Following his conquest of Egypt in 332 BC, Alexander the Great founded a new city, Alexandria, on the shore of the Mediterranean. It had both a major sea port, and a still larger river harbour on the inland side, connecting the interior of Egypt with the trade-routes to the northern Mediterranean to an unprecedented degree. When his general Ptolemy subsequently became king of Egypt in 305 BC, Alexandria became the royal Residence and place of burial for both the new Ptolemaic dynasty and for Alexander himself. In the third century BC either Ptolemy I or Ptolemy II created a Museum 'temple for the Muses' and a library, as a resource for the Museum scholars in their endeavour to acquire and establish best possible editions of all the writings of the Greek-speaking world.
The library has become a myth in Western literature by its sheer scale. However, this myth has overshadowed reality, making it hard to answer any of the following questions:
Answers to all these questions are required in the task of reconstructing the practice of library life as an active institutional element in each century from the 3rd century BC to the 7th century AD and beyond.
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