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I like big books.

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind - Justin Pollard, Howard Reid Pretty darn entertaining for an intellectual history of a city I have to say. The second half of the book kind of dropped off for me. The history of science and reason in Alexandria is replaced by squabbles over religion in the later years of the Roman Empire and a lot of the esoteric arguments made by philosophers of one school against another and the christian vs. pagan schism seemed less interesting too me. It's a fascinating history no doubt, but not told with the kind of enthusiasm by the author that mark the first chapters.

What a wondrous place this city must have been, and so rich in history. It seems like the ancient world revolved around the place, which makes sense geographically. The author's sense of loss at the treasures and architecture of the city are palpable and easily assumed by the reader. What secrets must the great library have held before the loss of the manuscripts (either through fire by Caesar or through neglect)? If someone calculated the circumference of the Earth and the angle of its tilt by the first century BC, what else could we have lost?

I love reading histories that turn our modern conceptions of the normal progression of things on its head. How presumptuous Western historians can sometimes by to assume that Western Europe thought of everything first! It's great to see credit given where it's due (go Eratosthenes!).