how the great Library of Alexander was destroyed

The great Library of Alexandria‘s destruction stands for the myth of violent assault on the intellectual world.  For those today with an unfashionable concern for truth, the reality of the Library of Alexandria’s destruction is more important and mundane.  Irrespective of the villains in the conflicting stories of when and how it was destroyed, the Library of Alexandria would not have survived antiquity.  Alexandria has a Mediterranean climate.  In those conditions, papyrus rolls in active use do not last longer than a few centuries.  The great Library of Alexandria lacked:

sustained management and maintenance that would have seen it through successive transitions in the physical media by means of which the texts could have been transmitted. … authorities both east and west lacked the will and means to maintain a great library. An unburned building full of decaying books would not have made a particle’s worth of difference.[*]

A great intellectual culture thrives only with support for day-to-day, unheralded efforts.

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Note:

[*] From p. 359 in Bagnall, Roger S. 2002. “Alexandria: Library of Dreams”. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 146 (4): 348-362.

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