Ever since I saw the movie Agora I have wanted to go to Alexandria. The movie is about a 4th century woman named Hapatia who was a mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and teacher. Her father was the curator of the library of Alexandria, whose mission was “collecting all the knowledge of the world”. It is a movie about ideas and the ongoing controversy between science and superstition but what I really loved about it was that it centers on this wonderful, brilliant woman who, in 391 A.D. when women were not generally treated as equals, taught scholars. I fell in love with the notion of Alexandria and the library as the place where Hapatia was admired and celebrated by learned men during turbulent times. How heartbreaking it must have been to live and breath the preservation of knowledge and then to witness its total destruction. An estimated 40,000 – 400,000 scrolls of priceless information were lost forever when the library was burned.
Even though the current library is new (2002), it has a connection to the past. I am thrilled to be here in the largest public reading space in the world where 250,000,000 books and scrolls are housed (though sadly not on display). I feel like I should be studying something profound or saying something philosophical but I just sit here…writing my post…in the bibliotheca of Alexandria!