26 September 2004 --
The fate of the ancient library was the topic of discussion by about forty of the worlds most eminent authorities. The conference organized by the Library of Alexandria as part of its Alexandria project is to produce the most comprehensive and authoritative discussion of that topic. Ismail Serageldin welcomed the distinguished scholars, and the eminent historian Mustapha Abbady chaired the conference proceedings. Preliminary results are that indeed the library had disappeared long before the invading Arabs arrived in Egypt, and that the canard that claimed the burning of the library by the Arabs needs to be laid to rest. Bernard Lewis delivered a paper that was very well received and that should go a long way to countering the persistent story that the ending of the ancient library is either controversial, or unknown. It disappeared slowly, over a more than four hundred years, in a long period of decline and neglect, punctuated by disasters: from the Alexandrian war of Julius Caesar (48 BC) to the destruction of the Mouseion (probably ca. 272 AD) to the burning of the Serapeium (391 AD) to the murder of Hypatia (415 AD). All of which happened more than two centuries before the arrival of the Arabs in 641 AD.