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Lost Libraries of Antiquity: Scrolls and Books That Disappeared

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The Lost Libraries of Antiquity

The ancient world was home to many great libraries, filled with the accumulated knowledge of civilizations. These libraries were storehouses of learning, and their loss has been a great tragedy for humanity.

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Some of the most famous lost libraries include:

  • The Library of Alexandria, Egypt, which was once one of the largest and most important libraries in the world. It is estimated that the library contained over 100,000 scrolls, and it was a center of learning for scholars from all over the world. The library was destroyed in a fire in 48 BC, and most of its contents were lost.
  • The Library of Pergamum, Turkey, was a rival to the Library of Alexandria. It was founded in the 3rd century BC, and it is estimated that it contained over 200,000 scrolls. The library was destroyed by the Goths in AD 262.
  • The Library of Ephesus, Turkey, was one of the largest libraries in the Roman Empire. It was founded in the 2nd century BC, and it is estimated that it contained over 120,000 scrolls. The library was destroyed by a fire in AD 262.
  • The Library of Caesarea Maritima, Israel, was a large library founded by Herod the Great in the 1st century BC. It is estimated that the library contained over 100,000 scrolls. The library was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 70.

These are just a few of the many lost libraries of antiquity. The loss of these libraries has had a profound impact on our understanding of the ancient world. Many important works of literature and philosophy have been lost forever, and we can only imagine what we would know about the ancient world if these libraries had survived.

Scrolls and Books That Disappeared

In addition to the libraries that were destroyed, many individual scrolls and books have also been lost over the centuries. Some of these losses were accidental, while others were intentional.

Accidental losses can occur due to a variety of factors, such as fire, flood, or war. For example, the Library of Alexandria was destroyed in a fire, and many of the scrolls that were stored there were lost. Similarly, the Library of Ephesus was destroyed by a fire, and the Library of Caesarea Maritima was destroyed by an earthquake.

Intentional losses can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, books are destroyed because they are considered to be heretical or blasphemous. For example, during the Middle Ages, many books were burned by the Catholic Church because they were considered to be heretical. Similarly, during the Cultural Revolution in China, many books were destroyed because they were considered to be counter-revolutionary.

Other times, books are destroyed simply because they are no longer considered to be valuable. For example, in the early days of the printing press, many books were printed on paper that was not very durable. As a result, these books quickly deteriorated and were eventually lost.

The loss of scrolls and books has had a profound impact on our understanding of the past. Many important works of literature and history have been lost forever, and we can only imagine what we would know about the world if these books had survived.

The Causes of the Losses

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the loss of libraries and books in the ancient world. Some of the most important causes include:

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In 1752 workmen of the Bourbon royal family accidentally discovered what is now known as the Villa of the Papyri 2 4 There may still be a lower section of the Villa39s collection that remains buried 3 Ethel Ross Barker noted in her 1908 Buried Herculaneum 5 Appearance of the rollsOne such library that whose impressive ruins still stand today is the Library of Celsus in Ephesus Turkey The Library of Celsus was the third largest library in Classical Antiquity It is known for its striking architecture and for the fact that it once held 12000 scrolls containing a wealth of knowledge from the ancient worldOne of the hundreds of scrolls unearthed in Herculaneum now kept at the National Library of Naples Antonio MasielloGettyImages Antonio Piaggio the keeper of manuscripts at the Vatican 1 The

Library of Ashurbanipal Public Domain Part of a clay tablet NeoAssyrian The worlds oldest known library was founded sometime in the 7th century BC for the royal contemplation ofThe 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius is most famous for burying Pompeii spectacularly preserving many artifactsand residentsin that once bustling town south of Naples The tumbling clouds As many as 700000 scrolls filled the shelves However in one of the greatest tragedies of the academic world the Library became lost to history and scholars are still not able to agree on how it was destroyed The Great Library of Alexandria CC by SA 40 Theory 1 Julius CaesarNovember 8 2015 Left Multispectral imaging reveals erased ancient writing Right A crosssection of a carbonized scroll from Herculaneum Illustration by Chad Hagen

Source Courtesy Owner ofBy Richard Ovenden November 17 2020 430 PM EST The opening episode of Carl Sagan s TV series Cosmos first shown in 1980 lamented the most famous burning of books in historythe conflagration

  • War and conflict: Libraries have often been targeted during times of war. This is because libraries contain valuable information that can be used to support a military campaign. For example, during the Second World War, the Nazis destroyed many libraries in occupied countries in an attempt to suppress resistance.
  • Natural disasters: Libraries are also vulnerable to natural disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes. These disasters can destroy entire libraries in a matter of minutes. For example, the Library of Alexandria was destroyed in a fire, and the Library of Ephesus was destroyed by an earthquake.
  • Piracy and looting: Libraries have also been looted and destroyed by pirates and other criminals. This is because libraries contain valuable items that can be sold for profit. For example, in the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors looted and destroyed many libraries in the Americas.
  • Indifference and neglect: Finally, libraries have also been lost due to indifference and neglect. This is because libraries require constant care and maintenance in order to survive. If a library is not properly cared for, it will eventually deteriorate and be lost. For example, many libraries in the Middle Ages were destroyed because they were not properly maintained.

These are just some of the factors that have contributed to the loss of libraries and books in the ancient world. The loss of these libraries has had a profound impact on our understanding of the past, and it is a

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