Jan. 24, 2015: In the TYWAU thread, a nonny ranted about “people (usually on Tumblr) crying about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria as if they had a personal stake in it. Is ‘I care about the preservation of knowledge’ really such a virtuous and controversial badge to wear?”
They listed out the reasons that the library was probably not as big a loss as commonly imagined, stated that the destruction of the Library of Baghdad set the Islamic Golden Age and Western Europe’s scientific revolution much further back, and referred to the type of person who would argue otherwise as “some kind of, I dunno, knowledge hipster?”
The third response: “Classicist nonny would like to invite you to consider her extended middle fingers. Tumblr is Tumblr, but yeah, some of us would genuinely like to have more things to study!” This drew comments of support, as well as enthusiasm for a wank on this topic: “It's sort of the ultimate FFA thing to wank about, really.”
Another nonny snarked the OP for caring only about scientific knowledge and not, for example, lost scripts to ancient plays. Yet another: “I actually do have a personal stake in it, motherfucker. The only primary sources for my area of study were in there and no copies have survived, so FUCK YOU.” A third: “No, honey. You are the hipster here. ‘Library of Alexandria is too mainstream, and overhyped, you should care about Baghdad. #friendlyreminder #problematic #noseriouslywhyisnoonetalkingaboutthis’”
OP got support downthread. In the ensuing discussion, the Classicist Anon from above chimed in that while the destruction of the library was indeed a great loss, popular laments about same
- are a gross oversimplification of a long and complicated process by which some knowledge important in the ancient world was preserved, and some wasn't. It always looks to me like people are looking for some single individual or group to blame (Caesar! The Christians! The Turks! Whatever!), which is poor historical reasoning. The loss of a single collection, no matter how great, wasn't that important in the process as a whole.
- I assume many people use it as shorthand for the larger loss of classical literature, and there is plenty of stuff I really, really wish we still had. But I also suspect that most tumblr people reblogging those posts actually believe that if some guy had never set that one library on fire, we would still have all of Aeschylus and Sappho and (god forbid!) Polybius, and I find that hard to believe.
Someone else took it upon themselves to start a new subthread quoting Tom Stoppard in order to tut-tut the nonnies who cared about the Library of Alexandria. A typical response: “You know, I usually hate it when meme calls things pretentious, but that was pretentious as all fuck. Good job!” The quote also incited wank over originals versus translations: “Are you monolingual? You sound monolingual.”
And, finally: “Actually I'm totally into the Library of Ashurbanipal lately, you probably haven't heard of it. That and Afrobeat minimal techno.”