posted on September 30,
For the last week in August and the first two weeks of September I was visiting Turkey. While there, I managed to explore several ancient sites of famous libraries. Here I am at Pergamon
, where the second largest library of the ancient world once stood. The library once rivaled the famous collection in Alexandria with over 200,000 volumes. It is said that Egypt stopped sending papyrus to Pergamon to keep the library from growing. The people in Pergamon met this challenge by inventing parchment to write on!
The picture below is of the beautiful library in Ephesus
. It was three stories high with a two story tall reading room! At its height, it contained 12,000 scrolls. Scrolls were kept in temperature controlled cupboards to preserve them. Although the card catalog is not still in existence :), historians tell us that the scrolls were organized by subject for easy retrieval.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see any Jewish libraries while there. There are still Jewish communities in Turkey (most Jews live around Istanbul), and Turkey has good trade relations with Israel. Historically, Turkey has provided a safe haven for Jews, offering sanctuary after the expulsion from Spain and during the Holocaust. Although most of the population are Muslims, Turkey's government is still a secular democracy. I found the people that we met to be very friendly and easy to talk to. It was definitely a marvelous trip!
Wishing everyone a joyous Sukkot,