Works From Library Of Alexandria Recovered
By James Donahue
Among the greatest of historical tragedies was
the destruction by the Romans of the great University of Alexandria, Egypt, and the burning of its Great Library, said to
contain all of the written knowledge of the known world in about 400 A.D.
Stored there in two different buildings was a
collection of carefully scribed manuscripts, scrolls and clay tablets, carefully gathered by Ptolemy I Soter, a successor
to Alexander the Great.
The late American astrophysicist Carl Sagan once
offered a television documentary in which he noted that the university 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.”
Within the walls of the Great Library were ancient
documents that undoubtedly contained a better picture than now exists of ancient world history. These important documents
were lost to mankind when the Roman army, under orders from the Christian Roman leader Theophilus, burned the collection during
his years as Patriarch of Alexandria from 385 to 412 AD.
The destruction of these and many other records
all over the world by Christian invaders opened the door to the superstitious religious blindness that prevailed through the
Dark Ages and continues to influence historical and religious doctrine to this day.
The documents were destroyed, but not all of
them lost, however. It turns out that about 100 years ago, archaeologists sifting through an ancient rubbish dump in central
Egypt came upon a cache of original papyrus documents.
While suspected of being an important find, the
documents appeared to have been lost to age and weather. They were not only decayed and blackened from age, but worm-eaten.
The information written on the parchment was impossible to view. But the parchments were carefully preserved in the hope that
new scientific methods would be developed for capturing the data.
Well there is good news. After a century of waiting,
a new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, is bringing the original writing back into view. And what
they are finding in that old rubble is astounding.
The manuscripts are found to contain work by
some of the greats of classical literature that include Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod. A team from Oxford University has
been pouring over the old text, finding thousands of works of art and literature that have been lost to the world for 2000
Other works expected to turn up are writings
by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus many of the lost gospels that present a more complete picture of the life of Jesus.
Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek
at Oxford, described what he called “central texts which scholars have been speculating about for centuries.”
Some scholars believe the uncovered text will
mark a major increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence.