When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, he founded and named a new town (for himself, of course) on the Nile Delta where the river flows into the Mediterranean Sea. He quickly marked off its outline, his vision of what should go where. It needed a great lighthouse to guide ships into the harbor. It needed places for commerce, for government, for worship, and for learning. Most especially for learning. It should have a place for scholars to gather, places for experimenting and exploring, a place to house all the collected knowledge of man up to that time. It needed a great library.
This was way before laws on intellectual property. Ships entering the Alexandria harbor were required to hand over all books, maps, or other written material, regardless of what language or material they were written in or on. The materials were to be copied and the originals returned to the ship. Evidence indicates this didn’t always happen. After all, it takes a long time to copy a book. In this case, the ship was out of luck.
The Great Library in Alexandria aimed to be the repository of all man’s collected wisdom since the beginning of time. Or, at least, since the beginning of writing. Under the rule of their Macedonian captors, all named Ptolemy or Cleopatra, the city and the library flourished–then burned. In fact, it may have burned three times, entirely or in part. If only we had the precious contents of that library. What could they tell us?
This is my starting point for my upcoming novel, The Gold Box.