Main  Contacts  
Table of contents

they were, in a great measure, dependent upon some mysterious and 

inscrutable power which he exercised for their safety in storms. They 

carried the knowledge of his name, and tales of his imaginary 

interpositions, to all the places that they visited; and thus the fame 

of the god became extended, first, to all the coasts of the Euxine Sea, 

and subsequently to distant provinces and kingdoms. The Serapis of 

Sinope began to be considered every where as the tutelar god of seamen. 


Accordingly, when the first of the Ptolemies was forming his various 

plans for adorning and aggrandizing Alexandria, he received, he said, 

one night, a divine intimation in a dream that he was to obtain the 

statue of Serapis from Sinope, and set it up in Alexandria, in a 

suitable temple which he was in the mean time to erect in honor of the 

god. It is obvious that very great advantages to the city would result 

from the accomplishment of this design. In the first place, a temple to 

the god Serapis would be a new distinction for it in the minds of the 

rural population, who would undoubtedly suppose that the deity honored 

by it was their own ancient god. Then the whole maritime and nautical 

interest of the world, which had been, accustomed to adore the god of 

Sinope, would turn to Alexandria as the great center of religious 

attraction, if their venerated idol could be carried and placed in a new 

and magnificent temple built expressly for him there. Alexandria could 

never be the chief naval port and station of the world, unless it 

contained the sanctuary and shrine of the god of seamen. 


Ptolemy sent accordingly to the King of Sinope and proposed to purchase 

the idol. The embassage was, however, unsuccessful. The king refused to 

give up the god. The negotiations were continued for two years, but all 

in vain. At length, on account of some failure in the regular course of 

the seasons on that coast, there was a famine there, which became 

finally so severe that the people of the city were induced to consent to 

give up their deity to the Egyptians in exchange for a supply of corn. 

Ptolemy sent the corn and received the idol. He then built the temple, 

which, when finished, surpassed in grandeur and magnificence almost 

every sacred structure in the world. 


It was in this temple that the successive additions to the Alexandrian 

library were deposited, when the apartments of the Museum became full. 

In the end there were four hundred thousand rolls or volumes in the 

Museum, and three hundred thousand in the Serapion. The former was 

called the parent library, and the latter, being, as it were, the 

offspring of the first, was called the daughter. 


Ptolemy Philadelphus, who interested himself very greatly in collecting 

this library, wished to make it a complete collection of all the books 

in the world. He employed scholars to read and study, and travelers to 

make extensive tours, for the purpose of learning what books existed 

among all the surrounding nations; and, when he learned of their 

existence, he spared no pains or expense in attempting to procure either 

the originals themselves, or the most perfect and authentic copies of 

them. He sent to Athens and obtained the works of the most celebrated 

Greek historians, and then causing, as in other cases, most beautiful 

transcripts to be made, he sent the transcripts back to Athens, and a 

very large sum of money with them as an equivalent for the difference of 

value between originals and copies in such an exchange. 


In the course of the inquiries which Ptolemy made into the literature of 

the surrounding nations, in his search for accessions to his library, he 

heard that the Jews had certain sacred writings in their temple at 

Jerusalem, comprising a minute and extremely interesting history of 

their nation from the earliest periods and also many other books of 

sacred prophecy and poetry. These books, which were, in fact, the Hebrew 

Scriptures of the Old Testament, were then wholly unknown to all nations 

except the Jews, and among the Jews were known only to priests and 

scholars. They were kept sacred at Jerusalem. The Jews would have 

considered them as profaned in being exhibited to the view of pagan 

nations. In fact, the learned men of other countries would not have been 

able to read them; for the Jews secluded themselves so closely from the 

rest of mankind, that their language was, in that age, scarcely ever 

heard beyond the confines of Judea and Galilee. 

Page 5 from 8:  Back   1   2   3   4  [5]  6   7   8   Forward