Ancient Pergamon: The History and Legacy of Asia Minor’s Most Influential Greek Cultural Center in Antiquity by Charles River Editors
English |2081 |History| ePUB | 6 MB
The Library of Alexandria was one of the few libraries in the ancient Greek world, which helped ensure that mathematicians, scientists and other scholars from across the Mediterranean traveled to Egypt to study there, and it was so impressive in its size and influence that it left an indelible mark on the world that still reverberates today. At the same time, the importance of such a library meant Alexandria was not the only city with one, which is why the Ptolemies carried their patronage of the arts and the desire for Alexandria to be the cultural center of the Hellenistic world to a whole new level when they banned the export of papyrus – the paper-like reed that was used to compose books in the ancient world – from Egypt (Erskine 1995, 46).
At the time, the Ptolemies were not the only Greek kings with a great library in their capital, because the Attalid dynasty of Pergamon also built a library as a testament to Hellenism (Fox, 2001, 393). The Library of Pergamon was established slightly later than the Library of Alexandria, during the reign of king Eumenes II (197-158 BCE) (Thorton 1941, 12), but Eumenes embarked on a program to stock the Library of Pergamon with some of the greatest works of Greek literature in order to rival the Library of Alexandria (Canfora 1989, 46). For example, a complete set of Demosthenes’ works was among the classics that graced the shelves in the Pergamon collection (Canfora 1989, 45). This competition seems to have been the basis for the papyrus ban, as the Ptolemies intended to halt academic work in Pergamon, such as editing new editions of the classics. While the Ptolemaic ban on papyrus may have slowed operations at the Library of Pergamon, the introduction of parchment as a medium of writing helped re-stock Pergamon’s Library (Thorton 1941, 12). Ultimately, however, despite being considered a great institution of the ancient world in its own right, the Library of Pergamon never approached the size or influence of the Library of Alexandria, making it the loser in the heated competition for academic and cultural prestige.