I've had an almost lifelong interest in Classical Greece and Rome, and as a result I've consumed a lot of books on the subject. Rome and Athens feature heavily in these accounts, but another major city's name always crops up - Alexandria. For centuries after its founding by Alexander the Great; Alexandria was the capital and home of the Ptolemaic dynasty who ruled Egypt until its final monarch, the mighty Queen Cleopatra, snuffed out her life by placing a poisonous snake to her bosom. During this time Alexandria became a centre of learning and knowledge for the whole Classical World, a cosmopolitan city that saw the creation of a massive library set to store all the books ever written. In this book Justin Pollard and Howard Reid set out to tell you why Alexandria set the founding stones for the Modern World; how it flourished, and finally how its heart - the Great Library - was tragically destroyed.
Along the way we learn of the feuds between the fat pharaoh Ptolemy IV and the Seleucids of Syria, The curious mysticism and philosophy of the Neo-Platonists, the inventive zeal of Archimedes, the rise and fall of Cleopatra, the construction of the Pharos lighthouse, and the insufferable and obnoxious surgeon Galen's quest to understand the human body. There's much more to the book than this, and I found Pollard and Reid's text a joy to read - their prose is lively and engaging, and reminds me a bit of John Norwich's Byzantium trilogy. The book is nicely researched and deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in the rise of science and philosophy, as well as those seeking to understand its place within the ancient world. Highly Recommended!