned down resulting in the loss of many scrolls and books; its destruction has become a symbol for the loss of cultural knowledge. Sources differ on who was responsible for its destruction and when it occurred. The library may in truth have suffered several fires over many years. Possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria include a fire set by the army of Julius Caesar in 48 BC and an attack by Aurelian in the 270s AD.
–This is a depiction of the Library of Alexandria, unfortunately, it has been destroyed.
The library was arguably one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world, details about it are a mixture of history and legend.
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The famous burning of the Library of Alexandria, including the incalculable loss of ancient works, has become a symbol of the irretrievable loss of public knowledge. Although there is a mythology of “the burning of the Library at Alexandria”, the library may have suffered several fires or acts of destruction of varying degrees over many years. Ancient and modern sources identify several possible occasions for the partial or complete destruction of the Library of Alexandria.
During Caesar’s Civil War, Julius Caesar was besieged at Alexandria in 48 BC. Many ancient sources describe Caesar setting fire to his own ships and state that this fire spread to the library, destroying it
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The library seems to have continued in existence to some degree until its contents were largely lost during the taking of the city by the Emperor Aurelian (AD 270–275), who was suppressing a revolt by Queen Zenobia of Palmyra. During the course of the fighting, the areas of the city in which the main library was located were damaged. Some sources claim that the smaller library located at the Serapeum survived, though Ammianus Marcellinus wrote of the library in the Serapeum temple as a thing of the past, destroyed when Caesar sacked Alexandria.
Paganism was made illegal by an edict of the Emperor Theodosius I in AD 391. The temples of Alexandria were closed by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria in AD 391. The historian Socrates of Constantinople describes that all pagan temples in Alexandria were destroyed, including the Serapeum. Since the Serapeum had at one time housed a part of the Great Library, some scholars believe that the remains of the Library of Alexandria were destroyed at this time.However, it is not known how many, if any, books were contained in it at the time of destruction, and contemporary scholars do not mention the library directly.
In AD 642, Alexandria was captured by the Muslim army of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As. Several later Arabic sources describe the library’s destruction by the order of Caliph Omar. Bar-Hebraeus, writing in the 13th century, quotes Omar as saying toYaḥyā al-Naḥwī: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.” Later scholars are skeptical of these stories, given the range of time that had passed before they were written down and the political motivations of the various writers.