The Ancient Library of Alexandria is a project directed by Monica Berti and Virgilio Costa.

It aims at exploring the sources on the Museum and the Library of Alexandria, investigating ancient evidence and modern studies on the subject. Particular attention is devoted to the transmission and formation of the myth of this extraordinary cultural centre, born in the Hellenistic age thanks to the initiative of the rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

The first result of this project has been the publication of a book in Italian on the ancient Alexandrian library: Monica Berti e Virgilio Costa, La Biblioteca di Alessandria. Storia di un paradiso perduto, Edizioni Tored, Tivoli (Roma) 2010.

The project has been presented at the International Symposium on the Scaife Digital Library, held on March 13, 2009 at the Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments of the University of Kentucky.

The Ancient Library of Alexandria is part of the Scaife Digital Library (SDL) and is going to organize its contents according to the following topics:

The Library at Alexandria

  • The lost wisdom, an archetype of Western civilization
  • The glory of the Alexandrian Library compared to the sources on it
  • Other public and private libraries of the ancient world
  • Aristotle’s sphragis. Universality as a distinctive character of the Alexandrian Library
  • Forge of countless books
  • Alexandrian scholarship and Hellenistic science
  • Fire or consumption? The elusive destructions of the Alexandrian Library
  • How centuries have dreamed (or regretted) the Alexandrian Library
  • The (re)birth of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Alexandria: A Capital for a New World

  • The founding of Alexandria
  • The abduction of Alexander’s body and its burial at Alexandria
  • Ptolemaic Alexandria: a survey
  • The harbor
  • The royal palaces
  • A day with Strabo: the Museum and the synodos of its members
  • In search of the Great Library
  • The Serapeum and the “daughter” library
  • Who had access to the royal libraries?
  • The Making of the Great Library
  • The legacy of the Peripatos
  • Ptolemy Soter, the Philadelphos and Demetrius of Phaleron
  • The Letter of Aristeas and the Greek translation of the Bible
  • “Rummage the ships!” Fifty ways to collect your books

Scholarship in the Library of Alexandria

  • Directors and librarians
  • Cataloguing books, ordering knowledge: the Pinakes of Callimachus and the work of his pupils
  • The Canon Alexandrinus
  • Editing Homer
  • The cage of the Muses and its invaluable gifts
  • Literature and science in Hellenistic Alexandria (with separate sections on philology, poetry, historiography, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, cartography, etc.)
  • The expulsion of the scholars from the Museum under Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II
  • The forgotten revolution of Hellenistic science

Tales on a Vanished Treasure

  • Alexandria after the Ptolemies
  • Caesar, Livy, and the burning of the ships
  • The decline of the Library during the Roman Empire
  • Bishop Theophilus and the destruction of the Serapeum
  • The Arab conquest of Alexandria
  • Non-romantic hypotheses on the fate of the Alexandrian Library

The Myth of the Alexandrian Library in Western Civilization

  • In the Middle Age
  • In the Renaissance
  • In modern philology (centuries XVI-XIX)
  • In contemporary arts (movies, theatre, fictional literature, etc.)

Back to Alexandria. The Universal Libraries Today

  • The greatest revolution: breaking the limits of the access to knowledge
  • The digital libraries and the future of scholarship
  • Unknown pioneers of the “million books libraries”