Guarding Their Heritage, Ctd

by Zoe Pollock

Ingrid D. Rowland sees the youth protecting the Bibliotheca Alexandrina as "a matter of guarding an idea":

The Library of Alexandria has burned twice before, once, partially, when Julius Caesar made his landing in Egypt in 48 BCE, and again, with devastating effect, in late antiquity. The first burning was probably a mistake, the second the result of religious fanaticism, most probably the same fanaticism that killed the Alexandrian mathematician Hypatia in 415 CE for daring, as a woman, to profess philosophy.

... Blind rage cannot understand anything as complex or beautiful as Rome, or a library, or even a person, an animal, a book, a tree, a work of artbut blind rage can make these intricate systems stop, and the ability to make things stop has served many of our kind since time immemorial as a fine substitute for learning, experience, scientific method, artistic creation, philosophy. Destruction, too, can count as hard work. ...

As these same young people now stand guard over their library in these difficult but hopeful days [...], they are in fact standing guard for all of us.