The Ancient Library of Alexandria: A Pathfinder


[Map of Alexandria]
Map of Ancient Alexandria
from El-Abbadi, Mostafa. The Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Mayenne, France: Imprimerie Floch, 1990.

The actual location of the Library within Alexandria is unknown. Historians and archaeologists believe, however, that it was near or part of the Museum, which was in the Royal Quarter of the city (known as the Brucheion). The location of the Temple of Sarapis, which housed the sister library, is certain. The fluctuations of time have, though, blurred the original outline of the ancient city. The following sources, then, give a rough idea of the location and the plan of the city of Alexandria.

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. Ed. Richard J.A. Talbert. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000. (Wilson Map Collection Folio 2 G 1033.B3 2000)

This source, using historical sources and what is known of land changes, aims to present an idea of the shape of the land, the courses of the rivers, and other geographical features of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. The map relating to Alexandria (map # 74) does not give a detailed plan of the city but simply an overview of the Nile Delta region. However, because Alexandria is a coastal city, its area has changed greatly over time, and the map is helpful in displaying the land mass that Alexandria was most likely originally built upon. The atlas is supplemented by a Map-by-Map Directory (Wilson Map Collection Folio 2 G 1033.B3 2000). The map displaying the Nile Delta Region is in volume 2 on pages 1117-1124.

The Princeton Encylopedia of Classical Sites. Ed. Richard Stillwell, William L. MacDonald, and Marian Holland McAllister. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976. (Davis Ref. Bay # 5 DE 59.P7)

This work presents Alexandria on pages 36-38. It gives a brief history of the city and a fair overview of the Library. The entry describes the many famous buildings that were located in Alexandria and relates what is known of their locations within the city.

Shepherd, William R. Historical Atlas. Barnes & Noble: New York, 1964. (Wilson Map Collection G 1030.M42 1954)

Alexandria is included in this atlas in a large map of the territorial expansion of Rome (pages 34-35). On page 34 there is an inset of the "Plan of Alexandria." This plan shows the most likely position of the Library in the royal quarter and the daughter library in the Temple of Sarapis.

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