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on 24 January 2015
Beautifully written,absolutely fascinating. The last brilliant days of Neoplatonism, Plotinus, Hermes Trismegistus, Origen. The lethal tensions between the populist Christians and the patrician pagans. The genius and tragedy of Hypatia. Sober, scholarly but gripping. Brings to life the forgotten world of the Gnostics.
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on 22 April 2011
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!
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on 14 January 2010
This book is an eye opener. From Alexander, through Rome, the books covers a link between ancient, medieval and and modern history, the creation and destruction of an academic vision and we are the legacy of visionaries whose gift of learning designed 2000 years ago has helped us become what we are.

The basis of modern knowledge and history in one book. Hard going at times, but worth every effort.
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on 27 December 2006
Pollard and Reid throw us into a wondrous world of forty-storey lighthouses, Manhattan street-grids and inquisitive minds circa 300BC. Ancient Alexandria spawned an astonishing number of breakthroughs across physics, astronomy, medicine and mathematics, all carefully logged in its grand library which sadly ceased to exist many centuries ago. A wonderful example of early 'open-source' software, the library attracted its disciples, each working on the discoveries of his predecessor in order to progress to the next level. Much of this work was lost for centuries, re-discovered only recently and it is surprising how much of Alexandria's output affects our lives today.

This is an important book written in an accessible style which succeeds in piecing together a reconstruction of a long-gone ancient civilisation influenced by the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians.
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on 23 October 2015
Yes the grand sweep of history and full acknowledgement of the wonders of A,
However they completely omit an important chapter - the destruction of the Serepeum and Caesarium and many temples by the Jews under Trajan 1st Cent AD when thousands of Greeks and Romans were wiped out. This is well documented.
Political correctness or are the authors apologists concealing this ?
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on 19 October 2014
This was good at the beginning but would have been better if, after the middle, it had concentrated on events overall and not specific people. Also, it only gave brief descriptions of the city, such as the harbor, and little all else.
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on 9 June 2014
very well written and very informative and interesting. I am half-way through but eager to complete, am sure it will keep my interest right through
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on 31 August 2010
A wonderful book that I wish I'd written. It is very readable, despite being a serious history book, and realy gives a feel of what Alexandria must have been like. It is not overly long and thus does not contain any padding or tedious bits.
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on 28 March 2016
Very good read
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