"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Alexandria, of course, has long been recognized as one of the world's great cities, famed for its vast bibliographic holdings, its schools of learning, its orators, heretics, bishops, theologians, and much else besides. It is also a city that has been at the forefront of intra-Christian and Muslim-Christian conflicts. A recent book narrates that history for us: Bojana Mojsov, Alexandria Lost: from the Advent of Christianity to the Arab Conquest (London: Duckworth, 2010), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In the fourth century AD Christian zealots destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria and killed Hypatia, the last director of the Platonic Academy. Over the next two centuries they systematically erased the entire ‘pagan’ heritage of that great city, previously renowned as a centre of learning. Later, war between the Byzantine and Egyptian Churches only added to Alexandria’s decline. The inquisition unleashed by the Byzantine Patriarch Cyrus against the Egyptian Copts drove them into the arms of the invading Arabs, whose tolerance ensured both the survival of the Coptic Church of Egypt and the ready conversion of many Egyptians to Islam. But when, after conquering Alexandria by force, the Arabs demolished the surrounding walls, an entire civilisation perished.
This book tells the extraordinary story of the destruction of classical Alexandria, exposing disturbing facts long erased from our collective historical memory. In charting the origins of the loss of dialogue between Europe and the Middle East, Bojana Mojsov reflects on the power and dangers of ignorance driven by faith.

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