Revisiting the Tragedy of Alexandria’s Library and the Unanswered Questions of its Second Incineration

The Library of Alexandria, located in Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the most significant libraries of the ancient world. Its vast collection of knowledge and literature made it a beacon of intellectualism and scholarship. However, the library’s history is marred by tragedy and destruction. In this article, we will delve into the events surrounding the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, particularly its second incineration. We will explore the unanswered questions that still linger, shedding light on this historical enigma.

The Great Library of Alexandria: A Center of Knowledge

The Great Library of Alexandria was established in the 3rd century BCE during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s successors. It quickly became a renowned center of learning, attracting scholars, philosophers, and scientists from all over the ancient world. The library housed an extensive collection of scrolls, manuscripts, and texts, covering a wide range of subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and literature.

Destruction of the Library: The First Incident

The fate of the Library of Alexandria has been the subject of much speculation and debate. The first major incident of destruction occurred during the reign of Julius Caesar in 48 BCE. According to historical accounts, during the Roman conquest of Alexandria, a fire broke out in the city, spreading to the library and causing significant damage. While the exact extent of the destruction is uncertain, it is believed that a significant portion of the library’s collection was lost.

The Second Incineration: Unanswered Questions

The second incineration of the Library of Alexandria is shrouded in mystery, leaving behind unanswered questions that continue to intrigue historians and scholars. One of the primary questions that remains is: Who burned the library of Alexandria, the second time?

There are several theories and speculations regarding the second incineration. Some historians attribute the destruction to the Roman Emperor Aurelian, who besieged and captured Alexandria in 270 CE. It is believed that during the siege, the library was caught in the crossfire and suffered extensive damage. However, there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.

Another theory suggests that the library was destroyed by a series of natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods. These catastrophic events could have led to the destruction of the library and its precious contents. However, this theory is also speculative and lacks definitive proof.

The Legacy and Significance of the Library’s Destruction

The destruction of the Library of Alexandria remains a significant event in history, symbolizing the loss of a vast repository of knowledge and intellectual heritage. The loss of countless ancient texts and manuscripts has left a void in our understanding of the ancient world. The burning of the library has been lamented for centuries, and its legacy serves as a reminder of the fragility of human knowledge and the importance of preserving our cultural heritage.


The tragedy of Alexandria’s Library and the unanswered questions surrounding its second incineration continues to captivate the minds of historians and scholars. While the exact details of the library’s destruction may never be fully known, its legacy lives on as a testament to the pursuit of knowledge and the enduring quest for understanding. The Library of Alexandria will forever be remembered as a symbol of intellectualism and the power of human curiosity.