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Although out of Judea there was no feeling of reverence for these Hebrew 

Scriptures as books of divine authority, there was still a strong 

interest felt in them as very entertaining and curious works of history, 

by all the Greek and Roman scholars who frequented Alexandria to study 

at the Museum. Copies were accordingly made of the Septuagint 

translation, and were taken to other countries; and there, in process of 

time, copies of the copies were made, until at length the work became 

extensively circulated throughout the whole learned world. When, 

finally, Christianity became extended over the Roman empire, the priests 

and monks looked with even a stronger interest than the ancient scholars 

had felt upon this early translation of so important a portion of the 

sacred Scriptures. They made new copies for abbeys, monasteries, and 

colleges; and when, at length, the art of printing was discovered, this 

work was one of the first on which the magic power of typography was 

tried. The original manuscript made by the scribes of the seventy-two, 

and all the early transcripts which were made from it, have long since 

been lost or destroyed; but, instead of them, we have now hundreds of 

thousands of copies in compact printed volumes, scattered among the 

public and private libraries of Christendom. In fact, now, after the 

lapse of two thousand years, a copy of Ptolemy's Septuagint may be 

obtained of any considerable bookseller in any country of the civilized 

world; and though it required a national embassage, and an expenditure, 

if the accounts are true, of more than a million of dollars, originally 

to obtain it, it may be procured without difficulty now by two days' 

wages of an ordinary laborer. 


Besides the building of the Pharos, the Museum, and the Temple of 

Serapis, the early Ptolemies formed and executed a great many other 

plans tending to the same ends which the erection of these splendid 

edifices was designed to secure, namely, to concentrate in Alexandria 

all possible means of attraction, commercial, literary, and religious, 

so as to make the city the great center of interest, and the common 

resort for all mankind. They raised immense revenues for these and other 

purposes by taxing heavily the whole agricultural produce of the valley 

of the Nile. The inundations, by the boundless fertility which they 

annually produced, supplied the royal treasuries. Thus the Abyssinian 

rains at the sources of the Nile built the Pharos at its mouth, and 

endowed the Alexandrian library. 


The taxes laid upon the people of Egypt to supply the Ptolemies with 

funds were, in fact, so heavy, that only the bare means of subsistence 

were left to the mass of the agricultural population. In admiring the 

greatness and glory of the city, therefore, we must remember that there 

was a gloomy counterpart to its splendor in the very extended 

destitution and poverty to which the mass of the people were everywhere 

doomed. They lived in hamlets of wretched huts along the banks of the 

river, in order that the capital might be splendidly adorned with 

temples and palaces. They passed their lives in darkness and ignorance, 

that seven hundred thousand volumes of expensive manuscripts might be 

enrolled at the Museum for the use of foreign philosophers and scholars. 

The policy of the Ptolemies was, perhaps, on the whole, the best, for 

the general advancement and ultimate welfare of mankind, which could 

have been pursued in the age in which they lived and acted; but, in 

applauding the results which they attained, we must not wholly forget 

the cost which they incurred in attaining them. At the same cost, we 

could, at the present day, far surpass them. If the people of the United 

States will surrender the comforts and conveniences which they 

individually enjoy--if the farmers scattered in their comfortable homes 

on the hill-sides and plains throughout the land will give up their 

houses, their furniture, their carpets, their books, and the privileges 

of their children, and then--withholding from the produce of their 

annual toil only a sufficient reservation to sustain them and their 

families through the year, in a life like that of a beast of burden, 

spent in some miserable and naked hovel--send the rest to some 

hereditary sovereign residing upon the Atlantic sea-board, that he may 

build with the proceeds a splendid capital, they may have an Alexandria 

now that will infinitely exceed the ancient city of the Ptolemies in 

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