Monday, January 2, 2012

The first university in the world

Alexandria, in Northern Africa, became the most important centre of research and study of the ancient world, due to the policies applied by the Ptolemaic kings after the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great. King Ptolemy established in 280 B.C. a museum in the south-west part of the palace which housed foreign visitors, poets, scholars and researchers. There he founded the Serapeion Temple, honouring the God Serapis. 
When Ptolemy II took power he established next to the Temple the Serapeion Library. The Egyptian priest Manetho helped significantly in this project. According to historical sources found in libraries and temples of Memphis in Ain Shams, Manetho created replicas of Egyptian texts in Greek, which were placed in the Serapeion Temple in Alexandria.

Manetho achieved three important goals, first he gave an overview of ancient Egyptian history until the rule of the Ptolemies, secondly he gave a collection of hieroglyphic writings containing philosophical and theological explanations of the world and thirdly he gave numerous references to the natural laws of science.
The library was comprised of general knowledge and philosophical texts of the era form the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Babylon, Syria, Persia and Greece. Also one could find scrolls from difference disciplines, including language, rhetoric, jurisprudence, law, geography, history, philosophy, logic, sport, engineering, medicine, chemistry and physics. This was the first time in history, where human heritage of many civilizations was accumulated into a single place and in a language widely known to countless people, i.e. Greek, making it possible for students from all around the known world to be able to study at this school of thought and science. The Serapeion was hence the first university in the world and it is due to this establishment that countless students studied there from the 3rd century B.C. until the 4th century A.D. 

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