Alexandrian Library, the largest and one of the most famous of the libraries of the ancient world. It was created as part of the Museum (an academy of arts and sciences dedicated to the Muses) founded in Alexandria, Egypt, about 300 B.C. Ptolemy I, the founder, summoned the foremost Greek scholars to Alexandria to study and work under his patronage. The first project of the scholars was to compile new, authoritative editions of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.
The Museum buildings were completed in the reign of Ptolemy II (285–246 B.C.), who built up the library's collection of books (papyrus rolls) to as many as 700,000. Ptolemy III borrowed important manuscripts from Athens to be copied, then forfeited a large security deposit to keep the originals for the library. The mathematician Euclid, the physicist Archimedes, the geographer Eratosthenes, and the critic Callimachus were among the learned men who studied or worked at the library. By the end of the third century B.C., Alexandria was the intellectual capital of the Hellenistic world.
In 48 B.C. during a battle between Julius Caesar and the supporters of Ptolemy XII, a large part of the library collection was destroyed by fire. The loss was made up in the 30's when Mark Antony presented Cleopatra with the bulk of the manuscripts from the library of Pergamum (on parchment, because Egypt had refused to sell papyrus to the rival library).
As Christianity became prevalent, the Museum came to be regarded as a center of paganism. From 270 A.D. it suffered occasional destructive attacks by Christian mobs; about 390 its last surviving building and the remnants of the library were destroyed.