LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA, 48 BC

 

 

 

 Caesar crossed the river Rubicon drawn by the gravity of his ambition

but also in his own defense.  He had been summoned back to Rome from Gaul,

a region which he had vanquished.

He knew that he likely faced execution if he came alone;

and so his legion crossed that pivotal barrier with him.

In doing so they ignited civil war.

 

Pompey, first man in Rome, was a renowned general and a political titan.

As Caesar approached the capital, Pompey fled

taking with him senators and their Republican allies.

They gathered troops as they made their way south.

 He concentrated his forces in mainland Greece on favorable terrain.

He greatly outnumbered his enemy.

 

Yet Caesar had his veterans,

men who had fought with him in desperate and seemingly hopeless combat.

   Men accustomed to victory.

Despite all the obstacles in his way, Caesar pursued his foes

and destroyed their army at the Battle of Pharsalus

August, 48 BC.

 

Pompey fled to Egypt seeking military aid and shelter.  But there he was betrayed.

On the orders of Ptolemy XIII, Pharaoh of Egypt, he was treacherously murdered.

When Caesar arrived in pursuit a few days later,

he was presented with a gift from the Egyptian delegation.

They hoped it would please him.

Inside a basket lay the head of Pompey The Great.

 The sight apalled and enraged Caesar.

 It was said that he cried when given Pompey’s seal-ring.

 

 As Caesar entered the Pharaoh’s palace, he was treated as an honored guest.

Ptolemy hoped to gain Caesar’s help in his civil war against his sister Cleopatra.

She had shared the throne with Ptolemy, succeeding their father after his death.

Now the two factions were at war and Cleopatra was in hiding.

She was smuggled into Caesar’s room.  It is said she was concealed in a rug.

Her legendary charm and seductiveness won Caesar over to her cause.

 

Thereafter, the Roman troops joined those of Cleopatra and drove out Ptolemey.

During the fighting in Alexandria, a raging fire broke out.

In the desolation that followed, the great Library of Alexandria

was partially destroyed and vast numbers of papyrus scrolls

containing the literary, scientific and philosophical legacy

of the ancient world were irretrievably lost.

Though we still collectively treasure the works that have survived,

it has proved impossible to preserve many of those that perished in the flames.

 

 

LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA, 48 BC

 

I hold many classic treasures

Of the human mind and soul

I am hostage to great Caesar

Who shuddered at the horrid sight

Of Pompey’s severed head

 And now defends the Nile queen

 Shares her royal bed

 

It is he who wields the torch

That threatens me with flames

I to be a sacrifice

 A casualty of Fate

He to march to glory

Where assassins lie in wait

 

Yet I am left to burn 

At such a dreadful cost

The world to mourn these mirrors

In the wreckage of the lost

 

May you who pass through life

Be worthy and be blessed

To leave the echoes of exalted thought

As those these precious scrolls had kept

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