Classical Liberal World View: Checking Out the Library of Alexandria

in Proof of Brainlast month

In my last post on the Classical Liberal world view I took a gander at Aristotle and the Discovery of Logic . Logic is an extremely powerful tool that helps people achieve their goals.

King Phillip of Macedonia hired Aristotle to tutor his son Alexander. Alexander applied logic to the study of military conquest and was able to conquer the Achaemenid Empire. Alexander died of a mysterious ailment at age 32. His generals split up the conquered territories.

Ptolemy Soter was a childhood friend and possibly half brother of Alexander. It is likely that he studied under Aristotle.

After Alexander's death, Ptolemy became the Satrap of Egypt. Ptolemy later declared himself Pharaoh.

Ptolemy elevated Alexandria on the West corner of the Nile to the administrative center of Egypt and commissioned the Mouseion at Alexandria (Μουσεῖον τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας) which is famous for its grand universal library.

The Mouseion was famous for collecting and analyzing works. The primary focuses of the Mouseion were astrology, religion and mathematics.

An illusive figure appeared at the Mouseion named Euclid. There is very little biographical information about Euclid. It is possible that he studied under either Plato or Aristotle. It is also possible that Euclid was a pseudonym used by one or more authors.

Euclid organized geometry around five principle axioms. Geometricians are able to derive complex theorems from just five axioms.

Euclid's geometry was so powerful that many thinkers took Euclidean geometry to be enigmatic forms discussed by Plato.

It is also interesting to note that geometry was so powerful that ancient mathematicians began de-emphasizing number theory (which led to paradoxes) concentrated primarily on geometry which is about relations of lines and points. There still paradoxes in geometry. They are just less obvious.

Ptolemaic Astrology

The Ptolemaic dynasty in Alexandria lasted 250 years. The kings tended to have the name Ptolemy and the queens took the name Cleopatra.

The Ptolemaic dynasty applied Aristotelian analysis to astronomy and engaged in a multi-generation effort to measure a position of the planets in the night sky.

Ptolemaic astronomers developed a system of equations to predict the positions of the stars and developed a calendar based on their observations. Julius Caesar adopted the Ptolemaic calendar to create the Julian Calendar. Astronomers still use the Julian Calendar.


The thinkers of Alexandria also engaged in a systematic analysis of religion. The analysis of religion is called Theology.

Theologians at the Mouseion gathered all of the ancient texts they could find for inclusion in the Library of Alexandria. They then engaged in a deep systematic analysis of ancient wisdom.

One of the products was a synthetic religion called Hermeticism that pieced together ideas about the Greek god Hermes, the Egyptian god Toth and ideas from ancient thinkers such as Pythagoras, Zoroaster, Plato, the Chaldeans and others.

The word "synthetic" means composed of many different parts. The basic belief behind Hermeticism is that God had revealed wisdom to ancient thinkers. Theological research might uncover some of that wisdom.

It turns out that a large number of people from Judea emigrated to Alexandria. The Hebrews had a collection of writings called The Tenach (Hebrew: תַּנַ״ךְ‎). In an event that historians called the Septuagint scholars translated the Tenach into Greek to create a work known in the English speaking world as "The Bible." More specifically they created The Old Testament of the Bible.

It appears that some of the most profound thinking of the Western World took place in Alexandria which is perched on the upper West side of Nile in Africa.

I prefer the study of Geometry to Theology, but, since i am writing a history of the classical liberal world view, I will write about the bible instead of geometry tomorrow.

I will end with a public domain photo of Ptolemy Soter found in the British Museum. I drew the image from Wikicommons

The second image is a sculpture of Ptolemy Soter I from the Louvre. Again, it is from WikiCommons

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Hmm... he appears older, fatter and less happy in the second sculpture...but maybe that's just a matter of style.

I put up two pictures so that people could see the different ways he was portrayed.

I suspect that the first picture shows Ptolemy when he was younger. People, especially young men, like to be see as serious people.

The second sculpture is caricature, but it is entirely possible that he was happier once he declared himself pharaoh. Or it could be that the artist wanted to show Ptolemy as happy for whatever reason.