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What secrets are kept by 8 legendary ancient libraries: Interesting facts about the world's treasuries of wisdom
What secrets are kept by 8 legendary ancient libraries: Interesting facts about the world's treasuries of wisdom

From the very moment that writing arose, people trusted books with all their wisdom. They wrote on clay tablets, papyri, palm leaves, parchment. Writers, scientists and philosophers strove to preserve their thoughts, knowledge and experience for posterity. Therefore, the creation of temples of knowledge - libraries, has always been approached with special trepidation. It should come as no surprise that today many of these storehouses of wisdom are on the list of the world's top attractions. Surprising facts about the most outstanding libraries of the Ancient World from different parts of the globe, further in the review.

Libraries have been around since time immemorial. Thanks to them, scientists were able to find out a lot of useful information about many of the great civilizations of antiquity. About those whose texts, books and documents have not reached our times - science knows almost nothing. In the ancient world, they perfectly understood the value of information and did everything possible to preserve it. The rulers brought books from all over the Earth, from wherever they could get. When it was not possible to get the original, copies were made from it. Texts were translated from foreign languages, scribes copied manually. This titanic work was fully appreciated by descendants.

1. Ashurbanipal Library

The Ashurbanipal library was incredibly extensive

The most famous of the ancient libraries in the world was founded around the 7th century BC. This was done for the "royal contemplation" of the ruler of Assyria, Ashurbanipal. It was on the territory of modern Iraq in the city of Nineveh.

The library contained several tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets, strictly ordered by subject. Most of these tablets contained archival documents, religious and scientific texts. There were also literary works, including the legendary "The Tale of Gilgamesh". King Ashurbanipal was very fond of books. Plundering the territories he conquered, the ruler managed to collect an incredibly rich library.

Ancient texts from the Ashurbanipal library

The ruins of this truly temple of human wisdom were discovered by archaeologists in the middle of the 19th century. Most of the content is now housed in the British Museum in London. It is curious that on some of the books and tablets there is a threatening inscription that all sorts of troubles await the one who stole these tablets. King Ashurbanipal acquired many of his tablets by robbery, but he was terribly worried that a similar fate would befall him. An inscription in one of the texts warns that if someone encroaches on theft, the gods will "overthrow him" and "erase his name, his seed on earth."

2. Library of Alexandria

Library of Alexandria

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, power over Egypt passed into the hands of his former military leader Ptolemy I Soter. The newly minted ruler decided to create a real scientific center in Alexandria. The result of his efforts was the Library of Alexandria. This temple of science has become a true intellectual pearl of the ancient world.

It was arguably the grandest library of its time

Unfortunately, scientists know incredibly little about what books and texts were kept in this library. Researchers believe the library could have stored over half a million papyrus scrolls.These were literary works, historical texts, and books on law, mathematics and natural science. In those days, scholars from all over the Mediterranean coast sought to get to the Library of Alexandria. Many of them even lived right there and received government scholarships. Scientists have carried out various studies and rewrote existing texts. At different times, the real luminaries of science of the ancient world stayed there: Strabo, Euclid and Archimedes.

The end of the outstanding library was tragic. In 48 BC, it burned down. Julius Caesar accidentally set fire to the harbor of Alexandria during a battle with the troops of the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy XIII. The fire destroyed most of the scrolls and books. Despite this, the library continued to function as a research center. Some scholars argue that it finally ceased to exist in 270 AD during the reign of the Roman emperor Aurelian. Other historians believe that even later, in the 4th century.

Fire in the Alexandria Library

3. Library of Pergamon

The Pergamon Library is the main competitor to the Library of Alexandria

The Pergamon Library was created during the Attalid dynasty in the 3rd century BC. It is located on the territory of modern Turkey. In those ancient times, it was a true treasury of human knowledge. About 200,000 scrolls were kept there. The library was housed in a temple complex dedicated to the Greek goddess of wisdom Athena. It consisted of four rooms. Three rooms were used for storing books. Another served as a place for scientific discussions, banquets and meetings.

Ptolemy even forbade the supply of papyri to Pergamum

The ancient chronicler Pliny the Elder wrote that the Pergamon library eventually became so famous that it began to compete with the Alexandrian library. There is even a legend that the Ptolemaic dynasty forbade the supply of papyri to Pergamum. Thus, they tried to somehow slow down the development of the Pergamon library. This was good for the city. It later became a leading center for the production of parchment paper.

4. Villa of the papyri

Villa of the Papyri

This library was not the largest library of antiquity. But this is the only storehouse of wisdom, the collection of which has survived to this day. The library contained 1,800 scrolls. She was in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum in a villa built by Julius Caesar's father-in-law, Lucius Calpurnius.

In 79 AD, a terrible catastrophe occurred - the eruption of the dormant volcano Vesuvius. The library turned out to be safely buried for centuries under layers of volcanic ash. The blackened, charred scrolls were rediscovered by archaeologists in the 18th century. Modern researchers have only recently found a way to decipher all of these ancient texts. At the moment it is already known that the library contains several texts by the Epicurean philosopher and poet Philodemus.

Long buried in volcanic ash, the Villa of the Papyri opened to the public almost 2000 years after the eruption of Vesuvius

5. Libraries of Trajan's Forum

Trajan's Forum

Around AD 112, Emperor Trajan completed the construction of a vast, multi-purpose complex in the heart of Rome. This forum boasted squares, markets and religious temples. Most importantly, it also included one of the most famous libraries of the Roman Empire.

It was the most famous library of the Roman Empire in its day

The library consisted of two parts: one for works in Latin and the other for works in Greek. Its premises were located on opposite sides of the portico with Trajan's column. Both sections of the library were elegantly decorated with marble and granite. These included large reading rooms and two levels of alcoves with bookshelves. About 20,000 scrolls were kept there. Historians cannot say for sure when Trajan's magnificent double library ceased to exist.

6. Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

In ancient Rome, great attention was paid to the development of science. More than two dozen large libraries existed on the territory of the great empire. The capital was by no means the only place where many magnificent literary works were kept. The son of the Roman consul Tiberius, Julius Celsus Polemaan, built a library for his father in Ephesus in 120 AD.

The richly decorated facade of the building has survived to this day. Marble staircases and columns, as well as four statues representing Wisdom, Virtue, Intelligence and Knowledge, amaze with the subtlety of execution and incredible beauty. The interior of the room consisted of a rectangular hall and a row of small niches with bookcases. The library contained about 12,000 scrolls. One of the interesting features of this library is Celsus itself. The fact is that he is buried inside in a decorative sarcophagus.

7. Imperial Library of Constantinople

The city walls were built in the 5th century during the reign of Theodosius II

After some time, the Western Roman Empire fell into decay. Empires replace each other, but knowledge continues to live. Classical Greek and Roman thought continued to flourish in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. The imperial library in this city first appeared in the 4th century AD under Constantine the Great. True, it remained relatively small for a long time. In the 5th century, her collection has simply staggeringly increased. It now housed 120,000 scrolls and codices.

The size of the contents of the Imperial Library was constantly changing. It either increased or decreased over the next several centuries of its existence. This library has survived both terrible fires and times of decline. The crusaders inflicted a crushing blow on this temple of thought in 1204. Their army captured Constantinople, destroyed and plundered it. Scribes and scholars still managed to preserve many works of ancient Greek and Roman literature. They endlessly copied them from old papyrus scrolls onto parchment.

8. House of wisdom

House of Wisdom

Baghdad is the capital of modern Iraq. Once this city was one of the world's largest centers of science and culture. All thanks to the fact that there was the House of Wisdom - her true dwelling. It was founded at the beginning of the 9th century AD during the rule of the Abbasids. In the beginning it was just a library, where many Greek, Persian and Indian manuscripts were kept. These were scientific works in philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy. The collection was incredibly large.

It was the largest center of science and culture at that time The most prominent scientists strove to get there

These works of ancient scientists served as a natural stimulus for the development of sciences in the Middle East. All the leading minds of that time flocked there. Many scribes studied the texts and translated them into Arabic. Among the scholars who visited the House of Wisdom were very prominent personalities. For example, such a great thinker al-Kindi (he is also called the "philosopher of the Arabs") and the mathematician al-Khwarizmi (one of the fathers of algebra).

A portrait of the polymath, physician and alchemist Razi in his laboratory in Baghdad, Iraq Book from the collection of the House of Wisdom

Unfortunately, the era of the development of science in the Islamic world ended with the devastating raids of the Mongols. Their hordes plundered Baghdad in 1258. The greatest cultural and scientific heritage of mankind was treated in general in the highest degree barbaric. According to legend, so many books were thrown into the Tigris River that the water in it turned black with ink.

If you are interested in world history, read our article on what secrets are kept by 8 of the most impressive underground cities in the world: from modern Moscow to ancient Petra.

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