The Forgotten Library of Pergamum
The Library of Pergamum was the second largest library after the Library of Alexandria. Laura Rodríguez explains why it is missing from our history textbooks today and her opinion about how these old libraries revolutionised our world
Pergamum, now the modern Turkish city of Bergama, was one of the most important cities of Hellenistic Greece. Hellenistic Greece is the time period after the death of Alexander the Great till Greece’s downfall against the Roman empire. There was a culturally rich, extensive library founded by King Eunemes II in the city of Pergamum. This city had gained popularity as an administrative centre. The library of Pergamum was located on the northern end of this fortified city.
Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist, wrote that the library had a total of 200,000 volumes. There is no catalogue to ascertain the number of books that survives from that period. But it it is believed that Plutarch’s account is indeed true. Due to its 200,000 books, this library was the second most important after Alexandria and rivalled the latter, as Pliny the Elder, Roman author and natural philosopher, pointed out in his “Natural History”. It had a grammar school, but unlike Alexandria, where they specialised in the literary and critical texts, in Pergamun they leaned towards philosophy, especially the stoic Philosophy.
There was such a rivalry between both these libraries, tradition tells us that the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt stopped the shipment of papyrus to Pergamum in the hope of putting the growth of the library to an end. But it didn’t help; the city turned parchment into substitute for papyrus and also became the centre for the production of parchment. Parchment is derived form the Pergamum which comes from Latin word pergamenum and the French word parchemin. Read more about Library of Pergamum …