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J. Harold Ellens 08/03/2014

Read J. Harold Ellens's article "The Ancient Library of Alexandria" as it originally appeared in Bible Review, February 1997. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in May 2013.—Ed.

In March of 415 C.E., on a sunny day in the holy season of Lent, Cyril of Alexandria, the most powerful Christian theologian in the world, murdered Hypatia, the most famous Greco-Roman philosopher of the time. Hypatia was slaughtered like an animal in the church of Cesareans, formerly a sanctuary of emperor worship.1 Cyril may not have been among the gang that pulled Hypatia from her chariot, tearing off her clothes and slashing her with shards of broken tiles, but her murder was surely done under his authority and with his approval.Cyril (c. 375–444) was the archbishop of Alexandria, the dominant cultural and religious center of the Mediterranean world of the fifth century C.E.2 He replaced his uncle Theophilus in that lofty office in 412 and became both famous and infamous for his leadership in support of what would become known as Orthodox Christianity after the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon (451), when basic Christian doctrine was solidly established for all time.

Cyril's fame arose mainly from his assaults on other church leaders, and his methods were often brutal and dishonest. He hated Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, for example, because Nestorius thought Christ divine and human aspects were distinct from one another, whereas Cyril emphasized their unity. At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Cyril arranged for a vote condemning Nestorius to take place before Nestorius's supporters—the bishops from the eastern churches—had time to arrive. Nor was Cyril above abusing his opponents by staging marches and inciting riots. It was such a mob, led by one of Cyril's followers, Peter the Reader, that butchered the last great Neoplatonic philosopher, Hypatia.

Cyril is honored today in Christendom as a saint. But at the time of his death, many of his fellow bishops expressed great relief at his departure. Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus, wrote that Cyril's "death made those who survived him joyful, but it grieved most probably the dead; and there is cause to fear lest, finding him too troublesome, they should send him back to us. "3

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One reason Cyril had Hypatia murdered, according to the English historian Edward Gibbon, was that Cyril thought Hypatia had the political ear of Alexandria's chief magistrate, who vigorously opposed Cyril's ambition to expel from the city those who held different religious views from his own.4 Cyril was also jealous of Hypatia because scholars from all over the world crowded into her lectures in Alexandria, Athens and elsewhere. Socrates (380–450), a church historian from Constantinople, says of Hypatia:

[She] was so learned that she surpassed all contemporary philosophers. She carried on the Platonic tradition derived from Plotinus, and instructed those who desired to learn in... philosophic discipline. Wherefore all those wishing to work at philosophy streamed in from all parts of the world, collecting around her on account of her learned and courageous character. She maintained a dignified intercourse with the chief people of the city. She was not ashamed to spend time in the society of men, for all esteemed her highly, and admired her for her purity.5

Hypatia's father, Theon, was a leading professor of philosophy and science in Alexandria. He had prepared a recension of Euclid's Elements, which remained the only known Greek text of the great mathematician's work until an earlier version was discovered in the Vatican Library in this century.6 Theon also predicted eclipses of the sun and moon that occurred in 364.

Hypatia, who was born about 355, collaborated with her father from early in her life, editing his works and preparing them for publication. According to one authority, she was "by nature more refined and talented than her father."7 The extant texts of Ptolemy's Almagest and Handy Tables were probably prepared for publication by her.8

Such scientific and philosophical enterprises were not new or surprising in Hypatia's Alexandria, which already boasted a 700-year-old, international reputation for sophisticated scholarship. Founded in 331 B.C.E.9 by command of Alexander the Great, the city contained almost from its beginnings an institution that would remain of immense importance to the world for the next 2,300 years. Originally called the Mouseion, or Shrine of the Muses, this research center and library grew into "an institution that may be conceived of as a library in the modern sense—an organization with a staff headed by a librarian that acquires and arranges bibliographic material for the use of qualified readers."10

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Indeed, the Alexandria Library was much more. It "stimulated an intensive editorial program that spawned the development of critical editions, textual exegesis and such basic research tools as dictionaries, concordances and encyclopedias. "11 The library in fact developed into a huge research institution comparable to a modern university—containing a center for the collection of books, a museum for the preservation of scientific artifacts, residences and workrooms for scholars, lecture halls and a refectory. In building this magnificent institution, one modern writer has noted, the Alexandrian scholars "started from scratch"; their gift to civilization is that we never had to start from scratch again.12In 323 B.C.E., as summer was breaking upon the northern coast of Egypt, Alexander the Great died in Mesopotamia. Within little more than a year, Aristotle died in Chalcis and Demosthenes in Calaurie. To this day, these three gigantic figures, more than any others, save Jesus and Plato perhaps, remain essential to the ideal of civilized life throughout the world. The reason these and other figures remain alive for us today is the ancient library and "university" of Alexandria.13

When Alexander died, his empire was divided among his three senior commanders. Seleucis I Nicator became king of the empire's eastern reaches, founding the Seleucid empire (312–64 B.C.E.) with its capital at Babylon.14 Antigonus I Monopthalmus (the One-Eyed) took possession of Macedonia, Greece and large parts of Asia Minor, where he established the Antigonid dynasty, which lasted until 169 B.C.E.15 A third commander, Ptolemy, assumed the position of satrap, or governor, of Egypt. Ptolemy made Alexandria his capital, brought Alexander's body to the city for a royal entombment and quickly embarked upon a program of urban development.16

Ptolemy's grandest building project was the Alexandria Library, which he founded in 306 B.C.E. Almost immediately the library epitomized the best scholarship of the ancient world, containing the intellectual riches of Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Rome and Egypt. Until it was closed in 642 C.e.—when the Arabs conquered Egypt and carried off the library treasure—it was the major vehicle by which the learning of the past was kept alive.17 Not only did the library preserve the ancient sciences, but it proved to be a vital philosophical and spiritual force behind the surprising new worlds of Judaism, Neoplatonism and Christianity.

The history of the library and its university center falls into five stages. The first, from its founding in 306 B.C.E. to about 150 B.C.E., was the period of Aristotelian science, during which the scientific method was the dominant feature of scholarly investigation. The second, from 150 B.C.E. to 30 B.C.E., was marked by a decided shift away from Aristotelian empiricism to a Platonic preoccupation with metaphysics and religion. This period coincided with the consolidation of Roman influence in the Mediterranean basin. The third was the age of Philo Judaeus's influence, from 30 B.C.E. to 150 C.E. The fourth was the era of the Catechetical School, 150 to 350 C.E., and the fifth was the period of the philosophical movement known as the Alexandrian School, 350 to 642 C.E. Together, these five stages cover a thousand years. No other institution of this kind has proved to be so long-lived or so intellectually dominant of its world and subsequent history as Alexandria's library.

Sometime between 307 and 296 B.C.E., Ptolemy I brought from Athens a noted scholar named Demetrios of Phaleron (345–283 B.C.E.) to undertake his vast library project.

Demetrios set about this task with vigor, providing the course the library was to follow for a millennium. His genius lay in his conception of the library as something more than a receptacle for books; it was also to be a university where new knowledge would be produced. The library initial design called for ten halls for housing the books. These halls were connected to other university buildings by marble colonnades. Scholars were extended royal appointments with stipends to live and work in this university community. At the same time, task forces commissioned to acquire books were scouring the Mediterranean. Books were even confiscated from ships moored in Alexandria's harbor, copied and then restored to their owners. The scriptorium where the copies were made also served as a bookstore, creating a lucrative enterprise with an international clientele.

In 283 B.C.E. Demetrios was succeeded as chief librarian by Zenodotus of Ephesus (325–260 B.C.E.), who held the office for 25 years. This brilliant scholar was a Greek grammarian, literary critic, poet and editor. He continued Demetrios's work on Homer, making a detailed comparative study of the extant texts, deleting doubtful passages, transposing others and making emendations. He also produced the first critical editions of the Iliad and the Odyssey and set each of them up in the 24 books in which we have them today.

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It was probably Zenodotus who established as part of the library the public lending section known as the Serapeion—so named because it was a sanctuary for the god Serapis as well as a public library. He appointed two assistant librarians: Alexander of Aetolia (born c. 315 B.C.E.), to specialize in the Greek tragic and satiric plays and poetry; and Lycophron of Chalcis (born c. 325 B.C.E.), to concentrate on the comic poets. Both of these men became famous in their own right as writers and scholars.One of the things we would most like to have today from the Alexandria library is its catalogue, called the Pinakes, the great work of Callimachus of Cyrene (c. 305–235 B.C.E.), who served under four chief librarians but never rose to that position himself. The full title of the Pinakes is Tablets of the Outstanding Works in the Whole of Greek Civilization.18 Pinakes means "tablets" and probably referred originally to the tablets or plaques attached to the stacks, cabinets and rooms of the library, identifying the library wide variety of books from numerous cultures, most of them translated into Greek.a

Although only fragments of the Pinakes have survived, we know quite a lot about it. Most dependable sources agree on the organizational method utilized in the catalogue, which amply demonstrates the sophisticated character of the ancient library. The Pinakes consisted of 120 scrolls, in which all the works in the library were organized by discipline, with a substantial bibliographical description for each work.19 The encyclopedia of knowledge as it has been conceptualized since ancient times is derived from Callimachus's design. As a leading scholar has noted, "The Western tradition of author as main entry may be said to have originated with Callimachus's Pinakes.”20

The Pinakes identified each volume by its title, then recorded the name and birthplace of the author, the name of the author father and teachers, the place and nature of the author education, any nickname or pseudonym applied to the author, a short biography (including a list of the authors works and a comment on their authenticity), the first line of the work specified, a brief digest of the volume, the source from which the book was acquired (such as the city where it was bought or the ship or traveler from which it was confiscated), the name of the former owner, the name of the scholar who edited or corrected the text, whether the book contained a single work or numerous distinct works, and the total number of lines in each work.21

The Pinakes was the first great library catalogue of western civilization, just as The Bible of Gutenberg was the first great printed book. [I]t earns for its author the title of "Father of Bibliography." Thus, as in all intellectual efforts, the Greeks fixed the canons of cataloguing, which have been incorporated, more or less, in our Library of Congress, European, and other systems. However, the Pinakes was more than a catalogue. It was the work of the foremost man of letters of his age. He could not treat even a purely scientific subject as the Pinakes... without imparting to his work the rich stores of his scholarship, and thus the first world catalogue of knowledge became also the first literary and critical history of Hellenic literature, and also earned for its author the title of "Father of Literary History."22

By the end of Callimachus's life, the library is purported to have contained 532,800 carefully catalogued books, 42,800 of which were in the lending library at the Serapeion. Two and a half centuries later, in the time of Jesus, it held one million volumes.23

It was officials with the conquering Arab army who last saw the library in its operational state. Undoubtedly much of it was carried off to their royal libraries. It is likely that the character and structure of Callimachus's Pinakes was used as a model for a brilliant Arabic counterpart from the tenth century known as the Al-Fihrist, or Index, by Ibn-Al-Nadim, which we have in virtually its complete and original form. Surviving fragments of the Pinakes confirm the likelihood of this.24

For its first two centuries, the library at Alexandria continued to be a center for nearly every kind of research in the natural sciences as well as in philosophy and the humanities, employing the scientific method developed by Aristotle, which, thanks to Francis Bacon (1561–1626), forms the foundation of modern science.25

Eratosthenes of Cyrene (275–195 B.C.E.), a student of Callimachus who rose to become chief librarian, is a classic example of the Alexandrian scholar of the period. He was an accomplished mathematician, geographer, astronomer, grammarian, chronographer, philologist, philosopher, historian and poet. He founded the sciences of astronomy, physical geography, geodetics and chronology. He was known as the most learned person of the Ptolemaic age26 and was acclaimed by his contemporaries as second only to Plato as a literary thinker and philosopher.

Eratosthenes dated the Trojan War to about 1184 B.C.E., a date generally accepted in ancient times and respected by many modern scholars. He worked out a calendar that included a leap year, and he calculated the tilt of the earths axis. One of his most memorable accomplishments was the invention of an accurate method for measuring the circumference of the earth (see the sidebar to this article).

During his tenure as chief librarian, Eratosthenes brought to Alexandria the official Athenian copies of the three great Attic tragedians: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. This involved a bit of scurrilous horse-trading: Ptolemy III approved an arrangement for borrowing these precious manuscripts from Athens, pledging the modern equivalent of $4 million as surety.27 With the documents in hand, Ptolemy III then forfeited his deposit, cavalierly retaining the original manuscripts for the Alexandria Library, and instructed the staff to make good copies on fine quality papyrus, which were then sent back to Athens. "The Athenians with both the money and the copies,"one scholar has observed, "also appear to have been satisfied with the deal."28

Aristophanes of Byzantium (c. 257–180 B.C.E.) followed Eratosthenes as chief librarian and served for about 15 years. He was a man with a photographic memory and could cite at length the literary sources in the library.29 He had read them all. It is said that while judging poetry competitions he regularly detected plagiarized lines, and on a number of occasions, when challenged by the king to justify his criticism, cited the sources and recited the original passages. As a philologist, grammarian and author, Aristophanes produced poetry, dramas and critical editions of the works of his famous namesake, Aristophanes (c. 450–c. 388 B.C.E.), the Greek poet and dramatist.

Near the end of his life, Aristophanes was imprisoned by Ptolemy V Epiphanes for entertaining an offer to move to the great library of Pergamum. Such repression did not create an ideal climate in which scholarship might flourish. After his imprisonment, the library languished under an interim director, Apollonius Eidograph. But in 175 B.C.E. a new chief librarian was appointed, Aristarchus of Samothrace (217–130 B.C.E.), who returned the institution to its grand tradition of high scholarship and scientific sophistication.

Aristarchus was chief librarian for 30 years, from 175 to 145 B.C.E. He is still considered one of the greatest literary scholars because his recension of the works of Homer continues to be the standard text (textus receptus) upon which all modern versions are based. Besides his two critical editions of Homer, he produced similarly erudite editions of Hesiod, Pindar, Archilochus, Alcaeus and Anacreon. He wrote commentaries on the works of all these classical poets as well as on the dramatists Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes, and on the historian Herodotus.

Aristarchus had been the teacher of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, and though the latter gained a reputation for being a monster, the two apparently remained friends. When a civil war and political insurgency against the king arose in 131 B.C.E., Aristarchus accompanied him in his banishment to Cyprus. There Aristarchus died before Ptolemy VIII returned in triumph in 130 B.C.E. to continue his oppressive reign for another 14 years. With his reign, the history of wise and humane Ptolemies and illustrious librarians ended. Thereafter, valuable scholarship continued in Alexandria, such as the work of Philo Judaeus (30 B.c.e.–50 C.E.), the Catechetical School of Clement and Origen (150–350 C.E.) and the Neoplatonic School (350–642 C.E.), but after 130 B.C.E. both kings and scholars were lesser lights. Revolutions, insurrections and persecutions wracked the kingdom as dynastic political intrigue plagued the country, the city and the scholarly community. By the end of Aristarchus's tenure, such dissatisfaction existed among the scholars regarding the character of the king and the conditions of the scholarly community that Ptolemy VIII imposed a military controller upon the operations of the library.

Considering the extensive accumulation of scientific data collected by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and their advanced methods of empirical research, it is surprising that they did not achieve some key breakthrough in chemistry or physics that would have precipitated an industrial revolution. The Greeks and Romans both understood, for example, the power of steam produced by heated water. The Romans harnessed steam for powering toys. There is some indication that they employed it for powering siege guns. What held them back from utilizing it in steam-driven machinery, which would have enabled that giant leap from mere muscle to mechanical power? They had refined sciences of optics, geometry and physics. What prevented them from imagining and creating a microscope? They understood atomic theory in some coarse way. What prevented them from identifying the components of water as hydrogen and oxygen and thus moving on to the intricacies of chemistry? They seem to have marched right up to the intellectual and scientific threshold for mechanization and then fallen back into a 1, 500-year darkness. Their sciences needed to be rediscovered and reinvented in the Renaissance of the 12th to 14th centuries before the next step forward could be made. Why?

The likely answer lies in the area of two cultural circumstances: (1) the shift in Alexandrian Library scholarship from Aristotelian empiricism to Platonic metaphysical speculation in about 100 B.C.E., and (2) the barbarian subduction of Rome in the fifth and sixth centuries C.E.

Increasingly during this period of decline, the wealth and intellectual capital of Alexandria was dissipated in trying to maintain workable relations with the rising power of Rome. As the tribute to Rome increased, and the material investment in the library and its scholarship suffered, the superior intellectual importance, prowess and productivity that had been standard under the early Ptolemies proved impossible to maintain: "The dons were drawn into the political vortex, and those not so inclined were silent. The zest to produce the things of culture was permanently interrupted. "30

One consequence of these disturbing times was an intense turn toward religion. Hellenistic Jews were experimenting with various kinds of theologies.31 In Greco-Roman culture, mystery religions were popular, despite the prominence of the emperor cult. The roots of Christianity, Gnosticism and rabbinic Judaism were already insinuating themselves into the rich soil of this uneasy world. In Alexandria, the scholarly community abandoned its intense, fruitful focus upon empirical science after the mode of Aristotle and lost itself in the scholarly inquiry into the religion and philosophy of Platonism.

Although the decline of the golden age of the ancient library and university center is sad to contemplate, the "sea change" nevertheless ushered in the newly productive era of the Hellenistic Judaism of Philo Judaeus (30 B.c.e.–50 C.E.); the Hellenistic Neoplatonism of Plotinus (205–270 C.E.), Porphyry (c. 234–305 C.E.), Olympius (c. 350–391 C.E.) and Hypatia (355–415 C.E.); and the Hellenistic Christianity of Pantaenus (c. 100–160 C.E.), Clement (c. 150–215 C.E.), Origen (c. 185–254 C.E.), Tertullian (c. 155–225 C.E.), Athanasius (c. 293–373 C.E.) and Cyril of Alexandria (c. 375–444 C.E.). So the scholarly culture of the ancient library became the seedbed of the great philosophies of Judaism and Christianity and thus has continued to influence Western culture for two millennia, showing little sign of abating as we move into the third.

Philo Judaeus was surely one of the most prominent scholars in Alexandria at the turn of the millennium. His life overlaps that of Jesus of Nazareth and is the scholarly bridge between the pre-Christian era of Greek antiquity and the begin ning of Christian history in Alexandria. With the appearance of Philo, Jewish scholarship became a prominent force there. Philo was a member of a distinguished Jewish family in the influential Alexandrian Jewish community. His brother, Alexander the Alabarch, led that community. Philo lived much of his life in contemplation, authoring a large array of books.

The Jewish community included half of the city of Alexandria in Philo's time and a large part of the general population of Egypt. Philo and his contemporaries considered themselves to be faithful Jews. Hellenized Judaism was generally welcomed by the Jews of Egypt and provided both an interpretation of Judaism for the Greeks and an interpretation of Hellenism for Jewish society, stretching the whole upon the frame of historic Jewish traditions.

Philo sought to demonstrate that Judaism could be accepted by the Greeks for its universal wisdom and superior insight into ultimate truth. The subjects Philo treated and the organization he used reflect the pattern set for scholarship at the library by Callimachus's Pinakes. Philo systematically addressed the full range of topics that had formed the categories of that great catalogue. His writings include investigations of theology, philosophy, literary criticism, textual analysis, rhetoric, history, law, medicine and cosmology. However, Philo was not simply interested in objective scientific exploration. His greatest motive was to demonstrate that all that is valuable and virtuous in Greek thought and ideals was also epitomized by the biblical patriarchs and heroes of faith of Jewish religious tradition. Philo treated the Greek notion of Logos, for example, as the universal expression of Hebrew Wisdom (Khokhma in Hebrew; Sophia in Greek), Gods self-expression in the material world.

Philo lived at a time when confidence in a world governed by cause and effect had given over to questions about the purpose of life and history. His questions concerned the nature of God; Gods function in the universe as creator, manager and redeemer; and the meaning and destiny of humankind. The primary question for Platonic-minded scholars and laypersons alike was how a transcendent, ineffable God of pure spirit could be linked to a material universe. Moreover, it seemed evident that the material world was shot through with pain and evil. How could a perfect God create a flawed world?

In both the Jewish and Greek traditions that Philo inherited, this problem was solved by a model of the world in which God was separated from the created universe by a series of intermediaries. These were thought of as divine forces, agencies or persons. The main intermediary was the Logos. The Greek Stoic philosophers had made much of the concept of Logos from the time of early Platonism onward. Philo saw Greek tradition as simply another expression of the references to Wisdom in Job 28, Proverbs 1–9, The Wisdom of Ben Sirach, Baruch and other literature in the Hebrew tradition. Philo understood the Logos to be responsible for creating the material universe, supervising it providentially and redeeming it. For Philo, Logos was Gods rationality, both in Gods own mind and in the rational structure of creation. Sophia was the understanding that God has and that humans acquire when they discover Gods Logos in all things. Philo, on occasion, allegorically refers to Logos/Sophia as an angel and, rarely, as a "second God." In his exposition of Genesis 17 (describing Gods covenant with Abraham), he characterizes God as a trinity of agencies.32

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Between 150 and 180 C.E. a Stoic philosopher named Pantaenus was converted to Christianity and became the headmaster, if not the founder, of a Christian institution known as the Catechetical School of Alexandria. This school reflected the long-standing intellectual tradition of the Alexandrian Library and may well have been a part of that scholarly enterprise.33Pantaenus served as head of the Catechetical School long enough to bring it out of obscurity and then, handing over its leadership to Clement, became a missionary. In India Pantaenus discovered a community of Jewish Christians, disciples of the apostle Thomas, whose faith and life were built around their use of a Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew. Pantaenus never returned to Alexandria.34

Clement (c. 150–215 C.E.) was a student of Pantaenus, and Origen (c. 185–254) was very probably a student of Clement. The theological connection between them, as well as their dependence upon Philo's work of 150 years earlier, urges this conclusion. Clement and Origen seem to have taken over Philo's model of Gods relationship to the created world, particularly the function of the Logos in creation, providence and salvation.

These two towering figures of early Christian theological development were headmasters of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, which flourished under them and quickly became famous throughout the Christian world. Eusebius (c. 260–348), a church historian, refers to it as "a school of sacred learning established... from ancient times, which has continued down to our own times, and which we have understood was held by men able in eloquence, and the study of divine things. "35

Its relationship to Philo and his classical Greek predecessors has been described as follows:

The first representatives of early church exegesis were not the bishops but rather the "teachers" (didaskaloi) of the catechetical schools, modeled after the Hellenistic philosophers ' schools in which interpretive and philological principles had been developed according to the traditions of the founders of the respective schools. The allegorical interpretation of Greek classical philosophical and poetical texts, which was prevalent at the Library and Museum (the school) of Alexandria, for example, directly influenced the exegetical method of the Christian Catechetical school there. Basing his principles on the methods of Philo of Alexandria and Clement of Alexandria, his teacher, and others, Origen... created the foundation for the type of Christian exegesis (i.e., the typological-allegorical method) that lasted from the patristic period and the Middle Ages up to the time of Luther in the 16th century. Origen based his exegesis upon comprehensive textual-critical work that was common to current Hellenistic practices such as collecting Hebrew texts and Greek parallel translations of the Old Testament. His main concern, however, was that of ascertaining the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures, the transhistorical divine truth that is hidden in the records of the history of salvation in the Scriptures. He thus developed a system containing four types of interpretation: literal, moral, typological, and allegorical.36

Clement's theological and philosophical emphasis differed little from that of Philo, except that the orientation of his notion of the Logos/Sophia doctrine was Christian rather than Jewish. Clement's aim in his teaching and ministry was to convert to Christianity members of the educated Greek community in Alexandria, the sort of people who would previously have been attracted to Philo's type of Hellenistic Judaism. "Just as Philo had presented Judaism as the highest form of wisdom and the means by which humankind would come to ' see God,' so Clement urged that Christianity was the end to which all current philosophy had been moving... the new melody superior to that of Orpheus. "37

Origen advanced Clement's ideas and directly identified the Logos with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, thus personifying the Logos. Such personification of the Logos was not uncommon in the world of Philo, Clement and Origen. Indeed, it was a relatively common practice in both Jewish and Greek tradition to conceive of divine powers or agents as identified at various times with specific extraordinary persons. As the divine agency was personified in a human person, the divine was humanized and the human deified.

It was this significant North African theological perspective in the theology of Clement and Origen that dominated Christian thought from the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 C.E. At these councils the doctrines of the deity of Christ and the trinitarian nature of God were worked out. Thus, there is a straight line between the Alexandria Library, Philo Judaeus's Hellenistic Judaism and the Christian doctrines of the deity of Christ and the nature of the trinity. This connection is, of course, very complex, and other forces also affected this development, such as the great variety of polytheistic theologies (which propose that there exist intermediary beings between God and creation) present in the Judaisms of 200 B.C.E. to 200 C.E. and that Philo wished to counteract in order to refine and protect Jewish monotheism. However, it is the influence of Philo's theological and philosophical model (mediated through Clement and Origen to the bishops who met at the great councils), combined with the very speculative allegorical interpretation of scripture under the influence of Neoplatonism (typical of the outlook in Alexandria), that explains the theological move of the councils from a Jesus who was filled with the Logos to a Christ who was the being of God.

As this Judeo-Christian development unfolded, the seeds of the Alexandrian school were sown at the ancient library and its university. Plotinus (205–270 C.E.) established the movement with his articulation of a new kind of Platonism. Many similarities can be seen between this Neoplatonism and Judaism and Christianity in the second and third centuries C.E. Neoplatonism stood for an intense personal spirituality, estimable ethical principles and a theology rooted in the Hellenistic philosophy that so significantly shaped Philo.

Plotinus and his disciple Porphyry (c. 234–305 C.E.) looked for the ultimate religious experience as an ecstatic vision of God, adhered to standards of personal purity that made the most ardent Christian envious and proclaimed that God is revealed in the material world in a trinity of manifestations. This singularly attractive alternative to Christianity was championed in the fourth and fifth centuries in Alexandria by the notable Neoplatonist "saints,"Olympius and Hypatia—bringing us back to where we started.

Although Hypatia was brutally murdered by Cyril for advocating a philosophy he thought was antithetical to "orthodox" Christianity, her brand of Neoplatonism became increasingly attractive to Christian philosophers. By the sixth century, it was taken over by them. Though the Alexandrian school was formally eclipsed when the Arabs destroyed the library—and much of the city—in 642, its spirit survives to this day in its influence over Christianity.

That is the story of the Alexandria Library, too. After destroying the library, the Arabs preserved a large percentage of the ancient volumes—as evidenced by the fact that they possessed, in Greek and Arabic translations, many of the works of the ancient poets, playwrights, scientists and philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Euclid and Eratosthenes. When the European Crusaders encountered the Arabic world in the 11th and 12th centuries, those venerable works became known again in Europe, giving rise to the Renaissance. Islamic philosophers and scientists—such as Averröes, a Spanish Arab (1126–1198 C.E.), and Avicenna, a Persian (980–1037 C.E.)—gave the ancient books and their wisdom back to the Western world and taught Christian Europe to know again and prize its roots in ancient Greece.

So the ancient library of Alexandria rose like a phoenix from her own ashes. She has been wounded, perhaps, but has never really died.

J. Harold EllensJ. Harold Ellens is a retired scholar who researched at the University of Michigan and served as an occasional lecturer for the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate School in California. He is the author of hundreds of articles and numerous books, including The Ancient Library of Alexandria and Early Christian Theological Development (Claremont Graduate School, 1993).


a. The best-known book collected from a non-Greek culture and translated into Greek at the library was the Hebrew Bible, known in its Greek form as the Septuagint (LX). It seems to have reached the state of a largely completed and official Greek text between 150 and 50 B.C.E. Philo Judaeus (30 B.c.e.–50 C.E.) obviously knew and worked with a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible.

1. Maria Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, trans. F. Lyra (Cambridge, MY: Harvard Univ. Press, 1995), p. 93. Cf. J. Harold Ellens, The Ancient Library of Alexandria and Early Christian Theological Development, Occasional Papers 27, Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (Claremont: Claremont Graduate School, 1993), pp. 44–51.

2. "Saint Cyril of Alexandria,"in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 3, cols. 329–330.

3. Theodoret, quoted in The Works of Charles Kingsley, 2 vols. (New York: Co-operative Publishing Society, 1899).

4. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury, 3 vols., with notes by Gibbon, introduction and index by Bury and a letter to the reader from P. Guedalla (New York: Heritage, 1946).

5. Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica 7.15, in A.m. Zenos, ed., too.. 2 of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2d ser., ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 160. See also Edward A. Parsons, The Alexandrian Library, Glory of the Hellenic World: Its Rise, Antiquities, and Destructions (London: Cleaver-Hume, 1952), p. 356.

6. "Theon of Alexandria,"in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 9, col. 938; "Euclid,"in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 6, col. 1020; Ellens, Alexandria, p. 44; and Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, pp. 68–69.

7. Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, p. 70, quoting Damascius without citing what source.

8. Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, pp. 70–73.

9. Steven Blake Shubert, "The Oriental Origins of the Alexandrian Library,” Libri 43:2 (1993), p. 143.

10. Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 142–143.

11. Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 143.

12. Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 143.

13. Ellens, Alexandria, pp. 1–2.

14. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 16, cols. 501–503.

15. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 1, cols. 990–991.

16. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 15, cols. 180–182.

17. For a detailed discussion of the date of the destruction of the library, see Ellens, Alexandria, pp. 6–12, 50–51; and the superbly objective and thorough treatment of the process of the library demise by Mostafa El-Abbadi, Life and Fate of the Ancient Library of Alexandria (Paris: UNESCO/UNDP, 1990), pp. 145–179. See also Gibbon, Decline and Fall, too.. 1, pp. 57–58, and vol. 2, chap. 28 (on the destruction of the library); and Parsons, Alexandrian Library, pp. 411–412.

18. Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 144, in which reference is made to the tenth-century C.E. Byzantine Greek volume called the Suidas Lexicon. This lexicon cites the full name of the Pinakes and describes its size as 120 scrolls. Cf. Ellens, Alexandria, p. 3; and F. J. Witty, "The Pinakes of Callimachus,” Library Quarterly 28 (1958), p. 133.

19. Suidas Lexicon; Tzetzes, as cited in El-Abbadi, Life and Fate, p. 101. See also Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 144; and Witty, "Pinakes of Callimachus."

20. Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 144. It is interesting in this regard that Anne Holmes ("The Alexandrian Library,” Libri 30 [December 1980], p. 21) suggests that the Pinakes may have been a list of authors and books that Callimachus wanted to acquire for the library rather than a catalogue of existing library holdings. This is unlikely because of the detailed bibliographical and critical material incorporated in each entry, including the indication that the book was purchased from some other library source or confiscated from some traveler. Lionel Casson ("Triumphs from the Ancient Worlds First Think Tank,” Smithsonian 10 [June 1985], p. 164) urges that the Pinakes was conceivably only an encyclopedia of Greek literary history. In such a case, one wonders why it was called the Pinakes, connecting it with the tiles designating the categories of storage compartments and their contents.

21. El-Abbadi, Life and Fate, p. 100; and Parsons, Alexandrian Library, p. 211. See also J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1906–1908), p. 34 n. 3.

22. Parsons, Alexandrian Library, pp. 217–218.

23. Parsons, Alexandrian Library, pp. 110, 204–205. See also El-Abbadi, Life and Fate, pp. 95, 100; and Tzetzes, a 12th-century scholar whose Prolegomena to Aristophanes, also known as Scholium Plautinum, may be found in are. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), p. 101.

24. El-Abbadi, Life and Fate, p. 102.

25. Kathleen Marguerite Lea, "Francis Bacon,"in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, 15th ed., too.. 2, cols. 561–566. See also Catherine Drinker Bowen, Francis Bacon, The Temper of a Man (Boston: Little, Brown, 1963).

26. Gilbert Murray, A History of Ancient Greek Literature (New York: Scribner, 1897), p. 387.

27. Casson, "Triumphs." The ancient sources describe the sum as 15 talents, which would probably exceed $4 million today.

28. Shubert, "Oriental Origins,"p. 145, 166 n. 8, cites Galen's Com. II in Hippocraits Epidem. libri III 239–240, which I have not been able to consult. See also J. Platthy, Sources on the Earliest Greek Libraries (Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1968), pp. 118–119; Holmes, "Alexandrian Library,"p. 290; and P.M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1972), p. 325.

29. Vitruvius, De Architectura 7.6–8. See also Parsons, Alexandrian Library, p. 150; and El-Abbadi, Life and Fate, pp. 105, 111. Vitruvius lived during the same period as Julius Caesar, Philo Judaeus and Jesus Christ. He was a famous Roman architect, engineer and city planner. The work cited here is a handbook for Roman architects. His style for architecture and city planning was largely Greek, as he lived at the beginning of the phase of creative Roman architectural style, and his work heavily influenced Renaissance art, architecture and engineering. Pliny the Elder borrowed heavily from Vitruvius in the preparation of his Natural History. As was typical in the ancient world, Pliny does not cite his sources and credit Vitruvius. De Architectura contains ten books on building materials, Greek designs in temple construction, private buildings, floors and stucco decoration, hydraulics, clocks, measurement skills, astronomy, and civil and military engines. He was classically Hellenistic in his perspective.

30. Parsons, Alexandrian Library, p. 152; see also p. 229, where Parsons, citing a letter from Thomas E. Page to James Loeb, declares that "But for the patronage of the Ptolemies and the labor of devoted students in the Museum, Homer... might have wholly perished, and we might know nothing of Aeschylus...We still owe Alexandria a great debt. " Murray (Literature, p. 388) remarks, "Zenodotus, Callimachus [sic], Eratosthenes, Aristophanes of Byzantium, and Aristarchus were the first five librarians; what institution has ever had such a row of giants at its head?”

31. In this regard see, for example, Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Leiden: Brill, 1977); Maurice Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God, The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1991); Jarl Fossum, The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord, Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Intermediation and the Origin of Gnosticism (Tübingen: Mohr, 1985); Gabriele Boccaccini, Middle Judaism, Jewish Thought, 300 B.c.e.-200 C.E. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991).

32. Philo Judaeus, The Works of Philo, trans. C.D. Yonge (Peabody, MY: Hendrickson, 1993). See also Harry A. Wolfson, Philo, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MY: Harvard Univ. Press, 1947).

33. Some scholars question whether there really was a formal catechetical school as early as the second century, rather than just independent teachers; see Roelof van den Broek, "The Christian ' School ' of Alexandria in the Second and Third Centuries,"in Centres of Learning: Learning and Location in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East, ed. J.W. Drijvers and A.A. Macdonald (Leiden: Brill, 1995). The preponderance of evidence, however, strongly indicates that there was one; see W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), p. 286; Eusebius ' Ecclesiastical History (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1955), pp. 190–191, 217–255; Schaff and Wace, eds., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd ser., too.. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), pp. 224–226, 249–281; and G. Bardy, "Aux origines de l'ecole d'Alexandrie,” Reserches de Science Religieuse 27 (1937), pp. 65–90.

34. Frend, Rise of Christianity, p. 286.

35. Eusebius ' Ecclesiastical History, p. 190. See also Annewies van den Hoek, "How Alexandrian Was Clement of Alexandria? Reflections on Clement and His Alexandrian Background,” Heyj31 (1990), pp. 179–194.

36. Ernst Wilhelm Bentz, "Christianity,"in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia, too.. 4, col. 498.

37. Frend, Rise of Christianity, p. 286.

Amphipolis. gr | Twisted Knee Might Identify Alexander The Great’s Father, But Some Are Skeptical

In a new article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Antonis Bartsiokas and colleagues argue that skeletons from Tomb I at Vergina in Macedonia are those of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. This is in direct contrast to work published in May by Antikas and Wynn-Antikas, which concluded that skeletons in Tomb II at Vergina are those of Philip II and a Scythian princess.

Figure 4 from Bartsiokas et al. 2015, PNAS. Lateral view of the left leg of Individual 1 in flexion showing the massive knee ankylosis. (Image via Bartsiokas et al. in PNAS open access.)

Bartsiokas and colleagues’ analysis of bones from Tomb I lead them to believe those are the mortal remains of Philip II. Namely, a knee injury in which the femur and tibia fused at an angle correlates well with historical accounts of Philip’s having suffered a penetrating wound and consequent lameness. They further think that the female in Tomb I was Philip’s wife Cleopatra and the neonate bones their child who was born just days before Philip’s assassination. Figure 4 from Bartsiokas et al. 2015, PNAS. Lateral view of the left leg of Individual 1 in flexion showing the massive knee ankylosis. (Image via Bartsiokas et al. in PNAS open access.)

Figure 4 from Bartsiokas et al. 2015, PNAS. Lateral view of the left leg of Individual 1 in flexion showing the massive knee ankylosis. (Image via Bartsiokas et al. in PNAS open access.)

This means that the bones from Tomb II, which Antikas and Wynn-Antikas think are those of Philip and an injured Scythian warrior princess, have to be explained. Bartsiokas and colleagues conclude that these must be the remains of Philip III Arridhaeus (Philip II’s son and Alexander the Great’s brother) and his wife Eurydice, although this identification seems based on historical information rather than any particular skeletal evidence. They also think that some of the archaeological artifacts in Tomb II may have belonged to Alexander the Great himself.

While Bartsiokas and colleagues trumpet these new interpretations as the final word on the identification of these skeletal remains, Antikas is not convinced. In a letter to the editor of PNAS, Antikas expresses concern over the fact that Bartsiokas and colleagues did not fully publish the skeletal remains from Tomb I, which Antikas found to include at least seven individuals as well as animal remains. The identification of the Tomb I occupants as Philip, Cleopatra, and their newborn is insufficiently supported by the evidence, according to Antikas, and not conclusive.

Rather than having Bartsiokas and colleagues have the last word on this fascinating tomb, Antikas argues for the need for carbon-14 dating and DNA analysis, neither of which has been done before on these remains.

With two interpretations of the same skeletal material at odds, it is perhaps best to withhold definitive conclusions until additional testing is done. Biochemical analyses are becoming increasingly common in bioarchaeological studies, and they are warranted in this case. Additionally, publication of the skeletal remains in concert with the archaeological evidence could also produce more plausible interpretations.

Kristina Killgrove is a bioarchaeologist and university professor. | οι πόλεις που ίδρυσε ο Μεγαλέξανδρος – Alexander’s City Foundations

Alexander’s City Foundations


Alexander‘s biographer Plutarch of Chaeronea states that Alexander the Great founded no less than seventy towns, which were important centers of the Greek cultures in the East. By these foundations, the sage of Chaeronea implies, the Macedonian conqueror changed the nature of his oriental subjects from barbarians into civilized people.

This in exaggerated. As far as we know, Alexander founded some twenty towns: the real Greek towns, poleis, which Plutarch must have had in mind, the permanent military garrisons or katoikiai, and the temporary military settlements, phrouria. Other towns were simply repopulated or just renamed.

  1. Alexandrupolis: founded in 340 by the crown prince. This was a really Greek city, built among the Maedians, a tribe on the banks of the Strymon. It must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of modern Sandanski in Bulgaria.
  2. Alexandria in Troas: a town near Troy, founded in the Spring of 334. It may have been founded by one of Alexander’s successors.
  3. Alexandria by the Latmus: a town in Caria, maybe founded as a garrison or military settlement in the winter of 333. Probably, it was founded by one of the successors of Alexander, who named it to the former king.
  4. Alexandria near Issus: Probably a permanent garrison where veterans of the battle of Issus could begin a new life, together with local inhabitants. Modern Iskenderun in Turkey.
  5. Tyre: repopulated with Greek emigrants and natives in 332/331, together with a permanent Macedonian garrison.
  6. Gaza: repopulated with European emigrants and natives in 331, together with a permanent Macedonian garrison.
  7. Alexandria: the site was chosen in January 330; the city was founded on 7 April. This was an entirely Graeco-Macedonian city, although there was also a native quarter and a Jewish quarter. The Jews and natives were second-class citizens (text).
  8. Alexandria in Aria: perhaps, the Arian capital Artacoana was repopulated with natives and Macedonian veterans in September 330. It was probably meant as a permanent garrison. Alternatively, this was a completely new town. Modern Herât in Afghanistan.
  9. Prophthasia in Drangiana: the Drangian capital Phrada was just renamed in October 330; “Prophthasia” means “Anticipation”. Modern Farâh in Afghanistan.
  10. Alexandria in Arachosia: the Arachosian capital Kapisa was repopulated with natives and Macedonian veterans in the winter of 330/329. It was a permanent garrison. Modern Kandahâr in Afghanistan, which still bears Alexander’s name (derived from Iskandariya, the Arabic and Persian rendering of “Alexander”).
  11. Alexandria in the Caucasus: the Gandarian capital Kapiša-kaniš was repopulated with 4,000 natives and 3,000 Greek and Macedonian veterans in March 329. It was a permanent garrison or a Greek city, although many settlers felt that it was a punitive colony. Modern Chârikâr near Kabul in Afghanistan.
  12. Alexandria Eschatê: founded in the Summer of 329 as a permanent garrison on the Jaxartes (Syrdar’ya). Settled with Macedonian and Greek veterans and native serfs. Modern Khodzent in Tajikistan.
  13. Alexandria on the Oxus: refoundation of a Persian city, settled with Greek and Iranian veterans and native serfs. Probably modern Ai Khanum in Afghanistan. Probably founded in the Spring of 328.
  14. Six cities north of the Oxus. Populated with native prisoners of war who served as serfs for the Macedonian soldiers. Meant as permanent garrisons, together forming a kind of wall against the northern tribes, the Sacae. One of these cities may be identical to modern Termez in Uzbekistan.
  15. Alexandria in Margiana: refoundation of a Persian city in the oasis of Mary in modern Turkmenistan. Settled with Macedonian, Greek and Iranian veterans and native serfs.
  16. Arigaeum: the Aspasian capital was repopulated with natives and Macedonian veterans in the Spring of 326. It was a permanent garrison. Modern Nawagai in Pakistan. In the neighborhood were several temporary military settlements: Bazira, Ora, and Massaga.
  17. Nicaea and Bucephala: twin foundation of permanent garrisons on opposite banks of the Hydaspes (Jhelum), founded in May 326 on the battle field. Settled with Greek, Macedonian, and Iranian veterans and natives. Modern Jhelum in Pakistan? The towns had large dockyards, which suggests that they were meant as a center commerce.
  18. Alexandria on the Hyphasis: founded in July 326 on the eastern border of Alexander’s empire. Settled with veterans of unknown origin.
  19. Alexandria on the Indus: founded in February 325 on the confluence of the Indus and the Acesines (Chenab), probably on the site of an older, Persian settlement. Settled with Thracian veterans and natives. Uch in Pakistan. It had large dockyards, which suggests that it was meant as a center commerce.
  20. Another town on the Indus: founded in the Spring of 325 among the Indian Sogdians. Probably a temporary military station north of Rohri.
  21. Patala (“naval base”) or Xylinepolis (“wooden city”): temporary military settlement, founded in July 325 at the place of an earlier, Indian town. Vacated after September 325. Modern Bahmanabad, 75 kilometers north-east of Hyderabad.
  22. Rhambacia: a town among the Oreitians that was fortified by Hephaestion and Leonnatus in the Autumn of 325. If it was meant as a permanent garrison, it was soon vacated. Modern Bela in Pakistan.
  23. Alexandria in Carmania: if this city was founded by Alexander (and not by Seleucus), it must have been a permanent garrison founded in January 324. Perhaps modern Golâshkerd in Iran.
  24. Alexandria in Susiana: not far from the mouth of the Tigris. Probably settled with Macedonian, Greek and Iranian veterans and natives. Later known as Spasinou Charax. In the neighborhood of Al Qurnah in Iraq.

These were the towns that were founded by Alexander. Most of them are military settlements, where Macedonian and Greek veterans were left. They were not happy, so far from the Mediterranean, and on at least two occasions – both after a report of Alexander’s death – the homesick veterans decided to go home. | 10 fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about Alexander the Great and his army


We have harped about how ancient Spartans bragged of rigorous discipline being instilled in their citizen armies. But there was another ‘lesser’ Greek kingdom on the northern periphery of Classical Greece that eventually managed to make its world-conquering claims that no other ‘civilized’ Greek city-state could ever boast of. We are of course talking about the ancient Macedonians, and how they conducted their legendary military campaigns around most of the known world – all under the brilliant leadership of Alexander III of Macedon (or Aléxandros ho Mégas). So, without further ado, let us check out ten amazing facts you probably didn’t know about Alexander the Great and his incredible army.

1) Most Macedonians started out as poor herdsmen, until Alexander’s father trained them –


We had previously talked about the great wars of Greece and Persia. And amid such disastrous scopes and heroic deeds, Macedonia remained a relatively unimportant backwater to the greater geo-political situation – mostly owing to its lesser strategic importance (in the north). In fact, the seemingly modest origins of the so-called Macedonian state is shrouded in obscurity, with most of the population of land being rural herdsmen in 5th century BC. In that regard, most of the southerly urbanized Greeks regarded the Macedonian inhabitants being semi-barbarous who lived on the edge of the then-known civilized world.

However, by the later Peloponnesian Wars (fought between Sparta and Athens) in the later part of 5th century BC, Macedonian kings had already started undertaking public projects that improved the country’s economy. But it was the great Philip II (Alexander’s father) who started his reign from 359 BC, and made the incredible military reforms that was to transform Macedonia into a future superpower. One of the most iconic features of these reforms was the evolution of the Greek hoplite into phalanx – a military stratagem that emphasized better army formation over individual prowess of a soldier (a classic tactic eventually mastered by the later Romans). And interestingly enough, Philip himself was inspired by the Theban military successes of the early 4th century, as opposed to the ‘pedigree’ of the renowned Spartans and Athenians; and even had grand plans to invade Persia (before he was assassinated).

In any case, Philip’s immense contribution to the organized Macedonian state and its military had been alluded to – even during his own lifetime, when then-contemporary historian Theopompus claimed “Europe had never before produced a man such as Philip”.

2) Macedonian discipline was so strict that it even forbade taking warm baths –


The phalanx as a formation demanded individual discipline and tenacity from each of its occupant soldier – with one historical anecdote from Polyaenus (a 2nd-century Macedonian author) relating to how Philip made his men march over 30 miles in a single day, with all their armaments and armor. The maintenance of such brutal military methods certainly required rigorous degrees of drilling and self-restraint. To that end, one particular scenario involved a high-ranking Tarantine cavalry officer (possibly hailing from a powerful Greek city on the west coast of Italy) who was unceremoniously stripped of his rank for just bathing in warm water.

The simple enough reason was (according to Polyaenus)-

…for he did not understand the way of the Macedonians, among whom not even a woman who has just given birth bathes in warm water.

And as if such drastic measures were not enough, each troop of the phalanx had to personally carry heavy provisions for at least 30 days during the campaigns (a practice that was also adopted by the later Roman legions). Furthermore, the mobility and self-sufficiency of the army was substantially increased by decreasing the number of servants (or camp followers) – which was reduced to one for every ten men.

3) Alexander had a group of 200 ‘personal companions’ in addition to the renowned Companion cavalry –


While Philip effectively drilled the Macedonians into an incredible fighting force, Alexander (the Great) endowed his inherited army with an air of majesty and pompousness. One of the conspicuous aspects of this ritzy nature was the induction of heavy shock cavalry into a primarily Greek force that was traditionally not known for its cavalry tactics. Known as hetairoi or ‘Companions’, these horsemen were generally derived from the Macedonian aristocracy and nobility. However, Alexander the Great went one step further by incorporating another core group of ‘companions’ within this already elite group. These chosen men were also referred to as personal friends of the king – according to many ancient sources.

To that end, the personal companions upheld the true meaning of the word – by accompanying Alexander in various scenarios, whether it be in the thick of the battle or during recreational hunting sessions. In fact, Alexander’s fascination with his own formed military brotherhood was so great that he himself often dressed in the uniform of a Companion cavalry regiment. Now of course, such ‘normal’ officer-like attires were only worn during times of peace (and planning), and were eschewed in favor of elaborate dresses during actual battles.

4) Alexander’s famed phalanx was actually composed of relatively light-armored infantrymen –


Once again, according to Polyaenus’ account of Macedonian military training, the infantrymen of phalanx were supplied with helmets (kranos), light shields (pelte), greaves (knemides) and a long pike (sarissa). So as can be gathered from this small list of items, the armor is conspicuously missing. And even after 100 years of Alexander’s death, there are accounts of his successor states’ phalanx army going without armor systems. From such literary sources, one hypothesis can be put forward – the Greek and Macedonian armies totally gave up on their heavy bronze cuirass, and instead opted for linothorax, a light armor made from glued layers of linen.

Interestingly, one of the accounts of Polyaenus entail how Alexander himself armed the men who had previously fled the battlefield with a hemithorakion – a half armor that only covered the front part of the body, so that the soldiers wouldn’t turn their backs on the enemy. In any case, metallic corsets would have been unnecessary for troops in the rear-end ranks of a well-guarded phalanx – a tactical advantage that must have been welcomed by the ancient commanders who were usually short in funds and equipment.

5) Alexander’s “unpaid” infantry traveled more than 20,870 miles on his Asiatic campaign –


Previously in the list, we had talked about how stringent discipline was part-and-parcel of Alexander’s Macedonian army, a quality that was rarely seen in other ancient proximate cultures. An extension of this intrinsic discipline can be comprehended from their jaw-dropping feats. To that end, according to a calculation made by historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge, the infantrymen who had joined Alexander in 336 BC and then embarked on his Asia-bound campaign, had traveled more than 20,870 miles (or 33,400 km) by the time Alexander breathed his last in Babylon (in 323 BC). So, on an average, each of these men had covered an impressive 1,605 miles (or 2,570 km) per year! And, when translated in georgraphical terms, many of the Macedonian veterans could have claimed to cross a multitude of rivers including the Nile (in Egypt), Euphrates and Tigris (in Iraq), Oxus (in Tajikistan), Syr-Darya (in Uzbekistan) and the Indus (in Pakistan).

It should also be noted that Macedonian kings most probably didn’t develop any means to actually pay their military forces. So, part of this monetary predicament was solved by allowing the soldiers to take part in plunders that usually involved despoiling the enemy cities. But even in such cases, the infantrymen were always given a far lesser portion of the ‘loot’ than their cavalry counterparts.

5) Alexander’s army built a makeshift pathway over seawater just to effectively siege the island-city of Tyre in 332 BC!


In the grand scheme of things, the siege of Tyre might have been a lesser incident in Alexander’s brilliant (yet short) career as a conqueror. But the encounter in itself proved how Alexander was an incredibly patient strategist – which was in sharp contrast to his vicious recklessness in the battlefield (as was evident from the Macedonian cavalry wedge formations where Alexander placed himself at the forefront of the ‘spear’). In any case, Tyre was an important and nigh impenetrable commercial hub, by virtue of its ‘island’ location and huge wall defenses – that were 50 ft high in some places, according to historian Arrian! So, Alexander tried to counter the city’s fascinating defensive ambit by actually ordering his army to construct causeways (or moles) over the sea that would directly lead to the island settlement.

The invading Greek forces did manage to construct (and even expand) a causeway from the rubble, rocks and even timber being salvaged from the old abandoned city of Tyre which was originally located along the coast. This causeway became the scene of a fierce encounter with Greek siege towers taking the brunt of the bold counterattack by the Tyre-based forces. However, within a few days, Alexander was able to assemble an expansive fleet of ships that ultimately caught Tyre by surprise – thus leading to the ramming and breaching of a small section of the city walls. This tactical breakthrough made Tyre unceremoniously surrender, especially after being viciously assaulted by the hardened Macedonian elite infantry (also known as hypaspists). And in the ensuing aftermath, it is said that over 6,000 inhabitants were butchered by Alexander’s forces (with 2,000 being crucified), while an additional 30,000 people were sold into slavery.

6) Brutal punishments in Alexander’s army did include being trampled by elephants –


Greater discipline was not the only factor that separated the Macedonian army from the other then-contemporary Greeks forces; Alexander’s phalangites also had to endure stricter disciplinary actions on account of their privileged status in the army. In that regard, cavalry officers were often punished more severely than their infantry counterparts – with actions (like flogging) being taken for minor offences ranging from bathing in warm water to inviting flute-girls into the camp.

However serious offences like mutinies often resulted in death sentences, given by none other than Alexander himself. In some cases, the offenders were put to death by throwing stones and javelins at them. In other cases, more grim measures were undertaken – like throwing the prisoners into a river with tightened chains binding their bodies. However, one particular incident of punishment stands out (as mentioned by Quintus Curtius Rufus), when Alexander’s successors (just after his death) ordered some 300 mutineers to be trampled beneath the feet of elephants – and that too in front of the whole army.

8) Alexander himself might have had a delusional disorder –


While there are no arguments against Alexander being one of the greatest military strategists and leaders in history, the man himself seemingly suffered from delusions of grandeur during different phases of his lifetime. One of the primary reasons for this god complex-oriented behavioral pattern might have been due the psychological effect of his mother Olympia during Alexander’s childhood. She quite openly claimed that Alexander was the son of Zeus, after supposedly dreaming that her womb was struck by thunder. This extraordinary theory was apparently even ‘proven’ to Alexander by one of the oracles of Amun at Siwa, Egypt. As a result, Alexander began to seriously identify himself as the son of the deity Zeus-Ammon – as is evident from a few ancient silver coins that depict Alexander armed with a thunderbolt.

Alexander the Great also saw himself to be to rightful successor to the fabled Achaemenid emperors after his Macedonian army conquered the length and breath of ancient Persian realm. Such impressive yet influencing achievements in turn fueled Alexander to re-establish many of the Persian customs, like dressing up in the Persian royal attire and the upholding of the proskynesis. This latter mentioned practice entailed the traditional Persian act of bowing or prostrating oneself before a person of higher rank. Suffice it to say, the ‘democratic’ Greeks were averse to such a notion, and as such were alienated by many of Alexander’s megalomaniac decisions.

9) Alexander was a skilled musician and debater; but was also addicted to alcohol –


According to Plutarch, by the age of ten, Alexander was already quite an expert in playing the lyre, debating and even reciting – all of which were sometimes performed in front of his father’s guests. In fact, both poetry and music continued to inspire Alexander even during his later life – as did the consumption of prodigious volumes of alcohol. To that end, drinking and partying came quite naturally to the young Macedonian general, especially during his extended campaigns and hunting trips.

One particular incident related to Alexander’s penchant for ‘partying’ once again comes from the account of Plutarch, where the noted author goes on to describe the so-called Bacchanalian behavior of the Macedonian army. He mentions how Alexander and his army was returning through Balochistan after their disastrous Indian campaign – and the soldiers in this procession took part in every form of excess and decadence. Alexander himself was seated on a high dais surrounded by his companions – all draped in flowers and enjoying goblets of wine; while this massive platform was slowly drawn by eight horses. As Plutarch continued

Not a shield was to be seen, not a helmet, not a spear, but along the whole march with cups and drinking-horns and flagons the soldiers kept dipping wine from huge casks and mixing-bowls and pledging one another, some as they marched along, others lying down; while pipes and flutes, stringed instruments and song, with reveling cries of women, filled every place with abundant music. Then, upon this disordered and straggling procession there followed also the sports of bacchanalian license, as though Bacchus himself were present and conducting the revel. Moreover, when he came to the royal palace of Gedrosia, he once more gave his army time for rest and held high festival. We are told, too, that he was once viewing some contests in singing and dancing, being well heated with wine, and that his favorite, Bagoas, won the prize for song and dance, and then, all in his festal array, passed through the theater and took his seat by Alexander’s side; at sight of which the Macedonians clapped their hands and loudly bade the king kiss the victor, until at last he threw his arms about him and kissed him tenderly.

10) There is a town in Pakistan that was originally named after Alexander’s horse!


Given his delusions of grandeur and tendency to deify himself, Alexander is estimated to have christened around 70 settlements (from Africa to Asia) after his own name. The thriving city of present-day Alexandria in Egypt stands as a testament to this personality-promoting pattern. However, Alexander’s obsession with his enviable achievements went beyond his own name, to also include his favorite horse – Bucephalus. Thereupon, Alexander named one of the settlements in (present) Pakistan as Alexandria Bucephalous or Bucephala, to commemorate his beloved horse who was mortally wounded in the hard-won Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC.

As if often the case, historians are still not sure of the exact location of this settlement – with some hypothesizing its location to be around the river Jhelum, and some conjecturing its location to be along a road that connected Taxila to the Jhelum (in the latter case, the townsfolk of Phalia sometimes claim their settlement’s original name to be Bucephala).

Honorable Mention –
Alexander had two different colored eyes –


Most accounts of Alexander portray him as having a fair skin that turned ruddy due to extensive military campaigning during most of his later life. He also had a clean-shaven face (thus making him stand out from the usually bearded Macedonians), and probably possessed a rather short and stocky body, with a slightly twisted neck and a harsh voice. However, Greek historian Arrian added another fascinating anecdote by saying that Alexander had “one eye dark as the night and one blue as the sky.” Later historians (namely Peter Green) have agreed upon this observation, thus suggesting that Alexander might have had a condition known as heterochromia iridum. And, added to all these physical attributes, Alexander may have also boasted of pleasant body odor – as is clearly mentioned in Plutarch’s “Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans,” written 400 years after Alexander’s death. | The Mystery of the Amphipolis Tomb.

tomb-greece-amphipolis-001_86275_990x742 A mysterious royal tomb in Greece may hold a relative or associate of Alexander the Great, portrayed here in a mosaic from Pompeii. Photograph by Araldo de Luca, Corbis

Heather Pringle, for National Geographic

Suspense is rising as archaeologists sift for clues to the identity of the person buried with pomp and circumstance in the mysterious Amphipolis tomb in what is now northern Greece. The research team thinks the tomb was built for someone very close to Alexander the Great—his mother, Olympias; one of his wives, Roxane; one of his favorite generals; or possibly his childhood friend and lover, Hephaestion.

Over the past three months, archaeologist Katerina Peristeri and her team have made a series of tantalizing discoveries in the tomb, from columns sculpted masterfully in the shapes of young women to a mosaic floor depicting the abduction of the Greek goddess Persephone. The tomb's costly artwork all dates to the tumultuous time around the death of Alexander the Great, and points to the presence of an important person.

Alexander himself was almost certainly buried in Egypt. But the final resting places—and the rich historical and genetic data they may contain—of many of his family members are unknown. The excavation at Amphipolis is bound to add a new chapter to the history of Alexander the Great and his family, a dynasty as steeped in intrigue, conspiracy, and bloodshed as the fictional Lannisters in the popular television series Game of Thrones. Among Alexander's family, "the king or ruler who ended up dying in his bed was rare,"says Philip Freeman, a biographer of Alexander the Great and a classical historian at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Palace Intrigues

To understand these palace intrigues, one must begin with Alexander's father, Philip II, who ascended the throne of ancient Macedonia in 359 B.C. At the time, Macedonia was a modest mountain realm north of ancient Greece, but Philip had big dreams. He transformed Macedonia's army from a band of ragtag fighters into a disciplined military machine, and he armed it with a deadly new weapon, the sarissa, a long lance designed to keep enemy troops from closing in on his phalanxes. | "ARISTOTLE 2400 YEARS "




May 23-28, 2016

The "Interdisciplinary Centre for Aristotle Studies,” of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki announces the World Congress "Aristotle 2400 Years " which is to be held at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in ancient Stageira, the birthplace of Aristotle and in ancient Mieza, the place where Aristotle taught Alexander the Great.

Aristotle, who was born in Stageira, Macedonia, in 384 BC, exercised a continuous influence on human thought for 2.400 years!

He is the universal philosopher, whose work has left an indelible mark on the Classical, Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman world, on Byzantine scholarly tradition, on the Arab world, on the Medieval Europe and continues to exercise influence on the intellectual life of contemporary Western civilization.

He is the philosopher whose work spreads over the broadest range of topics, covering all major branches of Philosophy such as Logic, Dialectic, Syllogistic, Metaphysics, Political-Moral Philosophy, Rhetoric, Poetics and extending in an impressive way into areas related to all fundamental scientific fields, such as Physics, Biology, Zoology, Botany, Taxonomy, Mathematics, Meteorology, Astronomy, Geology, Psychology, Medicine, Economics, Humanities, Law and Political Science, Economics, Health Sciences and even Technological Sciences.

The aim of the Congress is to advance scholarship on all aspects of Aristotle's work; a work whose impact is unique in volume of influence in the history of the human thought; a work which continues to be present in the intellectual evolution of Western civilization, thus becoming an integral and essential part of its cultural heritage. We believe that such work deserves to be studied not only for its long-standing influence, but also for its relevance for the 21st century. Furthermore, the insights in Aristotle's work, in the light of new discoveries in contemporary sciences, can enable us to build the conceptual bridges between scientific thought and philosophical reflection; it can also offer the paradigm par excellence for an interdisciplinary approach of knowledge.

The organizers invite papers on all aspects of Aristotle's philosophy. Particularly welcome are interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches of the Stageirite's work, as well as approaches investigating its relevance today and its potential to lead us to a deeper understanding of concepts, ideas and problems of our own era in a global scale.

Demetra Sfendoni-Mentzou President “INTERDISCIPLINARY CENTRE FOR ARISTOTLE STUDIES,” AUTH WORLD CONGRESS “ARISTOTLE 2400 YEARS " | The discovery of the mysterious sunken city of Heraklion

It was believed to be a mythical city, until of course it was actually discovered. Some believe that its discovery changed history as we know it forever. The ancient city of Heraklion was known to many ancient Greek philosophers, among them Herodotus, who referred to this ancient city in numerous of his writings, although the existence of this city wasn't proven until the nineteenth century. With the discovery of Heraklion, countless enigmas were solved and we managed to learn so much more about our past through this ancient city.

As most of the incredible discoveries, this too was made by accident when marine archaeologist Franck Goddio was looking for warships that sank during the Battle of the Nile in 1798 that belonged to Napoleon along the coast of Alexandria, and just when he thought that there was nothing down there, he came across one of the most important discoveries a marine archaeologist can make.

Among the Egyptians and Greek, the city was referred to as Heraklionpor Thonis. It was believed to have been a prosperous empire between the seventh century BC and the eight century AD. The location of the city was just off the coast of Alexandria in the Aboukir Bay.

The importance of ancient Heraklion

Just like many other cities and legendary empires, Heraklion vanished without a trace, and thousands of years later, its treasures rose out of the water as millions watched the amazing discovery bring back Heraklion to life. Among the items found there were giant statues of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, happy and figures of a mysterious and unknown Egyptian Pharaoh, all of them were found in a surprisingly good condition. Hundreds of smaller statues were also discovered that once belonged to the of Cleopatra. Dozens of religious artifacts here found that belonged to supreme gods of ancient Egypt such as Isis, Osiris and Horus. Underwater archaeologists also came across several sarcophagi with the mummified remains of animals sacrificed to Amun-Gereb, the supreme god of the Egyptians. But perhaps the most important of the discoveries are the numerous pillars with inscriptions and hieroglyphics, that are according to archaeologists in excellent condition.

Researchers have managed to identify the main sections of this ancient sunken city, golden plates with records in Greek language speaking of Ptolemy III (282-222 a. C), who restored the shrines and/or temples dedicated to Hercules. A black granite stele was also discovered almost intact; researchers managed to learn that Heraklion was the Greek name of this ancient city, but for ancient Egyptians, the city was called Thonis. Historians believe that the ancient city of Heraklion was located in a strategic place that connected the peninsula. Researchers have discovered numerous docks and ancient anchors.

For Pharaohs of ancient Egypt Thonis, as it was referred to, was considered as the main port due to its geographical position. It was there, where trade was mainly done, and where visitors form Greece and other countries sailed to. Archaeologists have found over six hundred antique anchors of various shapes and over sixty shipwrecks dating from the sixth to the second century BC. According to Goddio, ancient sailors would throw their anchors into the water after long journeys as offerings to the gods.

Goddio discovered numerous statues, among those, near the shrine dedicated to Osiris, a large number of artifact were found made out of pink granite. Other objects and statues were also found, but the once that caught the attention of archaeologists were three colossal statues made out of pink granite, depicting a king, a queen and the god of fertility, abundance and the Nile flooding. This demonstrates the great importance the temple once had in ancient Heraklion.

Another one of the objects found holding important significant was a stele made out of pink granite, with bilingual writings describing the ideological significance that the sanctuary of Heraklion had under the Ptolomaic reign.

Did Heraklion vanish just like Atlantis?

Well, many large cities just like Heraklion, Alexandria and Canoups were destroyed by catastrophic natural disasters. Researchers from the University of Cambridge conducted a study of the mediterranean tectonic plates and discovered that a geological fault could have caused a great earthquake and tsunami in the year 365 AD. According to scientists, the earthquake that struct the region in the past could happen again since they calculated that due to the geological features, the region is prone to catastrophic earthquakes every 800 years.

The fate of Heraklion was shared by other ancient cities that suffered similar catastrophes hundreds or thousands of years ago, some of them are the ancient city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and the ancient city of Canopus.

Just like this city was discovered by chance, marine archaeologists will perhaps, one day, also find the legendary city/continent of Atlantis, who might be located somewhere under water, waiting to come to life once again, winning over history and archaeology for good.

Image source: ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photos: Christoph Gerigk