At Pergamum: The Library

May 15, 2010

During the reign of Eumenes, Pergamum and Alexandria were competing for the biggest and best library in the world.  Egypt controlled the paper industry, made from the papyrus plant.  Bible and Spade quotes Pliny the Elder:

…when owing to the rivalry between King Ptolemy and King Eumenes about their libraries Ptolemy suppressed the export of paper, parchment was invented at Pergamum; and afterwards the employment of the material on which the immortality of human beings depends spread indiscriminately. (Vol. 5, Num. 2, p.51).

Parchment was made from the skins of goats and sheep.  It is much more durable than papyrus.  Biblical manuscripts were written on both parchment and papyrus, but the parchment tends to fair better with the passing of time.

The Latin pergamena means “paper of Pergamum.”  Paul wrote Timothy, “When you come, bring with you the cloak I left in Troas with Carpas and the scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13, NET).

Today’s posts features two photos of the site of the famous library of Pergamum.  In this first photo we are standing with the sanctuary of the temple of Athena at our back; the foreground captures part of the court of the temple.

Pergamum Library. Photo by Leon Mauldin

The legend is that Mark Antony gave the 200,000 volumes housed in this library to Cleopatra in 41 B.C.

Pergamum Library close up. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on image for higher resolution.

%d bloggers like this: