The Real History of the Library of Alexandria

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Kelly Macquire
by and
published on 21 September 2023

Did you know that the Library of Alexandria didn’t fall like most people think? This video is all about the Great Library of Alexandria, how it worked, and how its fall did not, actually, set human knowledge back thousands of years.

The Library of Alexandria was established under the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (323-30 BCE) and flourished under the patronage of the early kings to become the most famous library of the ancient world, attracting scholars from around the Mediterranean, and making Alexandria the preeminent intellectual center of its time until its decline after 145 BCE.

Alexandria may have been able to boast of the greatest library in the ancient world under the early Ptolemies, but no account from antiquity supports the claim that the library was still a great intellectual center by the Roman Period. It is clear, from references in the works of various ancient writers, that a considerable number of manuscripts were lost at Alexandria between c. 48 BCE and 415 CE, but what these were is unknown. Many of the works referenced as part of the library's collection still exist today all over the world and form part of the collection of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina ("Library of Alexandria"), which opened in 2002 in Alexandria, Egypt, as an homage to the great library of antiquity.



0:00​ Introduction
0:46 The Library of Alexandria
2:25 The Establishment of the Library
3:50 Head Librarians of the Library
5:28 Organisation & Acquisitions
7:30 Decline & Fall of the Great Library
10:45 Survival of the Library's Collection
12:42 Outro

Library of Alexandria
What happened to the Great Library at Alexandria?
Alexandria, Egypt
Hypatia of Alexandria
A Weekend in Alexandria, Egypt

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You can find all attribution and credits for images, animations, graphics and music here -

The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

World History Encyclopedia

#History #libraryofalexandria #library #books

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2023, September 21). The Real History of the Library of Alexandria. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Real History of the Library of Alexandria." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified September 21, 2023.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The Real History of the Library of Alexandria." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 21 Sep 2023. Web. 21 Jul 2024.