Friday, August 28, 2015

Islam’s Destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria

What happened to the Royal Library of Alexandria? We can be certain it was there once, founded by Ptolomy II Soter, and we can be equally certain it is not there now. It formed part of the Museum which was located in the Bruchion or palace quarter of the city of Alexandria. This great ancient city, occupying a spit of land on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, had been founded by Alexander the Great in his flying visit to Egypt and became the capital of the last dynasty of Pharaohs descended from Alexander's general Ptolemy. The Great or more properly Royal Library formed a part of the Museum but whether or not it was a separate building is unclear.

Stories about its demise have been circulating for centuries and date back to at least the first century AD. These stories continue to be told and embellished today by those who wish to make a moral attack against the alleged vandals. We find that three parties are blamed for the destruction and they correspond to the three occupying powers that ruled Alexandria after it had been lost by the Greeks. Let me first tell those stories as we hear them today - without references, largely inaccurate and used as polemic.

The suspects respectively are a Roman, a Christian and a Moslem - Julius Caesar, Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria and Caliph Omar of Damascus. It is clear that the Royal Library could not have been burnt down or otherwise destroyed by all three of these characters and so we find we have too many sources for the event of the destruction rather than a paucity. As scholars of the Gospels will vouch, this too can be an embarrassment. How we decide to reconcile the stories will depend almost entirely on how we criticise the sources and which of them we choose to consider most reliable.

One of the most famous myths about the Great Library is that of it being burnt down on the instructions of the Caliph Omar after Alexandria had been captured by the Arabs. The story was best known in Europe due to the translation of George Bar Hebraeus’s Chronology but was successfully debunked by Edward Gibbon.First the legendary account:

"The Moslems invaded Egypt during the seventh century as their fanaticism carried them on conquests that would take form an empire stretching from Spain to India. There was not much of a struggle in Egypt and the locals found the rule of the Caliph to be more tolerant than that of the Byzantines before them. However, when a Christian called John informed the local Arab general that there existed in Alexandria a great Library preserving all the knowledge in the world he was perturbed. Eventually he sent word to Mecca where Caliph Omar ordered that all the books in the library should be destroyed because, as he said "they will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous." Therefore, the books and scrolls were taken out of the library and distributed as fuel to the many bathhouses of the city. So enormous was the volume of literature that it took six months for it all to be burnt to ashes heating the saunas of the conquerors."

The leader of the Moslem forces that took Egypt in 640AD was called 'Amr and it was he who was supposed to have asked Omar what to do about the fabled library that he found himself in control of.

There are only a few sources that we need to examine. They are very late. The first of the two late sources dates from the 12th century and is written by Abd al Latif (died 1231) who, in his Account of Egypt while describing Alexandria, mentions of the ruins of the Serapeum. The problems with this as historical evidence are enormous and insurmountable. He admits that the source of his information was rumour and the fantasy about Aristotle does not bode well for the veracity of the rest of the piece.

In the thirteenth century the great Jacobite Christian Bishop Gregory Bar Hebraeus (died 1286), called Abal Faraj in Arabic, fleshes the story out and includes the famous epigram about the Koran. Again there is no clue as to where he found the story but it seems to have been one doing the rounds among Christians living under the dominion of the Moslems. Gregory is happy to record plenty of far-fetched tales about omens and monstrosities so we must treat this story with the greatest suspicion. As it is not even included in the original version of his history but only in the Arabic version that he translated and abridged himself very late in life, he may not have known the story when he first put pen to parchment. In The Vanished Library, Canfora mentions a Syriac manuscript published in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century by François Nau. It was written by a Christian monk in the ninth century and details the conversation between John and Caliph Omar. After help from email correspondents, I have finally been able to find this elusive document in its French translation and ascertained that it makes no mention of any library and appears to be an example of a theological dialogue between two representative individuals. In other words it is not historical and has no pretensions to be.

The verdict on Omar

The errors in the sources are obvious and the story itself is almost wholly incredible. In the first place, Gregory Bar Hebraeus represents the Christian in his story as being one John of Byzantium and that John was certainly dead by the time of the Moslem invasion of Egypt. Also, the prospect of the library taking six months to burn is simply fantastic and just the sort of exaggeration one might expect to find in Arab legends such as the Arabian Nights. However Alfred Butler's famous observation that the books of the library were made of vellum which does not burn is not true. The very late dates of the source material are also suspect as there is no hint of this atrocity in any early literature - even in the Coptic Christian chronicle of John of Nikiou (died after 640AD) who detailed the Arab invasion. For the purposes of this essay, it has been satisfactorily shown that the Royal Library certainly did not exist by the time that the Arabs arrived and this, coupled with the silence on the subject of the near contemporary Christian chronicler John of Nikiou, should lead to a rejection of the Arab connection. It is perhaps possible that the story resulted from the loss of one of Alexandria’s other libraries during the Arab invasion as by no means all of them can be accounted for.

In the modern world, the Library of Alexandria has been used as a parable against tyranny and religion as Caesar, Islam or Christianity were blamed for its loss. It is portrayed as the repository of all ancient wisdom but for whose loss the Dark Ages might never have happened and science could have progressed much more smoothly and quickly. The truth is more satisfying for being more reasonable. The Royal Library was an important institution in the history of literature but its destruction in the first century BC did not spell the end of ancient scholarship and Alexandria remained the Mediterranean’s intellectual capital for seven centuries afterwards. One of the reasons it could do so was the foundation of other libraries like that in the Serapeum and the desire of the Roman Emperors to patronise the city. At last, the Arab invasion ended the story and our inheritance from the ancient world had to be preserved in Constantinople and Baghdad.

Finally, the story comes from the hand of a Christian intellectual who would have been more than happy to show the religion of his rulers in a bad light. Agreeing with Gibbon this time, we can dismiss it as a legend.

1.) The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria by James Hannam

2.) The Foundation and Loss of the Royal and Serapeum Libraries of Alexandria by James Hannam

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Let's Meet the Smiths!

Right now. At this very moment. In a remote cabin in Canada. After seeing this shit. Dr Martin Luther King has officially given up on black people. Smdh.

Anthony Kirton - I don't get it

Lolo Chivo - i dont get either

Valerie Knott Peebles - Watch twice to see if I could get it and still lost..

Anthony Kirton

Damion E Jiles Sr. - Is this the Smith kids?

Muhammad Rasheed - An excerpted 14 second clip from an extended interview. So you all are just going to invent a context out of magic to place it in so you cannot "get it" and continue the "Smith kids are weird" narrative?

Did you buy stock in Fox News then?

Riley Freeman - Then please, post the rest of the video for all to see. Otherwise, I have to go by what I see.

Muhammad Rasheed - lol @ Riley's official stance that the 14 sec clip was the beginning & end of the entire interview.

Riley Freeman - What stance? I asked you to please show me the clip. I just fucking shared a clip I saw on my feed. If you have a longer clip then post it. Otherwise, you're talking just to be talking. Educate, don't speculate.

Muhammad Rasheed - "What stance?"

Your decision to double-down on the idea that what this 14 sec clip shows is actually the entirety of the interview unless someone posts something longer. This is the stance you are taking in order to uphold the "let's make fun of these crazy children" opinion.

Riley Freeman - I doubled down how? Did I comment on the whole video, which I've never seen and am still asking you to post a link to, or am I commenting on the comment made? Question is, are you going to post the link to this clip or are you going to continue to make empty statements?

Muhammad Rasheed - I thought it was clear that I planned to contemptuously judge the people who are contemptuously judging the Smith kids from an excerpted 14 sec clip taken out of a context they "don't get." When one of them decided to actually take the unreasonable stance that the 14 sec clip wasn't part of a longer interview unless he physically saw the link to it, then there is no reason to go any further. 

"Empty statements" indeed. lol

Riley Freeman - So you're offended that it's the smith kids? Who are you, Dwayne Martin? Do you have a clip? Yes or no?

Muhammad Rasheed - I always get offended when I see that sheeple "Let's all gang up on the weird/different people because we don't get it" bs. Call it a weakness. #pleaseStopTheFoolishnessAndFuckery

Riley Freeman - Clip? Cuz the only fuckery in seeing is that you continue to dance around a simple request. Post a link to the clip. It's such a simple act but you refuse to even try to clear this up and show us that there was more to the interview so thar it can be looked at as a whole. #thetruefuckerycomefromdancinginsteadofproof

Muhammad Rasheed - Did I give the impression that I respected the "where's the clip" request?

I think the request is ignorant as fuck, to be clear. Get yourself together, Riley.

Riley Freeman - Yes, from what I see, the way they said what they said was indeed ignorant as fuck. I'm glad to see that we are in agreement.

Muhammad Rasheed - lol Obviously I needed to be MORE clear... *edit*

Riley Freeman - More clear with what sir? You said the clip was ignorant. Plain and simple. I'm glad we agree. Thank you for your support.

Muhammad Rasheed - (sometimes pronouns are NOT my friends)

Sharmiki Givinggodtheglory Hunter - So what was the question they were asked to prompt them to answer this way I am sure they weren't jut randomly speaking just because. I would surely like to know what they were asked dang it why did they only clip out this part. Well guess I will either search or not worry about the actual question asked.. Yea search will be it

Anthony Kirton - Ok, in response to Muhammad's response, when I say "I don't get it" I mean I don't see anything wrong here and to Riley Freeman I don't see how Dr Martin Luther king would have a problem with it

Riley Freeman - Have you ever seen the episode of the boondocks with Martin Luther King? That's where the reference comes from. I was not referring to the actual MLK.

Anthony Kirton - found the full interview 

Riley Freeman - Thank you. I watched it. Those kids are on drugs.

Muhammad Rasheed  - 1.) Releasing albums

2.) Releasing clothing

3.) Inspired by what they see in the everyday environment, and what they are moved to create by what they think people need

4.) Their mission statement is that want their product to inspire others and to help them know that "anything is possible"

5.) Admit to recognizing that they are considered "misfits" (eccentric; nonconformists; odd) by the general public

6.) They very strongly believe and espouse something similar to Bruce Lee's philosophy of "Liberating Yourself From Classical Karate" and don't believe in following mostly arbitrary societal rules just because that's the way XYZ was followed blindly by everyone else. If you study the rules and decide to embrace them then do it. But if you are enslaved by rules and systems from outside of you, then you have a right to rebel against them. Be the creator of new paradigms and be happier for it.

7.) Subjective opinions of other young artist peers

8.) Enjoy their dad's old tv show

9.) Feel it is a blessing to work with their dad professionally

10.) Riley thinks they are on drugs for thinking this way.

Riley Freeman - This is the reference. Either you got the reference or you didn't. Anything else, your overreacting and fishing for something else. Do with it what you will. I'm moving to Canada. 

Riley Freeman - Oh and Muhammad Rasheed, I'm not saying they are on drugs for the way they think. I'm going by the figiting in the video sir.

Muhammad Rasheed - They can't fidget either???


Muhammad Rasheed - Your whole anti-Smith kid thing was based on how they think and expressed themselves. How would I know that you shifted to something else unless you said it?

Riley Freeman - I'm sorry, but will everybody who has experience working in drug rehab please raise their hands. (raises hand) I'm sorry Muhammad Rasheed, but why is your hand down. Look sir, you obviously have an agenda to push here. Fine, I get it. You're so Will SMith that you have Dwayne Martin on speed dial. But, if nearly 1000 posts that I made where I comment on something, why are you on here all of a sudden throwing Fox News accusations and all kinds of other bs? I make comment DAILY. Several times a day about several hundred different people and topics without so much as a peep from you. So what's you REAL angle, but it sure as hell aint this whole Anti-Smith bullshit that you're spewing right now.

Muhammad Rasheed - 1.) I don't even know where you live. Why do you assume I have no experience in drug rehabilitation counseling? Based on what?

2.) My agenda is calling out nonsense when I saw a pet peeve of mine pop up in my FB Newsfeed. 

3.) Your agenda is to despise creative, outside-the-box thinking as expressed by these kids. Is that supposed to be a more noble agenda? lol

4.) Jumping to wild and hateful conclusions about black people over a limited amount of info, with the gaps filled in with ideological prejudices is what Fox news built it's reputation on. If you mimic the behavior it will remind me of them. If you don't want your behavior to remind me of them, don't do that stuff. Easy.

5.) We've had the "1000 posts" discussion before. I don't see your posts that often. Usually it's your "WTF?" links that show and what I know you for.

Riley Freeman - 1. Hey you began by stating that I work for Fox news. Therefore, you can not fall back on the not knowing each other line. You began with the assumptions and went down that route.

2. I made a comment about a sound bite. A comment that was in reference to a fictitious characterization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If you are that dammed sensitive, then maybe you and Ralph Tresvant need to be collaborating on a love song together instead of being on Facebook.

3. My agenda was to make a comment about a sound bite. Shit. I didn't even know it was the Smith kids until someone pointed it out in a comment. And ask I know about them is that one wore a kilt once and the other had a song about whipping hair. Other than that I don't follow them in the least and couldn't pick them out if a crowd.

4. You really should watch the boondocks more to get the joke intended here sir. Anything else is your own sensitive nature. Need a kleenex sir?

5. Then perhaps you should read more of my posts. Otherwise, you're doing the same thing that you're accusing me of, are you not? Don't hate me for expressing myself differently sir. I don't sell clothes or make music but I still have a right to individual expression. Even though my last my last name isn't Smith.

Muhammad Rasheed - 1.) I began by calling out the foolishness of your hateful stance based on a 14 second clip. Just like they do on Fox News.

2.) It wasn't a very good comment.

3.) Okay, fine.

4.) No. I saw a few episodes and it isn't to my taste. You may enjoy my portion.

5.) lol You made an admittedly ignorant comment about a 14 second clip and I responded to it. You had the right to cap on the clip, and I had a right to comment on your comment. I don't hate you for expressing your opinion, I was merely moved to challenge you on it. You don't consider it 'sensitive' to interpret the challenging of an expressed opinion of a FB friend as 'hatred?' 'Cuz to me that's kind of soft-ish.

Riley Freeman - 1. No sir. You began by making hateful judgement of my creativity and indifference. Can't you just let me be the misfit that I am without judging me?

2. I admit, it wasn't one of my best. It was only for those who would get the boondocks reference.

3. Yup. Uh huh. I tell you what. <-king hill.="" nbsp="" of="" p="" the="">
4. It has its moments. It's the hidden messages that you tend to appreciate more than the entertainment value.

5. Dude, I'm messing with you. You take me too seriously. I live my life in levity because stressing over things too much will kill you. You gotta admit that you did open the door for me to thusly take your defense and apply it to myself. lol

Muhammad Rasheed - 1.) Yes, sir. >:(

2.) Forgiven.

3.) I don't care for that show either. [stink face] 

4.) I actually disagree with the bulk of the socio-political opinions of the writers, so the hidden messages tend to be ham-fisted and irritating to me.

5.) Hm. Okay, then I'll start stalking your posts so I'll learn your humor style better (after I finish these comics).