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Library of Alexandria

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One of the most important questions for any student of the ancient world to address is 'how do we know what we know about antiquity?' Whether we're thinking about urban architecture, or love poetry, or modern drama, a wide range of factors shape the picture of antiquity that we have today. This free course, Library of Alexandria, encourages you to reflect upon and critically assess those factors. Interpreting an ancient text, or a piece of material culture, or understanding an historical event, is never a straightforward process of 'discovery', but is always affected by things such as translation choices, the preservation (or loss) of an archaeological record, or the agendas of scholars.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand the ancient and modern significance of the Library of Alexandria
  • critically assess the evidence in the different accounts of its destruction
  • understand the ways in which different modern contexts and ideologies shape our interpretations of historical events.

By: The Open University

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Library of Alexandria


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This OpenLearn free course encourages you to reflect upon and critically assess the factors that shape what we know about antiquity, as well as offering some insight into how different approaches to antiquity – whether through texts, material culture, or modern receptions – can work together. It is important to be aware of how studying the ancient world is always, at heart, an interdisciplinary endeavour, a fact which the case study in this free course demonstrates particularly well. You will explore the ancient Library of Alexandria, a great institution of learning and scholarship founded by the Ptolemaic rulers of Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course A863 MA Classical Studies part 1 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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