Was Julius Responsible?

Known as the greatest library ever, the ancient library in Alexandria, Egypt has educated the most brilliant minds the world has known. More than just a library it was also the world’s first research center. It was founded in the beginning of the 3rd century BC. The library of Alexandria was more of a college campus for it had; libraries, temples, lecture halls, shrines, museums, dining halls, and even a zoo. There are said to be 40,000 to 400,000 scrolls in the great library. The library may have held secrets of centuries of knowledge. The destruction of the library caused humanity to go back a thousand years, and it was blamed on one man, Julius Cesar. Yet if I told you, that it wasn’t just Cesar, a Roman, who brought us back a thousand years, but Egypt’s own people.

In 48 BCE, there was a war between Julius Cesar and Pompeius Magnus.  Julius Cesar of Rome was in town, and a fleet of Pompeius’s ships were stopping him from proceeding into Alexandria. See, Julius decided to burn down the ships in his way, including his own, which he not only burned the ships, but a large chunk of the city of Alexandria, including the library’s storage house where they kept SOME of the books. Marc Antony, Emperor of Rome, gave Cleopatra 200,000 scrolls in damages after Caesar’s death . History books and google have said that it was Julius Caesar’s fault for the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, but he wasn’t the only player that played a role in the library’s destruction. Heck, his buddy, Marc Antony, replaced more scrolls than he needed to. So why did they still blame it on him all those years ago? Could it have anything to do with his affair with Cleopatra? It couldn’t have because Cleopatra was helping her lover out in the war supplying them with war materials. If she blamed it on him it was partially her fault for giving him the supplies to burn the ships in the first place.

About four hundred years later, after Cesar was obviously dead, Theophilus, the Bishop of Alexandria, turned the temple of Serapis ( a temple in the library) into a christian church. The christians desecrated cult objects from the pagans. The pagans were upset and attacked the christians and the christians later cornered the pagans in the temple of Serapis leading to greater destruction of another fire in the library. This fire was said to destroy ten percent of the library’s scrolls.

Another occurrence proves that Julius Cesar was clearly not alone in the destruction of the library was in 640 AD, about 200 years later after the second burning. The Muslim Caliphate, made up mostly of Arabian people, expanded to Alexandria. Muslims had taken over the city at the time, and the Muslim leader, Caliph Omar ordered for some of the books to be melted to heat up the baths of the city. The other books were burned because they were declared “unholy” to Caliph Omar. The burning of all books took six months to complete. So not really did the library get burned down but the knowledge that was in it. Also, that’s probably why ninety percent of Egyptians are muslim.

Alexander Santos – Fenwick High School – DMSF Class of 2027

Photo by Freddy Kearney on Unsplash