Library of Alexandria
Library of Alexandria

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Library of Alexandria

Gregory Bar Hebraeus/Abu’l Faraj, Chronicum Syriacum

Pearse, R. (2010) ‘Bar Hebraeus, Abd al-Latif, and the desctruction of the library of Alexandria’, Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, Putting Things Online, Freeform of Speech, Information Access, and More [Online]. Available at http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2010/09/11/bar-hebraeus-abd-al-latif-and-the-destruction-of-the-library-of-alexandria/ (Accessed 9 June 2014).

In those days Yahya al-Nahwi, who was known as Grammaticus in our language, enjoyed fame among Arabs. He was a resident of Alexandria and a Jacobite Christian who ascribed to the Savari creed. In his last days he renounced the Christian faith, and all Christian scholars of Egypt gathered around him and advised him to recant, but he did not. When the scholars were disappointed they stripped him of all the offices that he held. He lived in that condition until Amr ibn al As (the Muslim commander of the army conquering Egypt) entered Egypt [in 641 A.D.].

One day Yahya went to see him. Amr came to know about his learning and scholarship and he paid him great respect. He began a discourse on philosophical issues which were unknown to Arabs. His speech made a deep impression on Amr and he became fond of him. As Amr was an intelligent, wise and thoughtful man, he made Yahya his companion, never parting his company.

One day Yahya said to Amr, “Whatever there is in Alexandria is in your control. As to things that are useful for you we have nothing to do with them, but as to those which you may not need, my request is that you favour us by putting them at our disposal, for we deserve them more than anyone else.” Amr asked him what they were. He said: “They are the books on wisdom and philosophy that are stored in the state library.”

Amr replied that he could not decide the matter himself but had to seek the Caliph’s instructions in this regard. Accordingly, he informed the Caliph of the matter and asked for instructions. The Caliph wrote: “If those books are in agreement with the Quran, we have no need of them; and if these are opposed to the Quran, destroy them.”

After receiving the reply Amr began dismantling the library. At his orders, the books were distributed among the public baths of Alexandria. Thus in a period of six months all the books were burnt and destroyed. Believe it, and do not be amazed.

Return to Activity 3

A863_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371