Ptolemy’s Library

The Library of Alexandria was the most famous in the ancient world.  Sponsored by the Ptolemaic dynasty, descended from a general of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I Soter (the savior), the library had the official support of the dynasty and became a center of learning and literature.  Ptolemy’s grandson, Ptolemy III, sent couriers throughout the world, asking for books to copy.  Officials borrowed books from all passing ships, had them copied, and then returned the copies to the ships, storing the originals in the great library.  This practice made collectors wary of loaning out valuable manuscripts.  When, after much negotiation, Athens relented to Ptolemy, and agreed to send to Egypt its authoritative texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes, the bond was fifteen talents of gold, an amount sufficient to pay 135 skilled workers for a year, with a corresponding purchasing power.    Ptolemy was so desirous to possess the originals that he kept them and sent back the copies, forfeiting the money in exchange for an even grander prize in his eyes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s