Libraries before Alexandria: Ancient Near Eastern Traditions

ISBN : 9780199655359

Kim Ryholt; Gojko Barjamovic
496 ページ
156 x 234 mm

The creation of the Library of Alexandria is widely regarded as one of the great achievements in the history of humankind - a giant endeavour to amass all known literature and scholarly texts in one central location, so as to preserve it and make it available for the public. In turn, this event has been viewed as a historical turning point that separates the ancient world from classical antiquity. Standard works on the library continue to present the idea behind the institution as novel and, at least implicitly, as a product of Greek thought. Yet, although the scale of the collection in Alexandria seems to have been unprecedented, the notion of creating central repositories of knowledge, while perhaps new to Greek tradition, was age-old in the Near East where the building was erected. Here the existence of libraries can be traced back another two millennia, from the twenty-seventh century BCE to the third century CE, and so the creation of the Library in Alexandria was not so much the beginning of an intellectual adventure as the impressive culmination of a very long tradition. This volume presents the first comprehensive study of these ancient libraries across the 'Cradle of Civilization' and traces their institutional and scholarly roots back to the early cities and states and the advent of writing itself. Leading specialists in the intellectual history of each individual period and region covered in the volume present and discuss the enormous textual and archaeological material available on the early collections, offering a uniquely readable account intended for a broad audience of the libraries in Egypt and Western Asia as centres of knowledge prior to the famous Library of Alexandria.


List of Maps and Figures
List of Tables
List of Contributors
1 Kim Ryholt and Gojko Barjamovic: Libraries before Alexandria
2 Kamran Vincent Zand: The Rise of Libraries in the Near East, c. 2600-2300 BCE
3 R. B. Parkinson: Libraries in Ancient Egypt, c. 2600-1600 BCE
4 Paul Delnero: Archives and Libraries in the Old Babylonian Period, c. 1900-1600 BCE
5 Paola Dardano: The Tablet Collections of the Hittite Empire, c. 1450-1100 BCE
6 Matthew Rutz: Libraries in Ancient Syria and the Levant in the Late Bronze Age, c. 1450-1100 BCE
7 Fredrik Hagen: Libraries in Ancient Egypt, c. 1600-800 BCE
8 Eleanor Robson and Kathryn Stevens: Scholarly Tablet Collections in First-Millennium Assyria and Babylonia, c. 700-200 BCE
9 Irving Finkel: Assurbanipal's Library: An Overview
10 Kim Ryholt: Libraries from Late Period and Greco-Roman Egypt, c. 800 BCE-250 CE


Kim Ryholt is Professor of Egyptology at the University of Copenhagen, specializing in ancient Egyptian history and literature. He was director of the Centre for Canon and Identity Formation under the University of Copenhagen Program of Excellence from 2008 until 2013 and has been responsible for the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection and its publication since 1999.; Gojko Barjamovic is Senior Lecturer on Assyriology at Harvard University. His main areas of research are the economic and social history of Western Asia in the second and first millennia BC, with a particular focus on the study of trade in the Bronze Age period and the development of early markets and trans-regional interaction. He also writes on early state power and civic institutions of governance, historical geography, intellectual history, and absolute chronology.