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accurate; the very circumstance of their never transcribing any long passage of the books which they mention, may lead us to suppose, that they had not read them. There is therefore, every reason to believe that the Greeks had derived their knowledge from oral communication, and consequently, had learned no more than was generally known amongst the people. This for the reasons already stated, cannot be considered as the real philosophy of the priesthood. Besides, we are also to remember that the Greek historians who have spoken of Egypt, began to visit that country rather late, at a time when the priests themselves had lost much of the learning for which their predecessors had been so justly celebrated; because, although under the Pharaoh Psammeticus, foreigners were allowed, for the first time, to visit the interior of the country, and settle in Egypt, the Greek historians who have spoken of that country, lived very long after that period; and you perhaps remember, that from the irruption of Cambyses downward, the priests, by degrees, lost a portion of their knowledge, until they became an ignorant and degenerate race, sharing in all the superstitions of the people. To judge therefore of the knowledge of the priesthood under the Pharaohs from the garbled account we have of their successors, is as absurd as to judge of the merit of the Greek writers under, or before Pericles, from the productions of their successors after Mahomet II.
I am led to this conclusion from what I have
already stated of the great library attached to what is commonly called the tomb of Osymandias at Thebes. Diodorus erroneously makes him to be the successor of Protheus, and a contemporary of Priam, king of Troy, for he was much more ancient. But even admitting the chronology of Diodorus, it is evident, that before the Trojan war, the Egyptians had made so much progress in philosophy and learning, and had composed so great a number of books, as to allow Osymandias to form a large collection of them. We also know, that at Memphis, in the temple of the god Phtha, there was another great library, from which the Greek poet Naucrates accuses Homer of having stolen both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and to have afterwards published them as his own. True or false as this accusation may be, it is certainly a proof of the public opinion at that time in favour of the learning of the Egyptians; for Naucrates would never have dared to ascribe the first invention of the two poems to the Egyptians, unless they had been thought capable of writing them. Indeed the very circumstance that this collection of books was open to the public, and might be consulted by every respectable individual, must inspire us with no mean idea of the wisdom and civilization of the old Egyptians. The love of books, however praise-worthy it may appear, generally speaking, is nevertheless deserving of our encomium in two cases only;—when one is able to know their value, and appreciate them
according to their merit; and when their use, that is, the reading of them, is not confined to a few privileged individuals. Whether the Egyptians actually deserve the praise of having been able to act up to the former case, I am unable to tell; but they certainly merit the eulogium of having practised the latter; for it seems that the principle of granting to the public a free access to these repositories of learning was never forgotten, and never abolished. It was one of the rules of the library of Osymandias, and it continued to be an established rule in regard to the library of Alexandria also. And perhaps, since I have mentioned this once famous and still celebrated collection of books, I may as well occupy the few minutes we have left with a short account of its origin, increase, and destruction. You know, that at one time it was, and it is still, considered as the greatest library that ever existed in the world. It was commenced under Ptolemy Soter, and collected by the care of his successor, Demetrius Phalereus, from all the quarters of the globe. At the very beginning it contained 54,800 volumes. But, soon after, their number almost exceeded calculation. Josephus says, that it contained not less than 200,000 volumes, and that Demetrius hoped, in a short time, to extend it to half a million. Eusebius asserts, that at the death of Ptolemy Philadelphus, the number of books amounted only to 100,000. But he allows that, by degrees, the successors of this prince increased it, till at last they collected the enormous number of 700,000 volumes. It is true, that in regard to a great number of these books, the term volume may suggest a wrong idea of their size, as many learned critics and antiquaries have properly noticed; for many of them must have been papyrusses, or rolls, by no means as large as our volumes. But still the number stated by the different historians is so prodigiously great, that even admitting the force of this criticism to the fullest extent, the collection of books at Alexandria must have been immense; for we know that the Ptolemies spared neither trouble nor expense to collect as many books as they could. It is on record, that Demetrius bought, at a most exorbitant price, some of the works of Aristotle, and many other celebrated productions, for which he sent commissioners to Rome, Athens, Persia, and even to AEthiopia. It is even reported, that in this library there was the original manuscript of the Greek translation of our holy Scripture, commonly called the Septuagint, which Ptolemy had caused to be made, by applying to the grand priest Eleazar, through the means of Aristeus, a very learned man, and the captain of the royal guard. It is also said, that the autographs of the tragedies of AEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, were to be found in this truly magnificent library. They had been obtained from the Athenians by Ptolemy Phiscon, on the deposit of fifteen talents, which
the Egyptian monarch chose rather to lose than return the precious manuscripts, of which however, he sent them a copy; and in justification of the Athenians, for parting with the venerable originals, the historian remarks, that the loan of them was the absolute condition on which Phiscon agreed to let them have some corn in a year of great scarcity.
It is to be lamented, that of this magnificent library not the smallest vestige exists. Every scholar is acquainted with the causes which obliged Julius Cæsar to order the burning of his fleet, whilst he was besieged in Alexandria. Unfortunately the wind carried the flames further than Cæsar expected. The houses near the harbour having caught fire, the conflagration reached the district which was called Burchion, spread to the magazine of corn, and at last attacked the library. Some writers believe, that in this terrible circumstance 400,000 volumes perished, and that all the rest were carried to the new library of Serapion. Amongst these were the 200,000 volumes of which Anthony had stripped the library of Pergamo. This famous library is said to have been formed by the kings Eumenes and Attalus, who, wishing to emulate the grandeur and magnificence of the Ptolemies, collected not less than 200,000 volumes, in their capital of Pergamo ; but Anthony having taken the city, carried away the books, and made a present of them to Cleopatra.
Be this as it may, this library of Alexandria was,