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[17arg] Who was the first of all to establish a public library; and how many books there were in the public libraries at Athens before the Persian invasions.

THE tyrant Pisistratus is said to have been the first to establish at Athens a public library of books relating to the liberal arts. Then the Athenians themselves added to this collection with considerable diligence and care; but later Xerxes, when he got possession of Athens and burned the entire city except the citadel, 1 removed that whole collection of books and carried them off to Persia. Finally, a long time afterwards, king Seleucus, who was surnamed Nicanor, had all those books taken back to Athens.

At a later time an enormous quantity of books, nearly seven hundred thousand volumes, was either acquired or written 2 in Egypt under the kings known as Ptolemies; but these were all burned during the sack of the city in our first war with Alexandria, 3 not intentionally or by anyone's order, but accidentally by the auxiliary soldiers.

1 In 480 B.C.

2 i.e. copied from other manuscripts.

3 In 48 B.C. By no means all of the Alexandrian Library was destroyed at that time, and the losses were made good, at least in part, by Antony in 41 B.C. A part of the library was burned under Aurelian, in A.D. 272, and the destruction seems to have been completed in 391.

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