This post and Pic of the Day is inspired by an article that I shared on Facebook earlier today. The article claims (and I am not going to argue with the premise) that a large personal library with an increasing number of unread books is a good thing. This made me feel better, as I am in the midst of organizing and integrating the ungodly quantity of books from my former office—too long in storage—into my home office (and the rest of the house by necessity).* Meanwhile that process had made me somewhat melancholy over the fading use of repositories of physical books in our increasingly digital society. With sadness I noted that I have even had difficulty giving away books to younger folks who assume that all knowledge is a click away.
With that thought, and keeping with the theme of my blog, I offer a couple of pics of lost libraries from the past. Of course, the supreme example of a lost storehouse of knowledge is the great ancient library of Alexandria, Egypt.1 Sadly, its exact location is lost, and more sadly, I have not been to Alexandria. So, and more appropriately, I present some lesser-known and more-forgotten ancient libraries.
The most-photographed of ancient libraries is no doubt the Library of Celsus at Ephesus (built about AD 135),2 as it is the most striking (and reconstructed) building in Turkey’s most popular archaeological site:
The crowds are too big at Ephesus, so I prefer the quiet surroundings of the rarely-visited library at Nysa, a lovely Roman city in the Meander Valley of Asia Minor (modern Turkey):
A huge number of visitors walk by the remains of the library at Pergamum, also in Turkey. But they do so without notice of the nondescript remains and without realizing they are adjacent to the second greatest repository of knowledge in the ancient world:3
While the remains of the library at Pergamum are not so inspiring in themselves, the spirit of learning makes the site worth noting. Also . . . the view from just outside and around corner is better than any of the other libraries:
Thanks for looking!
*Today’s Footnotes are all from physical books in my own library
1 See Roy MacLeod, ed., The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World (London: Taurus, 2004); and Luciano Canfora, The Vanished Library: A Wonder of the Ancient World (Berkely: Univ of California Press, 1989).
2 On this edifice, see Lionel Casson, Libraries in the Ancient World (New Haven: Yale, 2001), 114-18.
3 Casson, 49-52; Canfora, 45-50.