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In the earlier times libraries, among the Greeks, were only possessed by private individuals, such as Euripides, Aristotle, and Theophrastus. Tradition attributed the establishment of a public library at Athens to Pisistratus in the 6th century B.C. This was said to have been carried off by Xerxes, and afterwards restored by the Syrian Seleucus Nicanor. The greatest library known in antiquity was that founded by the first Ptolemy at Alexandria, which is said to have contained 400,000 volumes. Next to this, the most important was that of the kings of Pergamon, said to have contained 200,000 volumes. This library was presented by Marcus Antonius to Cleopatra, when the best part of the library at the Museum of Alexandria was burnt down at the taking of the town by Caesar. There was a second library at Alexandria in the Serapeum. The first libraries which were formed at Rome were Greek, as, for instance, those of Aemilius Paullus, Sulla, and Lucullus, who had brought them to Rome as booty after their wars in Macedonia, Athens, and Asia Minor. From the middle of the last century of the Republic it became the fashion in wealthy families to form libraries; in country houses, especially, they were regarded as indispensable. Caesar had formed the plan of founding a public library in Rome, and of setting Varro to make a collection of Greek and Latin books. The first public library of Greek and Latin books was actually set up in the time of Augustus by Asinius Pollio in the atrium of Libertas. Augustus himself founded two more, the Octavian library in the portico of Octavia, and the Palatine in the temple of the Palatine Apollo. The most celebrated of those founded by the later emperors was the bybliotheca Ulpia of Trajan. In the later imperial period there were twenty-eight public libraries in Rome. There were some very considerable private collections, for instance, that of Serenus Sammonicus, the tutor of Gordian, which consisted of 62,000 volumes. 1,700 rolls have been found in a library discovered during the excavations at Herculaneum.
Type: Standard
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