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Indaysgoneby,PhilipofMacedonhadwantedAristode

tobetutortoAlexander.Ptolemy,thefirstmonarchof
Egypt,wouldhavelikedAristode'sfollowerTheophrastus
toteachhisfavouriteson:butTheophrastushadremained
inAthens,sendingPtolemytheaccomplishedscholarStrato
inhisstead(StratoinfacteventuallysucceededTheophrastus).
TheLagiandynastyhadMacedonianantecedents,
andtookparticularprideinitsdirectdescentfromPhilip
(PtolemyencouragedthestorythatPhiliphadbeenhisreal
father,andTheocritusdevelopsthisthemeinhisEncomium
ofPtolemy);itthusenjoyedacertainhereditaryrelationship
withtheAristotelianschool.Indeed,Aristode'sfatherhad
beenthepersonalphysicianoftheMacedonianking.ThisexplainswhyDemetrius
decidedonAlexandria,for
hetoohadbelongedtotheschool,havingbeenapupilof
AristodeandafriendofTheophrastus.Whengovernor
ofAthenshehadshowngreatfavourtoitsmembersand
alumni,whoformedaselectandratherunpopulargroup.
NowthathisprotectorCassanderhadfallenintoadversity,
dragginghisprotegedownwithhim,Demetriustook
refugewiththePtolemies.ThePtolemiesweremoreover
relatedtoCassanderandtohisfatherAntipater,'regent'
ofMacedoniaafterthedeathofAlexander.Demetriustook
17

AristotelianmethodswithhimtoEgypt,andtheywerethe
keytohissuccess.ThemethodsthathadputthePeripatetic
schoolintheforefrontofwesternlearningwerefollowedin
Alexandria,inthegrandstyleandunderroyalpatronage.
Beforelongpeopleweresayingthat'Aristodehadtaught
thekingsofEgypthowtoorganisealibrary':theapparent
anachronismconcealedarealtruth.Demetriuswasalso
saidtohaveurgedPtolemyto'collecttogetherbookson
kingshipandtheexerciseofpower,andtoreadthem'.He
becamesointimatewiththekingthathewascalled'thefirst
ofhisfriends',andwasevencreditedwithinspiringthelaws
enactedbyPtolemy.
Oncehehadreachedtheseheights,Demetrius,ledby
hisloveofintrigue,begantomeddleindynasticpolitics.
Heretoohetriedtoguidetheking'shand.Ptolemyhad
childrenbyhismarriagetoEurydice,andfourchildrenby
Berenice,amuchtravelledandfascinatingwidowwhowas
anativeofGyrene.BerenicehadarrivedinAlexandriain
companywithEurydice,andallthreehadlivedtogetherat
courtinperfectamity.However,Ptolemybegantofavour
oneofhisfourchildrenbyBerenice,andatlengthproposed
tosharethethronewithhim,muchtoEurydice's
distress.Demetrius,motivatedperhapsbythefactthatshe
wasAntipater'sdaughter,tookituponhimselftointerfere
onEurydice'sbehalfinthisdelicateaffair.Hemaywellhave
feltthatPtolemywasnotlikelytogothroughwithadynastic
alliancethatwouldconnecthimwithafamilyoflocallandowners
insteadofwiththerulersofMacedonia.Hebegan
toutterhintsandwarnings,takingwhathethoughtwould
proveaneffectiveline:'Ifyougiveplacetosomeoneelse.

youwillfindyourselfemptyhanded.'However,hisrather
pettyargumentsfellondeafears.Ptolemyhadmadeuphis
mindtoseathisfavouritesononthethronebesidehim.
Eurydice,realisingthattherewasnomoretobedone,left
Egyptindespair.
Soonafterwards,earlyintheyear285,theyoungPtolemy
officiallytookhisplacebesidehisfather.Forthreeyearsthey
sharedthekingdom,andthenPtolemyISoterdied.His
successor,nowsoleruler,addressedhimselftothequestion
ofhowbesttoberidofDemetrius.Hehadhimarrested,
oratleastplacedundersurveillance,whilehewasmaking
uphismind.Andsothewheelhadturnedfullcircle,and
DemetriuswasnobetteroffthaninthosewretchedTheban
days,whenCrateshadspokenthefarseeingbutineffectual
warningwhichhe,Demetrius,hadsmiledatandignored.
Stillunderstrictsurveillance,hewasdespatchedtoa
remotevillageinland.Ashelaydozingthereoneday,hefelt
asuddenstabofpaininhisrighthand,whichdangledbeside
himashedrowsed.Inthebriefmomentthatelapsedbefore
hedied,herealisedaserpenthadbittenhim.Ptolemy,itwas
quiteclear,hadarrangedtohavehimkilled.

TheUniversalLibrary
DEMETRIUShadbeeninchargeofthe Hbrar>'. From
timetotimethekingwouldenquireabouthisbooks,
ratherasifhewerereviewinghistroops:'Howmanyscrolls
dowehavenow?',hewouldask,andDemetriuswouldgive
himthelatestfigure.Theyhadaparticulargoalinview,for
theyhadcalculatedthattheymustamasssomefivehundred
thousandscrollsaltogetheriftheyweretocollectatAlexandria
'thebooksofallthepeoplesoftheworld'.Ptolemy
composedaletter'toallthesovereignsandgovernorson
earth',imploringthem'nottohesitatetosendhim'worksby
authorsofeverykind:'poetsandprosewriters,rhetoricians
andsophists,doctorsandsoothsayers,historians,andallthe
otherstoo'.Hegaveordersthatanybooksonboardships
callingatAlexandriaweretobecopied:theoriginalswereto
bekept,andthecopiesgiventotheirowners.Thecollection
thusacquiredwasknownasthe'ships'collection'.
Onoccasion,Demetriuswoulddrawupawrittenreport
forhissovereign.'Demetriustothegreatking',itwould
begin:
Inpursuanceofyourorderthatthecollectionsofthelibrary
shouldbeenlargedandmadecompletebytheadditionof

thosebooksstilllacking,andthatthosewhichareimperfect
shouldbeproperlyrestored,Ihavetakengreatpains,andI
nowsubmitthisaccountofmyproceedings. ..

Inoneoftheseaccounts,Demetriussuggestedthat*the
booksoftheJewishlaw'shouldbeacquired.'These
books,intheircorrectform,reallyshouldbeincluded
inyourlibrary',heargued.Hereheinvokedtheauthority
ofHecataeusofAbdera,certainthatthiswouldfavourably
impresstheking.InhisHistoryofEgyptyHecataeushad
devotedagooddealofspacetoJewishhistory.Hisreasons
fordoingso,asreportedbyDemetrius,wererathercurious:
'Itisnowonder',Hecataeushadargued,

thatauthors,poetsandthecommonrunofhistorianshave
failedtorefertothesebooksandtothemenwhohavelived
andstilllive,inaccordancewiththem:iftheyhavebeenpassed
overinsilence,thatisnotbychance,butbecauseofthesacred
matterthattheycontain.
Whenthenumberofscrollshadreached200,000,and
Ptolemywaspayinganothervisittothelibrary,Demetrius
returnedtohistheme.Hehadbeeninformed,hetoldthe
king,thattheJewishlawswerealsobooksworthcopying
andincludinginthelibrary.
'Verywell,'repliedPtolemy.'Whathindersyoufrom
seeingtothebusiness?Youknowthatyoucangive
ordersforwhateveryouneedinthewayofmenand
materials.'
'Butthebooksmustbetranslated,'saidDemetrius.'They
arenotwritteninSyriac,asisgenerallybeHeved,butin
Hebrew,analtogetherdifferentlanguage.'

IntheCageoftheMuses
INtheMuseum,however,Hfewasfarfromquiet.*Inthe
populouslandofEgypt,'sneeredapoetofthetime,
'theybreedaraceofbookishscribblerswhospendtheir
wholelivespeckingawayinthecageoftheMuses.'Timon,
thescepticalphilosophertowhomweowethesewords,
knewthatthefabledMuseumwastobefoundinAlexandria
(orrather,'inEgypt':heisvagueonthispoint).He
callsit'thecageoftheMuses'becauseheseesitsdenizens
asrarebirds,remoteandpreciouscreatures'bred'bythe
Egyptiansanallusiontothematerialprivilegesgranted
thembytheking:theyreceivedfreemealsandastipend,
andwereexemptfromtaxationTheyare'scribblers',charakitai,becausetheyscribble
on
rollsofpapyrus:inGreek,thereisaplayonwords,forcharax
is'anenclosure'thepenwithinwhichthesefancybirdslive

theirmysteriouslives.Wewouldbenoworseoffwithout
them,Timonbelieves:alltheirauraofsecrecyandmystery
isamerecamouflagetocovertheirnuUityandemptiness.

Toprovehispoint,headviseshisfrequentcompanion
Aratus,authorofthePhenomena,toconsultthe'oldcopies'
ofHomerratherthanthe'latestcorrecteditions'.Thisis2icontemptuousallusionto
thelaboursofZenodotusof
Ephesus,thefirstlibrarianoftheMuseum,onthetextsof
theIliadandtheOdyssey.Zenodotushadintroducedanew
reading,forinstance,inBookFV,line88oftheIliad,where
AthenaisshownamidsttheTrojanheroes'tryingtofindthe
godlikePandarus,whereverhemightbe':itwasimpossible,
arguedZenodotus,thatagoddessshouldbeshown'having
tosearchfortheobjectofherquest'. Hehadalsoproposed
todeletethefourthandfifthHnesofthefirstbook,the
famouslinesthatrefertothebodiesofthedeadAchaeansas
'carrionforthedogsandbirds',buthisgroundsforrejecting
themfortunatelyfailedtoconvinceanybodyelse.Onecan
understandTimon'simpatiencewiththiskindofthing.
Ofcoursethelibrariansdidnotspendalltheirtime
insuchwilfulmeddling.Classification,subdivisioninto
books,themakingofnewcopies,annotation:therewas
workenoughontheevergrowingcollectionofmaterial,
whichwasfurtherswollenbythescholars'ownponderous
commentaries.Onlyafewofthestaffreallyknewevery
highwayandbywayofthelibrary.Duringoneofthepoetry
competitionswhichthePtolemieslikedtostagefromtime
totime(wearenowinthereignofPtolemyEuergetes),the
kingturnedtotheeHteoftheMuseumtoadvisehimonthe
selectionofaseventhmemberforthepanelofjudges.They
suggestedacertainAristophanes,ascholarofByzantine
origin,whose'onlypastime',theysaid,wasto'readand
rereadhiswaycarefullythrougheverybookinthelibrary
intheorderinwhichtheyarearranged'.Aristophanes,then,
mustsurelyknowthissequencetoperfection.Hewassoon
todemonstrateasmuch,unmaskingtheplagiarismofthecontendersforthetop
poetryprizeswhenheleftthejuryin
themidstofitsdeHberationsandmadehiswaytotheHbrary,
where(soVitruviustellsusinhisaccountoftheaffair)he
^relieduponhismemory'toguidehimtocertainshelves
'wellknowntohim',andshortlyreappearedbrandishing
theoriginaltextswhichtheplagiaristshadtriedtopassoff
astheirown.
Callimachusattemptedanoverallclassification,subdividing
hisCataloguesintogenericcategoriescorresponding
tothevarioussectionsofthelibrary.Hisvastwork,which
itselftookupsome120scrolls,wasentitledCataloguesofthe
authorseminentinvariousdisciplines.Itdidgiveanideaof
thesystembywhichthelibrary'sscrollswerearranged,
butitwascertainlynotaplanorguide:suchplanswere
notproduceduntilmuchlater,inthetimeofDidymus.
Callimachus'sCatalogueswereofuseonlytosomeone
alreadyfamiliarwiththearrangementofthematerial.
Moreover,sincetheirbasicideawastolistonlythose
authors'eminent'inthevariousbranchesofUterature,
theyrepresentednomorethanaselectionalbeitavery
extensiveonefromthecompletecatalogue.Callimachus
devotedsixsectionstopoetryandfivetoprose:hiscategories
includedepics,tragedies,comedies,historicalworks,
worksofmedicine,rhetoricandlaw,andmiscellaneous
works.
ThespiritofAristotiepatrolledtheseshelvesofwellordered
scrolls.Demetriushadtransplantedtothesoil
ofAlexandriathemaster'sconceptionofacommunityof
learnedmenisolatedfromtheoutsideworldandequipped
withacompletelibraryandaretreatwheretheycould
39

cultivatetheMuses,andStrato*slongsojournatcourthad
helpedittotakefirmroot.'Theorganisationofthelibrary',
aFrenchscholarhascommented,'revealsthemethodand
thespiritofthefaroffStagirite.'Theshelveswhichshould
havehousedtheAristoteliantextswereapainfulsight,however.
Theycontainedalmostnothingbutthoseworksissued
byAristotieinhislifetimeapart,thatis,fromspurioustexts
whichhadcreptintothecanon,andwhichweretoprovevery
difficulttodislodge.Themajorworks,theTreatises(asthey
werecalledintheSchool),werevirtuallyunrepresented.
AndthelackoftheseTreatiseswasbecomingmoreand
moreconspicuousaslistsdrawnupbypeopleconnected
withtheSchoolbegantocirculate:thesemayhavebeen
nomorethancrudeenumerationsoftides,buttheymade
itquiteclearthatNeleushadperpetratedanotablehoax.

TheproliferationofsuchHstsalsoincreasedtheriskthat
workswouldbeshelvedinerror,since(asthatincomparable
bibliophileJohnPhiloponusnotedcenturieslater)therewas
noshortageofbookswhosetideswerethesameeventhough
theyhadbeenwrittenbyotherauthors,suchasEudemus,
PhaniasandTheophrastushimself,tomentiononlythe
bestknown.Therewasnoshortage,either,ofworksby
otherauthorscalledAristotie,whomightbeconfusedin
theheatofthemomentwiththeStagirite.AndPtolemy
Euergeteswasdeterminedtoamassacompletecollection
ofAristotie,inrivalry,itwassaid,withthekingofLibya,a
passionatecollectorofPythagoras'sworks.
Aristotie'steaching,however,remainedwellknown,
especiallyinitscriticalandliteraryaspects(andleaving
asidethebiographicalessayformwhichthePeripatetics

maybesaidtohaveinvented).Ithadbeentransmitted,
admittedly,bywayoftheelaborationsandreworkingsof
membersoftheSchool,beginningwithDemetrius'sown
treatisesOntheIliad,OntheOdysseyandOnHomer.In
thisfield,itmightevenhavebeenclaimedthatAristotle
offeredtheonlysystematictheoreticalapproach,ofespecial
valuebecauseitwasbasednotonvagueintuitionsbuton
acollectionofactualtexts.Aristode'scollection,limited
thoughitwastowhathehadbeenabletoacquirefor
himself,allowedhimtodevelopamethodquitedifferent
fromtheextravagantproceduresofhismaster,Plato,who
hadbeenreadytoholdforthonpoetrybutwhosefamiliarity
withactualpoemswasamatterofconsiderableuncertainty:
once,afterall,wantingtorefertothepoemsofAntimachus,
hehadhadtowaitformonthsandmonthswhileacopywas
broughttohimfromAsiaMinor.
NorhadAristotiebeengiventochildishexcessessuchas
banningHomerfromthe'idealCity'.Hehaddrawnupa
sensibleclassification,distinguishingbetweentheIliadand
theOdysseyononehandandthepoemsoftheepiccycle
ontheother;andhehadpersuasivelyexplainedwhythe
formertwopoems,eachconstructedaroundasingleepisode,
excelledtheothers,whichweremereconcatenations
ofeventslackinganycentre.Thisbasicdistinctionwas
centraltoDemetrius'sargumentinhisHomerictreatises,
anditbecameapointofdogmaforthelearnedmenofthe
Museum.Zenodotusaccepteditquitewithoutdiscussion,
anddeducedonitsbasisthatwhileHomerwasthesole
authorofthetwocelebratedpoems,alltherestweretobe
attributedtootherwriters.Aristarchus,the'hypercritic'.

Tensionssuchasthesewereresolved,intheend,from
above,fortherarebirdsintheMuses'cagebelongedtothe
sovereign.VitruviustellsusthatwhenthesophistZoilus
cametoAlexandriatorecitehiscontemptibleattackson
Homer'spoetry(helikedtoboastthathewasthe'castigator'
ofHomer),itwasPtolemyhimselfwhocondemnedhimto
deathTorparricide'.TheMuseumincludingthebooks
collectedonitsshelvesandthemenwholivedamongthem
wasPtolemy'spropertyandoneoftheinstrumentsof
hispower.Theaccessionofanewkingcouldtherefore
bringfarreachingchangesinthebirdcage.WhenPtolemyIIPEuergetescameto
thethrone,anewerabegan
forCallimachus,whohadwritteninpraiseofthebeautyof
hisqueen,Bereniceanative,likethepoet,ofCyrene.
ThegreatsageEratosthenes,whohadcloselinkswith
Callimachus,wassummonedfromCyrenetothecourt,
notonlytotakechargeoftheroyalheir^seducationbut
alsotodirectthelibrary.ApoUoniushadbrokenwiththe
court,givenuphispositionandretiredtoRhodes.Thisdid
notleadtoanyreconciliationwithCallimachus,whoseized
theopportunityofinsultinghiminapoem*fulloffilthand
poison'.
ThelearnedmenoftheMuseumwereaselectgroup;
pickedoutandprotectedbytheking,theyenjoyedasheltered
andmateriallysecurewayofHfe.Evenwhentheyleft
theMuseumtheywerestillwithinthepalacedomains. We
donotknowwhatledAristophanesofByzantium,afterso
manyyearsspentporingoverthecontentsoftheshelves,
toorganizeanescape.Itwassaidthathehadhopedto
Museumhadbeen
traveltoPergamum,wherearivaltothe
emerging.Buttheplanwasdiscovered,andthegreatscholar
wasarrested.