2.6. Romerska bibliotek 2.6. Romerska bibliotek

On the library of Pergamon

The only ancient Greek library for which we have secure evidence, and for which, therefore, we can draw conclusions about its architecture and equipment, is the library at Pergamon. The recent study by Wolfram Hoepfner not only confirms the theories of the earlier archaeologists, but also adduces new evidence and definitively revises the view of Hellenistic libraries that perceives them as having been housed exclusively in small, austere, faceless rooms - a view based on the orator Aphthonios's description of the library of the Serapeion. It is now accepted that the large Hellenistic libraries, such as those at Alexandria and Pergamon, presented the following picture: a monumental room dominated by the statue of a deity, mainly of Athena, standing on a pedestal placed on the axis of the room, opposite the main entrance. This room was equipped with an exedra built parallel with the side walls and ending in a small wall that formed the base of the bookshelves. These shelves took the form of closed cupboards about 2 metres high, leaving the rest of the wall up to the roof free for a row of windows that admitted light. The room was probably used for debates, lectures, ceremonies and study, and only a small section of the collection will have been classified in it, since its design makes it clear that it could not have contained the hundreds of thousands of scrolls that had been assembled. In accordance with the acquisitions programme of these libraries, new ancillary rooms were built from time to time, which were rather faceless and lacking in architectural pretensions; some of these were used to store classified scrolls, while others served as scriptoria and writing rooms.

It is worth noting two problems, which were to some extent interlinked, that had to be solved by the architects who designed the libraries of the period: the problems of the climatological conditions and lighting. Damp has always been one of the greatest enemies of the book, and the papyrus cylinders were stored in closed cupboards, placed away from the walls, for this precise purpose: that is, to prevent the cupboards and the books from being exposed to damp, whether it came from the foundations of the building or the open windows. Light was admitted by large side windows, which required the construction of a shelter or open portico to protect the books from rain and the dust that filled the air, for glass window-panes were not used until the 1st century BC.

Source: Libraries


In his book [Libraries in the Ancient World, Lionel Casson] describes the remains of the Library at Pergamum. Set up as an adjunct to the Temple of Athena on Pergamum’s fortress hilltop, the Library occupied four rooms in the U-shaped colonnade that embraced the Temple. The largest of these rooms is roughly 16 metres long and 14 metres wide. Along with a colossal statue of Athena, bases for busts inscribed with the names of Homer, Herodotus and other noted literary figures were found here.

The archaeologists who excavated the site reasoned that ‘a room of this size and with such décor … would have served as a chamber where the library’s learned users held receptions, meetings, conferences.’ The other three rooms are shorter and narrower. These they’ve identified as the stacks: the walls, says Lionel Casson would have been lined with wooden shelves for holding rolls.

The sole indication of the Library of Pergamum’s size is found in an anecdote recorded by Plutarch: that Mark Antony had reputedly given Cleopatra 200,000 of its books, a gift, says Lionel Casson that could only have been intended for the Library of Alexandria. He adds that it’s been calculated that the three smaller rooms at Pergamum would have had sufficient shelving space for that number.

Libraries in the Ancient World... (Jill Kitson i intervju med Lionel Casson, Lingua Franca)

BIBLIOTEK OCH KLOSTER2. Bibliotek och kloster: Innehåll
© 2002 Mikael Hörnqvist
Bibliotek och kloster