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The Arab Destruction Of The Library Of Alexandria: Anatomy Of A Myth

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Chapter Summary

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some writers are still disposed to believe and even repeat the story of how the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by the Arabs after their conquest of the city in 642 A.D., by order of the Caliph 'Umar. An Egyptian scholar, Ibn al-Qiftī, wrote a history of learned men in about 1227, and included a biography of John the Grammarian in the course of which he told the story on which the legend is based. The myth of the Arab destruction of the Library of Alexandria is not supported by even a fabricated document. The original sources of the story are Muslim, the only exception being the Syrian-Christian Barhebraeus, who copied it from a Muslim author.

Keywords: Alexandria; Arab destruction; Caliph 'Umar; Great Library; Ibn al-Qiftī; Muslim; myth



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