azalaea (azalaea) wrote in little_details,

How much do we know about the Library of Alexandria, and the rest of the ancient city?

I'm trying to construct a reasonable picture of what it would be like to visit the library at Alexandria late in its heyday, which is difficult, given the lack of consensus about when that even was (for my purposes the later we can reasonably go the better) and the fact that the apparent ruins were only found in 2004. I doubt there are definitive answers to many of my questions, but I'd like to get an idea of the balance of probabilities, as far as such a thing exists, at least so I know where I'm free to make it up.

1) Are there any decent reconstructions or artistic impressions of what the library might have looked like from outside, especially in the context of the wider city? What would you have seen if you were on a ship approaching the harbour?

2) What else, other than the Pharos, might you have seen from the harbour?

3)  Wikipedia and other sites say that there was an inscription over the gates reading "the place of the cure of the soul", which sounds very nice, but  I find it rather odd that this phrase is never quoted in Greek (it would be Greek, right? If not, what?) and never attributed to any ancient observer.  So, how do we know this? Is it true? And what was the original Greek?

4)  I'm not certain how well-founded Hypatia's traditional association with the library is, but it would at least hint women weren't completely banned, or anything. Do we know anything about how freely women could visit, in comparison with men?

5)In fact  -- this is probably unlikely, but do we know or sumise anything about how easy/bureaucratic access to the library was, or might have been - I mean, could you just wander in off the street, or did you have to apply for the equivalent of a library card?! Or were there different degrees of openness for different sections? Would there have been someone at the door to offer help and/or keep an eye on you?

6) Are there likely to have been any relatively unskilled jobs there one might have been able to get fairly easily? A friend of mine told me she'd read that there were boys who lived in the library who worked fetching books for the scholars and slept on top of the book-cases! Not sure where that came from, though, and I'm looking for jobs for adults in any case.

I've read the articles on Alexandria and the Library on Wikipedia, searched "Library of Alexandria" and found this BBC page  (also as an image search), "reconstruction" "place of the cure of the soul", etc, and I've watched some clips of Carl Sagan's documentary Cosmos on Youtube.

I keep finding lots of fights over the competing theories about the library's destruction.

Tags: egypt: history, greece: history, ~librarians & libraries
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