Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 252In the establishment of the museum, Ptolemy Soter, and his son Philadelphus, had three objects in view: 1. The perpetuation of such knowledge as was then in the world; 2. Its increase; 3. Its diffusion.
1. For the perpetuation of knowledge. Orders were given to the chief librarian to buy, at the king's expense, whatever books he could. A body of transcribers was maintained in the museum, whose duty it was to make correct copies of such works as their owners were not disposed to sell. Any books brought by foreigners into Egypt were taken at once to the museum, and when correct copies had been made, the transcript was given to the owner, and the original placed in the library. Often a very large pecuniary indemnity was paid.
2. For the increase of knowledge. One of the chief objects of the museum was that of serving as the home of a body of men who devoted themselves to study, and were lodged and maintained at the king's expense. In the original organization of the museum the residents were divided into four faculties,—Literature, Mathematics, Astronomy, and Medicine. An officer of very great distinction presided over the establishment, and had general charge of its interests. Demetius Phalareus, perhaps the most learned man of his age, who had been Governor of Athens for many years, was the first so appointed. Under him was the librarian, an office sometimes held by men whose names have descended to our times, as Eratosthenes and Apollonius Rhodius. In connection with the museum was a botanical and a zoological garden. These gardens, as their names imply, were for the purpose of facilitating the study of plants and animals. There was also an astronomical observatory, containing armillary spheres, globes, solstitial and equatorial armils, astrolabes, parallactic rules, and other apparatus then in use, the graduation on the divided instruments being into degrees and sixths.
3. For the diffusion of knowledge. In the museum was given, by lectures, conversation, or other appropriate methods, instruction in all the various departments of human knowledge.
There flocked to this great intellectual centre, students from all countries. It is said that at one time not fewer than fourteen thousand were in attendance. Subsequently even the Christian church received from it some of the most eminent of its Fathers, as Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Athanasius, &c.
The library in the museum was burned during the siege of Alexandria by Julius Cæsar. To make amends for this great loss, the library collected by Eumenes, King of Pergamus, was presented by Mark Antony to Queen Cleopatra. Originally it was founded as a rival to that of the Ptolemies. It was added to the collection in the Serapion, or the temple of Serapis.[440:1]
It was not destined, however, to remain there many centuries, as this very valuable library was willfully destroyed by the Christian Theophilus, and on the spot where this beautiful temple of Serapis stood, in fact, on its very foundation, was erected a church in honor of the "noble army of martyrs," who had never existed.
This we learn from the historian Gibbon, who says that, after this library was destroyed, "the appearance of the empty shelves excited the regret and indignation of every spectator, whose mind was not totally darkened by religious prejudice."[440:2]
The destruction of this library was almost the death-blow to free-thought—wherever Christianity ruled—for more than a thousand years.
The death-blow was soon to be struck, however, which was done by Saint Cyril, who succeeded Theophilus as Bishop of Alexandria.
Hypatia, the daughter of Theon, the mathematician, endeavored to continue the old-time instructions. Each day before her academy stood a long train of chariots; her lecture-room was crowded with the wealth and fashion of Alexandria. They came to listen to her discourses on those questions which man in all ages has asked, but which have never yet been answered: "What am I? Where am I? What can I know?"
Hypatia and Cyril; philosophy and bigotry; they cannot exist together. As Hypatia repaired to her academy, she was assaulted by (Saint) Cyril's mob—a mob of many monks. Stripped naked in the street, she was dragged into a church, and there killed by the club of Peter the Reader. The corpse was cut to pieces, the flesh was scraped from the bones with shells, and the remnants cast into a fire. For this frightful crime Cyril was never called to account. [Pg 441]It seemed to be admitted that the end sanctified the means. So ended Greek philosophy in Alexandria, so came to an untimely close the learning that the Ptolemies had done so much to promote.
The fate of Hypatia was a warning to all who would cultivate profane knowledge. Henceforth there was to be no freedom for human thought. Every one must think as ecclesiastical authority ordered him; A. D. 414. In Athens itself philosophy awaited its doom. Justinian at length prohibited its teaching and caused all its schools in that city to be closed.[441:1]
After this followed the long and dreary dark ages, but the sun of science, that bright and glorious luminary, was destined to rise again.
The history of this great Alexandrian library is one of the keys which unlock the door, and exposes to our view the manner in which the Hindoo incarnate god Crishna, and the meek and benevolent Buddha, came to be worshiped under the name of Christ Jesus. For instance, we have just seen:
1. That, "orders were given to the chief librarian to buy at the king's expense whatever books he could."
2. That, "one of the chief objects of the museum was that of serving as the home of a body of men who devoted themselves to study."
3. That, "any books brought by foreigners into Egypt were taken at once to the museum and correct copies made."
4. That, "there flocked to this great intellectual centre students from all countries."