The Ancient Library of Alexandria: A Pathfinder


[Demetrius of Phaleron]
Head of Demetrius of Phaleron (died shortly after 284 B.C.), Florence.
from El-Abbadi, Mostafa. The Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Mayenne, France: Imprimerie Floch, 1990.

Any analysis of the Alexandrian Library includes a list of many significant people. However, they come from a variety of fields, extending from literary criticism to medicine, and it is practically impossible to be familiar with all of them. These biographies are helpful aids to a clear understanding of the literature on the Library.

Bevan, Edwyn. The House of Ptolemy: A History of Egypt Under the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Chicago: Argonaut Publishers, 1968.
(UL Reserves DT 92.B4 1968)

This work is a collection of biographies on the men responsible for the existence of the Library, the Ptolemy kings. Bevan also gives attention to Alexander the Great, a likely inspiration behind Ptolemy's (the first) interest in a Library. The writing is clear and direct, and the work includes illustrations and a helpful list of abbreviations.

Hazel, John. Who's Who in the Greek World. New York: Routledge, 2000.
(Davis Ref. Bay # 5 DE 7.H39)

Many influential figures were associated with the Library's founding and activities. This source provides a comprehensive listing of Greek figures. The entries are brief, but they relate the important facts. Some entries have bibliographies. The entries are cross-referenced and there is a good chronology and set of maps at the end.

Hazel, John. Who's Who in the Roman World. New York: Routledge, 2001.
(Davis Ref. Bay # 5 DG 203.H39, 2001)

This work is the Roman counterpart to the above volume. The Romans played a large role in the Library's life. Julius Caesar has often been accused of having a part in the Library's destruction. Roman historians have related much of what we know concerning the Library. This work has the same structure as the Who's Who in the Greek World.

Lempriere's Classical Dictionary of Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors Writ Large. 3rd ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.
(Davis Ref. Bay # 5 DE 5.L564 1984)

This source was first published in 1788 and the entries have not been significantly updated. Therefore, it does not present the most accurate information on the figures associated with the Alexandrian Library. However, it does offer the interesting and sometimes valuable service of presenting these figures merely as they are depicted by the ancient authors. The entries are listed alphabetically. The work includes a chronological table which does not have great detail. Because the writings of the ancient authors are often anecdotal, the entries are very amusing. This source should be consulted in conjunction with a source such as the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

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