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Commentary On History: Alexandria.

September 24, 2016

“I cannot live without books.” Thomas Jefferson.

The historian or writer who doesn’t read as much as they write needs help to understand the reason why a personal library is so important; why it should never be ever done being stocked. The need for complete research even in the mundane of subjects in my amateur historian or writer’s world view is just as important as studying completely the reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire; even read Edward Gibbon’s, (1737-1794),  epic classic, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” is worth the effort; so is Leo Tolstoy’s, (1828-1910),  “War and Peace.” but for different reasons.

I’ve been collector of books for over thirty years, started three different libraries for various reasons or other. Not once have I thought it all a waste of time, energy, let alone money. Besides, that is what used books stores are very good for. The art and craft of book collecting goes back to ancient times; the Library of Alexandria to be more exact. A good and well-written book on the subject of the world’s first world-class library is Justin Pollard’s “The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: The Birthplace of the Modern World.” It was the world’s first world-class and world at that time reaching library founded by two men of great ambitions and but different dreams. Alexander the Great, (356-324, B. C), the Macedonian, founded the city of Alexandria in 331 B. C. He had conquered Egypt and wanted to leave behind a reminder who had come. He was the student of Aristotle so he had a natural mind toward learning; he did make it a point to send back to Aristotle of things he had discovered. This was a great conquerer of lands but he understood the need to leave something else behind in his wake. Aristotle taught him something of the value of learning and he didn’t forget it completely. But the real beginnings of the greatness that was to become the City of Alexandria was under Alexander’s greatest general, Ptolemy the First, started ruling in 323 B. C. He set forth what Alexandria would be by building the library, by calling out to other’s to come and either bring scrolls or to simply study. He created one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It’s greatest days of scholarship and research and collecting of books was created and helped support the Hellenistic Period, (323-30 B. C.). It was  a magnificent library on a colossal scale of two men’s realistic and idealistic dream of what Greece culture and civilization could master. Then it ran into the Roman Empire and one man’s also realistic and idealistic dream and that of course was Julius Caesar, (100-44 B. C), and his entanglement’s with Cleopatra the Seventh, (69-30 B. C),. Depending on who you ask, Rome started the fire that almost destroyed the whole library in a day. But it survived the Roman period and into the Byzantine Periods of it’s long and great and declining history. Finally and completely destroyed by the Muslims in 619 A. D. The greatest library of the ancient world was gone; all those books gone. Everything gone? Really, everything completely destroyed? Despite the destruction of that great and scholarship heaven some books always manage to survive; because learning always finds a listening ear and mind. Even in ancient Islam there were scholars and those who wanted to learn and preserve the works of those ancient authors.

This brief and very quickly done history of the great library is to make a point that all historians let alone writers should have their own and not rely on some other building for what is needed to be a writer or  researcher of life. Point being, a library is important. Books are the backbone of the write’s life, don’t forget that. I have created three libraries and lost two of them to actions beyond my control. I had to start over and I don’t regret having to recreate my own version of the Library of Alexandria; only the loss of those books do I regret. A personal library is a thing, an organism, a way of life that very few understand unless they have a love of books and all that it took to write them. The Alexandrian Library is our perfect example of what a library should be as a writer, collect and read and save everything. Well, that’s my book collecting philosophy anyway. All the great minds of the ancient Greek world who helped start and nourish and kept alive learning went to Alexandria; not something I see much of today as far as I can see. A personal library is a personal act of creation. A historian needs that place of thinking, solitude, and even simply to just read a short story on occasion to relax and unwind. As someone unnamed once wrote, “A library is the hospital of the mind.” And it is on so many levels. A lover of ll things books would understand the need for a personal library; I actually don’t use the public library for books, I have my own. Which I know baffle those who know me a little but and even those who know me better. Their free there in the library, yes, true they are, but you have to return them in two weeks; makes no sense to me. The only books I get there are books their selling; makes sense to me. The writer of their craft must be fully be prepared to research something when at home. Can’t always go running off to the possibly closed library downtown. Create your own and this will not be a problem; and there are no late fees to worry about.

Read everything is not so much a motto with me, it’s philosophy of life. I will read anything, a writer must be willing to read everything on a subject from both sides of the material they are writing about. Books, books, books, and more books is the core of the writing life; okay, for me it is. I like to read everything, I collect books on practically on everything. I attempt to read both sides of things, a writer should always have this in mind upon writing about practically everything; why limit ones knowledge? I’ve read the Bible and I’ve read the Koran, one I agree with and the other I do not. But the point being I made and make the effort to read it. The library of Alexandria would have had a copy of both books; as it had a copy of the Torah. A singular focused writer should never be so one-sided or tunneled visioned that they forget their writing for an audience on both sides of a subject. A historian like a writer should have their own library; it’s the function of a writer to save civilization one book at a time. The Library of Alexandria attempted to do what no one had ever thought of doing. Finding, preserving, copying, and making available to the world at large the greatest  collection of written works by the greatest minds of the age; and a few lesser minds as well. The Library of Alexandria brought into being the Hellenistic Age of the Greeks and learning and scholarship; it even touched and changed the Jewish style and culture in so many ways. The Hellenistic World simply changed everything because of two men’s idealistic and realistic of founding a city named after it’s founder. A library is a personal and lasting part of any historian or writer, any person who creates it. A library is the inner components of all that makes that life what it is that collected and kept the library going. Books are civilization; a historian or writer’s job is to keep it from destroying itself or vanishing into the forgotten pages of history that will never be written.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero.

REFERENCES/RECOMMENDATIONS.

Bible. (KJV).

The Koran.

The Rise And Fall Of Alexandria: The Birthplace Of The Modern World. By. Justin Pollard.

How The Irish Saved Civilization. By. Thomas Cahill.

The Gift Of The Jews. By. Thomas Cahill.

Sailing The Wine-Dark Sea; Why The Greeks Matter. By. Thomas Cahill.

Jews From Cyrus To Herod. By. Norman Snaith.

Hellenistic Civilization And The Jews. By. Victor Tcherkover.

A History Of The Arab People’s. By. Albert Hourani, Malise Ruthven.

Alexander The Great. By. Paul Cartledge.

Alexander The Great. By. Robin L. Fox.

Caesar: Life Of A Colossus. By. Adrian Goldsworthy.

From Alexander To Cleopatra: The Hellenistic World. By. Micheal Grant.

Cleopatra. By. Micheal Grant.

The Classical Greeks. By. Micheal Grant.

The Rise Of The Greeks. By. Micheal Grant.

Greece And Rome: The Birth Of Western Civilization. By. Micheal Grant.

War And Peace. By. Leo Tolstoy.

Edward Giddons: An Autobiography.

Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire. By. Edward Gibbon.

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the writer.

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