The Hellenistic Decline A major blow occurred during the reign of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, in the mid 2 nd century BC (Fig. 60). By the king’s order, several Alexandrian scholars, including the chief librarian Aristarchus of Samothrace, had to abandon the city or were persecuted. The years of Cleopatra VII are considered of a short revival before the Ptolemaic demise. Yet, the visit of Julius Caesar to Alexandria during the Alexandrian War (48 BCE) is linked to a disastrous fire in the Alexandrian Library. However, a few years later, Marcus Antonius managed to upgrade the collection, by pocketing volumes from a major competitor, the Pergamene Library. Notable figures from of the late period are Agatharchides of Cnidus and Timagenes.55 The latter, who lived both in Rome and Alexandria, wrote “on Kings”, taking the whole Hellenistic and Roman world as his theme in the manner of a universal history.56
204 Fig. 60. Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II
INTELLECTUAL LIFE IN ROMAN ALEXANDRIA Alexandria underwent a true revival in terms of research during the Roman period with its schools of philosophy, literature and science (Fig. 61). This phenomenon owes a lot to the work, undertaken during the Ptolemaic period, notably the meeting between the Greek and the oriental traditions. This intensive discourse contributed to the formation of major philosophical and/or religious movements such as Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, and early Eastern Christianity.
Agatharchides of Cnidus was not well known in ancient times. Of his two major works, Affairs in Asia in ten books, and Affairs in Europe in forty-nine books, only a few fragments survive. However, concerning his work On the Erythraean Sea (Peri tes Erythras thalasses) in five books, almost the entire fifth book, a geographical treatise on the Horn of Africa and the lands around the Red Sea, has survived almost intact. Material from this book is quoted directly or indirectly by Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Pliny the Elder. He abandoned Alexandria during the persecutions of Euergetes II. Fraser, 1972, 539-551. 56 Ibid, 552.