Fig. 51. Imaginary drawing of Ptolemy II with scholars in the library
Another crucial early project was the study of the history, culture and land of Egypt, the new homeland of the Ptolemies or at least to update their knowledge on it. Key-figures in this project were Hecateus of Abdera and Manetho. Hecateus of Abdera is widely regarded as the writer of the book On Egyptian antiquities, but it is still obscure how much was his own work. Several times he acts as the mouthpiece of Egyptian priests whom he quoted so often, while the whole idea of the priority of the Egyptian tradition over the Greek culture had been already established in the Greek philosophical works of the Classical period (Herodotus and Plato). Nevertheless, his work is considered a precious Hellenistic update/summary of several previous works in the subject, as occurred in other projects of the Alexandrian Library47. His overall target was to prove the superiority and antiquity of Egyptian culture and that the Greek culture derived from it. Greeks owed their advances to Egyptian civilization. From a political point of view, his work can be interpreted as an attempt to praise the Ptolemies for the possession of such a land. The 3rd century BC corresponds to the heyday of Hellenistic Alexandria, which is marked by the librarianship of the major Greeks scholars Zenodotus, Callimachus and Apolonius of Rhodes and Eratosthenes, the first, second third and fourth chief librarian of Alexandria respectively. Interestingly 47
On Hecateusâ€™ works on Egyptians as incorporated in Diodorus, see Diodorus, I and II, 1-34, 496-504.