Sunday, January 14, 2007
The Light that Failed...
I picked up a book this morning at Borders called The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind. Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. The great library of Alexandria is one of those places that has always held particular interest for me, perhaps because of my lifelong love of books and reading. All of the knowledge of the ancient world, contained in more than a quarter million scrolls, was once collected in the library. Scholars estimate that 1% at best survived the destruction of the library and most of the city around the time of Julius Caesar. (Though this book is quick to point out that the rebuilt city went on for quite some time as a center of learning.)
Think of all the knowledge that was lost. The books that we never knew existed. Lost works by the great philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, poets, and playwrights of the ancient world. In some ways it reminds me of that Library in the works of fantasy writer James Branch Cabell, that held all the books that were never written.
The history of the city itself is pretty darned amazing too. Founded by Alexander the great, who would never walk through the city's gates, having left a few days after seeing the initial ground plans laid out in lines of finely ground flower (no chalk in Egypt) and dying before he could return.
Oh, and there's that whole lighthouse thing. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Anyway, I'm enjoying it tremendously.