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Tradition's Destruction: On the Library of Alexandria


Author(s): Daniel Heller-Roazen
Source: October, Vol. 100, Obsolescence (Spring, 2002), pp. 133-153

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Tradition'sDestruction:
On the LibraryofAlexandria

DANIEL HELLER-ROAZEN

Disasters
Recapitulating
"I shall not recapitulate the disastersof the Alexandrian library,"Edward
Gibbonwritesin the fifty-first
chapterof TheHistory
oftheDeclineandFall oftheRoman
The historianresolves,withthesewords,to remainsilentabout thatwhich
Empire.1
distinguishesthe Alexandrianlibraryabove all else: its "disasters."But it would be
rashto conclude thatGibbon,therefore,
simplyfailsto addressthe calamitiesthathe
so clearlyavoids.Withthe characteristically
double gestureof a disavowal,he at once
invokesand distancesthem. His discussionof the institutionand posterityof the
librarycannot but call to mind the destructionsthathe passes over in silence; it
thatitwillnot "recapitulate."
frames,withoutrecounting,thevery"disasters"
Gibbon's words,in thisway,registerthe singularstatusthat the Libraryof
Alexandria still occupies today:that of an institutionin which the conservation
and the destructionof traditioncan hardlybe told apart,an archivethat,in a vertiginous movementof self-abolition,threatensto coincide entirelywithits own
destruction.The pages thatfollowconsiderthe structureand sense of thissingular
archive.The formtheytake is less thatof the modernscholarlyarticle,whichaims
at the formulationand demonstrationof a novel argument,than thatof the "memof antiquity,
ory notices,""textualremarks,"and "commentaries"
(6rrovipaTca)
whichsoughtto recall and explicatecertaindecisiveaspects
of the textsthatpreceded them.2In thiscase, the remarksand commentaries,whichreferto a corpus
of classicaland late ancientworksthatis at once literary,
scienhistoriographical,
tific,and philosophical, recall preciselythat which Gibbon excluded fromhis
monumentalHistory:
the many"disasters"thatthe Libraryof Alexandria,in its life
and afterlife,
remedied,incited,and suffered.
simultaneously
1.
Edward Gibbon, The Historyof theDeclineand Fall of theRomanEmpire,ed. David Womersely
(London: Allen Lane [The Penguin Press], 1994), vol. 5-6, p. 285.
On the 0rropviPV6caa,
2.
see Franz B6mer, "Der Commentarius: Zur Vorgeschichte und literarischen Form der SchriftenCaesars,"Hermes81 (1953), pp. 210-50, esp. pp. 215-26; RudolfPfeiffer,
Historyof Classical Scholarship:FromtheBeginningsto theEnd of theHellenisticAge (Oxford: Oxford
Press,1968), pp. 48-49.
University
OCTOBER 100, Spring2002,pp. 133-153. ? 2002 October
Institute
Magazine,Ltd.and Massachusetts
of

il'iiiii':,~-iik'1~4:~-::::
!1 ............
_,:

..

:I:.
R;?:

o'v

The Cage oftheMuses

Ancient visitorsto Alexandria often remarkedthat it bore the formof a


chlamys,the mantlewornbyMacedonianand Thessalianhuntersand soldiersand,
later,Greek and Roman warriors.3Like the chlamys,whose lengthwas double its
width,the cityfoundedbyAlexanderin 331 B.C.was roughlyrectangularin shape,
borderedbythe Mediterraneanto the northand byLake Mareotisto thesouth.Any
reconstruction
of the topographyof the citymustrelyprincipallyon Strabo,who
arrivedin Egypton a military
campaignin the entourageof PrefectAuliusGallusin
24 B.C.,remainingin Alexandria,as he tellsus, for"a long time,"beforedescribing
the Ptolemaiccenterin detailin the seventeenth
book of his Geography.4
The "long
sides"of Alexandria,Straboexplains,"are those thatare bathed by the twowaters,
each
stadia,and the shortsidesare the isthmuses,
havinga diameterof about thirty
being sevenor eightstadiawide and pinchedin on one side bythe sea and on the
otherbythe lake."5Alongsidethe GreatHarbour,whichstretchedacrossthe northeasterncoastfromthe promontory
of Lochias to the causewaythatjoined the cityto
the island of Pharos, lay the region Strabo calls "the Palaces" (T x 3aolIaEl), which

acquiredthe name "Brucheion"in Roman times.Composinga thirdor fourthof the


ancientcity,thisarea housed the royalgroundsand gardensas wellas the officesof
It was also home to the mostcelebratedof all
and public institutions.6
government
3.
Plutarch,Alexander,
5-11; Strabo,Geography,
XVII, 1, 8.
4.
P. M. FraserreckonsStrabo's stayin Alexandriato have lasted fouryears.See Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria(Oxford:OxfordUniversity
Press,1972), vol. 2, pp. 12-13, n. 23.
5.
trans.Horace LeonardJones,vol.
XVII, 1, 8; the textcited here is thatof TheGeography
ofStrabo,
Press,1932), p. 33.
1 (Cambridge:HarvardUniversity
6.
Strabo, XVII, 1, 8. On Strabo's account and the topographyof the city,see Fraser,Ptolemaic

at thetimeat
Map ofancientAlexandria
whichitbecame
a Roman

Destruction:
On theLibrary
Tradition's
ofAlexandria

135

Alexandrian inventions, the Ptolemaic MouoaEov, "shrine of the Muses," or


"Museum,"whichconstitutedthelargestcenteroflearningin theancientworld.
Among classical sources there exist two accounts of the foundationof the
Ptolemaic Museum. One tradition, whose earliest source lies in the Letterto
Philocrates
of the second centuryB.c.,7 identifiesit as the creation of the second
Ptolemaic monarch,PtolemyPhiladephus,who ruled in Alexandria from285 to
246 B.C.8This explanation of the origin of the Museum can be found again in a
numberof laterwriters,such as Philo,Josephus,Athenaeus,Epiphanius,and the
ByzantinescholiastTzetzes.9A second traditioninsteadattributesthe foundation
of the Museum to PtolemySoter,"the firstof the Macedonians to establishthe
wealthofEgypt,"as Tacituscallshim.10The sole documentsupportingthistradition
dates fromthe second centuryA.D.,when Irenaeus offersthe followingaccount of
the institutionof the librarywithintheAlexandrianMuseum:"Ptolemythe song of
Lagos [thatis, PtolemyI] had the ambitionto equip the libraryestablishedbyhim
in Alexandria with the writingsof all men as far as theywere worth serious
attention."11Since the classical authors who attribute the foundation of the
Museum to PtolemyPhiladephuserrin theiraccountsof the administrative
history
of Alexandria,relatingthatthe second Ptolemaickingwas counseled by a scholar
who in facthad been exiled at the startof the king'sreign,it is generallyaccepted
todaythatIreneaus's account is the mostprobable,and thatthe fabled "shrineof
the Muses" of Alexandriadates back to the timeof itsfirstrulerafterthe death of
Alexander,at theverybeginningof the thirdcenturyB.C.12
Strabodevotestwosentencesto the workingsof the Museumin his accountof
Alexandria,and theyfurnishus withthe fullestand most detailed account of its
natureand organization."The Museum,"he writes,"isa partofthePalaces,"
has a walkway[rrEpirraTov],
an arcade [[iF8poav],and a large house, in
which there is the eating hall for the men of learning
[cptoh,6ycov
whosharetheMuseum.Theyforma community
with
in
&v8bp<v]
property
vol. I, "Foundationand Topography,"pp. 3-37.
Alexandria,
7.
On the Letter,
see its most recent English edition, in which it appears as AristeastoPhilocrates
ed. and trans.Moses Hadas (New York:Harper & Brothers,1951). Fraser (Ptolemaic
(LetterofAristeas),
Alexandria,vol. I, p. 696) dates the letter "as early as about 160 BC"; for Fraser's reasoning, see
PtolemaicAlexandria,II, pp. 970-72, n. 121.
8.
AristeastoPhilocrates,
9-10, apud Eusebius PraeparatioEvangelica,VIII, 1. It is worthobserving,
however,that unlike manylater textsclearlyfounded on it, the Letter
discussesnot the Museum but
solelythe AlexandrianLibrary.
9.
See MostafaEl-Abbadi,TheLifeand FateoftheAncient
Library
ofAlexandria(Paris: United Nations
Educational, Scientificand CulturalOrganization,1990), p. 79.
10.
Tacitus,Histories,
IV,831.
11.
Irenaeus,Adversus
vol. 8, 11-15.
Haereses,
III, 21, 2, apud Eusebius,HistoriaEcclesiastica,
On the inconsistency
12.
in the Letter
see Hades's editorialremarksto the relevantpasofPhilocrates,
sage (Aristeasto Philocrates,
pp. 96-97); on the time of the foundation of the Museum, see Fraser
vol. 1, pp. 321-22), who indicatesthat the Letter's
(Ptolemaic
Alexandria,
identificationof Demetriusof
Phaleron as the firstLibrarian of the Museum is at odds withits ascriptionof the foundationof the
Museum to Ptolemy II, since Demetrius, the advisor of Ptolemy I, was immediatelyexiled upon
Philadephus'srise to the

136

OCTOBER

commonand a priestin chargeoftheMuseum,whowasformerly


appointed bythekingsbutis nowappointedbyCaesar.13
Strabo'sfewlinesleave no doubtthatthe Museumwasmodeled,in itsformand function,on the twogreatcentersof learningof classicalAthens,the PlatonicAcademy
Demetriusof Phaleron,whomclassicalauthorscredit
and theAristotelian
Lyceum.14
had been a pupil in the Aristotelian
withthe establishmentof the royallibrary,15
Academybeforerulingas tyrantof Athensforten years,being expelled in 307 B.C.,
and arrivingin Egyptsome ten yearslater;and the structureof the "shrineto the
Muses"he is thoughtto have institutedunder PtolemySoterbears the tracesof the
Atticcenterat whichhe studied.We knowfromDiogenes LaertiusthattheAcademy
contained a "shrineto the Muses" (pouoEov) and, like the AlexandrianMuseum,
in addition to the famous "walkway"
from
had "arcades" (ii'paq)
(rEpircaTov)
as
whichthe Peripateticschool drewits name.16And the rules of the
Lyceum, we
learn fromTheophrastius'swill,stipulatedthatits memberswere to "notto alienate
theirpropertyor devoteit to theirprivateuse,"but maintaintheirinstitutionas a
"temple,"
just as theAlexandrianMuseum,in Strabo'saccount,housed a "community
withpropertyin common and a priest,"'17
becominga secularinstitutiononlylong
afterits founding,at the timeof the Roman Empire.'sCertainquestionsabout the
PtolemaicMuseum,to be sure,remain.Werethereprivatequarters,or (as one might
inferfromStrabo'stermfortheir"community,"
o6vobo0) did the scholarsadmitno
individualproperty?
Was thereteachingin the Museumand, iftherewas,whatwasits
form,and wheredid ittakeplace?The classicalsourcessuggestno clearanswers.
More can be said about the activityand achievementof the "men of learning" (cpihohX6ywv
vbpCov)who dweltand workedin the Museum.Their profession
could not be betterexpressedthan bythe epithetthatStrabo attributesto Philitas
of Cos, perhaps the firstgreatHellenisticliteraryfigure:"at once poet and critic"
(rroliTrqc ipa Kai KpITIK6O).19 They were not only dedicated to the composition of

literaryworks;at the same time,theyalso formulatedthe principlesand practices


of the firsttextualcriticismin the West.Their scholarshiptook the formof a massive projectaimed at the conservationand, more radically,the "emendation"and
"rectification"(liopeouv) of the worksof the classicalGreekauthors:itis here that
the manyformsof textualcriticismstillemployedbymodernliteraryand historical
13.
Strabo,Geography,
XVII, 1, 8. Translationmodified.See GustavParthey'scommentson thispassage
in Das alexandrinische
Museum(Berlin:NicolaischeBuchhandlung,1838),pp. 51-56.
14.
See El-Abbadi'shelpfulremarks,TheLifeandFateoftheAncient
Library
ofAlexandria,
pp. 84-90.
15.
On Demetrius,see the Aristeas
toPhilocrates,
189;
pp. 9-10; Plut.,Apothegms
ofKingsand Generals,
Aelian,VariaHistoria,
III, 17; and DiogenesLaertius,V. 77-80,wherea listofDemetrius'sworksis given.
16.
See the account of Polemon, who ran the Academy from 314 to ca. 276 B.C.,in Diogenes
Laertius,IV, 19: "He would withdrawfromsociety,confininghimselfto the garden of the Academy;his
scholars remained in small cells nearby,livingclose to the shrine of the Muses [kouOEIOV] and the
arcades [?EsEpa]."
17.
DiogenesLaertius,V,51-52.
18.
As Fraserremarks,
Ptolemaic
vol. 1,p. 313.
Alexandria,
19.
Strabo,Geography,
XIV,

On theLibrary
Destruction:
Tradition's
ofAlexandria

137

scholarship,fromthe purificationof diction to the practice of marginalannotation and the division and ordering of metrical sequences, are invented and
refined.20The historyof the Alexandrian Museum maywell be regarded as the
historyof the developmentof classical scholarshipas such, fromthe time of its
first"learned man," Zenodotus of Ephesus (ca. 285 to ca. 270 B.C.),who was not
only an earlylexicographerof literaryGreek but also the firstcriticaleditor of
Homer, to thatof its last great figure,Aristophanesof Byzantium(ca. 204 to 189
B.C.), who has been called the "founderof Greek punctuation"21and is largely
responsibleforthe fundamentaldefinitionof the metricaland prosodic units of
OT'pOp, VTrioTpopog,and irro86q) accepted by all subsepoetry (rrapayp o,por,
readers
of
classical
literature.22
quent
Not all the contemporaries of the Museum appreciated the activitythat
transpiredbehind itswalls.In twoof the hexametersof his Silloi,Timon of Phlius,
a studentof Pyrrhonthe Skepticwho lived in the thirdcenturyB.C.,expresseda
viewof the institutionthatwas hardlyflattering:
p33PICKOi XPaKiTOI

MouOiwv

6FTIEiplITCO8)qpl6VTEq

:v TahaPW.

Manyare feedingin populous Egypt,scribblerson papyrus,incessantly


wranglingin the bird-cageof the Muses.23
It is difficult,however,not to read Phlius's reference to the "scribblers" (XapaKITaI) of

the Museum (whicharchlyalludes to the Greektermforthe pen behindwhichrare


birdswere kept,X6pa)24 as a documentof the prominenceand importanceof the
it mocks.Afterthe "scribbles"of the manybirds"feedingin Egypt,"
veryinstitution
classicalletterswould neverbe the same.Workswould henceforth
be produced and
reproduced,throughoutthe Greekand Roman world,in the formtheyacquiredin

Alexandria: introduced by a summarystatement (6 rro6ioli) describing their content,

accompaniedbycriticalmarginalsigns(aqpYca) explainingobscureor doubtfulpas-

if theywere in verse, clearly separated and numbered, the


sages, their lines (KCr<ha),

papyrusscrollson which theywere copied bearing the thin strip of parchment


latercalled indexor titulus
bythe Romans) thatrecordedtheirname and
(oia u3poq,
author.25
The "cage of the Muses"would not leave even thatmostminimalelement
See Pfeiffer,
20.
in particular,
History
ofClassicalScholarship,
pp. 87-209. On 5iopeouv and
iwpeo6wai
see ibid.,pp. 215-33.
21.
Pfeiffer,
History
ofClassicalScholarship,
p. 179.
On Zenodotus,see "Zenodotus and His Contemporaries,"Pfeiffer,
22.
History
ofClassicalScholarship,
pp. 105-22; on Aristophanes,see "AlexandrianScholarshipat Its Height: Aristophanesof Byzantium,"
in ibid.,pp. 171-209.
Fr.12 Diels (= 60 Wachsmuth);
23.
on Timon'sverses,see Pfeiffer,
History
ofClassical
pp. 97-98.
Scholarship,
24.
Luciano Canfora,La biblioteca
(Palermo: Sellerio Editore,1998), p. 45.
scomparsa
25.
See GiorgioPasquali's incisiveremarkson the importanceof the Museum forclassicallettersin
his entry"Biblioteca,"whichappears in the Enciclopedia
italianadi scienze,lettere
e arti(Milan and Rome:
Bestelti& Tumminelli,1930), vol. 6, pp.

138

OCTOBER

of writing,the letter,intact:classicalpaleographershave observedthat,duringthe


age of the Museum,the Greekscriptunderwenta seriesof radicalalterations,determiningtheformitwouldretainuntillong afterthefalloftheRoman Empire.26
TheCosmic
Library
The treasure of the Museum, of course, was the Library.Its fame in the
ancientworldwas such thatwhen AthenaeusdiscussedPtolemaicbook collections
in the second centuryA.D.,he could dismissthe subjectof the Libraryitself,asking:
"Whatreason is thereforme even to speak of the numberof books,the establishment of libraries,and the collectionin the Museum,consideringhow theyare in
the memoriesof everyone[rT&olTOU'TWV OVTWV KaTa IJV
rJrv]?"27It is precisely on
these matters,however,thatmemoryfailsus today.The veryquestion of the relation of the Museum to its Library,whichno accountof eitherinstitutioncan avoid,
remainsdifficult
to resolvewithanyprecision.It has been observedthat,byvirtueof
none of the classicaltextsthathavebeen transmitted
to
"an unusual coincidence,"28
us ever mentionsthe two Ptolemaicestablishmentsat once. In the thirdcentury
B.C., the poetryof Herodas, like thatof Timon, alludes to the Museum,but not to
the Library;29
later,the LetterofAristeasdiscussesthe formationof the Libraryin
some detail, withoutever naming the Museum itself;and when Strabo, in the
passage we have examined,describesthe scholarlycenterof Alexandria,he omits
any referenceto its Library.The Greek and Latin termsfor"library"(343Pilo~6Kq,
bibliotheca)are of littleassistancein thesematters,fortheyare definedbyclassical
and late ancientsourcesas signifying
of books" (nam 13loXeiorlKq
simply"repository
librorum
read
in
the
of Isidore of Seville):30
we
Etymologiae
interpretatur,
eiKq reposito
collection"could
"shelf,""box,"or "cupboard,"as well as "archive"or "papyrus-roll
translatethe ambiguousterminvokedby the worksthatreferto the Alexandrian
holdings.31It is impossible,for these reasons, to establish whetherthe Library
constituteda buildingof its own and, if it did, whetherit was physically
separated
fromthe Museum;but the lack of anyexplicitancientidentification
of the "repositoryof books,"as distinctfromthe "shrineof the Muses,"suggeststhatthe Library
mostprobablycoincided,to a greateror lesserdegree,withthe Museumitself.32
See C. H. Roberts, GreekLiterary
Hands: 350 B.C.-A.D. 400 (Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress,
26.
1955), xv;see diagrams1-5.
27.
Athenaeus,V, 203 E.
28.
El-Abbadi,TheLifeand FateoftheAncient
Library
ofAlexandria,
p. 90.
29.
Herodas, Mimes,I, vv.26-33.
30.
siveOriginum,
Isidore,Etymologiae
VI, 3, 1.
On the term and concept of "library"in Greek and Roman antiquity,see the Handbuchder
31.
ed. Georg Leyh,vol. 3: Geschichte
derBibliotheken
(Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz,
Bibliothekswissenschaft,
1955), pt. 1, ch. 2: Carl Wendel and Willi G6ber,"Das Griechisch-R6mische
Altertum,"
esp. pp. 52-24;
see also Canfora,who recallsthatthe primarymeaning of i3X10Oe6'iKis simply"shelf' (La biblioteca
scomparsa,
p. 86).
32.
vol. 1, p.
Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,

The classicalsourcesprovideonly
the most cursory accounts of the
The auctorto whomwe must
Library.33
turn for a detailed account of the
Alexandrian institution is neither
Hellenistic nor Roman but, rather,
comByzantine, the twelfth-century
mentator and scholiast Johannes
Tzetzes, whom the great philologist
Richard Bentley, anticipating the
judgment of many modern scholars,
once dubbed "a Man of much rambling Learning."34 Two pages of
his introduction
Tztetzes's Prooemium,
to the studyof Aristophanes,contain
the fullest known discussion of the
operation of the Library, which,
although immediatelybased on late
ancient grammaticaltreatisesand literarydigests,is thoughtto reach back
"ultimately to some Alexandrian
sources of the Ptolemaic period."35
The text itselfhas been transmittedto us in three Greek editions,a Humanist
translation,and in the formof a Latin scholiumto Plautus,attributedto a certain
The
"Caecius,"whichwas discoveredin the firsthalfof the nineteenthcentury.36
versionsof the text,broadlyspeaking,concur in all importantmatters.In each
case, the descriptionof the Libraryopens withan account of the scholarlyactivity
withoutwhichit would not have been imaginable."Under the royalpatronageof
PtolemyPhiladephus,"Tzetzes tellsus, "Alexanderof Aetolia edited [8Wlcp6ooav]
the books of tragedy,Lycophronof Chalcis those of comedy,and Zenodotus of
Ephesus those of Homer and the other poets."37The workof "editing"(the verb
to whichTzetzes has recourse,Giop6ouv,indicatesat once textualcomparison,rectification,and edition) thus lay at the foundationof the Alexandriancollection;
the Ptolemaicarchivecollected above all restoredworks,textsassembledforthe
firsttime,farfromthe time and place of theirproduction,in theirtotalityand
purity.At thisstage of its development,the acquisitionand orderingof the books

nV1,

Tug

See the fragmentsassembled by FriedrichSchmidt,Die PinakesdesKallimachos(Berlin: Emil


33.
Ebering,1922), pp. 8-15. Schmidtfailsto recordthe passage fromIrenaeus cited above,whichshould
also be considered in this context: Irenaeus, AdversusHaereses,III, 21, 2, apud Eusebius, Historia
Ecclesiastica,
V,8, 11-15.
Dissertations
Dr. RichardBentley's
Socrates,
34.
Euripides,and
upon theEpistlesofPhalaris,Themistocles,
AEsop,ed. WilhelmWlIgner(Berlin:S. Calvaryand Col, 1874), p. 85.
UpontheFablesof
vol. 1, p. 321; see Fraser'snote on thissubject,II, p. 474, n. 108.
35.
Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,
auctoreUdalrico
Graecorum
The Greektextsare publishedin Georg Kaibel's Comicorum
36.
Fragmenta,
collectaetedita,vol. 1 (Berlin:Weidmann,1899), pp. 17-34; an Englishtransde Williamowitz-Moellendorf
whichis not alwaysreliable,maybe found in EdwardAlexanderParsons,
lations and a commentary,
TheAlexandrian
Glory
oftheHellenicWorld(NewYork:ElsevierPress,1952), pp. 106-21.
Library:
vol. 1, 28, pp. 31-32.
Graecorum
37.
Kaibel, Comicorum
Fragmenta,

ThePapyrus
plant.FromF W Hall, A Companion
Clarendon
to ClassicalTexts (Oxford:
Press,

140

OCTOBER

was thereforeoverseenbya directorwho was at once an editorof textsand a bibliographerof works,a "Librarian"whom Tzetzes refersto as 3IRiopi6Ac,,literally,
"guardianof books" (a termthatin PtolemaicEgyptacquired the acceptation of
"keeper of archives"38)and whom the tenth-century
Byzantinelexicon Suda calls
The
the
"director."
of
history
Library,as Tzetzes presentsit, is
simplyrrpoo-r6T-l,
tale
the
succession
of
the
of
its
from
directors,
Zenodotus,at the beginning
largely
of the thirdcenturyB.C.,to Aristarchusof Samothrace,who is thoughtto have
resignedfromhis positionin 145 B.C.39In mostcases,littleis knownof the librarians
thatdoes not concernthe Alexandriancollectionitself.Vitruviusleftus the following portraitof Aristophanesof Byzantium,in whichthe lifeof the man can hardly
be separatedfromthatof his archive:"Everyday,"Vitruviuswrites,"he did nothing
otherthanread and rereadall the books of the Library,forthe whole day,examinthe orderin whichtheywereshelved."40
ing and readingthrough[perlegere]
Tzetzes relatesthatthe Alexandrianholdingswere collectedin two separate
Libraries,one outsidethePalace and theotherwithinit.41Epiphanius,a sourcefrom
the fourthcenturyA.D.,tellsus more: the firstLibrary,he writes,was situatedin the
Brucheionand was thelargerand moreimportantof the two;the "outerlibrary"
was
foundedlater,locatedin the templeof Serapis,and called the "daughter"(Ouy-rqlp)
of the principal collection.42Accordingto Tzetzes, the "outer library"contained
42,800papyrusrolls,whichhe simplycalls"books"(3iphol).He is moreprecisein his
descriptionof the holdingsof the royalcollection,which,he reports,consistedof
and 90,000"singlerolls"(6&plyEqi
400,000"compositerolls"(ouppl~yEq)
).43Everything,
of course, depends on the sense of the bibliographicaltermsemployedhere. The
mostlikelyinterpretation
of the Hellenisticexpressionsis thatthe "composite"books
(oupplydq) were rolls containing several works, while the "single" books (&6piyEq)

insteadconsistedof one workalone.44Together,the holdingsof the twoAlexandrian


collectionswereto representthe entirety
of the literarytradition,gathered,Tzetzes
38.
See Fraser'scommentson the Alexandriannomenclature,Ptolemaic
vol. 1, p. 322.
Alexandria,
39.
El-Abbadi,TheLifeand FateoftheAncientLibraryofAlexandria,
pp. 93-94. In addition to the editionsof Tzetzes,an Oxyrhynchus
papyrus(P. Ox. 1241) providesimportantinformationabout the succession of the Alexandrianlibrarians.
40.
Vitruvius,De architect,
VII, prooem. 8-9.
41.
Graecorum
Kaibel, Comicorum
Pb, sec. 20, p. 19; Mb, sec. 29, p. 29. On ms. Ma, see
Fragmenta,
vol. 2, pp. 477-78, n. 130.
Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,
42.
Epiphanius, De mens.etpond.,166 B (12, 24ff.Dind), reproduced in Schmidt,Die Pinakesdes
Kallimachos,
pp. 11-12.
43.
Graecorum
Kaibel, Comicorum
Pb, section 20, p. 19; the correspondingpassage in Mb
Fragmenta,
(in ibid.,section 29, p. 31) givesthe same account.
44.
See Fraser,Ptolemaic
vol. 1, p. 329, who,followingBirt(Das antikeBuchwesen
Alexandria,
[Leipzig:
1882], pp. 486-90), rejects the reading of the termssuggestedby FriedrichRitschlin his Die alexanBibliotheken
unter
den
ersten
derHomerischen
Gedichte
durchPisistratus
drinischen
und dieSammlung
Ptolemiiern
nachAnleitung
einesPlautinischen
Scholions(Breslau: G. P. Aderholz,1838), pp. 21-34. See also Luciano
nelmondoanticoe medievale,
ed. GuglielmoCavallo
Canfora,"Le bibliotecheellenistiche,"in Le biblioteche
(Rome: Editori Laterza, 1989), pp. 5-24, esp. pp. 12-13. Cf. the remarksof RudolfBlum,who follows
the same interpretation,in Kallimachos:TheAlexandrianLibraryand theOriginsofBibliography,
trans.
fromthe GermanbyHans H. Wellisch(Madison: University
ofWisconsinPress,1991), p.

Destruction:
On theLibrary
Tradition's
ofAlexandria

141

as we read in the anonymous


writes,"fromeverywhere"
ubiqueterrarum
(6&T0VTaX6eEV,
forthepurposesofstudyand criticalattention.
Humanisttranslation)45
The sourcesof the collectionbecame,alreadyin the ancientworld,the subject
of much discussion.Manyof the workshoused in theAlexandriancollections,to be
sure,would have constitutedreproductionsof textsthatwould not have been difficult to obtain during the centuries of its operation. But books also arrivedin
Alexandria by more circuitousroutes.Galen, who was himselfintimatelyfamiliar
withthe textualhistoryand criticismof the Hippocraticcorpusand who oftencommentedon the Library,furnishesus withtwostrikingaccountsof the proceduresby
whichthe Ptolemaicrulersand librariansacquired theworkstheywishedto collect.
Explaining how the copy of the Epidemicsthat once belonged to the physician
Mnemon of Side came to be housed in Alexandria, Galen recounts that the
Ptolemiesissued an edict orderingall shipsarrivingat the port to be searchedfor
books thatmightbe aboard them.If anywere found,theywere to be immediately
confiscatedand copied; the originalswerethen to be added to the collection,while
the duplicateswere to be returnedto the owners.Such books,Galen remarks,were
markedas such in the Library,wheretheybore a specificlabel: "fromthe ships"( K
AXoiwv).46The Ptolemaic acquisitivenessalso turned,in a more dramatic case,
againstthe statewhoseown productionconstitutedthe greatestpartofitsholdings.
The Athenian authoritiesgranted PtolemyIII permissionto borrowthe manuscriptsof the dramaticworksofAeschylus,Sophocles,and Euripides,to reproduce
them in Alexandria;once transcribedin Egypt,the copies were then sent back to
theAthenianstatearchives,whilethe originalsjoined the Ptolemaiccollection.47
All of the sources,classical and postclassical,attributethe same aim to the
Alexandrianaccumulationof books: to constitutean archivein whichthe totality
of literaryworkswould be meticulouslyordered and secured. The termsbywhich
Greek and Roman authorsexplain the Ptolemaicprojectdiffer,
but these are variations on a theme; the purpose of the monumental collection, in each case,
remains unchanged. "To collect...

all the books in the world" (T6 ouvoyElvy...

the oldest
explainsthe Letter
ofAristeas,
KOTO T6V
13Aio1),48
document that bears witnessto the
existence of the Library.The explanations
offeredbythe latersourcesare, in some sense,onlyechoes: the Librarywas meant
"to collect all the books of the inhabitedworld,"writesFlaviusJosephus,in the
firstcenturyA.D.;49it soughtto constitute"a collectionof all men's writings,"
aiming to "assemblethe writingsof all men,"recountJustinand Irenaeus,a hundred
Saint CyrilofJerusalemin the
yearslater;its creatorswantednothingelse, affirms
fourthcentury,than "to collectbooks thatwerein everyplace."50
irrOVTOaT6

45.
46.
47.
48.
49.
50.

r
OiKOUp`VfV

In Schmidt,Die PinakesdesKallimachos,
pp. 9-10.
Comm.in Hipp.Epidem.iii (xviia 606-7) (=Corpusmedicorum
vol. 10, 2, 1, pp. 78ff.).
Graecorum,
In Hpp. deNaturaHominisI, 44-105 (=Corpusmedicorum
vol. 5, 9, 1, p. 55).
Graecorum,
Aristeas
toPhilocrates,
p. 9.
XII, 12, 14.
AntiquitatesJudaicae,
Adv.Haer.,III, 21,

142

OCTOBER

The natureof the Alexandrianholdings,in the accountsof the classicaland


medievalsources,thusremainsconstant,despite-or, rather,because of-the alterations and discrepanciesin the classicaland medieval descriptionsof theirexact
contents.The Letter
tellsofthe dedicationofthe Ptolemaicauthoritiesto
ofPhilocrates
the projectof translating
barbarianworksinto Greek,the subjectof the epistleitself
being preciselythe redactionof the Septuagint;and subsequentdiscussionsof the
Library,both pagan and Jewish,stressthe inclusionof biblicalas wellas Greekworks
in the collection.51
of the collecBythe timeofEpiphanius,however,the consistency
tion'scontentshas changed: the works"fromeverywhere"
now includenot onlythe
worksof Greekwriters("poets and prose writers,orators,and sophists,physicians,
ofmedicine,and historians")and notonlythoseofpeoples representedin
professors
the HebrewBible ("the Elamitesand Babylonians,theAssyrians
and Chaldeans,and
the Syrians"),but also thoseof thepeoples withwhomthefourth-century
Hellenistic
world of Epiphanius was in contact ("the Romans, Phoenicians, Indians, and
a twelfth-century
Arabichistorian
In the History
Persians").52
oftheWiseofIbn al-Qifti,
who discussesthe historyof the Libraryand itsfateaftertheArabconquestofEgypt,
the tale of Ptolemaicbibliomaniais again recounted,in termsthatowe much to the
AristeanLetter.
No referenceto the Hebrewholdingsof the collectionremainsin this
accountof theAlexandrianarchive,butbynowthe scope of the Ptolemaiccollection
has neverthelessswelled again, to include worksnot only of "India, Persia, and
Babylonia,"but also of the peoples (in factunknown,of course,to theAlexandrians
themselves)of"Jurjan"(Georgia) and "Arman"(Armenia).53
No term could better characterize the simultaneously altering and
immutableobject of the Alexandrianarchivethan the one that,at the timeof the
techniLibrary'sfoundationand growth,acquires a novel significanceas a terminus
cus of philosophical parlance: "the world" (6 K6apJoc).The concept lay at the
center of Stoicism,the "School of the Porch" that flourishedas never before in
Alexandria and that,forthisreason, could be defined,above all, as a doctrineof
the world.For the ethical and political philosophyof the Stoa taughtnothingif
not thatthe multiplicity
of peoples, "unitedamong themselvesin one societyand
civili
et societateconiunctos),54
conciliatione
formed a single
commonality"(quasi
ruled
a
one
The
"great city" (P.EYaX6rroAic,
law.55
magna urbs)
by
Library,the
achievement
of
Ptolemaic
was
the
archive
of
this
crowning
Egypt,
"megalopolis";
51.
See Clement of Alexandria,Stromata,
I, 22; Anatolius,apud Eusebius, HistoriaEcclesiastica,
VII,
32, 17; Eusebius, PraeparatioEvangelica,VIII, 1; St. CyrilofJerusalem,Lect.Cath.,IV, 34; Chrysostom,
Hom.superMatth.,V, 2.
52.
Epiphanius,166 Bff.
53.
Ibn al-Qifti,HistoryoftheWiseMen,cited in El-Abbadi,TheLifeand FateoftheAncientLibraryof
Alexandria,pp. 168-69. On the Libraryof Alexandria in the Arabic literarytradition,see Pierre
Casanova, "L'incendie de la bibliotheque d'Alexandrie par les arabes,"Acadimiedesinscriptions
etbellesrendusdessiancesdel'annie1923 (Paris: A. Picard, 1923), pp. 163-71.
lettres,
Comptes
54.
Veterum
ed. Hans von Arnim (Leipzig: B. G.
Cicero, De nat. deor.,II, 78, in Stoicorum
Fragmenta,
Teubner,1905), 3 vols.,vol. 2, fr.1127.
55.
See ibid.; Philo, Quaest.etsolut.inExodumI, 1 (=vonArnim,ed., Stoicorum
Veterum
vol.
Fragmenta,
2, fr.584).

On theLibrary
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Destruction:
ofAlexandria

143

and the formin whichit collected works"fromeverywhere,"


arrangedaccording
to a single order,mirroredthat of the Hellenistic "world,"definedby the Stoics
preciselyas one organized "society[or republic] of all" (rroAITEi TOU r aCvTr6).56
The cosmicLibrarycould onlybe Alexandrian.
Pinacography
Novel in its size and scope, the Alexandriancollectiondemanded a new form
and summaryof
of writing:a guide was needed forthe registration,
identification,
in
the manyrolls,Greekand barbarian,proseand verse,contained theshelvesofthe
Library.It was not long beforeone wasinvented.Shortlyafterthe timeof the constitution of the collection under the direction of Zenodotus, its firstdirector,
as Strabocalls
C Kai ypCappa~TIKiv),
Callimachus,"bothpoet and scholar"
(rroI]qTrqr ap
him,57and perhapsthe greatestof the Hellenisticliteraryfigures,produced a work
unlikeanybeforeit,whichlies at the originof the technologiesof the catalogue,the
bibliography,and the biobibliography:the Pinakes,literally"Tablets"or "Tables,"
ofclassicallettersin a summary
abbreviation.
whichaimed to recordthetotality
No traceremainsof the completePinakes,
and anyunderstanding
of theirform
and contentsmust,as a result,involvea certainworkof reconstruction,
based upon
classicaland medievaltestimoniaand ancientcitationsof the "Tables."Two medieval
textsfurnishus withinformation
concerningthe titleand timeof productionof the
Pinakes.The firstcan be foundin a biographicalentryof Suda, whichmayonce have
formedthe introductionto an edition of Callimachus'spoems. Here we read that
Callimachuscomposeda workthatbore thetitleTablesofAll ThoseWhoWere
Eminent
in
AllKindsofLiterature
in OneHundredand Twenty
and ofTheirWritings
vcKEC TcV
Books(fl
Ev

lchax~JyVTwV

KOi GV OuviypayOv,

iv

pl4AiOS

K ' Kci p ').58 The sec-

aToro,
rOalbEi,
and less reliableaccountof the Pinakesis thatof Tzetzes,who informsus
ond,
later,
that,aftera thorough"criticalrevision"(6v6p0woilq)of the books in the Library,
Callimachusmade "Tables"ofthem.59
Scatteredremarksamongclassicalsources,howtraitsof the genre createdbyCallimachus;
ever,allowus to definethe characteristic
and here we mayalso make use of thosefragments
fromthe Pinakestransmitted
in
textsoflaterGreekand Romanauthors.60
The "Tables" appear to have been divided into sections,defined by genre,
and subsections,composed of listsofworksof individualauthors.Withineach sec-

56.
Dio Chrysost.,Or XXXVI, sec. 37 (=von Arnim,ed., Stoicorum
Veterum
vol. 2, fr.1129).
Fragmenta,
57.
Strabo,XVII, 3, 22.
58.
a
See Suda, Kc~
(= Call. test.1).
acXoXc
59.
Comicorum
Pb. 19, section20. On Tzetzes'sremarkson the
Tzetzes,in Kaibel,
Graecorum
Frgamenta,
Pinakesand the variousversionsin whichtheyare preserved,see Pfeiffer,
History
ofClassicalScholarship,
pp.
127-28.
60.
See RudolfBlum'sanalysisof selectedclassicalpassagesin whichthe textof the Pinakesis partially
quoted (Kallimachos,
pp. 152-54). On the principlesof orderingthatcan be attributedto the Pinakeson
the basis of the classicaland medievalsources,see Schmidt,Die PinakesdesKallimachos,
pp. 46-98; Carl
mitderdesVorderen
Wendel,Die griechisch-r6mische
Orients
(Halle: Niemeyer,1949
Buchbeschreibung,
verglichen
[HallenischeMonographien,3]), pp. 24-79; and Pfeiffer,
History
ofClassicalScholarship,
pp.

144

OCTOBER

tion, authors were classifiedalphabetically,and each entryincluded a shortbiographical sketchfollowedby the enumerationof the author's works,defined in
turnby theiropening words,theirtitles (where theyhad them: certainworksof
oratoryand lyricpoetryposed specificproblemshere),61and an estimateof the
numberof lines of whicheach workconsisted(in oTiXol,ifit was in prose, and in
Errq, if it was in verse). Extant sources name as generic sections "oratory"
(0rqTopIK&),"laws" (v6pOli),and "other writings" (rrvToSranr6

but

ouyypvppalaTc);
the referencesto the "Tables" among classical writerssuggest
that the Pinakes
were also composed of classes includingthe worksof epic, lyric,tragic,and comic
The form
poets, as well as the those of philosophers,historians,and physicians.62
of such "Tables," to be sure, inevitablygave rise to certain technicaldifficulties:
where,forexample, to listan author such as Prodicus,who wroteon oratoryand
philosophical subjects,and where to place Theodectes, who was by all accounts

"both rhetorician and tragedian" (pirTOpIK&

Kai TpayIK6c)?

Yet despite these limi-

tations, the "Tables," once composed, proved invaluable; and it was not long
before Callimachus's work was transcribed and disseminated throughout the
Hellenisticworld. Supplements,such as the treatise"On [or Against:nlp6c]the
Pinakesof Callimachus"63by the later scholar,Aristophanesof Byzantium,only
confirmedthe indispensability
of the original.
Hoveringbetween the formswe would todaycall catalogue, biography,and
the "Tables"werewhatno otherworkbeforethemhad been: a single
bibliography,
repertoryof all literature,whichat once introduced,identified,and summarized
the totalityofwritingin the compressedand orderedspace of the index.Its design
was soon imitated:the "Tables"of the holdingsat Pergamon,the anonymous"catalogue ofRhodes"of the firstcenturyB.C.,and the collectionsofancientbiographies,
fromHermippos of Smyrnato Diogenes Laertius, all followin the wake of the
AlexandrianPinakesand would not have been possiblewithoutthem.64The influence of Callimachus's"Tables,"more broadly,has been tracednot onlythroughthe
WesternMiddle Ages,but even to the masterpieceof classicalIslamicliteraturethat
is the Fihrist
of Ibn al-Nadim,the tenth-century
who defineshiswork
Iraqi belletrist,
in termsthat strikingly
recall the formand purpose of the Alexandrian"index":
"thisis a catalogue,"al-Nadimwrites,in his introduction,"of the books of all peoples, Arab and foreign,existingin the language of the Arabs,as well as of their
scripts,dealing withvarioussciences,withaccounts of those who composed them
and the categoriesof theirauthors,togetherwiththeirrelationshipsand recordsof
theirtimesof birth,lengthof life,and timesof death,and also the localitiesof their
cities,theirvirtuesand faults,fromthe beginningoftheformationof each scienceto
thisour time,whichis theyearthreehundredand seventy-seven
afterthe Hijrah."65
61.
See Blum'sremarkson thissubject,Kallimachos,
p. 156.
See Pfeiffer,
62.
Historyof ClassicalScholarship,
pp. 128-29; Schmidt,Die PinakesdesKallimachos,
pp.
49-57.
63.
The Greektitleis ambiguous,as Pfeiffer
has noted (HistoryofClassicalScholarship,
p. 133).
64.
On post-Alexandrian
formsofpinacography,see Blum,Kallimachos,
pp. 182-225.
65.
The Fihrist
ed. and trans.BayardDodge, vol.
ofal-Nadim:A Tenth-Century
SurveyofMuslimCulture,

On theLibrary
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Destruction:
ofAlexandria

145

Like everytechnicaladvance in the formsofwriting,the Pinakesmarkeda rupturein the traditionfromwhichtheyemerged,and Callimachus'smonumentaland


The works
unprecedentedattemptto conservethe pastcould not but alteritforever.
listedin the 120 books of the "Tables"could be inscribedin the archiveof "all kinds
of literature"(rr&ac ralbrEia) only by being transcribedin a new form;theywere
in short,did not leave thatwhich
in being transformed.
transmitted
"Pinacography,"
it absorbed intact.In the momentin whichit was recordedon the "Tablets"of the
set in a new and foreshortened
Callimachianindex,each workwas inevitably
shape:
name it,attributedto a figurefromwhose
indicatedbya titlethatwould henceforth
lifeit would now be said to spring,identifiedby an estimatednumberof lines that
to
would establishitsproperlength,its text,finally,
reduced,parsprototo,
drastically
The worksregisteredin the Pinakesthusbecame,bynecessity,
the wordsof its incipit.
what theyhad until then neverbeen: figures,ciphers,mere names of themselves.
Such was the price each workpaid foritsadmissionto thatminiaturearchivewithin
the Ptolemaicarchive:it would be rememberedonlyin being dismembered,placed
in the historyof lettersin beingextractedfromthefabricofitsproductionand summoned,as the emblemofitself,forfutureuse. For theAlexandrian"Tables"werenot
a repetitionof the past, but theirsummaryrecapitulation,66
and, like the Library
itself,the Pinakesconservedwhatwent before them to the verydegree that they
contractedintothe discontinudestroyedit. Onlyin thisformdid thepastofwriting,
ofthe index,become at last"citablein all itsmoments."67
ous continuity
Fakesand Cheats
The Pinakesrepresented,in a characteristically
abbreviatedfashion,the comrelation
to
that
defined
the
institution
of the Library of
plex
history
very
Alexandria.Beforebeing recorded on the "Tables" of the Alexandriancatalogue,
the worksgatheredin the Ptolemaiccollectionhad already,in manycases,suffered
certain alterations;in its own "museum,"past writinghad acquired a new form,
and withinthe wallsof the Librarythe traditionof letterswas alreadyreproduced,
For the archivein which"the writrefigured,and, at the limit,radicallyrewritten.
of
all
were
and
conserved was also the one in
collected, ordered,
ings
peoples"
whichthoseverywritings,more or less perceptibly,
more or less dramatically,
were
in
the
most
extreme
falsified.
The
era
of
the
first
amended, distorted,and,
cases,
textualscholarship,criticism,and bibliographywas also, as RichardBentleyonce
recalledwithseverity,
the age of innumerable,incorrigible,
"ClumsieCheats."68
1 (New York: Columbia UniversityPress, 1970), pp. 1-2. On the Pinakesand al-Fihrist,
see El-Abbadi,
TheLifeand FateoftheAncient
Library
p. 102.
ofAlexandria,
66.
On the concept of recapitulation,see Giorgio Agamben, II tempocheresta:Un commento
alla
Lettera
ai Romani(Torino: Bollati Boringhieri,2000), pp. 74-76.
67.
WalterBenjamin,Gesammelte
ed. RolfTiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhiiuser,
vol.
Schriften,
am Main: Suhrkamp,1974), p. 694.
1, pt. 2 (Frankfurt
68.
Dissertations,
Wagner,ed., Bentley's
p. 79.

146

OCTOBER

The "Cheats"ofAlexandriawere many,and of different


types.Certaindistortions in the Ptolemaic editions of textswere the inevitable and unintentional
results of the principles that defined the organization of the collection. John
and identify
worksallowed them
Philoponusrecountsthatthe veryeffortto classify
to be mistakenfor others; the homonymyof authors and the titles,he tells us,
oftenled the librariansastray,as when theyascribeda numberofworksto Aristotle
of texts,
thatthe Stagiritehimselfnevercomposed.69The causes of the falsification
and
all
less
Ammonius
stress
the
were
often
however,
benign. Olympidorus,Elias,
at
Alexandria
the
of
works.70
The
that
could
be
made
from
forgery
profit
acquisitive ambition of the Libraryinevitablyinspired the avarice of the forger,for it
produced and sustained a marketfor any worksapparentlypenned by the great
authorsof classicalantiquity.This,Ammoniussuggests,in contrastto Philoponus,
was the real reasonforthe erroneousAlexandrianattributionofworksto Aristotle.
His commentaryto the Categories
presentsthe matteras commonknowledge:
It is said that Philadephus, wanting to make a collection of all
Aristotle'sworks,as well as all worksin general, gave greatencouragement to anyonewho would bringhim books bythe philosopher.Some,
wantingthe moneyfromthe monarch,thereforeattributedAristotle's
name to the writingsof others.71
Modem scholars,in a similarvein,have noted thatit is surelyno accidentthatthe
large pseudo-Platoniccorpus also emerges preciselyat the time of the Library.72
The prestigeof the Alexandriancollection was at stake,and the Ptolemiescould
not foregothe possibilityof anyadvance overtheirrivals."It was when the Attalids
and the Ptolemieswerein competitionovertheirown libraries,"Galen explains,
that the recklessness [or "thoughtlessness,"
of forging
1aiboupyia]
books and titlesbegan. For therewere thosewho,
to increasethe price
of theirbooks, attached the names of greatauthors to them and then
sold themto the nobility.73
Galen elsewhere suggests that this thoughtless accumulation of books at
Alexandria was the result of competition with the Library of Pergamon;74
Olympidorus,by contrast,cites the "king of Lebanon" as the great rival of the
Ptolemies.75Yet although the classical sources differin theirspecificationsof the
69.
vol.2, p. 482,n. 151,ii.
Philoponus,In Categ.(CIAG xiii.1), p. 7,citedin Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,
70.
Olymp.,Proleg.(CIAG xii, 1), p. 13; Philop. In Categ.(CIAG xiii, 1), p. 7; Elias, In Categ.(GIAG
vol. 2, pp. 481-82, n. 151.
xviii,1), p. 128,cited in Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,
71.
Ammonius,In Arist.Categ.(Venice, 1546), 10.
AlfredGudeman, "LiteraryFrauds Among the Greeks,"in ClassicalStudiesin HonourofHenry
72.
Drisler(New York:Macmillan& Co., 1894), pp. 52-74, 62.
73.
Galen, Corpusmedicorum
Graecorum,
IX, 1, p. 57 (= KfihnXV, 109) (Greek textin Fraser,Ptolemaic
vol. 2, p. 481, n. 150,ii.).
Alexandria,
74.
Galen, CMGV,9, 1, pp. 54-5 (=KfihnXV,p. 105).
75.
Alexandria,
II, 481-2, n. 151, i.)
Olymp.,Proleg(CIAG xii,I), p. 13. (in Fraser,Ptolemaic

On theLibrary
Tradition's
Destruction:
ofAlexandria

147

its effects:by
cause of the Alexandrianacquisitiveness,theyconcur in identifying
virtue of the verystructureof its institution,they make clear, the Library of
of the traditionitaimed to conserve.
Alexandriafacilitatedthe falsification
The destructiveforceof the Museum was so clear to those who lived at the
of the LibrarythatGalen,in a strikingassertion,was able
timeand in the aftermath
and faultyattributionas such in the archivesof
to locate the veryoriginsof forgery
Alexandria and its rival at Pergamon: "Before the monarchs of Alexandria and
Pergamonbegan competingin theirowncollectionsofancientbooks,"he writes,in
decisive terms, "no work had ever been falsely attributed" (rrpiv yap iv
X rri KTflOEI
rroCffalv ,I0IAV (plXoyev~oCeal oohEic
'AXEavspEicv TE Ki nEpy-6apWI
?
TI1l0EVTOra, 08oE&rryEU&SJ nrTEYvpaOrrTO
aoyypappa).76 Scholars have long treated

Galen's claim as a simple error: "Which assertion,"Bentley comments, "taken


strictlyand withouta candid allowance,is strictlyfalse";77in the most important
modernworkon the Museum,PtolemaicAlexandria,P. M. Fraserlimitshimselfto
It is doubtlesstrue thatexamplesare not
notingthatGalen's remarkis "wrong."78
and
of
contested
attributionslong before Alexandria:
lacking pseudepigraphy
debatesoverauthorshipand itsfalsification
are as old as Greekliteratureitself,and
the definitionof the Homeric corpus,the firstin the tradition,is alreadythe subject
of a clear differenceof opinion betweenHerodotus and Pindar.79It is difficult
to
achieved
imaginethatGalen,whoseownworktookthe formof textualcommentary
throughcarefulcomparisonbetweeneditionsof the Hippocratictext,was simply
ignorantof the notable historyof forgeryin the classicalworld.His wordsare perhaps mistakenif theyare understoodtoo literally.
They defineless the particular
than the structuralconditionsof its
place and timeof the inventionof falsification
occurrence.These conditions,Galen makesclear,are none otherthan thoseof the
archiveitself:worksmaybe falsifiedonlywhen theyare copied, and theirtranscription and reproductionconstitutethe sole occasions fortheirforgery.
The Library
made it possibleto betraythe past in the verygesturebywhichit aimed to remain
faithfulto it, and-with the mostimplacableinevitability-itexposed its own texts
to the chance ofbeingruinedthe momentitacquired them.
TheConflagration
In the historyof theAlexandrianLibrary,everybreakwiththe past,everyrupturein the transmission
of texts,anticipatesthe finalcatastropheof traditionthat
in
the
ancient
world
already
invariablyaccompanied any account of the Ptolemaic
76.
Commen
in Hipp.De Nat.Homin.i 44 (CMG, IX, 1, p. 55=KiihnXV, 105).
77.
Dissertations,
Wagner,ed., Bentley's
p. 82.
78.
vol. 1, p. 325.
Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,
79.
'sDissertations,
Bentley(Wagner,ed., Bentley
p. 82) remarksthat Herodotus denies that"Cypria"
is Homer's (II, c. 117), whereasPindar claimsit is (fr.189). On literaryforgeryin classicalGreece and
the ancient world more generally,see WolfgangSpeyer,Die literarische
und
Fdlschungim heidnischen
christlichen
Altertum:
ihrerDeutung,HandbuchderAltertumswissenschaft,
ErsteAbleitung,
Zweiter
Ein Versuch
Literatur
Tell(Munich: Beck, 1971); Eduard Stemplinger,Das Plagiatin dergriechischen
(Leipzig-Berlin:
B. G. Teubner, 1912, rpt. Zilrich: G. O. Olms, 1990); Hermann Peter, Wahrheitund Kunst:

148

OCTOBER

institution:the firethat,in one stroke,consumedthe monumentto classicallearning.It is,of course,this"disaster"thatGibbon is reluctanteven to name in thebody
of his History
and thathe relegatesinsteadto a footnote,wherehe remarksin passwith
a
tone
of apodictic and emphatic certainty:"The old libraryof the
ing,
Ptolemieswas totally
consumedin Caesar'sAlexandrianwar."80
And yetin the history
of thisarchive,in whichtraditionand itsloss can rarelybe told apart,even the tale
of final destructionis difficultto establishwithany certainty;there is reason to
believe thatit, too, maywellbe somethingof a falsification,
itselfthe perfectexamof
the
of
breach traditionthe archivebothsoughtto remedyand exacerbated.
ple
Caesar relatesin a passage of Cicero's BellumCivilehow he intervenedin an
Egyptian political struggle in 47/48 A.D., siding with Cleopatra against her
youngerbrother,PtolemyXIII. Once in Africa,he soon foundhimself,we read, in
a difficult
position: at land his troops had no access to drinkingwater,and at sea
his shipswere outnumbered.He presentshis strategicsolution to the problem,in
the thirdperson,withgreatpride:
The battle was foughtout withsuch violence as is the case when one
side sees in it a speedyvictory,
the other thatits onlysalvationdepended on it. But Caesar retained the upper hand, and set fireto all those
ships and to those thatlay in the dockyards;forwithhis small fleethe
could not hope to safeguard so wide an area. He then immediately
landed his troopson the island of Pharos.81
In the Pharsalia,Lucan, a contemporary,
offersa fulleraccountof the fire:"itdid not
fallupon the shipsonly,"he writes,"butspreadintothe otherquartersofthe city....
The buildingsclose to thesea caughtfire;thewindleantforceto the powersofdisaster;the flames... ran over the roofslike meteorsthroughthe sky."82
Seneca, who
died in 65 A.D.,reports(basinghimselfon a textofLivy'snowlostto us) thatthe rolls
of the archivecould not be saved: "fortythousandof the books of Alexandria,"he
tellsus, "burned"(quadrigenta
milialibrorum
Alexandriae
At the end of the
arserunt).83
firstcentury,Plutarchwritesof the same eventand identifiesit as the immediate
cause of the destructionof the Libraryitself:"When the enemytriedto cut offhis
[Caesar's] fleet,"he writes,"he was forcedto repel the dangerbyusingfire,and this
spread fromthe dockyardsand destroyedthe great library[6 Ki T-)v pJE&VXa)
und Plagiatim Klassischen
Altertum
Geschichtsschreibung
(Leipzig and Berlin: B. G. Teubner,1911); Kurt
von Fritz, ed., PseudepigraphaI: Pseudepigrapha,
Lettresde Platon, Litterature
pseudipigraphique
juive,
Entretiens
Hardt 18 (Geneva: Fondation Hardt, 1972); and NorbertBrox, FalscheVerfasserangaben:
Zur
derfriihchristlichen
Pseudepigraphie
(Stuttgart:VerlagKatholischesBibelwerk,1975 [Stuttgarter
Erkliirung
Bibelstudien,79).
80.
vol. 9, ch. 51. Gibbon's italics.
Gibbon,History
oftheDeclineand Fall oftheRomanEmpire,
81.
Cicero, BellumCivile,III, 111.
82.
Lucan, Pharsalia,X, 440ff;486-505.
83.
Seneca, De Animitranquilitate,
IX, 5. There is some debate as to the numericalfigureitself,as
the manuscriptreads quadraginta(fortythousand),but latersources,such as Orosius,implythatit was
vol. 2, p. 484,
(fourhundred thousand). See Fraser,Ptolemaic
perhapsoriginallyquadringenta
Alexandria,
n. 224.

On theLibrary
Destruction:
Tradition's
ofAlexandria

A
The
~81cpOEIpE]."84
PIXIO066KqVK T(V VECW~piV
nlVEJp6EVOV

149

account
ofthefireis

repeated,itsconsequencesrenderedevengreater,amonglatersources:in thesecond
centuryAulusGelliusthusreportsthatalmost"sevenhundredthousandrollsburned
Dio Cassius,in the thirdcenin the sack of the cityin our firstwarin Alexandria";85
the
storehouses
of grainand of books
the
fire
"reduced
to
ashes
writes
that
...
tury,
Ammianus
Marcellinusrefersin
Kai
T(AAv
v]";86
[Taq OoI&aqKo
TOU OiTOu Kcai
iPIr
the fourthcenturyto "theburningdownofa pricelesslibraryofsevenhundredthouand Orosiusin the fifthcenturyspeaksof
sand books duringtheAlexandrianwar";87
the burningof "fourhundredthousandbooks."88Fromthe "burningof fortythouthe destructionof the "greatLibrary"
sand books" to the firein the "storehouses,"
and itsentirecollectionof "sevenhundredthousandbooks,"the tale of the disaster
ofthearchiveis notonlyechoed,butretoldand amplifiedin itsgravity.
If one examinesthe sourcescarefully,
however,a numberof questionsremain.
of
the
discuss
the
war
as wellas the fire,yetrefrainfromeven
witnesses
Many
period
the
destruction
of
the
in
mentioning
Library: his historyofRome,Florusthusrecalls
Caesar's use of fire, but not its effectson the Museum,89 and in Appian of
Alexandria'sown CivilWarswe read of the "variousbattlesaround the palace" but
Such silenceabout the annihilationof
nothingofflamesthatdestroyedthearchive.90
the greatestlibraryof the ancientworldis, at the veryleast, curious. It has been
of
noted,moreover,thatSeneca, Dio, Gellius,and Orosius,who do discussthe effects
the fireon the collection,speak of the burningnot of the Librarybut simplyits
"rolls";91and it has also been pointed out that the destructionof the collection's
It
"storehouses"(6 rTnoKal)does not necessarilyimplythatof the archiveitself.92
seems a fairsuppositionthat the integraldestructionof the Ptolemaiccollection
would have meant the end of Alexandrianscholarship;but the traditionof textual
criticismin theMuseumcontinuedwellafterthe timeof thecivilwar,and the contributions of later scholars (such as Didymus,Tryphon,and Theon) are such that
Fraserhas writtenthat"itwouldbe wrongto attributeto the fireanydecisiveimportance in the historyofAlexandrianscholarship."93
Strabo'sinvaluabledescriptionof
the "men of learning"in the Ptolemaiccenteris,in itsownway,itselfa powerfultestamentto the absence of anycatastrophein 47/48: it reflectsa visitto the Museum
thattookplace less than a quarterof a centuryafterthe battlebetweenCaesar and
84.
Plutarch,Caes.49.
85.
Aulus Gellius,Noct.Att.,VII, 17, 3.
86.
Dio Cass., 42, 38, 2.
87.
Amm.Marc. XXII, 16, 13.
88.
Oros., VI, 15, 31-32.
Luc. Ann. Florus,Epitome
89.
bellorum
omnium
II, 13.
annorum,
90.
II, 13, 90.
Appian ofAlexandria,'Emfulivwn,
91.
Canfora,La biblioteca
scomparsa,
p. 147. Plutarch,Canforanotes,is alone in hisassertionthatit is
the "greatlibrary"itselfthatis consumed.
On the historyof reflectionon the Alexandrian 6rro0r6Kal,theirprecise location, and their
92.
relationto the Libraryitself,see Canfora,La biblioteca
scomparsa,
pp. 140-41.
93.
vol. 1,p. 335.
Fraser,Ptolemaic
Alexandria,

150

OCTOBER

Ptolemy XIII, and it makes no mention of any loss recently sufferedby the
Alexandriancenter.
Manymodernscholarshave forthesereasonsbeen led to a conclusionthat,at
firstglance, could not be more surprising:the Library,it has been suggested,did
not burn.Alongsidethose classicists(fromGibbon to Mommsen,Susemihl,and ElAbbadi) who maintainthatthe archivewas utterly
destroyedin the fireof the civil
there
is
now
a
substantial
tradition
of
scholars
war,
(fromRitschlto Parthey,
by
and
who
that
the
Canfora)
Pasquali,
deny
Librarycould havebeen seriouslyaffected
by the flamesfromthe harbor.94In a discrete,pointed,and altogetherexemplary
article,BertrandHemmerdingerfurnishespowerfulevidenceforthe survivalof the
The literary
evidenceforitsafterlife,
LibrarywellbeyondCaesar's mythicalflames.95
he recalls, is strong: Strabo remains silent about the firein his report on the
Museum twenty-two
yearsafterthewar;Suetonius,born ca. 69 A.D.,bears witnessto
the existenceof the AlexandriaeMusio under the reignof Claudius (41-54 A.D.);96
and Suda makesreferencesto a memberof the Museum in the timeof Theodosius
I, who died in 395.97Hemmerdingeralso citesthe publicationin 1948 of a nonliterarydocumentof singularweight,an Oxyrhynchus
papyrusrecordingthe sale of a
boat on March 31, 173 A.D.It is addressed to none other than a certain"Valerius
memberof the Museum" (06XEpiG A~lO8p(, YEvopEvW
Diodorus,vice-Librarian,
6rr6oMouodou,

i
cKaiWE XpnpaTl'E

).98 Any number of events,

rIopvqTJvoyprPcp9,
Hemmerdinger notes, could have ultimately caused the destruction of the
AlexandrianLibrary:giventhatthe reignof Theodosius markedthe beginningof
the exposureof the cityto vandalism,the possibilitiesare many.The onlyone to be
excluded,on both documentaryand literary
bases,is thatof the great"disaster"that
is too well knownto be "recapitulated,"
"the involuntary
flamethatwas kindledby
Caesar in his owndefense."99
One mightbe temptedto suggestthat,had therenotbeen a fireto consumethe
one would have had to be invented:Whatfate,afterall, could awaitthe uniLibrary,
versalarchiveotherthanitsdestruction?
Real or imagined,theconflagration
remains
the supremeemblemof the Alexandrianarchiveitself,whichshelteredthe worksof
thepastin exposingthemto disaster,
and conservingitshistory
in threatconstituting
it
with
its
own
destruction.
For
the
life
of
the
like
that
of
the fire,
ening
very
Library,
was to nourishitselfon whatit consumed,to allowwritingto livein outlivingitself,
94.
See Gibbon, HistoryoftheDeclineand Fall of theRomanEmpire;,
Theodor Mommsen, Romische
3 vols. (Berlin: Weidman, 1854-56); Susemihl, Geschichte
dergriechischen
Geschichte,
Literaturin der
2 vols. (Leipzig:B. G. Teubner,1891-92);El-Abbadi,TheLifeandFateoftheAncient
Alexandrinerzeit,
Library
of
Das alexanAlexandria;
cf.,forthe opposingview,FriedrichRitschl,Die alexandrinischen
Bibliotheken;
Parthey,
La
biblioteca
"Biblioteca";
Canfora,
Museum;Pasquali,
scomparsa.
drinische
95.
BertrandHemmerdinger,
deiclassi"Que C6sarn'a pas brul6la bibliothequed'Alexandre,"Bollettino
ci3, no. 6 (1985), pp. 76-77.
96.
Suetonius,Claudius,42, 5.
97.
See Suidas,"EO)ov."
98.
Hemmerdinger,
p. 76 (the papyrusin question,publishedbySir Harold IdrisBell, is P Merton19).
Hemmerdingeralso notesthatthis"Diodorus"is discussedin anotherOxyrhynchus
papyrus,P. Oxy.2192.
99.
ed. Womersely,
Gibbon,TheHistory
vol.5-6, p. 285.
oftheDeclineandFall oftheRomanEmpire,

On theLibrary
Destruction:
Tradition's
ofAlexandria

151

in thisway,to the catastropheof the pastin the present,the destrucbearingwitness,


transient"100
as natureitself.
tionofa traditiongrownas "totally,
eternally
Philology
The Libraryof Alexandria,in any case, did not vanishwithouta trace.It left
behind it the artboth inventedand perfectedwithinthewallsof the Museum,which
was, manycenturieslater,to lay claim to the title of the masterdisciplineof the
humanitiesas a whole. Philologyis, in everysense,the finallegacyof the Ptolemaic
archive.This is so not onlyin thatit was in Alexandriathat the term"philologist"
(cplh6hoyoy),alongside "critic" (KpITIK6O) and "grammarian" (ypaPPxaTIK6c), first

nor only
acquireda technicalsense thatapproachesthatof itsmodem equivalent,101o
in thatit was the "men of learning"of the Museum who created,developed,and
and coniectura
thatwould one daybe
refinedso manyof the techniquesof emendatio
of
centralto the criticalactivitiesof the Humanistsand, stilllater,to the constitution
the modernacademic scholarlydisciplinesof literaturein the wake of the scientific
The Alexandrianinheritanceof criticismruns
methodsof Lachmannand Bedier.102
a meansofinquiryor evena disciplineunto
beforeconstituting
deeper.For philology,
itself,delimitsthe space of a singularexperienceof whichthe Libraryis, even today,
as catastrophe.
perhapsthemostpowerfulfigure:theexperienceofhistory
which
a
the
historicaldisciplinesthat
Philology,
todayoccupies positionamong
is oftenspectralat best,knowsonlyone conceptof the past,and thatis a pastthatis
essentiallysuspect,distorted,and, in the finalanalysis,corrupt.There could be no
and
criticism,
philologyweretraditionnot broken,no fieldof textualinterpretation,
of
were
the
transmission
texts
not
and
the
obscure,
altered,
study
already
interrupted:
of
and
would
forbid
the
of
a
constitution
disimmediacy transparency understanding
of
the
of
the
of
the
on
nourishes
itself
the
cipline
language
study
past. Philology
erosionofhistory;
iterectsitselfoverthegraveofthatwhichitrecovers,dwelling,
with
on
in
its
that
has
and
can
no
enthusiasm,
everything
necrophilic
past
grownopaque
it
once
itself
as
Hence
the
was.
with
which
since
its
criticism,
longerpresent
assiduity
in
dedicates
to
the
identification
and
definition
of
the
itself
emergence Alexandria,
formsoftextualcorruption.For thefalsification
thatthephilologisttakesitupon himto
is
of
the
a
that
is
no longeritself.It is significant
that
self identify
past
verycipher
the technicallexiconofwhichthe criticmakesuse is above all one offraud:fromthe
100. Benjamin,Gesammelte
ed. Tiedemann and Schweppenhiiuser,
vol. 2, pt. 1 (Frankfurt
am
Schriften,
Main: Suhrkamp,1977), p. 204.
101. On the semantic historyof the terms pilhowhoyvo6,qtiXooyila,and pt(oXoy8'iv, see Gabriel
R.F.M.Nuchelmans,Studieniibercphiowhoyo6q,
ptxohoyla, und qthohoyEIV(Nijmegen:N. V. UitgeverseinesWortes
vonseinemersten
maatschappij,1950); Heinrich Kuch, FILOLOGOS: Untersuchungen
Auftreten
in der Traditionbis zur ersteniiberlieferten
lexikalischen
DeutscheAkademiederWissenschaften
zu
Festlegung,
Berlin:Schriften
derSektion
vol. 48 (Berlin:Akademie-Verlag,
1965); and Pfeiffer,
fiirAltertumswissenschaft,
History
ofClassicalScholarship,
pp. 156-160.
102. See Sebastiano Timpanaro, Genesidel metodo
di Lachmann(Florence: Le Monnier,1963); cf. the
"criticalhistory"of the subjectbyBernardCerquiglini,L'elogede la variante:Histoirecritique
de la philologie(Paris: Seuil, 1989).

152

OCTOBER

general rubricsof "faultyattribution"(ytE~urriypaya) and "plagiarism"(Khorr6or

XoyOKXo-rria),to the many forms of "interpolation," "contamination," and "unconfora counterfeit


technicus
to "illegitimacies"(v660o, a terminus
scious borrowings,"
in distinctionto yEv6joloo,"legitimately
"bastard,"
work,meansliterally
born"),and all
both certain (6OETEiv,
mannerof textual"inauthenticities,"
6ETEIV, 63PEOiEIV,KaT-

and suspected (IrrorrTTE6EiV,6&VTIAyEIV,&VaO(ppEIv, (pipEIv, EnIo(pipEIv,


is indeed,as AnthonyGraftonhas sugpJ
iIp[3c6E3o0a1).103Ifthephilologist
pJlbO0EIV,

ayEj68EOal)

thenitis because
gested,"entangledwiththeforgerlikeLaocoon and hisserpents,"104
he can vindicatethepastas hisobjectto theverydegreetowhichhe can demonstrate
its"monstrosity";
he mayspeakof the traditionthatprecedeshimonlyin exposingits
corruption.
is one thatis lostfromthe
The pastthata philologistseeksto restore,therefore,
outset.The veryprotocolsof textualcriticismassurethatit could not be otherwise.
thatthe textit presents,ifit has notyet
Anyeditionhas as itsconditionof legitimacy
in
and
be
hitherto
inaccessible
yetin need ofpublication;itmustconappeared print,
oftextshas untilthenconcealed.If
sistofa workthatonlya breakin the transmission
the criticaleditionis but the latestin a series,itmust,bycontrast,presupposethatall
precedingones be, moreor less,forone reasonor another,inadequate;a newedition,
as thescholarand thepublisherknowwell,isjustifiedonlyas long as it takesthe place
notof thetextitself,
butofitsmostrecentdistortion.
The apparatusofthecriticaleditiontakesthefaultsof itspredecessoras itsownpointof departure;itsveryedificeis
constructedon the destructionof the one thatwentbeforeit,withoutwhichitwould
itselfbe nothing.Despitethe role thatit has oftenbeen assignedand thatit has itself
at timesadopted,philologyis thusin no sense the handmaidenof traditionand the
whetherlinguistic,
cultural,or national:it canguarantorof an unbrokenpatrimony,
not assurethe continuity
of a historyexceptbybreakingit. Not withoutreason has
criticismbeen definedpreciselyas "the mortification
of works":105
philologymay
it
of
its
matter
once
has
its
subject
only
speak
registered veryloss,and it can giveitself
itsobjectonlyon conditionofhavingdestroyeditfirst.
Consideringtheoriginsof literary
scholarshipin Alexandria,Nietzsche,reflecton
the
that
had
once
been
his,made the followingremark,whichhe
ing
discipline
a
of
with
number
other
notes
of
ironicheading
1875,undertheunmistakably
placed,
"We Philologists":"Reverenceforclassicalantiquity..,.is an enormousexample of
quixoticism;and thatis philologyat its best...." "One imitatessomethingthatis
purelychimerical,"Nietzschewrote,"and one chases aftera wonderlandthatnever
existed" (Man ahmtetwasreinChimdrisches
die
nach,und idufteinerWunderwelt
hinterdrein,

103. See Speyer,Die literarische


und christlichen
Altertum;
Stemplinger,Das
Fiilschungim heidnischen
undKunst;von Fritz,ed., Pseudepigrapha
Peter,Wahrheit
I; Brox,Falsche
Plagiatin dergriechischen
Literatur,
di filologiafilosofica,
ed. L.
and, for a useful overview,Mario Untersteiner,Problemi
Verfasserangaben;
Sichirolloand M. VenturiFerriolo (Milan: Cisalpino-LaGoliardica,1980), pp. 109-37.
104. AnthonyGrafton,Forgersand Critics:Creativity
and Duplicityin Western
(Princeton:
Scholarship
PrincetonUniversity
Press,1990), p. 6.
105. Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte
ed. Tiedemann and Schweppenhdiuser,vol. 1, pt. 1
Schriften,
am Main: Suhrkamp,1974), p. 357.
(Frankfurt

Tradition's
Destruction:
On theLibrary
ofAlexandria

153

nieexistiert
No wordscould bettercharacterizethe singularobjectof philologihat).106
cal activity,
whoseabsence and evanescencemustbe securedto be studiedat all. The
historythatmovesthe scholarto his insensatepassionis preciselythe one thatwould
not existwithouthim,a "wonderland"(Wunderwelt)
thatmustin each case be sumof historicaland criticalconstruction.
moned anew bythe efforts
It is difficult
not to
of thissearchfora
hear the tone of disdainthathere accompaniesthe identification
world"thatneverexisted,"whichbecomesquite explicitonlya fewsentenceslater,as
of philologydooms it to an "imitaNietzschespecifiesthatthe essential"quixoticism"
tion" (Nachahmung)
thatcan producenothing:"a culturethatchasesafterthatof the
and so forththroughimitation,
butit
Greeks,"we read,"can adopt customs,thoughts,
cannotengender
nichts
The
condemnaanything[siekann
erzeugen]."107 philosopher's
tion of the "fantastical"
philologistis clear,and in the end Nietzsche'sremarkis not
altogetherunlike that of the Pigeon who, "in a tone of the deepest contempt,"
demandsexplanationsfromthatothertravelerin wonderland,Alice,forherobstinate
attachmentto make-believe:
"'Well!Whatare you?'said the Pigeon. 'I can see you're
to
invent
something!'"108
trying
Nietzscheseemsto misinterpret
his owninsight.For the pursuit
Here, however,
of the chimerical,bydefinition,
cannotbe a matterof "imitation":
wherethe original
is a world"thatneverexisted,"thereis nothingto copy,and the philosopher'sdenunciationsof the sterility
of reproductiontouch the philologistas littleas the Pigeon's
exclamationshaltAlice on her voyagethroughwonderland.Rejectingthe falsealternativeof a choice betweenthe noble but unattainableoriginand the base but facile
the good philologistfollowsthe principleonce expressedbyKarl Kraus
simulacrum,
in themaximthat"originis the goal" (Ursprung
istdas Ziel),consciousat all timesthat
the "origin"is not the presupposition
of hisworkbut itssole and finalproduct.He is
not the dutifulscribewho recordswhathas been said but the criticwho "readswhat
was neverwritten"and who knows,likeAlice,thathe has "invented"not onlysomethingbut everything,
leapingintothe pastthatneverwasjust as thefearlesslittlegirl
pops downthe rabbithole"withoutonce consideringhow in theworldshe was to get
out again."109
For onlyin such a leap does historicalscholarshipestablisha relationto
thepastthatis neitherforgetful
nor conservative,
neithersimplyobliviousnor merely
restorative.
And onlyin sucha leap does philology,
it,sucsavingthepastin destroying
ceed in the taskthatthearchivists
ofAlexandrialeftas theirlegacyto criticism:
notto
"increasetheburdenof the treasurespiled upon theback of humanity,"
butto "shake
themoff,"
so thattheymayfallat lastintoitsownhands.110
106. Friedrich Nietzsche, "Wir Philologen" 7[1], in Siimtliche
Werke:KritischeStudienausgabe,
ed.
Taschenbuch Verlag,p.
Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari,vol. 8 (Berlin: De Gruyter-Deutscher
121.
107. Ibid. Italicsin original.
108. Lewis Carroll,Alice'sAdventures
in Wonderland
and Through
theLooking-Glass
and WhatAliceFound
ed. Roger Lancelyn-Green(Oxford:OxfordUniversity
There,
Press,1982), p. 48.
109. Ibid., p. 10.
110. Benjamin,Gesammelte
ed. Tiedemann and Schweppenhiuser,vol. 2, pt. 2 (Frankfurt
am
Schriften,
Main: Suhrkamp,1977), p. 478.