An unquenchable thirst
In ancient Alexandria, Egypt, fearless rulers built a city of splendor that thrived on trade from the East and West. But there was something they valued even more than ivory, gold, silk, or gems. And the way they acquired it is legendary.
Alexandria’s leaders used their wealth to satisfy their thirst for knowledge. Emissaries were sent to Rhodes and Athens to purchase books. Any ship sailing into the harbor was subject to search and books found on board were transferred to a staff of official scribes who copied the works onto papyrus scrolls. Sometimes the original books were kept.
The Great Library of Alexandria was built to store this booty. The library was said at the time to contain “all the knowledge in the world.” It became a center of learning, attracting scholars, philosophers, scientists, and physicians from all corners of the earth.
Standing at the crossroads of cultures and religions, Alexandria perhaps was destined to rise and fall. There are several stories about the demise of the Great Library. Some say Julius Caesar burned much of the city to the ground, including the library and its irreplaceable contents. Others claim religious turmoil between Christians and pagans led to its destruction.
Some 2300 years later, however, the story of Alexandria’s Great Library of knowledge inspires our efforts to tap the power of history for teachers and students today.