jottings from tertius
views of the world from my worldview window
"If there was no God, there would be no atheists." G.K. Chesterton
SITES OF NOTE
Tektonics Apologetics Ministry
The Adarwinist reader
Bede's Library: the Alliance of Faith and Reason
A Christian Thinktank
Doxa:Christian theology and apologetics
Mike Gene Teleologic
Errant Skeptics Research Institute
Stephen Jones' CreationEvolutionDesign
Touchstone: a journal of mere Christianity: mere comments
The Secularist Critique: Deconstructing secularism
Ex-atheist.com: I Wasn't Born Again Yesterday
imago veritatis by Alan Myatt
Solid Rock Ministries
The Internet Monk: a webjournal by Michael Spencer
The Sydney Line: the website of Keith Windschuttle
Miranda Devine's writings in the Sydney Morning Herald
David Horowitz frontpage magazine
Thoughts of a 21st century Christian Philosopher
Steven Lovell's philosophical themes from C.S.Lewis
Peter S. Williams Christian philosophy and apologetics
Shandon L. Guthrie
Clayton Cramer's Blog
Andrew Bolt columns
Ann Coulter columns
"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton
"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton
"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis
"I blog, therefore I am." Anon
Friday, July 05, 2002
The Myth of the Burning of the Library of Alexandria by Christians
I would like to address another common myth that does the rounds again and again on the circuit of atheist, free thinker, internet infidel and anti-Christian sites. It also appears on many anti-ID/creationist sites and boards.This concerns the story that mobs of Christians destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria burning all the books in the process and brutally murdering the pagan mathematician, Hypatia. This tall story is periodically dragged out, dusted off and paraded around to confirm how beastly and barbaric the early Christians were and to confirm the smug prejudices of those who wish to tar and feather Christians and creationists today.
I apologise in advance for the number of quotes but I believe these, and the links given, are necessary to establish the truth of the matter.
Here is the legendary story:
"Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, is also the patron saint of arsonists.
As Christianity slowly strangled the life out of classical culture in the
forth century it became more and more difficult to be a pagan. There stood
in Alexandria the great temple of Serapis called the Serapeum and attached
to it was the Great Library of Alexandria where all the wisdom of the
ancients was preserved. Now Theophilus knew that as long as this knowledge existed people would be less inclined to believe the Bible so he set about destroying the pagan temples. But the Serapeum was a huge structure, high on a mound and beyond the abilities of the raging Christian fanatics to assault. Faced with this edifice, the Patriarch sent word to Rome. There the Emperor Theodosius the Great, who had ordered that paganism be annihilated, gave his permission for the destruction of the Serapeum. Realising they had no chance, the priests and priestesses fled their temple and the mob moved in. The vast structure was razed to it foundations and the scrolls from the library were burnt in huge pyres in the streets of Alexandria."
What follows are a selection of typical quotes from the hundreds of websites that perpetuate this propaganda myth. I am sorry for the mind-numbing repetition of fiction, falsehoods and half truths (as will be demonstrated) but this is par for the course for the cavalier disregard for historical facts on many of these sites:
"In 391 Christians burned down one of the world's greatest libraries in
Alexandria, believed to have housed over 700,000 scrolls. All of the books
of the Gnostic Basilides, Porphyry's 36 volumes, papyrus rolls of 27 schools
of the Mysteries, and 270,000 ancient documents gathered by Ptolemy
Philadelphyus were turned to ash." The secular humanist site
"Perhaps the greatest single intellectual loss of the classical world was the destruction of the library of Alexandria. At one time, it was reputed to house about 700,000 books on subjects ranging from literature and history to science and philosophy. In the year 391, the bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus (d.412), in his quest to destroy paganism, lead a group of crazed monks and laymen, destroyed all the books in the great library." a Skeptic's Guide to Christianity
"It was nascent Christianity that destroyed the academic knowledge of
pagans, who were the first educative force in Europe. After burning the
Library of Alexandria, destroying the majority of writings and books by
pagan scholars, (hiding a few away in church vaults), they exterminated
anyone who was pagan; exemplified in the brutal murder of Hypatia. They
plunged the world into a thousand years of darkness, the only knowledge
remaining retained and hidden by the church. Only by the steadfastness of
courageous scientists such as Galileo was the church forced to withdraw its
influence over the lives of the people. Each step forward was fiercely
opposed by the church. The church fathers recognized clearly that learning
and wisdom, truth in the classic meaning, were, as they still are, the
eternal adversaries of faith and dogma." From the site In Reason We Trust: Reason Rules America
"In 415 AD, a young female librarian, Hypatia of Alexandria, Egypt
mathematically proved not only that the Earth was round, but that it
revolved around the Sun (contrary to Christian belief). She was innocent
and ignorant of propaganda that unjustly placed her as the protagonist of
deadly conflicts between Christians and Jews and was slaughtered by a
Christian mob. As a pagan, Hypatia was completely unrelated to the holy war between the followers of the same God. The Library of Alexandria was subsequently burned to the ground to destroy all documents supporting the heresy of an Earth that was not at the center of the universe. A Christian tradition that is (sadly) still in practice today. This one act began the Dark ages. A millennium in which any text that did not praise God was forbidden and experimentation with any science might be punishable by death." from The Evolution of Genesis :An introduction to the origins of the Creation myth site
"Probably one of the most unforgivable acts of the early Christians was the
killing of Hypatia in March of 415 A D, which was soon followed by the
departure from Alexandria of most of the scholars who were associated with
the great library. Not long after that, the library itself was destroyed,
including the burning of all of the remaining books which the departing
scholars had not taken with them. What we know today of the great library
comes from the few books removed by the departing scholars, along with
letters from the scholars which were preserved in other places. This sparse
record gives us so many tantalizing clues as to the contents of the great
library... But unless someone discovers how to construct a time machine, all
of this is lost to us forever, thanks be to the local Christian patriarch,
St. Cyril, and his followers, who set out to burn the pagan books which they
believed Christians had no use for." From the Agnostic Church homepage
"They're not just coming, they've been around since tribal legends, the fall
of The Great Library of Alexandria, witch hunts in Europe and in Salem, and
they're here today still; people like Ham have a long and bloody history
behind them already of which they claim to be proud. Biblical literalists
like Ham and company are what inspire the Taliban to be so certain their
martyrs will be serviced in heaven by 72 virgins for eternity."
The Archon, a place where we apply logic and reason before superstition and pseudoscience. No brain, no gain!
"And then there are other matters, like the mad monks led by Saint Cyril,
the patron saint of arsonists, who burned the Great Library at Alexandria,
destroying 600,000 volumes of knowledge of the ancient world--the greatest
property crime of all time." Infidels.org
"The destruction of the great ancient Egyptian Library of Alexandria under
the reign of Ptolemy with its estimated millions of books and manuscripts
was a horrendous crime against all civilization. The burning and looting was
organised by monk-led mobs of Christians in the year AD 389. The foremost
librarian and scientist, Hypatia was dragged out of the library, stripped
and torn apart by the Christian mobs armed with jagged seashells."
from The Canadian Atheist, Issue 1 Winter 1994/95
"When the great library at Alexandria was ransacked by Christian fanatics in
387... an inestimable wealth of gnostic literature must have been destroyed.
Until the nineteenth century the main source of knowledge of Gnosticism was, ironically, in the writings of the Church Fathers, who in their refutations summarised gnostic texts and often quoted at length from them."
Stuart Holroyd, The Elements of Gnosticism, p.22, 1994
"The evolution/creation conflict is not a battle between to two equal
theories, it is a battle between truth and deceit. Creationists like to say
that evolution is 'just a theory', well creationism is just a primitive
superstition. In 415 AD the Alexandria Library was burned to the ground and
the scientist who ran it was beaten to death by catholic monks, because they considered scientific work heretical. The damage done to science and enlightenment by this primitive act is incalculable." from the Rage Against Theismwebpage
Again, I invite readers to do their own Google search of the Web and
confirm just how common this story is, and the sort of sites on which it
appears and the miasma of contradictions contained therein.
The problem with this story is it a total fabrication, a piece of fiction
masquerading as historical fact designed and perpetuated solely as
propaganda against Christians. It is not my intention to reinvent the wheel
by detailing a point by point rebuttal; this has already been done in
several thorough and scholarly examinations of this story available on the
Net. I wish merely to point out where this topic can be investigated more
fully for those who wish to uncover the truth. I shall merely present a
summary of the historical facts from a number of sources:
1.The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria
an article based on the existing primary sources:
"An awful lot of ink has been splashed around about the destruction of the
Great Library. You can blame Christians, Moslems or Julius Caesar depending
on taste. But the only way to find the truth is a careful examination of the
original sources. This essay goes over them with a fine-toothed comb and
finds that while Christians and Moslems were almost certainly innocent, the
Romans just might have a lot to answer for."
"Burning down libraries - The idea of deliberating setting fire to a repository of knowledge appals us in a way that few other crimes can do. As demonstrated by the astronomical sums paid at auction, we value art far more than human life. Tens of thousands of Afghans could die in war without anyone in the West caring very much but, as the BBC reported, when the Taleban demolish a couple of ancient statues, there is world wide horror and condemnation.
This attitude has meant that the false accusation that Edward Gibbon laid at the door of the Patriarch Theophilus in chapter 28 of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire regarding the Great Library of Alexandria has been tremendously damaging to Christianity and is repeated by every author with a bone to pick. But although we can establish that this library was not destroyed by a Christian mob, were there not other ancient libraries that did suffer exactly that fate? The saying that there is no smoke without fire would seem to be exceedingly appropriate in this case. I do not for a second claim to have analysed every ancient source but I have read a good deal and have only located one example of deliberate destruction of an entire library recorded by the chroniclers.
The chronicler in question is John of Antioch about whom we know almost nothing. He was a Greek speaking Christian historian who may have lived between the sixth and tenth centuries. All his works are lost and only fragments of his chronicle remain preserved in other places. Among them is the following passage from the great Byzantine encyclopaedia called the Suda in the article on the Emperor Jovian:
Emperor Hadrian had built a beautiful temple for the worship of his father Trajan which, on the orders of Emperor Julian, the eunuch Theophilus had made into a library. Jovian, at the urging of his wife, burned the temple with all the books in it with his concubines laughing and setting the fire.
Scholars believe that it is John of Antioch is being quoted. The Suda itself is full of snippets of information but it is treated with justifiable caution by the scholars who have studied it. Certainly, it is very often wrong but usually not deliberately. Instead it just quotes earlier authors uncritically and repeats their mistakes...
The pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus was actually with Jovian in Antioch and does not breath a word about any libraries... Although Jovian was a Christian he is recorded by the rhetor Themistius to have insisted on tolerance towards pagans. The great pagan orator Libanius who lived in Antioch at the time and from whom we have speeches, lectures and no less than 1,500 letters, makes no mention of the library's destruction. We have no other record of there being a temple of Trajan built by Hadrian in Antioch.
John was writing several hundred years after the library burning is supposed to have taken place but no one else mentions it.... All the counter arguments depend on silence which demonstrates just how hard it is to prove a negative... If we knew that burning down libraries was the sort of thing that Jovian or other Christians actually did, we might have a case for believing it happened here but as it is a single example it cannot be allowed to simply reinforce our prejudices. Still, this remains the only possible record of a library being deliberately destroyed that I have been able to find in the sources and those who with an anti-Christian axe to grind should use this case rather than Alexandria. Furthermore, it does illustrate that Christian writers were happy to report such things and repeat them from other sources. Contrary to the allegations of many sceptics, the Christian scribes made no effort to censor this alleged misdeed of Jovian even though he was a Christian emperor." Bede's Library
2. ...Did the Christians burn/destroy all the classical literature? by Glenn Miller This extensive and voluminously referenced work is summarised here:
a)"The pre-Constantine church did NOT do 'burnings' or destruction of
classical works and/or libraries.
b)The early church leaders widely and favorably used classical works in
their writings, maintained them in their personal libraries, and made
attempts to preserve them.
c)The pre-Constantine church was the victim of a thorough-going Christian
book burning campaign by the Roman Emperors.
d)A few post-Constantine Christian Emperors 'traded' censorship initiatives
with a few Non-Christian Roman Emperors, but the overall effect on classical
texts were minimal.
e)The post-Constantine church was NOT responsible for the burning of the
famous main library at Alexandria.
f)The destruction of the classical works and libraries of the ancient world
was the result of accidental fires, neglect, the barbarian invasions,
de-urbanization, and the destruction of the educational system/public
records systems by those invasions.
g)The Western institutional church--although considerably uneven in its
estimates of the value of various classical authors--nevertheless had a
number of individuals and institutions that almost single-handedly preserved
the classical works that we enjoy today.
h)The Eastern institutional church preserved the major mass of Greek mss.
that was used to 'fuel' the Renaissance in Western Europe.
i)The vast majority of the censorship/book burnings of the later church were
insubstantial--either symbolic directed at non-classical works."
Miller's work is profusely annotated and repays close inspection.
Miller addresses the popular but woefully inaccurate statements of Helen Ellerbe in her book "The Dark Side of Christianity" where she states:
"... Christians burned down one of the world's greatest libraries in
Alexandria, said to have housed 700,000 rolls. All the books of the Gnostic
Basilides, Porphyry's 36 volumes, papyrus rolls of 27 schools of the
Mysteries, and 270,000 ancient documents gathered by Ptolemy Philadelphus
were burned. Ancient academies of learning were closed. Education for anyone
outside of the Church came to an end..."
"The problem with this is that it is ABYSMALLY inaccurate. If one compares
the statements of Ellerbe with the works of ACTUAL academic scholars in the
field one can see how wrong this statement is. The actual history of the
famous Museum library of Alex (which is said to have housed 500,000 rolls)
goes like this:
i) Ptolemy Soter (Ptolemy I, 367-282bc) built a shine to the Muses (a Museion) and brought outstanding scholars to live there
(Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p177; The History and Power of Writing by Henri-Jean Martin, trans. Lydia Cochrane, Univ. of Chicago: 1994 p55.)
ii) it was a communal society of men of science and letters , and was located in the royal precinct
(Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p178)
iii) later, a smaller library (for overflow) was built OUTSIDE the palace area--called the "daughter" library. It contained less than 8% of the total holdings of the combined' libraries, and was connected to a pagan shrine (the Serapeum).
(Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p179-180)
iv) The major library (Museion) was without peer in the 3rd century , and probably had most extant classical works.
(Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p180; The History and Power of Writing by Henri-Jean Martin, Univ. of Chicago: 1994 p55; History of Libraries in the Western World, Michael H. Harris, Scarecrow:1995. p45)
v) Then--trouble begins: "Then, around 145 bce, the persecution of Alexandrian scholars and their disciples by [Ptolemy VII Physcon] Euergetes II resulted in an emigration of academic talent from the Museion and a loss of distinction in its librarians." Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p180)
vi) "Ptolemy VIII [Lathyros, Soter II] (Cacergetes) came to the throne. Having been forced to leave Alexandria by his enemies, he returned in the course of a civil war (89-88bc) and burned much of the city. The students and fellows of the Museum were at least temporarily scattered...Though never reaching their former greatness, the Museum and its library were reconstituted and survived for several hundred years longer." Note: most of the damage to the library occurred before the birth of Christ!
(History of Libraries in the Western World, Michael H. Harris, Scarecrow:1995 p46)
vii) Then, in 47 BC when Julius Caesar was conquering Egypt, the Library was partially destroyed.
(History of Libraries in the Western World, Michael H. Harris, Scarecrow:1995 p46; Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p180)
viii) In the first century AD, some of the volumes in the library were moved to Rome to replenish libraries there.
(History of Libraries in the Western World, Michael H. Harris, Scarecrow:1995 p46)
ix) Finally, the main Museum and library was destroyed in 273 AD, when the Roman Emperor Aurelian burned much of Alexandria - including most of the Palace area.
(History of Libraries in the Western World, Michael H. Harris, Scarecrow:1995 p 46-47; Books and Readers in the Early Church, Harry Y. Gamble, Yale: 1995 p180; The History and Power of Writing by Henri-Jean Martin, Univ. of Chicago: 1994 p56.)
x) It is possible that the Museum (already a shadow of the glory of the first one) was rebuilt "on a smaller scale."
(History of Libraries in the Western World, Michael H. Harris, Scarecrow:1995 p47)
xi) But "A few years later, the city was completely sacked by Diocletian. The Museum, which had enjoyed long periods of renewed splendor during Imperial times and which had recently been restored once more to its old glory thanks to the notable efforts of the mathematician Diophantus, must have suffered terrible damage."
(The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World, by Luciano Canfora, Univ. of Calif: 1987. p87)
xii) The small, daughter library--the Serapeum--was thought to have survived and WAS destroyed by the Patriarch Theophilis in 391, under the directives of Emperor Theodosius in 391. Note--"this is NOT the famous library at all...it was a very small temple library. "
3. The Beauty of Reasoning: A Re-examination of Hypatia of Alexandra. Bryan J. Whitfield, The Mathematics Educator, Vol.6 No. 1
" From the sixth-century writings of Damascius to more recent writers like Charles Kingsley, Edward Gibbon, and Carl Sagan, the tragedy of Hypatia's death has been used as an occasion for a miscreant euhemerization that falsifies historical fact, at best in the service of a larger narrative, at worst in the service of propaganda. These tendentious historians present Hypatia as a noble pagan martyr, a sacrificial virgin murdered at the instigation of Cyril, the evil Christian bishop of Alexandria, for her refusal to abandon the religion of the Greeks. She becomes the embodiment of Hellenism destroyed by the onslaught of mindless Christianity, the epitome of the end of the wisdom of the ancients.This rendering of Hypatia's death may be high drama, but it is poor history that does a disservice to Hypatia's real contributions and ignores the continuation of the Alexandrian philosophical tradition after her death. Examination of her significance must begin, therefore, with a refutation of this idealized portrait and then continue with a development of her life and work using more reliable historical sources as well as legitimate inferences that may be drawn from the intellectual and cultural context in which she lived."
"Attempts to use the death of Hypatia for polemical ends began with the work of the Athenian scholar Damascius, the last head of the Academy before it was closed by Justinian. He wrote in exile, as one of the last of the pagans,and was anxious to exploit the scandal of Hypatia's death.Consequently, he placed responsibility for her death in the hands of Cyril's men so that readers would picture her as the martyr of Hellenism, comparable to the heroized Emperor Julian, who had sought to restore paganism as the of the empire and was reportedly killed by a traitorous Christian."
4. The Primary Sources for the Life and Work of Hypatia of Alexandria by Michael A. B. Deakin History of Mathematics Paper 63 August 1995 Mathematics Department, Monash
"...it should be said that works of fiction (whether the fiction is intentional or not!) are not historical sources at all. Regrettably much of what is readily available on Hypatia derives from fictional, rather than historical, sources. The life of Hypatia of Alexandria depends on a small amount of primary material, and anything going outside that is either fiction or speculation and in a good account should be flagged as such."
"The library of Alexandria is a legend. Not a myth, but a legend. The
destruction of the library of the ancient world has been retold many times
and attributed to just as many different factions and rulers, not for the
purpose of chronicling that ediface of education, but as political slander.
Much ink has been spilled, ancient and modern, over the 40,000 volumes
housed in grain depots near the harbor, which were supposedly incinerated
when Julius Caesar torched the fleet of Cleopatra's brother and rival
monarch. So says Livy, apparently, in one of his lost books, which Seneca
quotes. The figure of Hypatia, a fifth-century scholar and mathematician of
Alexandria, being dragged from her chariot from an angry Pagan-hating mob of monks who flayed her alive then burned her upon the remnants of the old Library, has found her way into legend as well, thanks to a few contemporary sources which survived.Yet while we know of many rumors of the destruction of "The Library" (in fact, there were at least three different libraries coexisting in the city), and know of whole schools of Alexandrian scholars and scholarship, there is scant data about the whereabouts, layout, holdings, organization, administration, and physical structure of the place."
The actual fate of the Library of Alexandria is unknown but it is likely to
be less exciting and propaganda-friendly than is popularly supposed:
"The story that Theophilus destroyed a library is clearly a fiction that we
can very precisely lay at the door of Edward Gibbon. It is in his monumental
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that we first find the allegation made.
Gibbon seems mainly concerned to clear the Arabs of the responsibility of
destroying the library and allows his marked anti-Christian prejudice to
cloud his better judgement. His excellent footnotes show he had exactly the
same sources as we do but drew the wrong conclusions.
Ellen N. Brundige, The Library of Alexandria: The Legend of the Library
The burning of the library at Alexandria has been referred to as a tragic
loss of information and knowledge. Livy wrote that the library was destroyed
when Julius Caesar torched the fleet of Cleopatra's brother and rival
monarch. Another myth is that Hypatia, a fifth-century scholar and
mathematician of Alexandria, was dragged from her chariot by an angry
Pagan-hating mob of Christian monks. The Christians had her burned alive in
the library to in a fit of religious fervor."
The Library at Alexandria - And Other Information Management Tragedies, Paula Gamonal
"Unfortunately, no traces of the original library at Alexandria remain. The
story of what happened to it is shrouded in legend and controversy. A
well-known and controversial theory is that the library was burned to the
ground by Julius Caesar in 48 B.C. when, according to some accounts, he set
fire to an enemy fleet and inadvertently burned the library too. There is
also a disputed legend that says Mark Antony presented Cleopatra with
200,000 scrolls from another library as a gift to help replace the lost
works.Some chroniclers say that in the fourth century A.D., after
Christianity had become the state religion, Theophilus I, the bishop of
Alexandria, spurred his followers to destroy the pagan temple that housed
the daughter library. Others, however, argue that the books might have been removed or sold.
The upwelling of anti-pagan fervor culminates in the role of Hypatia, a
fifth-century mathematician and philosopher whose father had taught
mathematics at the school associated with the library. The glamorous and
intellectual Hypatia earned the enmity of Bishop Cyril, leader of the
Christian church. Some say Cyril had a mob attack and kill her in 415 A.D.
Other sources claim she was flayed and thrown on a pile of burning pagan
books. Still other accounts have Hypatia peeled to death with oyster shells
or stabbed with pieces of pottery. A final legend surrounding the library of
Alexandria comes with the arrival of the Arabs in the middle of the seventh
century A.D. Supposedly the invading Arabs destroyed the books because they believed everything true or useful to be contained in the Koran, but this legend is likely an anti-Arab fabrication from the time of the Crusades.
The truth behind the loss of the library of Alexandria may be less dramatic
than the stories that swirl around it. It is possible that the scrolls
simply disintegrated, or that they fell out of fashion with the advent of
vellum to replace papyrus. It is possible that other centers of learning
such as Constantinople replaced the primacy of the library at Alexandria.
According to Canfora, it was hard to preserve books in large urban libraries
that were prone to being attacked, and the safest locations for books were
more remote places such as monasteries and private collections.
Mystery, melodrama, reversal, and renewal by Jane C. McFann, Reading Today, February/March 2002
"The surprising thing is not that some books got burned in the conflict between moribund paganism and nascent Christianity, but that the burned books were so few. When early Christianity had to fight for its life and when it found obnoxious matter in so much of the pagan literature, it really exercised great tolerance in destroying few books except those that contained heresies or frontal attacks upon itself."
Books for the Burning Clarence A. Forbes University of Nebraska, American Philological Society 67 (1936), pp.114-25.
(This article cites the known cases of books intentionally burned with no mention of the Library of Alexandria).
This post has focussed on the myth of the Christian burning of the Library
of Alexandria. It has not dealt substantially with the equally erroneous
myth that the early church generally destroyed the literary heritage of the
Classical world, which I may examine in another post.
So what is the source of this myth? There are some fragmentary and
contradictory early sources but several writers have pointed to Edward
Gibbon as the main originator of the legend in its current manifestation.
'Gibbon, who otherwise presents such an evocative picture of the destruction
of the Temple of Serapis, is mistaken when he says (XXVIII) that "The
valuable library of Alexandria was pillaged or destroyed" by Theophilus,
whom he characterizes as "the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold,
bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold, and with blood."
That the temple did have a library is related by Ammianus, as well as by
Epiphanius, who, writing in AD 392, speaks of a second library "in the
Serapeum, called its daughter." But there is no support for the presumption
that it was destroyed at the same time as the temple or even that it still
existed by then.' Encyclopedia Romana
But probably the most influential piece on which the legend depends is a
speech given to the Independent Religious Society in Chicago and published
by "The Rationalist" in May 1915 by Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian entitled
"The Martyrdom of Hypatia (or The Death of the Classical World)". It is a
piece of over-heated and vitriolic anti-Christian polemic that has set the
standard for the myth that gets promulgated all over the web by the
advocates of "reason" and "free thought".
The full text of this article can be read here and on a number of pagan and rationalist (!) sites. "A bit overwrought" is the assessment of one of this article's admirers!
I submit that it is necessary to post this blog, and others like it, because it is "de rigueur" among many of the opponents of Christianity and ID to claim that Christians are liars, uneducated, stupid, ignorant, back woods yokels, misquoters of sources,
misrepresenters of facts, lacking in intelligence and reasoning ability, flat-earthers, book-burners, controlled by the ideas of others - and a huge list of other insulting and offensive slanders.
"Religion takes gullible people and makes them stupid, small-minded,
bigoted, and ignorant... and no less gullible."
And he should know a stupid,small-minded, ignorant gullible bigot when he sees one...
As demonstrated by the morally upright and intellectually superior statement
above when I turn to many of the comments and websites of their opponents I
see the very same and more - abusive language and profanity, libellous
insults, poor spelling and grammar and adolescent anti-Christian ravings all
thrown together in a mish-mash of repeated "sound bites", sophomoric slogans
and embarrassingly ignorant mythologising. Now if the assessment is true
about some Christians - who can't help it according to the enlightened
mindset of the free thinkers - then why is it so prevalent among the
supposedly educated intellectual giants of rationalism who spew forth their
venom all over the Net? If some Christians or creationists publish myths
on the Net because they are "liars, uneducated, stupid, etc." what excuse is
there for the enormous - and I mean enormous - amount of fabrication,
half-truth, old wives tales and myth that appear on many anti-ID, atheist
and "free thought" sites?
So what really happened to the great Library?
"Whatever the truth, the Great Library, wrapped in myths and legend, has
come to epitomize the ideal of free thought and independent scholarship.
'One ghostly image haunts all of us charged with preserving the creative
heritage of humanity: the specter of the great, lost Library of Alexandria,'
said James H. Billington, the US. Librarian of Congress, in a 1993 speech."
Forget the facts, what matters is the myth, the legend, the anti-Christian bigotry...