Finally, I was able to enter Alexandria! Below are a few glimpses of my trip to the old city and its modern library.
Being able to visit the Library of Alexandria was a great event on my ten days trip to Egypt in the beginning of January this year. Having studied Philo and the Judaism of Egypt for many years, I had wanted to see Alexandria for a long time. While we don’t know that very much about the ancient library of Alexandria, and scholars are still discussing what really happended to it, the present Library is a great tourist attraction in Alexandria.
The link above refers to the Library’s excellent webside; here you can even search the collections of books for its various items, and there were excellent search facilities in the Library. But I must admit I was a little surprised, and somewhat frustrated that their holdings of books were severely limited. And; I had expected to find more about Philo!
I had searched the library online before I left for Egypt, and did not find much about Philo. And this lack was confirmed when I searched the library in situ. I had the privilege of donating an exemplar of my dissertation to the library when I was there, and I found a couple of well known books about Philo: above you can see my discovery of the P. Borgen Festschrift and the D.E. Aune Festschrift, both containing articles on Philo. But two things surprised me; I could not find any texts of Philo, and many of the books dealing with him were not given a special location, but were to be found in shelves containing the label “General”. One might ask: don’t they know about the famous Alexandrian called Philo Judaeus? I think he deserves much more attention and a lot more volumes in this library!
As you can see there were still room for many more students, even when there were several torurist strolling around.
This is not the Amphitheater of Philo’s time, of which he has so much to tell us when he records the events of the pogrom at ca 38 AD. This one is from the 4.th century and can held only a few hundreds. What is surprising is that this is the only Roman amphitheater known in present day Egypt. It was discovered by mere coincidence when foundations were being laid for apartments buildings. Now there are still some excavations in the area; close by there is also excavated a nice Roman villa, called ‘the villa of the birds’ because of its many mocaic pictures of birds, still keeping their beautyful colors.
Like most other Roman amphitheatres, the acoustic was excellent. There was a marked spot in the front middel; when you stepped upon it an talked, the sound changed dramatically; step aside, and it changed again.
There were also some remains of several other buildings in the area; it was said that several of them were lecture halls; hence in the 4.th century, it probably functioned as a center of learning.