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The Great Library
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Unlocking Past Mistakes In Alexandria

By James Donahue

An ancient collection of carefully scribed manuscripts, scrolls and clay tablets recording all of the available knowledge of the known world was once gathered in an amazing place of learning at Alexandria, Egypt.

This great University, or Mouseion, commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter, a successor to Alexander the Great, drew the world's greatest thinkers from the time it was erected in around 300 BC. Within its walls stood the Great Library of Alexandria, where all of the documents were placed. It is said that the number of books this library held grew so large that a second library was built near the legendary Temple of Serapis.

During the three to six centuries that the City of Alexandria flourished the Mouseion grew to be the first great learning center in the known world. This was a time when few people could either read or write, and the knowledge and leadership was limited to but a handful of scholars.

In a television documentary, the late American astrophysicist Carl Sagan said the Moseion drew "a community of scientists who discovered the sciences of physics, linguistics, medicine, astronomy, geography, philosophy, mathematics, biology and geology. Here scientific studies reached adulthood. Here genius flourished."

It was here that Archimedes invented the screw-shaped water pump that remains in use today. Eratosthenes measured the diameter of the Earth. Euclid discovered the rules of geometry. And Ptolemy wrote the Almagest, a book about the nature of the Universe.

The Great Library contained several hundred thousand papyrus and vellum scrolls, including over 120 plays by Sophocles, Aeschylus and Eurepides. The documents included a history of the world, from the time of the Biblical Flood, by Prossos. The great mathematician Euclid in his book The Elements, laid the foundations of mathematics, geometry and mathematical logic. It has been said that Euclid's writings influenced Isaac Newton.

It was at this center that Archimedes also laid the foundations for Differential Calculus and discovered the laws of governing the relation between a sphere and its surrounding cylinder, and the measurement of the surface area of a ball.

Among the many other great scholars at Alexandria:

Eratosthenes created the Sieve of Eratosthenes which is still used to find primary figures.

Herophilus, the father of anatomy, laid down the scientific principles of modern medicine.

Erasistratus, considered the father of physiology, described the human nervous system and epiglottis. But he didnt stop there. He also proved that the Earth was spherical and found a way to accurately measure its circumference.

Hipparchus defined latitude and longitude.

Remember that this was all going on while the Roman Empire was flourishing and Jesus was said to have lived. It was a time when mankind was beginning to evolve and use the right hemisphere of his wonderful brain. If allowed to exist unchecked, history might have taken a much different path than it did.

Enter Christianity, the crusades and the dark ages. Sometime between about 40 AD and 400 AD the Great Library was burned to the ground. The culprits are recorded in faded historical records as either Julius Caesar during the Alexandrian War, or Theophilus, a Christian Roman leader who was named Patriarch of Alexandria from 385 to 412 AD. Edward Gibbons in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, states that Theophilus converted the Temple of Serapis into a Christian Church and destroyed many of the documents in the nearby library. The building was estimated to hold about 10 percent of the books from the Library of Alexandria. His reign was succeeded by a nephew, Cyril, who may have finished the destruction.

However it happened, the university was destroyed, never to be rebuilt. For hundreds of years the story of the Great Library of Alexandria was nothing more than a myth. Some wondered if it even existed.

It appears that a Polish-Egyptian team of archaeologists has now discovered the ruins of the university and library. Zahi Hawass, president of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the team has unearthed the ruins of 13 lecture halls that could have once provided for as many as 5,000 students. Each hall contained a central elevated podium for the lecturer to stand on.

The tragedy of Alexandria's Great Library and University is that it was not only stopped, but all of the world's written knowledge, carefully collected by Ptolemy from every corner of the known world, was burned. Thus the written history of just who we are, and where we came from, went up in smoke at the launching of the era of Christianity.

At that milestone in history, mankind was clearly misled on a dark and destructive path of blindness that has continued for 2000 years.