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MUSE´UM (Μουσεῖον) signified in general a place dedicated to the Muses, but was specially the name given to an institution at Alexandria founded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, about B.C. 280, or perhaps by his father and predecessor Ptolemy Soter, for the promotion of learning and the support of learned men. (Athen. 5.203.) We learn from Strabo (xviii. p.794) that the museum formed part of the palace, and that it contained cloisters or porticoes (περίπατος), a public theatre or lecture-room (ἐξέδρα), and a large hall (οἶκος μέγας), where the learned men dined together. The museum was supported by a common fund, supplied apparently from the public treasury; and the whole institution was under the superintendence of a priest, who was appointed by the king, and, after Egypt became a province of the Roman empire, by the emperor (Strabo, l.c.). Botanical and zoological gardens appear to have been attached to the museum (Philostr. Apollon. 6.24; Athen. 14. 654). The Emperor Claudius added another museum to this institution (Suet. Cl. 42, with Casaubon's note). The studies at the Alexandrian Museum had been arranged by Ptolemy Philadelphus in four faculties,--literature, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine,--and it is said to have received at one time as many as 14,000 students.

It should be observed that in all probability the original of this institution was the museum at Athens (similar in its object of encouraging learning and art and like in form, though on a smaller scale), which was founded or enlarged in pursuance of the will of Theophrastus to receive the statue of his great master Aristotle, and to become a school of Aristotelian philosophy (D. L. 5.51). The name was the more appropriate because there was a Μουσεῖον at Stagira. (Plin. Nat. 16.133). Baumstark (ap. Pauly, Real Encycl.) argues for the foundation of the Alexandrian Museum by Ptolemy I. (Soter) from the well-known favour which Ptolemy Soter showed to men of learning, and especially his regard for Theophrastus (D. L. 5.37), who founded or enlarged the Museum at Athens, and for Demetrius Phalereus, and from the fact that the manner in which Athenaeus (l.c.) speaks of the Museum at the beginning of Ptolemy II.‘s reign we should imagine that it had been developing for some time. It is easy to understand how the word μουσεῖον, losing religious significance, came to imply solely places of learning and art, so that we find Athens itself called τὸ τῆς Ἑλλάδος Μουσεῖον (Ath. 4.187 d), and Longinus himself spoken of as “a walking museum” (ἔμψυχον καὶ περιπατοῦν μουσεῖον, Porphyr. 16).

[W.S] [G.E.M]

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